न जानामि योगं जपं नैव पूजां। नतोऽहं सदा सर्वदा शंभु तुभ्यं॥
जरा जन्म दुःखोद्य तातप्यमानं॥ प्रभो पाहि आपन्नमामीश शंभो॥8॥
(Sloka No 8 –
“Rudrashtaka” of Gosvami Tulasidas)
jAnAmi yOgam japam naiva pUjAm nathOham sadA sarvadA sambhu thubyam |
janma dhukhOdhya thAthapyamAnam prabhO pAhi ApannamAmIsa sambhO ||
I know neither yOgA nor jApa nor worship. All I know is to be devoted to you O Lord
Shambhu. Save me from this bondage/misery of old age, death and birth.
The subject matter of this blog post is the composition “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya” of Muthusvami Dikshita found documented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) of Subbarama Dikshita, which is rarely encountered on concert platforms. The sibling Arabhi composition in the SSP, “Sri Sarasvati Namostute” on the other hand is fairly ubiquitous and is typically taught to learners as one of the early kritis, for abhyAsA.
Records and accounts indicate that this composition “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya” has been rendered in the past and has also been part of the oral tradition but yet today it is rarely heard. In this blog let us get reintroduced to this composition and in the discography, section look at the renderings of this composition by two masters from the past. And I would seek to argue that this composition is immensely capable of an expanded treatment but yet inexplicably it is not been presented so by present day performers.
Let us first look at the lyrical aspect of the composition followed by the musical aspects and the related discography.
kOTi kOTi lAvaNya mAM pAlaya
stayi madhyama to mandhara pancama and to madhya pancama)
dhaivatha to tara sadja and back to madhya sadja)
vana tapO-dhana taruNI mOha-AkAra bhikshATana vEsha dhara Sankara
dhaivatha to tara madhyama and back to madhya sadja after descending upto
vidEha kaivalya dAna vicakshaNa -bhaktAnAM-abhaya pradAna
sakala dEva-upAsyamAna – vibhUti rudrAksha-abhimAna
vAma dEva-Adi sakala virAjamAna – parama-ISvara guru guha samAna bhAsamAna
kOTi kOTi lAvaNya – O one handsome as
crores and crores of (i.e. countless) Manmathas!
pAlaya – Protect me!
dhIra-agragaNya – O foremost among the courageous!
valaya – O one wearing the
snake Vasuki as a bracelet!
dArukA vana tapO-dhana taruNI mOha-AkAra – O one whose form enchanted the wives of the sages of the Daruka forest!
vEsha dhara – O one bearing the guise
of a mendicant!
Sankara – O causer of welfare and
vidEha kaivalya dAna vicakshaNa – O the foremost at giving videha-mukti to the
bhaktAnAM-abhaya pradAna – O one who bestows protection to devotees!
virinci-Adi sakala dEva-upAsyamAna – O one adored by all celestials beginning with Brahma!
vibhUti rudrAksha-abhimAna – O one who adores (wearing) vibhuti (sacred ash) and Rudraksha!
paraSu mRga-agni kapAla DamarukaM dadhAna – O one holding the axe, antelope, fire, skull and drum!
tAtparya-anusandhAna – O object of contemplation for understanding the meaning
of supreme non-dualism!
vAma dEva-Adi sakala virAjamAna – O resplendent one with many great forms such
parama-ISvara – O supreme lord!
guru guha samAna bhAsamAna – O one as effulgent as Guruguha!
Lyrical aspects of the
The following points merit our
At the very outset it has to pointed out that there are no internal, external or collateral evidences to demonstrate that this composition even remotely pertains to a particular deity or ksetra. Therefore any attribution of this composition to a particular ksetra is purely speculative devoid of hard evidence.
Dikshita first begins the composition in the pallavi by paying obeisance to this beautiful form of the Lord, at the very outset, whose identity he reveals only in the anupallavi when he explicitly refers to the “bikshatana” form of Lord Shiva by invoking the puranic lore of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu coming together to subdue the vanity of the sages of the Darukavana ( forest of deodhar trees).
The usage of a word twice consecutively such as “kOti kOti” in a lyrical device which is found used by Muthusvami Dikshita in “Sri Subramanyaya Namaste” in Kambhoji for example where the word “namaste” as well as “koti” are used twice over consecutively to mean that its being meant as many times over.
While this kriti is an adulatory paean to Lord Shiva, the lyrics can be said to be propitiating Lord Shiva of the “Bikshatana” form. Lord Shiva is said to have 64 forms such as Linga, Vrushabarudha, Dakshinamurti, Kalasamharamurti, Bhairava, Tyagaraja or Somaskanda, sadAshiva and others of which the “Bikshatana mUrti” is one form.
The reference in the lyrical portion of the anupallavi being “dArukA vana tapOdhana………………..vEshadhara sankara” pertains to the mythological lore of Lord Shiva assuming the form of a handsome mendicant to enchant the wives of the Sages of Darukavana, so as to teach those sages a lesson. This mythology finds reference in the stala purana of Chidambaram and Thiruvenkadu (Svetaranyam or Adi Chidambaram). The blog header is a panel from the Chidambaram temple describing this instance when Lord Shiva took the form of Bikshatana and Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini to teach the sages of Darukavana, a lesson.
It may be pointed out that this lore of Lord Shiva taking the form of a bikshatana is found referenced by Dikshita in two other compositions as under:
“dArukAvanastapOdhana” in the Bilahari kriti “hAtakesvara samrakshamAm” and
“dArukAvana tapOdhana kalpitha” in the Caturdasa ragamalika kriti “Sri Visvanatham Bhajeham” being the Saranga raga portion of the said composition.
Residents of Mylapore, Chennai may recall that the Panguni Festival in the Sri Kapaleesvara Temple features the Lord in this form with a bowl as a seeker of alms on the 9th day of the festival. In fact, Papanasam Sivan who composed the well-known Kambhoji song “kAna kann kOdi vEndum” on the “adhikAra nandhi sEva” of the Lord of Mylapore also sang “picchaikku vandhIrO” set in raga Surati as well, on this Bikshatana murti procession of Mylapore.
Amongst the quartet of Tamil savants three have sung tEvArams on this form of the Lord as a seeker of alms and the following are few instances:
Thirujnanasambandhar – Hymn on the Lord at Tiruvalachuzhi.
Appar/Tirunavukkarasar – hymn on the Lord at Tiruvottriyur
Sundaramurti Svamigal – hymn on the Lord at Tiruvarur
The Bikshatana form of Lord Shiva is a risqué imagery and again Dikshita as is his wont brings in the iconography of this form in the lyrical portion as a pen picture for us:
His inestimable beauty of form “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya”- being akin to the beauty of innumerable manmatAs,
His enchanting handsomeness “mOhAkAra” – which entranced the women folk of Darukavana.
His predilection for “vibhUti” and “rudrAksha” beads which he wears as ornamentation along with vAsuki the serpent to adorn his body.
“paraSu mRga-agni kapAla DamarukaM dadhAna” – enumerating the pick-axe, deer, fire, skull and the drum. Curiously the bhikshadana form is seen to hold only shUlA (Trident), kapAla (skull), the antelope and the bowl for alms in the 4 hands, whereas Dikshita identifies 5 objects as being held by the Lord.
The lyrical portion “guruguha samAna bhAsamAna” is reminiscent of “guruguha samAnavaraOjasE” which occurs again in “Hastivadanaya Namastubhyam” in Navaroj.
The raga mudra is beautifully interwoven in the lyrics at “mOha-AkAra bhikshATana”. Dikshita has adroitly woven in the same (‘sUchita’ raga mudra) much like how he has done in “citpratibimbE galajitasankE” (“Sri Matah Sivavamanke” in Begada) and “samAnavara OjasE” in “hastivadanaya namstubhyam” in Navaroj. Dikshita has enmeshed the raga mudra Arabhi in his other two compositions in the same raga as under;
“samsAra bhItyApahE” – in “Sri Sarasvati Namostute”
“srutajana samsara bhItyApaham” in the Arabhi raga portion of “Sri Visvanatham bhajeham”, the caturdasa ragamalika
While these two instances above belong to the same category from a usage/meaning perspective, Dikshita has very beautifully invoked the raga name in the instant case of “mAra kOti kOti” by placing the mudra at the junction of two words which together describes Lord Shiva as the enchanting mendicant.
As always, the composer’s colophon “guruguha” appears explicitly in the final madhyama kala sahitya section at the fag end of the composition.
section I present versions of the composition as available in the public domain
so that we can have an idea as to the melodic contours of this rarely
And I start with the version of Sangita Kalanidhi Alathur Srinivasa Iyer. Before we hear his rendering, it would be interesting to divine the likely source of the pAtham of his. We do know for sure that the Alathur Brothers namely Sri Sivasubramanya Iyer and Sri Srinivasa Iyer were associated with the legendary Vaineeka Sri Sambasiva Iyer. Sri Sambasiva Iyer was a Srividya Upasaka and which may likely explain the fact that compositions like “Sri Matah Sivavamanke” in Begada was part of his repertoire which he may have passed on to Alathur Brothers. This kriti “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya” too could have been part thereof.
In this recording Alathur Sri Srinivasa Iyer renders “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya” prefacing it with a succinct alapana. Attention is invited to how the veteran pivots the raga anchoring it firmly at pancama (with the rishabha as the ending note for his phrases) and then tara sadja and tara rishabha notes and how he caresses the dhaivatha note ever so gently, summarizing the raga every now and then, thus presenting the unalloyed Arabhi of yore for us even as he concludes it with the fluid madhyama kala akara passages . The way in which the raga vinayasa is expounded by the legend, is a veritable lesson for a student of music.
The accompanist though not indicated in the sleeve notes, appears to be Vidvans Lalgudi Jayaraman on the violin and the legendary Palghat Mani Iyer on the mrudanga.
Presented next is a rendering of the same composition by the veteran music composer Tanjavur Sankara Iyer from a private chamber recital.
Musical Aspect of the Composition:
I choose to present the musical side of this composition finally in this blog post to highlight, the hidden nuances of the composition as documented in the SSP which have hitherto not been fully presented. I would further argue that with greater fidelity to the notation found in the SSP, the composition’s true beauty can be envisioned and brought out by performers today.
The composition begins with an elongated madhyama note as a svarakshara, a rarity in Arabhi, where pancama is always a strong note or jiva svara. The composition is found notated in 1 Kalai misra jhampa tala and 2 ½ aksharas of the tala is found allocated to this opening madhyama note. The commencement on the dhirghamadhyama making it a graha adds a singularly different complexion to the rendering and the texture of Arabhi of this composition. In my opinion, as notated by Subbarama Dikshita, this opening madhyama is not an oscillated note but a steady, prolonged, deep and sonorous dhIrga madhyama note. This madhyama graha note of the composition as envisaged, is perhaps of the same type as the madhyama of the raga Sama as one would hear being rendered at the very outset of “mAnasa sancara rE” of Sadasiva Brahmendra, set to music by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (with the madhyama note both as a svarakshara & graha). As an aside it can further be noted that one other kriti where Dikshita tellingly uses the madhyama note as a graha svara is the Mahuri composition “mAmava raghuvIra” where it is used both in the pallavi and the carana commencement so beautifully both as a grahasvara and a svarakshara.
At the pallavi itself, the lyric “lAvanya” is svara wise “dd-pd SSR’ which is a beautiful phrase not heard in any rendering of this composition. In fact, in this entire composition it is the only place where the mandhara pancama is touched.
The anupallavi section “vEshadhara sankara” is PDP,MGRnddSR/M and is typically sung fully around the pancama note without descending to the mandhara dhaivatha note as notated. And quite uniquely in this entire composition this is the only place which is ornamented (the mandhara dhaivatha & nishadha notes) with the vaLI gamaka and the lyric “sankara” looks like it should be rendered with a hUmkAra with the jAru gamaka to the elongated madhyama graha svara of the pallavi.
As is his wont, Dikshita has invested the composition with svaraksharas on the pancama and dhaivatha notes as well apart from the madhyama as pointed out earlier.
From an architecture perspective given that the madhayama is the graha svara or commencement note, Dikshita accesses the starting note of the pallavi as dSR/M (the lyric being “sankara” with the vaLI gamaka on the mandhara stayi notes as pointed out earlier), from the mandhara stayi in the case of anupallavi and SNDDP ( the lyric being “bhAsamAna”) from the tAra sadja in the case of carana, as we loop back to the pallavi refrain thus providing a refreshing variation.
Against the lyrical lines of the kriti for the pallavi and anupallavi above I have provided the musical movement as well in those lines to demonstrate how Dikshita has progressively expanded the raga elaboration in the kriti before embarking to display the entire gamut of the raga in the carana segment without traipsing up and down the scale.
The madhyama kala sahitya section appended to the carana has been developed by Dikshita spanning the three octaves in 3 sections, spanning mandhara dhaivatha to tara madhyama note completing his musical conception.
It is my humble opinion that the SSP notation of this composition ought to be rendered as the first/base/plain sangati for every line and as appropriate, suitable lines can be taken up, expanded melodically through additional sangatis so as to burnish and embellish the composition.
In the last century, the great performing vidvans of yester-years, made some ragas or particular compositions their very own and as a result they became synonymous with that raga or the composition as the case may be. Vidvan Madurai Mani Iyer’s renderings of “Sarasasamadhana” (Kapinarayani, Tyagaraja) or Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s “Dakshinamurte” ( Sankarabharanam, Muthusvami Dikshita) or his extraordinary renderings of the raga Kharaharapriya are examples that comes to one’s mind instantly. It is my most humble opinion that modern day musicians haven’t made use of this stratagem and “mAra kOti kOti” offers one such opportunity.
In sum “mAra kOti kOti” in Arabhi is yet another bewitching composition lying dormant in the SSP even as it awaits a modern-day performer to take it up, embellish, perform beautifully by taking the core skeletal notation in the SSP as the base, expanding and building on it and thus finally making it as his or her own. Would it happen?
Subbarama Dikshita (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (1977) in Tamil -Vol IV- Mela 29 – Pages 846-852
Disclaimer & Credits:
The recording of the rendering by Vidvan Tanjavur Sankara Iyer has been sourced from the uploads made in Sangeethapriya. The relevant references have been suitably hyperlinked to complete the attribution. The blog header has been sourced from the web, being a panel depicting the lore of the Darukavana from the Cidambaram Temple and the painting of the Lord as a Bikshadana murthi is of artist Sri Siddalinga Svami of Mysore.
I pray to You, Shiva, Shankara, Shambhu, the One who has his abode under a Vata (Banyan) tree, Who possesses an immense laughter, Who destroys the greatest sins, Who is always resplendent, Who is the Lord of Mountains, the ganas and demi-gods, Who is the great Lord, and Who is the Lord of everyone.
In these times, as one’s thoughts drift off
in the world of music, ragas with a haunting or beseeching tonality resonate
instantly to us. The raga Margadesi and the composition ‘mangaladevate
paradevate” was one such instance as we saw in a previous blog. Yet another instance is the raga Kusumakara
which is the raganga raga/ head of the Mela 71, with the heptatonic equivalent
being the raga Kosalam. The raga is a melody bearing the notes S R3 G3 M2 P D2
and N3 and having the vivadhi combination R3G3. Let’s jump right away into the
raga and the exemplar composition.
The melodic canvas of the raga:
The raga is an outcome of the theoretical
derivation of Venkatamakhin (circa 1620AD) himself when he conceptualized the
72 mela scheme by a permutation/combination exercise. But realising that it
would just be a theoretical exercise, he stopped short in not naming or
cataloguing all of them in his Caturdandi Prakashika (CDP). It was left to Muddu Venkatamakhin later in
circa 1750 AD when he created the “Ragalakshanam” or what we today call as the
Anubandha to the CDP, when he proceeded to document every one of the 72 mela
ragas and named every one of them. While purva prasiddha ragas like
Malavagaula, Sankarabharana or Kalyani were taken and anointed as head of the respective
clans/mela vargas, very many “derived” melodies came to be created by him to
represent the rest of the melas. Kusumakara is one such derived melody which
was invented to represent the 71st Mela carrying the notes S R3 G3
M2 P D2 and N3.
The raga compendium “Ragalakshanam” being
a tabulation of ragas, was one of the heirlooms of the Dikshita family with
Ramavami Dikshita himself undergoing tutelage under Venkata Vaidyanatha
Dikshita a descendant in the lineage of Venkatamakhin/Muddu Venkatamakhin. And
duly Muthusvami Dikshita came to inherit the same. Legend has it that
Muthusvami Dikshita upon the request of the Tanjore Quartet commenced a project
to invest every one of the 72 melas, an exemplar composition, so that they get
instantiated with flesh and blood. And his kriti “Kusumakara Sobhita” in the
raga Kusumakara is one such solitaire available in this raga, documented in the
Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP). It has to be mentioned that had it not
been for Muthusvami Dikshita, much of the 72 mela raganga ragas derived by
Muddu Venkatamakhin would have remained in the manuscripts, consigned to the
dustbin of history and long forgotten.
On the authority of the Ragalakshanam, the
compendium that he in turn inherited, Subbarama Dikshita provides the nominal
arohana – avarohana krama of the raga as under:
Arohana : S R3 G3 M2 P D2 N3 S
Avarohana: S N3 D2 P M2 R3 G3 S
is invited to:
vakra avarohana prayoga PMRGS which is invariably rendered embellished with the
jaru gamaka as PM\RG\S. It may be pointed out here that MRGS is a standard
descent progression for Melas 69,70,71 and 72. It is to be noted that dRS or
SRS are exceptionally seen in the exemplar composition of Dikshita, which may
not accord with the stipulated RGS prayoga.
also commented in the SSP that PDS is alone seen in the gitam whereas the
phrase PDNS is sanctioned in the arohana krama. As we will see the exemplar
composition of Dikshita PDNS is not seen. PND and PDS is alone seen used by
him. Given that PMGRS is forbidden, the only lineal combination used by
Dikshita is SNDP, eschewing
bhAvayE-aham – I meditate upon
kusumAkara SObhita SrIpura gEhaM – the One, whose abode is Sripura (Tiruvarur)
resplendent with the KusumAkara vimAna
kumbhaja guru guha nataM – the one propitiated by Agastya (the
pitcher-born) and Guruguha,
hasana jita tripuraM – the one who vanquished the Tripuras
with a mere smile/laugh,
ava nata mura haram – the one saluted by Vishnu (slayer of
abja SEkharaM – the one with the crescent moon
on his forehead
karuNAkaraM – the abode of compassion,
haram – the destroyer (of the universe),
bhasita-uddhULana dharaNaM – the One who bears the sacred ash (sprinkled on his body),
pannaga valaya-AbharaNaM – the One who has snakes entwining Him as his
asama-astra garva haraNaM – the One who vanquished the pride of
Manmatha (the one with odd-numbered, i.e. five arrows),
aga rAja sutA ramaNam – the Lord of Parvati, the daughter of
the king of mountains.
Some Notes on the composition:
The composition is replete with a number of
lyrical phrases rarely encountered in other compositions of Dikshita.
Dikshita’s colophon “guruguha” as well as the raga name explicitly appear in the lyrics.
Vakra prayogas abound. Save for SNDP no other lineal prayoga such as SRGMP or PDNS is found used in the raga by Dikshita.
Jumps, bends, turns and twists are seen used such SM, SP, SD, PS, PND, PSR, SDPM, DRS etc
Though the lyric “kusumAkara sObhita” is interpreted otherwise, it actually alludes to the specific architectural style of the Tiruvarur temple vimana (canopy over the sanctum sanctorum) which is “kusumakara vimanam”. Dikshita has alluded to the architectural style of the temples in his compositions as under:
“sOmAccanda vimAnastam” – “Sri Sundararajam” in Ramakriya alluding to the Somacchanda vimana style of the temple canopy there.
“pranavAkAra divya vimana” – “Ranganayakam” in Nayaki referring to the architectural style of the Srirangam temple canopy.
“susObhita-utpalAvataka stitham” – “baktavatsalam” in Vamsavati- referring to the utpalAvataka vimanam style of the temple at Tirukkannamangai
The ksetra of the kriti is obviously Sripura or Tiruvarur and is on the Lord Shiva enshrined there. In very many kritis, Dikshita makes such a reference, for example the kriti” SriMuladhara Chakra” and “Sri Valmikalingam” wherein “sripura” is used by him to connote the stala, being Tiruvarur.
Dikshita however does not mention in the kriti whether he is propitiating Lord Tyagaraja or Lord Valmikesvara, which are the main forms enshrined in the temple. He only addresses the Lord in generic terms in this composition.
The other mela raga/raganga that Dikshita has dedicated a kriti for Tiruvarur is the kriti “Viravasanta Tyagaraja” being in Mela 24 being Viravasanta, apart from Sriraga on which we had a blog post earlier on.
Dikshita makes a number of allusions in this composition, for instance:
Sage Agastya through the lyrical phrase “kumbhaja”; (SeeFoot note 1)
the destruction of the Cities of Tripura by a mere laugh/smile of Lord Shiva even before he shot the arrow upon Lord Brahma’s intervention (“hasana jita tripuram”);
Lord Shiva donning the sacred ash – “bhasita-uddhULana dharaNaM”;
the allusion to Kama through the reference “the one possessing odd number of arrows” and Lord Shiva vanquishing his pride as referred in the lyrical portion “asama-astra garva haranam”;
“pannaga valayAbharanam“- is again reminiscent of “vAsuki valayE” ( “mArakOti kOti lAvanya” in Arabhi) and “vAsuki pramukhAbharanam” (“srI mAtrubhUtam” in Kannada)
And needless to add that in the second madhyama kala sahitya line “asama-astra garva haraNaM | aga rAja sutA ramaNam ||” he narrates pithily the events leading up to the birth of Lord Subramanya/Guha.
All these allusions/epithets are unique and not encountered as such in other compositions of Dikshita. The reference to Lord Shiva as the destroyer of Tripura was also seen in an earlier blogpost.
9. The word “abja” signifying an object borne forth from a body of water has been used by him to refer to the moon (as it rises from the ocean or came forth when the Devas churned the Ocean of Milk). Dikshita has again used it to refer to the lotus (which springs forth from water) as in
“abja karam” or the one with lotus like hands (“parimala ranganatham” in Hamirkalyani) or
“abja mAlinIm”- One who is adorned with a garland of lotus flowers vide “hiranmayIm lakshmIm” in Lalitha,
10. The cittasvara is exquisite, pithily capturing the contours of the raga. Mark the sallies with just the madhyama and the rishabha note for 1 ½ tala avarta therein.
Presented now is a close to the SSP notation
rendering of the composition by Vidushi Vijayalakshmi Subramanian, who apart
from keeping to the notation, musically extends the composition keeping within
the bounds the laid down contours of the raga.
The first sangati of a line of lyric is seen to closely match the SSP notation while she extends the same musically in the subsequent sangatis and as pointed sticking to the raga core detailed in the composition. A couple of points merit further attention:
In this rendering there are at least 3 obvious deviations from the SSP of which we need to cognizant of.
the rendering of the lyric “hasanajita” is not “hasana,,jita” but “hasanajita,,” with the elongation ending on the M2 note.
“tripuramavanata” should have been properly split and rendered as “tripuram- avanata” pausing at the end of “tripuram” and rendering “avanata” after a pause so as to make the lyric meaningful.
the lyric starting for the madhyama kala sahitya is ” “bhasitOdhUlana dharanam” and not “….bharanam” as rendered.
There is a prevalent thought that M2 must always be rendered as an anusvara of pancama and should not be intoned at its proper svarastana. In this kriti, the prati madhyama is given pride of place and has to be properly rendered at its svarastana as notated and should not approximated and rendered at the pancama svara stana/as an anusvara.
The kriti reinforces an 18th
century raga architectural principle for us once again. A raga should not be a
theoretical scale, going simply up and down lineally. Jumps, bends, turns and
twists (deviousness) or in other words vakra prayogas are de rigueur
to a raga to add novelty and uniqueness to it and the derived melodies such as
Kusumakara are no exception. In fact, these ragas are devoid of natural rakti and
they cannot be embellished further by gamakas. Therefore, in the absence of such
natural rakti due to the scalar nature of the raga/placement of the svaras/inability
to impart color by infusing the notes with gamakas it becomes important that deviousness
is leveraged to bring in individual color and tone to the raga. By using this
key architectural construct of “deviousness”, Dikshita has reinforced
and demonstrated that by resorting to this construct these so called scalar ragas
can be composed in with felicity. And it is not without reason that he has
developed these ragas specially in his shorter form kriti template.
Ragas like Kusumakara may not be amenable
to a full-blown exposition on the concert stage or a full blown kriti with an
anupallavi and elaborate carana segment, given their lack of rakti or their
scalar nature as aforesaid. Dikshita’s shorter format creations can be wedged
in between the renderings of the heavier raga compositions taken up for
rendering, so as to provide contrast.
The shorter format kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita especially in the rare mela ragas such as Kusumakara are not heard much and certainly deserve greater air time. Hopefully performers will take notice and render them more. And I chose to present the raga and composition as, apart from the regular notes of G3, M2, D2 and N3, the R3G3 combination in conjunction with them imparts a haunting feel resonating with the spirits, thoughts and feelings that one faces these times.
And drawing upon the lyric “hasana jita tripuram‘ which is the reference to the puranic lore of Tripura samharam , I have featured in the blog header the image of Lord Shiva on a chariot with Lord Brahma as charioteer even as He prepares to shoot that fatal arrow at the cities of Tripura along with the sloka from Sivashtakam which refers to him as the possessor of great laughter.
Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by
Madras Music Academy (2006) -Vol V- Mela 71 Pages 1196-1199
Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga
Descriptions -pp 746
The reference to “kumbhaja” reminds one of the following. Dr Sitha in her seminal treatise “Tanjore as a Seat of Music” records a composition of one of Ramasvami Dikshita’s gurus Margadarsi Melattur Veerabhadrayya, who composed with the colophon “acyutavarada” or its variations. One such composition found by her in the manuscripts of the Sarasvati Mahal Library, bereft of notation and tala, in plain running lyrics, set in raga Manji runs thus.
Ragas like Saranganatta, Desakshi, Samantha and Malavasri once upon time ruled the roost but today lie forgotten and unsung. Malavasri is a raga in which both Tyagaraja and Muthusvami Dikshita have composed. This blog post is to document the history of the raga in brief and introduce Dikshita’s composition to the reader of this blog.
But before that, is a prelude. The year was 1945, when the Second World War was winding down, with the day being March 25th, a Sunday. If one had tuned into the All India Radio Madras 1 Station at 10PM that day, after the rendering of the popular “ Nee Inrangayenil” by the young and sprightly M S Subbulakshmi, the listener would have next heard the kriti of Tyagaraja in the raga Malavasri (“Evarunnaru brova”) played from the vinyl record rendered by the then 26 year old D K Pattammal in her inimitable style, followed by Dikshita’s “Manasa Guruguha rupam” in Anandabhairavi – vide the extract of the day’s broadcast schedule from the “Indian Listener” pinned as the header to this post.
The same recording made by her close to 90 years ago can be heard here:
Yet another is a dance piece for
listening- Kubera Stuti- in tisra eka tala set in the raga Malavasri.
The raga Malavasri belongs to the
22nd Mela (Kharaharapriya/Sriraga) taking the following svaras/murrcanas
in its ascent and descent, according to the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini
S G2 G2 M1 P N2 D2 N2 S
S N2 N2 D2 P M1 P N2 D2 M1 M1 G2 S
Mark the emphasis on the gandhara, madhyama and nishadha notes in the progression. This raga is an oddity for more than one reason for it also incorporates a few now-lost 18th century raga architectural attributes. While Natta, Gaula, Arabhi, Varali and Sri were the traditional ghana ragas (pancakam) of the first category, the ragas Reetigaula, Narayanagaula, , Bhauli, Malavasri and Saranganatta are the constituents of the dviteeya ghana pancakam.
Historical Background to the
The raga right through history has been recorded by musicologists and with the advent of the mela scheme, Venkatamakhin (1620 CE) as well as Shaji (circa 1700 CE) and Tulaja (circa 1732 CE), placed the raga as a shadava raga skipping rishabha altogether under Sriraga mela. And the raga is documented as-is in the Ragalakshanam of Muddu Venkatamakhin (circa 1750). Older texts while helping in validating the broad lakshanas of ragas, do not provide us with the intricate details or compositions and we are left to rely on the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshita which details this raga for our benefit.
The SSP’s narrative provides us
with this nominal raga structure for us.
Arohana: S G2 G2 M1 P N2 N2 D2 N2 S
S N2 N2 D2 P M1 P N2 D2 M1 M1 G2 S
Attention is invited to the vakra
dhaivatha in the arohana and the SNDPM, SNDNPM, SNDNPM combinations that occur
in the descent. Further Subbarama Dikshita asserts on the authority of the
older texts that there are no sancaras beyond the madhya stayi. In fact,
Muthusvami Dikshita’s kriti provided as an exemplar goes one step further as
the raga is dealt with only between madhya gandhara and tara pancama, with no
The SSP documents the following compositions as exemplars of
the raga, none of which are in currency on the modern concert stage.
“ Mangalambayai Namaste” of Muthusvami Dikshita in misra jhampa tala
“Devi Sathatham” of Krishnasvami Ayya in Matya capu tala – the musical setting perhaps being done by Subbarama Dikshita himself
“Indha perumai” – a padam in Tamil by Mukkupulavar in misra eka tala – the sahitya being that of the Ettayapuram Court poet and the musical setting likely of Balasvami Dikshita
The SSP apart from documenting the lakshya gitam ascribing it to Venkatamakhin as authority for the raga’s grammar also documents a unique gitam commencing as “manmadha naLa” called as “mukta-pada-grastham” whereby the ending syllabic constituent unit of the previous sahitya section becomes the first syllabic constituent of the succeeding sahitya portion. (andhadhi). Much like the Narayanagaula gitam documented in the SSP, this gitam must have been in currency and must have been a popular composition. It must be emphasized that gitas or gita prabhandas were the concise repositories of a raga’s lakshanas, encapsulating pithily the set of all possible svara combinations or murrcanas of the raga, akin to how we treat the varna in modern days.
A perusal of the said gita offers us vital clues as to this
The raga delineated spans the madhya sadja to the tara madhyama. There are no mandhara stayi phrases in the gita.
The gita is divided into two parts – the first one being the dhruvam – the so-called opening refrain or what we today call as the pallavi. The second is the javada or the so called anupallavi part which loops back to the dhruvam or the refrain.
Nishadha followed by the madhyama is found greatly emphasized by their repeated usage both in the dheergha and janta varieties.
The salient arohana and avarohana murrcanas found are as under:
Apart from the SSP two other documented sources of this raga
from olden times even antecedent to the SSP are as under:
“manmadha nala” the gitam in Malavasri found in the SSP is also published in Pallavi Svara Kalpavalli (published in 1900 CE) by Tiruvottriyur Tyagier. There are a few variations here and there save for one crucial aspect which is that in one place the mandhara nishadha is touched.
“Sri Ramani kucakumkuma” – a ragamalika gitam of 32 ragas in Dhruva tala of which Malavsri is one is found published in “Sangeetha Sarvaartha Sara Sangrahamu” of Veena Ramanujacharya (1873 CE). The sahitya and the corresponding musical notation which runs for one avarta of tala is as under:
The notation in italics is the tara sancara notes of the raga. This brief snippet of the raga encompasses madhya stayi madhyama to tara stayi madhyama, emphasizing nishadha madhyama notes, corresponding to the treatment of the raga in “Mangalambayai Namaste” as we will see shortly. And while dhaivatha is vakra in the arohana, it is more seen vakra in the avarohana as well though a lineal SNDP is not forbidden. Vakra sancaras are de rigueur in this raga, which by incorporating multiple flows of murccanas follows the classical 18th century raga architecture.
It has to be pointed out that the raga’s lakshana as embodied in the SSP fully accords with the musical history right from the times of Venkatamakhin staying under the Sri raga mela and omitting rishabha. Both Sahaji and Tulaja in their works reinforce the same lakshana for the raga. Even the Sangraha Cudamani, the lexicon of the ragas of compositions of Tyagaraja omits rishaba in its structure and provides roughly the same arohana-avarohana krama for the raga.
And off course all musical texts are unanimous as to the rishabha being omitted and the raga being a upanga raga under 22nd mela.
“Mangalambayai Namaste” of Muthusvami Dikshita
Before we delve into the musical aspects
of composition, let’s look at the sahitya and its meaning first:
namastE – Salutations to you,
SrI mangaLAmbAyai – to (you who are) Goddess
SrI vAncha linga nija SaktE – O personal, active power of Shiva
vilIna cit-SaktE – O embodiment of the hidden
sangIta sAhitya sArajna sannutE –
O one celebrated by those who know the essence of music and literature,
mangaLa-Alaya gupta gangA taTa
sthitE – O one dwelling in the auspicious temple on the bank of (the tank)
ananga-Adi-upAsitE – O one worshipped by Manmatha
SRngAra-Adi yutE – O one possessed of the
various sentiments (Rasas) beginning with love(Shrngara)!
manda smita-AnanE – O one with a gentle countenance
janE – O
one who has good people (as devotees) in the country of Malava!
indirA-AlOkanE – O one who blessed Lakshmi
with your gaze!
ISvara-ArAdhanE – O one who worships Shiva!
indIvara-Asana-Adi-IDita – O one acclaimed by the gods led by the
Siva-anganE – O young wife of Shiva!
sindUra kastUri candana-AlEpanE –
O one anointed with vermillion, musk and sandal paste!
kunda mukuLa radanE – O one with teeth like
guru guha hRtsadanE – O one whose abode is the heart
sundari – O
mRdu gadanE – O soft-spoken one!
sukha-tara kara madanE – O one who grants great joy to
The raga name and the colophon of Dikshita are seamlessly woven into the lyrics referring to the Malava/Malwa region (modern Central India)
The ksetra of the composition is Sri Vanchiyam and Goddess Mangalambika is the consort of Lord Vanchinatha who is the presiding deity.
Dikshita has composed three kritis, on Lord Vanchinatha and Goddess Mangalambika, of this ksetra as documented in the SSP as under:
Mangalambayai Namaste – Malavsri – misra jhampa tala
Sri Mangalambike – Kalyani – Khanda Ata
Sri Vanchanatham – Surati – Adi
From a musical aspect, the setting of the composition is
itself very interesting.
Subbarama Dikshita in his commentary makes a number of pertinent points about the raga:
He says the raga is shadava with rishabha being dropped totally and dhaivatha varja. It has to be pointed out that in the lakshana sloka dhaivatha is said to dropped (varjitha) in the arohana.
Malavasri is a ghana raga of the dviteeya category.
Gandhara, nishadha and madhyama svara are the key life-giving notes
From a lakshya standpoint the raga spans madhya stayi sadja to tara stayi madhyama.
SGGMPNNS -NNDPMPNDMMGS is the arohana and avarohana krama
In the kriti however, Dikshita implements the raga as under:
While rishabha is dropped, dhaivatha is vakra in the arohana and not varjya. Dhaivatha note occurs as MPNDNS in the arohana and SNDP or SNDMP or SNDNP in the avarohana krama.
The raga effectively spans madhya stayi madhyama to tara stayi madhyama, with two outliers/exceptions – in the tara stayi the pancama (“srng-ArAdhiyutE”)is touched in one place and in the madhya stayi gandhara (“vilInacit saktE)” is touched in another place.
In other words, there is no sancara below madhya stayi gandhara, while the tara pancama is the outermost svara in the upper register.
The madhyama kala sahitya portion appended to the carana commencing “kunda mukula radanE” captures the effective gamut of the raga as visualized by Dikshita in this composition.
The primacy of the tara madhyama with which the composition starts and the repeated emphasis on the nishadha note (at “mangalAlaya” for instance) are key aspects to be noted.
Kampita gamaka adorns nishadha and gandhara throughout the composition.
Given the madhya stayi gandhara to tara madhyama only scope as dealt with in the composition, the murcchanas occurring thereof can be noted as below:
MPNNS; MPNNDNS; GMNNDNS and SNDP, SNDPMPG, MPNNDM, SNDMPM in the madhya stayi
SGS, SGMGS, SMGS and PMGS in the tara stayi
From a rendering perspective the following aspects has to be observed for this composition:
The song commences on the tara madhyama and therefore a vocalist should “park firmly” at the madhyama note in the upper register, without deviating in any manner, such as intoning the gandhara instead as the commencing note.
Keeping in line with the delineation in the composition, any sancara below madhya gandhara should advisedly be eschewed in any sangati or alapana or neraval or svara prastara, so as to ensure fidelity to the intent of the composer as he has kept to that as the gamut of the raga in this composition.
In this section I present the my rendering of “Mangalambayai Namaste” to the best of abilities , keeping to my interpretation of the notation found in the SSP. I should hasten to add that errors and omissions are entirely mine.
In this context the following
points are to be noted:
A version of this composition is found in the public domain ascribed to Sangeeta Kalanidhi Smt. Aruna Sairam. It is most respectfully submitted that the said version does not conform to the notation as found in the SSP and much liberties has been taken with the same. Here is the recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHSmlUKZ1PI
It is even more unfortunate that the composition is seen rendered in khanda capu tala as well inflicting even greater damage to the composition. As recorded in earlier blog posts, the Jhampa Tala compositions of Dikshita such as “Sri Venugopala” ( Kurinji), “Sri Kalahasteesa” ( Huseini) are seen rendered in khanda capu tala, doing incalculable harm both the intent of the composer and the rhythmic setting of the kriti.
Notations as well narratives of the raga found in the public domain provides the arohana and avarohana krama of the raga wrongly. Rishabha is seen included in the descent. It has to be noted that the raga is entirely devoid of rishabha note. Students as well as performers need to stay wary of these obvious errors. Example: https://karnatik.com/c5787.shtml
There is another composition “ Kanakasabapatim” passed off as a composition of Muthusvami Dikshita in the raga Malavasri. Again it is most respectfully submitted that this is a plain misattribution as the composition can neither be of Dikshita’s nor is it the Malavasri of the SSP as it does not in any way conform to the lakshana of the raga found in “Mangalambayai” and documented in the SSP. And therefore, the said composition is not considered in this blog post.
Malavasri as featured in Ramasvami Dikshita’s 108-Raga-Tala Malika
This magnum opus as published in the SSP, features the raga Malavasri as the 13th portion/khandika set in rAjacUdAmani tala. The notation shows traversal of Malavasri in the mandhara stayi upto the mandhara madhyama. And above all a considerable portion of the lyrics are notated in mandhara stayi in obvious discordance to Subbarama Dikshita’s own commentary that the raga does not permit sancaras below madhya sadja ! However the raga as delineated is otherwise in line with the stated lakshana of the raga being SGMPNNS/SNDPMGS.
Vidushi R S Jayalakshmi in Dec 2014 gave a lecture demonstration of this mammoth composition of Ramasvami Dikshita. In this Youtube Link she demonstrates the Malavasri portion starting 1:07:18 onwards.
Malavasri & the SSP and Tyagaraja’s Compositions:
Thus, Malavasri has always been a shadava raga of the Sriraga
mela, omitting rishabha. And in the SSP as we see there are two other unique
is vakra in the arohana and
span only from madhya gandhara to tara pancama. And according the Subbarama
Dikshita sancaras below madhya stayi sadja are not seen in the raga. This
feature of the raga is akin to that of Surati where no sancaras are seen below
the sadja of the middle register.
In this context we have to assess the melodic contours of the Malavasri found in Tyagaraja’s compositions “Evarunnaru” and “Ennalu tirigedi”. It is to be noted that this composition of Tyagaraja – “Evarunnaru” is only found listed in Rangaramanuja Iyengar’s publication and is not found documented in other publications or compendia of Tyagaraja’s compositions.
The following conclusions can be drawn from these renderings:
The melody indeed involves the notes of Mela 22, duly eschewing the rishabha note.
The composition as well as the renderings span the full middle register and up to tara madhyama.
Dhaivatha is seen rendered vakra in the arohana krama.
The carana section “manasAraga dhyanimpanu– manasu nilupumarmambu telipi” seems tinted with rishabha (perhaps due to an oscillated flatter gandhara) which is avoidable. It has to be mentioned that the tara sancaras are rendered with SMGS or its variants without any trace of rishabha.
A cleaner version devoid of even a faint suggestion of rishabha in the said places in the kriti along with a sharper sadharana gandhara intonation, is this rendering of Vidvan Dileepkumar which is presented below:
The evaluation of the musical material available to us shows that for Malavsri, the gitam as well as the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita and Tyagaraja present an unalloyed and complete picture of the raga, which is sufficient for one to comprehend, understand and assimilate the raga, from the point of view of both a student and a performer. Further the raga as well as the Dikshita’s composition “Mangalambayai Namaste” can not only be rendered with practice but can be dealt with along with alapana, neraval and svaraprastara. By properly imbuing the composition and the raga lakshana therein, with fidelity to the notation and the intent of the composer, the composition can be performed competently. It is earnestly hoped that this beautiful composition with its uttaranga and upper register centric pivot, will be encountered more frequently on the concert circuit in the days to come.
Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – “Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini” – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (2006) -Vol II- Sriraga Mela- Pages 489-496
Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – “Ragalakshana Sangraha”- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 816-828
Prof S R Janakiraman & Subba Rao (1993)- “Ragas of the Saramrutha”- published by the Madras Music Academy -pp 34-35
Savitri Rajan & Michael Nixon (1982)–“Sobhillu Saptasvara” – published by CBH Publications -pp 115 & 135
The raga Jujavanti is typically spoken about in our world of music as a Northern import. The first historical reference to the raga is the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika (dateable to circa 1750 AD) of Muddu Venkatamakhin. None of the prior Southern musicological texts talk about this raga. Therefore for us today, the definition of this raga according to the Anubandha, the commentary of Subbarama Dikshita for the same in the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) and the exemplar compositions thereunder which he has provided are the ones which can help us understand the raga.
We can see that the raga as presented in the SSP ( its original construct) has during the 20th century and till date has acquired a slightly evolved hue. And in this blog post we seek to uncover the correct original structure of the composition and the authentic versions from our oral traditions.
SOME INITIAL DISCLAIMERS:
But before we jump headlong, a few disclaimers need to go on record.
As the Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika is the first and earliest authoritative musicological text which talks about the raga, I have provided pre-eminence to the same in this blog post.
Secondly the Anubandha gives the raga name as ‘jujAvanti’. And so that will be the name which we will stick to.
We have modern music books and composition banks giving the raga name as Dvijavanti. For this assertion, the authority is the Sangraha Cudamani, a lexicon which we have encountered much in our earlier blog post, wherein the raga is listed with the name as Dvijavanti and not Jujavanti. It has been held beyond reasonable doubt that the Sangraha Cudamani is much anterior to the Anubandha in terms of its creation/authorship. And hence we are not seeking to consider the raga name/definition of Dvijavanti therein. Besides the Sangraha Cudamani can be considered a lexicon of the ragas of Tyagaraja’s compositions. Even from that perspective we see little relevance to this blog post, as we do not have any Tyagaraja composition handed down to us in this raga. We do have some records of compositions being in this raga from later times- see foot note below.
We do have modern texts of music talking about this raga’s kinship to the Hindustani raga Jaijaivanti and Dikshita having a hand in getting to know the Northern melody during his Kashi sojourn. In so far as this blog post goes, given that there is no solid evidence to prove nexus between the northern melody and Jujavanti found in the SSP and on the authority of Muddu Venkatamakhin who has listed it in the Anubandha circa 1750 AD, the proximity if any between the ragas is purely coincidental perhaps unless proof is unearthed to prove nexus.
Given that Muthusvami Dikshita alone has composed in this raga and we do not have any record of pre-trinity composers composing in this, the SSP is taken the final and authentic authority for the composition- see foot note 1.
Post SSP we did have the Dikshitar Keertanai Malai (DKM Series) bring forth a new composition ‘akhilAndEsvarI rakshamAm’ attributed the same to Muthusvami Dikshita himself. The same has not been considered again for this blog post and for reasons vide foot note below.
Again, many 20th century composers have taken up this raga which again is not in scope for this blog post.
JUJAVANTI – RAGA LAKSHANA:
The Anubandha to the Caturdandi Prakashika ( the text Ragalakshanam attributed to Muddu Venkatamakhin) places the raga Jujavanti under Kedaragaula Mela (28). There are five important dimensions we have to consider to discern a raga’s lakshana, when we say that it is under a particular mela in the Anubandha.
The Anubandha is just a seriatim listing of ragas and their murccana arohana/avarohana, mela wise as one can see from the text of the Anubandha published by the Madras Music Academy.
Beyond this listing one has to look at whether the raga name is found as an upanga or bashanga under the lakshya gita of the parent mela- for example the raga name Jujavanti has to be found under the relevant kandikha of the Harikedaragaula lakshya gitam.
The lakshana sloka for the raga if available has to be looked into.
Gitas and tAnas if any in the raga as to be finally vetted in order to develop the complete picture of the raga.
For points 2, 3 and 4 as above, we have Subbarama Dikshita’s inestimable SSP to assist us. The SSP provides these data point along with Subbarama Dikshita’s commentary on the raga along with his exemplar – kritis and his very own sancaris which we can evaluate as the 5th dimension.
When we evaluate the above dimensions in the context of Jujavanti, the following are the findings:
The Anubandha lists it as the 15th & final raga under the Harikedaragaula mela/clan.
However the Harikedaragaula rAgAnga lakshya gitam in triputa tAla having ‘Nanda gopa nanda’ as its refrain ( antari section) does not list the raga in its upanga or bashanga raga section.
The raga’s lakshana shloka goes as :
In other words,
the raga jujAvanti is sampurna – meaning it has all the seven notes in both the arohana and avarohana together
the note ‘sA’ – the sadja is the graha or starting note of the raga
the raga has to be sung and understood from practice
While the above shloka is as given by Subbarama Dikshita, the text of the Anubandha as published by the Madras Music Academy is slightly different yet conveying the same meaning as to the lakshana of the raga.
There are no available gitas or tanas in the SSP.
Subbarama Dikshita provides a kriti of Muthusvami Dikshita ‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’ in rupaka tAla and his own sancAri in matya tAla as exemplars. He has also provided an elaborate commentary to the raga, which is as we would be seeing in a while, the lodestar for us to get a grasp of the salient features of the raga. At the end of the sancari he provides a foot note to the effect that this raga also displays the shades of Yadukulakambhoji( Yerukalakambhoji as he calls), Darbar, Sahana and Bhairavi, even as it shines forth with its own native shade.
SUMMARY OF THE LAKSHANA:
With the material at our disposal as above we can proceed to deconstruct their import and deduce the theoretical framework of the raga. Once we have done that can move to the discography to discern the aural contours of Jujavanti through the exemplars cited by Subbarama Dikshita.
The analysis of the above would reveal to us the following findings:
As we can see while the listing of ragas in the Anubandha talks of Jujavanti there is no mention of the raga name in the rAgAnga rAga’s lakshya gita. The deduction can be that the lakshya gita is even prior to the seriatim listing and hence the raga was not formally inducted as a janya to Harikedaragaula at that point in time.
The above also perhaps explains why we do not have gitams and tanams in the raga.
The raga is thus only a post AD 1750 development finding place only in the Anubandha listing with the two Subbarama Dikshita provided exemplars alone as repositories of the raga’s lakshana in the SSP. Obviously the works of Sahaji ( AD 1700) and Tulaja ( Ad 1732) do not mention Jujavanti or any other raga with scalar equivalence.
The narrative of Subbarama Dikshita for this raga in the SSP can be summarized as under:
He says it is a desi raga or raga which had its origins from the public space.
The raga can be discerned only from practice/lakshya
The notes rishabha and madhyama are the life-giving notes. In fact, the prolonged RRR and MMM are given as illustrative murccanas.
Both sadharana gandhara and antara gandhara occur copiously in this raga. Implicitly the other notes are R2, M1, P, D2 and N2 which are the default svaras for Mela 28.
R/M\G2.R.G2R is a recurring leitmotif. The phrase begins with the catusruti rishabha gliding to the madhyama through jaru gamaka, gliding back to a prolonged sadharana gandhara followed by back-and-forth movement between catusruti rishabha and sadhara gandhara.
Apart from RRR and MMM – prolonged exposition on rishabha and madhyama notes, MGMPD, MPDSPMG, RMG1.R, SRN.D.NS also add color to the raga.
The phrase RGMGR occurs aplenty using both G1 and G3. However given that the raga is under Mela 28, the default gandhara is G2 ant it also occurs aplenty.
While the above is the commentary, from a musical standpoint Subbarama Dikshita while providing the notation for ‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’ has ensured that the gandhara type- G2 of G3 is marked appropriately as necessary leaving us in no doubt as to when a particular gandhara type occurs in the composition. One can also notice that the rare ‘vaLI’ gamaka occurs extensively in this composition ornamenting almost all the note types and especially the madhyama as seen in the opening lines of the carana.
ANALYSIS OF THE NOTATION OF ‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’:
The notation of the kriti by Subbarama Dikshita provides us with a number of useful insights.
Muthusvami Dikshita almost as a rule always commences his composition right on the jiva svara- especially the graha or take off of the kriti sections namely Pallavi, anupallavi & caranam. In this case given that rishabha is the primary note, Dikshita rightfully begins the composition on a prolonged Rishabha. The lakshana shloka of the raga attributed to Muddu Venkatamakhin makes no such assertion. It is likely that Subbarama Dikshita’s comment that the rishabha is one of the raga’s jiva svara was driven by the pride of place given by DIkshita right at the start of the composition.
Again it is this Dikshita kriti which is the authority for the usage of both the gandharas and the way it is to be used.
The kriti notation makes it clear that G2 is always a transitory note. It is not a graha or a nyasa note. G2 occurs almost always as RG2R & MG2R in avarohana phrases ending with rishabha. And is typically accessed through the jaru or the glide. This is the aesthetic usage of the sadharana gandhara in Jujavanti. G3 can be a graha or starting note.
Subbarama Dikshita says the raga is sampurna- considering both the arohana and avarohana together, which leaves us to determine what the salient arohana/avarohana & purvanga and uttaranga phrases of the raga are, using the composition as our compass.
In the purvanga section SRG3MP, SRG2R, SRMG2R , SRPMG2R, SRG3MG1R, MG3MP,RG3MPDN
In the inter-octaval movements pR- jump from the pancama ( mandhara/Madhya) to the rishabha ( Madhya/tara) respectively is an oft repeated motif adding beauty to the raga.
In the uttaranga one can notice that PDNS is eschewed as an ascending phrase. We see PS, DPS, DNS and NDNS being used. Also we can see that RGMPDN can also be used.
In the descent SNDP is to be used as a rule without skipping any of the notes.
PMGRS is again not used and instead the double gandhara prayoga PMG3MRG2RS, PMG3RG2RS and MG3S (skipping rishabha in the descent, but using G3 and not G2) are seen.
Subbarama Dikshita adds that RGMGR phrase which recurs again and again uses G2 and sometimes G3. Practically speaking however, the first gandhara occurring in the said phrase is a trishanku gandhara neither as sharp as G3 nor as flat as G2. So much for the gandhara and the way the raga has to be sung with bhava to bring out the unique flavor, that the ancients/Muddu Venkatamakhin decided to give up defining the raga and instead took shelter under the edict “ लक्ष्यमार्गानुसारेणगीयते “
In the krit notation if one were to observe, Subbarama Dikshita notates the gandhara as G2 in some places, G3 in some places and in quite a few places the gandhara is left without indication as to the variety – G2 or G3. It may be implied that in those places, since the default gandhara is G3 for the raga (as it belongs to Mela 28, for which the gandhara is G3), those places need to be sung only with G3.
THE NOTATION OF THE COMPOSITION AS FOUND IN THE DKP:
As mentioned in previous blog posts, the Dikshita Keertanai Prakashikai (DKP) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai is yet another documentation of authentic notation of Dikshita’s kritis. The study of the composition’s notation in the DKP, reveals the following :
The raga name is given as Jujavanti only and not Dvijavanti for instance, exactly in line with SSP.
The raga is under mela 28 – Harikedaragaula having the same murccana progression as found in the SSP.
The notation closely matches SSP, save for one factor which is that the sadharana gandhara occurrences are not clearly discernible.
Presented first is the doyenne Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda presenting the composition.
Attention is invited to the specific areas of the composition to show how her version has utmost fidelity to the notation found in the SSP & DKP. The “PDSP” usage in the raga and the rendering of the portion ‘purushOttamAvatAram’ in the composition provide the Yadukulakhambhoji like feel to the raga. Some modern day performers therefore elide/modify the portion as if to keep Yadukulakambhoji out. One can see in the versions presented in this section that this is not the case and she does not shy away from the prayoga.
It has to be reiterated that Smt T Brinda traces her patham to her mother / grand mother Dhanammal on to Sathanur Pancanada Iyer on to Tambiyappan and finally to Dikshita himself. Smt Dhanammal and Sri Natarajasundaram Pillai ( the compiler of the “Dikshitar Kirtanai Prakashikai”) learnt Dikshita’s kritis together from Sathanur Pancanada Iyer during the 1880-1900 timeframe. This aspect can be considered while reviewing her rendering with the notation found in the DKP.
Arguably Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer must be credited for rendering this magnum opus of Dikshita frequently in his recitals and invariably he has rendered svara kalpana for the pallavi line almost as de rigueur. Presented first is the kriti proper.
Next is his svarakalpana. Attention is invited to the unique SRG2R, SRMG2R, G3MG3MRG2R and such other purvanga usages highlighting the core of the raga. Attention is invited to the chaste and polished mrudangam accompaniment, filling the gaps and pauses with beautiful rhythmic patterns in the process showing that the composition is a percussionist delight as well.
In passing it needs to be noted that this composition is yet another exemplar for the stylistic construct of Dikshita as is usual for him- a languorous and lilting gait, slow and sedate yet majestic marked by the cadences of the rupaka tala which gives enough visranthi or stretch to the fabric of the kriti. Across the board all performers of this composition render it in the sedate cauka kala as the compositional structure as well as the mood of the raga affords no opportunity to accelerate. As the veteran performer Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s rendering shows, the composition can be artistically rendered in cauka kala and finally topped up with a few round of sedate 1st kala svaras to give a wholesome effect.
PROXIMITY OF SAHANA TO JUJAVANTI:
Subbarama Dikshita’s cryptic foot note on this is rooted to a very subtle point. Many musicians and rasikas alike confuse the point and make a comparison of Jujavanti with modern Sahana. Modern Sahana has practically only G3/antara gandhara. However for Subbarama Dikshita, as we saw in a previous blog post, Sahana is a raga under Mela 22 – with sadharana gandhara dominating and antara gandhara occurring sparsely. Thus this older Sahana and the Jujavanti of Ceta Sri Balakrishnam documented in the SSP has much melodic overlap as
Both them utilize the same notes, including the two types of gandhara.
GMRS and RGMP the motifs of Sahana, are shared by Jujavanti as well.
Both are sampurna utilizing all the seven notes in both arohana and avarohana.
The Muddu Venkatamakhin sloka for both the ragas talks about knowing or understanding the raga from practice / lakshya / empirically.
In fact, one can say that with the ascent of modern Sahana ( with G3 and almost totally eschewing G2), Sahana has itself eveolved and created its own niche and a well-marked domain differentiating itself from Jujavanti markedly. And so the raga Dvijavanthi can at best be treated as a sibling of modern Sahana sharing common musical material.
‘ceta srI bAlakrishnam’ created by the composer nonpareil Muthusvami Dikshita is a magnum opus. Thankfully apart from the notation in the SSP and DKP we do have authentic and high fidelity vocal renderings which assists us in uncovering the original construct of the composition.
Subbarama Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini Vol III– Tamil Edition published by the Madras Music Academy in 1968/2006
Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions- pages 1005-1013
Prof R. Satyanarayana (2010) – ‘Ragalakshanam’ – Kalamoola Shastra Series- Published by Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, New Delhi
T L Venkatarama Iyer (1968) – “Muthusvami Dikshitar” ( English) – Biography Series Published by the National Book Trust, New Delhi
NOTE 1: A NOTE ON THE KRITI “AKHILANDESWARI RAKSHAMAM” :
This kriti surfaced in the 20th century along with numerous others, ascribed to the authorship of Muthusvami Dikshita. Set in raga Jujavanti and adi tala it was ostensibly composed by Dikshita on Goddess Akhilandesvari at Tiruvanaikaval/Trichirappalli, the Consort of Lord Jambukesvara. In fact, it was also given pride and prominence by being catalogued as a premier composition in the famous NCPA Red Book by no less a personage than Dr V Raghavan. However, both on the internet discussion boards and also in private and public domains, numerous individuals have questioned the attribution of this kriti to Muthusvami Dikshita. One example is this old USENET group discussion archived here. A range of reasons has been quoted in this context including the following.
Deficiency of the sahitya including usage of terms such as “jalli jarjhara” which occurs in the body of the composition.
The musical construct of the composition not being in consonance with Dikshita’s usual style
Be that as it may for me one particular evidence that this composition is most likely not Dikshita’s comes from Sangita Kalanidhi T L Venkatarama Iyer (TLV) a legal personage who retired as a Chief Justice of India. He had in my opinion the greatest opportunity to provide first-hand information on this. Enamored by Muthusvami Dikshita’s kritis, he was the one who brought Subbarama Dikshita’s son Ambi Dikshita to Madras and learnt many compositions of Dikshita from him. At that point in time he was a sitting Judge of the Madras High Court and later Chief Justice and therefore the respect and awe that he commanded from the society then was considerable. Much later after his retirement from the Supreme Court, he along with Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer, assisted by Dr S Ramanathan and Dr B Rajam Iyer brought out the Tamil translation of the SSP. In other words, Justice TLV had an insider view of this and he had in all probability complete access to the repertoire and manuscripts of Ambi Dikshita himself from where much of the Dikshita compositions, post Ambi Dikshita’s demise surfaced. Now, Justice TLV in his biography of ‘Muthuswami Dikshitar’ National Book Trust published in November 1968, makes the following two statements & I quote him verbatim:
On page 18 he says “The song Ceta Sri Balakrishnam of Dikshitar in this raga ( Dvijavanti) is a magnificent edifice giving the full view of the raga in all its aspects and is rightly regarded as the most impressive song in this raga….”
On page 72 he makes a telling remark thus: – “In Dwijavanthi the piece Ceta Sri of Dikshitar stands out in solitary splendour…..” (emphasis mine).
Again, on page 39 when he narrates the ksetra kritis of Tiruchirapalli he narrates that Dikshita created ‘Jambupate’ in Yamuna Kalyani. And he says “……On the Devi in that temple he composed the kriti “ Sri Matah siva vamanke” in Begada….”. But does not mention the Dvijavanthi composition.
Nowhere in this book does he catalogue the kriti “Akhilandesvari” in Dvijavanthi.
Attention is invited to the use of the word ‘solitary’ which means a “singular” creation in this raga by Dikshita, in this context. Given his background as a jurist as well one must accord the right weightage to his written view or statement. Moreover, nowhere in his book does he make a mention of the kriti “Akhilandeswari” in this raga, even as he refers to a number of other kritis which came to be published later & not found in the SSP. He makes no mention of this kriti even in the context of his narrative on the kritis composed by Dikshita on the temples in Trichirappalli. And this book is dated 1968 more than a decade or so after the composition surfaced as a part of Dikshita Kriti Mala Series published by Kallidaikurici Sundaram Iyer in the 1940’s-1950’s.
If Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer’s take on this subject is that “Ceta Sri Balakrishnam” is the “solitary” i.e. the “only creation” of Dikshita in Jujavanti, it surely is an added & forceful weight to the argument that ‘Akhilandeswari rakshamam’ is not a composition of Dikshita. For this reasoning and others outlined above which casts doubts over the authenticity of the kriti , the same has been kept out of the analysis of the raga in this blog post.
NOTE 2: COMPOSITIONS IN JUJAVANTI/DVIJAVANTI- SOME COLLATERAL EVIDENCE:
Dr Sita in her ‘Tanjore as a Seat of Music’ avers on the authority of old manuscripts found in the Tanjore Sarasvati Mahal Library that there is a composition in raga Jujavanti by a composer by name Giriraja Kavi who was patronized by King Sarabhoji, making it dateable to round 1800’s or thereabouts coinciding with the period of Trinity. However the musical setting is not available for the composition. Technically this composition is probably of the 1800 vintage coinciding with Muthusvami Dikshita’s times.
Tiruvottiyur Tyagayya’s Pallavi Svarakalpavalli lists a lakshya gitam in raga Jujavanti, again which is post 1850 AD.
Dr S Ramanathan has notated in the JMA 1965 Vol XXXVI a kriti of Gopalakrishna Bharathi in raga Dvijavanthi. Again this is a composition of post 1850 AD vintage.
A composition of Margadarsi Sesha Iyengar, a pre-trinity composer is also seen assigned this raga.
At the very outset before we deal
with the raga Sarasvati Manohari as documented in the Sangita Sampradaya
Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshita in this blog post, the following
disclaimers are in order:
This raga as documented in the SSP, belongs to the 29th Mela and it has nothing to do with the melody as found in “Entha Veduko” of Tyagaraja, which is provided with the name of Sarasvati Manohari as well but is under the 28th Mela.
The raga name “Sarasvati Manohari” has been assigned to the melody of “Entha Veduko” of Tyagaraja by all musical authorities post 1900 AD on the authority of the Sangraha Cudamani which is purportedly the lexicon of the ragas of the compositions of Tyagaraja. It has been reiterated in these blog posts that the “Sangraha Cudamani” is a musical text of a much later vintage (19th century, most probably second half) in comparison to the Anubandha of Muddu Venkatamakhin which is dateable at the latest to 1750AD. The views of the noted music critic K V Ramachandran, the man who discovered the Sangraha Cudamani in the Adayar Library, in this regard are recorded for posterity and in these blogs as well. ( See Reference section below)
Therefore, in our discussion of this raga in this blog post we will not be referring at all to the raga as found in “Entha Veduko” or the treatment thereof under Sangraha Cudamani. All references are to the treatment of the raga as found in the SSP.
The authority for the raga Sarasvati Manohari under Mela 29 as documented in the SSP, comes from the three unassailable 18th century authorities (the Triad as we refer to these three texts in unison in these blog posts) of the likes of Sahaji (circa 1700 AD) , Tulaja (circa 1832 AD) and Muddu Venkatamakhin (1750AD) and crystallized with the exemplar composition of Muthusvami Dikshita.
It’s a folly to talk of the Sarasvati Manohari of Tyagaraja and the Sarasvati Manohari of Dikshita given the weight of historical evidence we have in this regard. In these blog posts it is simpliciter stated the raga names as found in the Anubandha and documented in the SSP, are much older and are of far greater antiquity and authority. The assignment of such older names of ragas to the melodies of the compositions of Tyagaraja (such as Sarasvati Manohari) without relevance as to the identicality, was a post 1850 AD development. In fact, it is on record that Tyagaraja never revealed the raga names when he taught the compositions to his disciples and only much later after his death with the advent of printing did the assignment of raga names to the melodies happen. The effect was that in quite many cases wrong names came to be assigned to the ragas arbitrarily without taking into account the textual history of the raga concerned. Sarasvati Manohari is one such victim of misnaming whereby the older raga name came to be assigned to the melody of “Enta Veduko” without effecting a check whether the melody found in the composition corresponded to the scale of the raga as per grammar.
Ironically today so synonymous is the raga name “Sarasvati Manohari” with “Enta Veduko” so much so that the actual or true melodic identity which is found in Dikshita’s composition “Sarasvati Manohari” is looked upon with suspicion!
And it has to be placed on record that this aberration which came to be inflicted on this raga cannot and should not be used to advance the proposition that the raga itself evolved by dropping N3 and acquiring N2, as we have musical history of spanning 1700 to 1906 AD recording the raga as a janya of Mela 29. The raga of “Enta veduko” should have been assigned another new name without any confusion whatsoever, leaving the older name of “Sarasvati Manohari” out of this entire controversy. This mis-assignment of name is a self-inflicted wound by us on our very known musical theory and musicological history without any justification whatsoever. The only way is to acknowledge this aberration ex facie, and safely navigate the study of ragas and raga lakshanas, rather than trying to justify the same needlessly.
With these disclaimers in place,
in this blog post we will embark on dissecting this old raga which is hardly
ever rendered in the modern concert stage, save for the occasional rendering of
just the kriti of Dikshita, sans alapana, neraval or svaraprastara.
It is reiterated that the raga
Sarasvati Manohari of Dikshita is under Mela 29 (Sankarabharanam with N3) as
documented in his composition “Sarasvati Manohari”, beginning on the raga mudra
itself and no attempt should be made to corrupt the same and attempt to render it
under Mela 28 by replacing the N3 with N2. There is no authority for it whatsoever
in either the textual or the oral traditions.
Contours of the raga as found in
On an entirely different note it
can be demonstrated that the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita are best understood
by triaging the lakshana as found in the composition with the stated grammar of
the raga in the “Triad” of musical works which are Sahaji’s “Raga
Lakshanamu” (circa 1700 AD), Tulaja’s “Saramruta” (circa 1832 AD)
and the “Ragalakshanam” of Muddu Venkatamakhin ( circa 1750 AD) being
the Anubandha to the original Caturdandi Prakashika of Venkatamakhin ( the
main text which is dateable to circa 1620 AD).
The SSP records for us by way of
a snapshot, the composition (being the notation) and the raga lakshana which is
the sole basis for this blog post and the analysis thereof. In the instant
case, the treatment of the raga Sarasvati Manohari by Dikshita will be
investigated to derive a proper understanding by solely looking at:
documentation as found in the SSP and other ancillary sources which have a
high-fidelity nexus to the musical heritage of Muthusvami Dikshita
details for the raga as found in the “Triad” of musical works
renderings of the compositions as passed on to us being authentic versions or pAtAntharams.
This blog post has to be read
focussing only on the above and any other extraneous material outside of the
above is patently irrelevant for the subject on hand and hence a discussion on
those is safely avoided. And which is why the aforesaid disclaimers become
important in the context of this discourse.
The raga according to Subbarama
The SSP records the lakshana of
the raga strictly in line with the “Ragalakshanam” of Muddu
Venkatamakhin (circa 1750 AD) along with Subbarama Dikshita’s commentary and
does not record the lakshana as found in the works of Sahaji and Tulaja.
According to the SSP the following are the features of the raga:
The raga is a bashanga janya of Sankarabharanam according to the SSP. For us in modern parlance it can be safely concluded that the raga is an upangajanya and takes only the notes of the parent Mela 29 only. It has been pointed out earlier that the term upanga/bashanga as used in the SSP, connotes a very different attribute of the raga and not the modern meanings that are ascribed to the said terms. The unassailable point here is that from a modern musicological perspective, the raga is without doubt upanga and the native nishadha note of the raga is N3 or kAkali variety only.
The raga is sampurna and carries all the 7 notes, taking the arohana and avarohana together.
Pancama is varjya or dropped in the arohana. Therefore MPD prayoga should be eschewed.
Rishabha is vakra or deviant in the descent.
Dhaivatha is the jiva svara of the raga.
Despite the nominal arohana and avarohana progression of the raga being SRGMDDNS/SNDPMGMRS (as seen in the Ragalakshanam anubandha), DNS prayoga is not seen in the compositions.
Therefore, the operative arohana progression of the raga is more like SRGM-DP-MDS or SRGM-DNDS or SRGMDDS
Similarly, the operative avarohana progression is SNDPMGMRS or SNDNP-MGMRS
The perusal of the SSP would
reveal the following beyond Subbarama Dikshita’s narrative.
The Sankarabharana lakshya gita, lists Sarasvati Manohari as a bhashanga janya of the raga.
The lakshya gita of the raga eschews DNS in toto despite the fact that the nominal arohana states DNS occurring.
Though the sloka as found in the Anubandha cited in the SSP refers to the raga name as “sarasvata manohari”, Subbarama Dikshita labels the raga as “sarasvatI manOhari” only.
Armed with the above details let
us look at the evidence provided by Sahaji and Tulaja in their respective works
as to this raga.
“Sarasvati Manohari” according to
Sahaji and Tulaja:
is named only as Sarasvati Manohari.
royal authors are unanimous in their view that pancama and nishadha are skipped
in the arohana and gandhara in the avarohana.
SRGMDDS and GMDDNDPM are oft repeated murrcanas in the raga.
essence MPD, DNS and MGRS are forbidden murrcanas of the raga.
In fact amongst the Triad, Sahaji
and Tulaja are completely ad idem on the lakshana while Muddu
Venkatamakhin alone strikes the sole discordant note by allowing DNS prayoga.
However, Subbarama Dikshita explains away this sole discordance stating that
DNS is not seen in practice.
Summary of the raga lakshana
according to the Triad:
From the foregoing the raga lakshana
can be restated in the classical 18th century vernacular as under:
Sankarabharana is the mela or the raganga under which Sarasvati Manohari is classed.
The raga is sampurna and all the 7 notes occur in its body and the notes are S, R2, G3, M1, D2 and N3. No other variety of the notes occurs.
Pancama and nishadha are dropped in the arohana.
Gandhara is vakra in the avarohana.
Dhaivatha is a prime note emphasized via the repeated/janta notes.
PDNS, MPD and DNS are forbidden in the arohana krama; MGRS is forbidden in the avarohana krama.
SRGM, GMDD, PMDD, SNDP, NDPM, SNDNP, GMRS are the permitted murrcanas which join together to form the skeletal structure of the raga.
Dikshita’s Implementation of
The notation of the Dikshita
composition which begins with the raga name itself as its refrain reveals the
d/R and D/r being the jump from mandhara dhaivatha to madhya rishabha and madhya dhaivatha to tara rishabha is seen repeatedly used apart from d/G and D/g as well.
GMDP, MGMDD, RG-GMR, SNDSN, SNPM, RGMND are seen used in the composition aligning to the 18th century definition of the raga as laid.
In the arohana krama RGMP cannot be used while RGMDP is permissible.
The two madhyama kala sahitya portions provide a pithy/concise delineation of the raga’s lakshana.
And the kriti is littered with svaraksharas particularly of the rishabha and pancama notes.
Key take-ways from the analysis:
It is thus seen that Dikshita has meticulously stuck to the early 18th century version of the raga as documented by Sahaji and Tulaja, keeping out the DNS prayoga as well. His novelty has been the employment of the d/R and D/r, which is seen in Purnachandrika as a leitmotif. Dikshita has also eschewed DDS and is consistently seen approaching the tara sadja via the tara rishabha and not directly from the madhya dhaivatha.
The raga shines forth with its native progressions being SRGM, GMDD, PMDD, SNDP, NDPM, SNDNP, GMRS, GMDP, MGMDD, RGMR, SNDSN, SNPM and RGMND.
The raga may be considered as melodically close to modern Kannada which is different from the Kannada as documented in the SSP. In contradistinction, the Kannada of the SSP sports N2 prominently and is classed under Mela 28. In this context care should be taken in rendering Sarasvati Manohari as the phrase SNS is likely to creep in. the phrases SNDP or SNDS alone are allowed in contradistinction to modern Kannada.
Under the SSP the raga Suddha Vasantha (under Mela 29) is a close raga which shares a common melodic bonding with Sarasvati Manohari and unfortunately the SSP does not record any composition of Dikshita is this raga.
The two ragas namely Kannada and Suddha Vasantha are also documented by Sahaji and Tulaji under Mela 28 and 29 respectively and thus it may not be of much help.
In summary a simple compare of Sarasvati Manohari with modern Kannada can help us differentiate and understand the ragas better.
Sarasvati Manohari of SSP
SGM and SMGM
DDS and DrS
SNDP and SNDNP
SNDP or SNDNP-PMGMRS
Differences inter se -arohana
Pancama and nishadha are dropped; SRGM and GMDP
Rishabha & Pancama are both dropped in the ascent
Differences inter se-avarohana
SNDP and SNDNP are the permitted prayogas
Nishada is dropped in the descent.
In summary the difference between
the ragas is slender and the Dikshita composition does well to capture the
difference and also emphasizing the d/R prayoga given that rishabha is a much
muted svara in modern Kannada.
It has to be recorded that “Sri Matrubhutam” of Muthusvami Dikshita is today rendered only in modern Kannada, thoroughly eschewing the N2 note which is supposed to dominate the raga Kannada according to SSP, which classes the raga under Mela 28, with N3 being an anya svara ( a bashanga janya under Mela 28).
From a practical perspective Sarasvati
Manohari can be distinguished by emphasizing SRGM and SNDP prayogas along with
d/RR, D/rr so as to safely keep Kannada out of the ken of the raga delineation.
Some collateral data points:
The “Dikshitar Keertanai
Prakashikai” (DKP) published by Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai (a
disciple of Satanur Panju Iyer of the Dikshita sisya parampara) records this
composition only under Mela 29without any ambiguity whatsoever. In fact, this
composition was taught both to Natarajasundaram Pillai and to Veena Dhanammal
by Satanur Panju Iyer who was their guru and it can be seen that the version
tallies if the notation in DKP is compared with the oral version of the
composition as sung by Sangita Kalanidhi Smt T Brinda, the scion of the
Apart from this the version of
the composition as rendered by Sangita Kalanidhi Smt D K Pattammal, who in turn
traces her pAtham to Justice T L Venkatrama Iyer and on to Ambi Dikshita son of
Subbarama Dikshita, is aligned to the version as seen in the SSP.
We will review these two oral
versions in the discography section.
sarasvatI manOhari – O one who captivates the heart
of Goddess Sarasvati!
Sankari – O wife of Shiva (Shankara)!
sadA-Ananda lahari – O eternal wave of bliss!
gauri – O fair one!
Sankari – O the beneficent One!
sarasI-ruha-akshi – O lotus-eyed one!
sadASiva sAkshi – O one always with Sadashiva
karuNA kaTAkshi – O one with compassionate
pAhi – Protect (me)!
kAmAkshi – O Kamakshi!
mura hara sOdari – O sister of Vishnu (slayer of
the demon Mura)!
mukhya kaumAri – O eminent Kaumari!
mUka vAkpradAna-kari – O giver of speech to the mute poet
mOda-kari – O source of bliss!
akAra-Adi-akshara svarUpiNi – O embodiment of all the letters beginning
antaH-karaNa rUpa-ikshu cApini –
O one who has a sugarcane-bow that represents the mind!
prakASa parama-advaita rUpiNi – O
shining embodiment of supreme non-dualism!
parE – O supreme one!
tripura sundari – O Tripurasundari!
tApini – O glowing, effulgent one!
prakASini – O one who shines forth as
this created universe!
prasiddha guru guha janani – O mother of the renowned Guruguha!
pASini – O one holding a noose!
vikalpa jaTila viSva viSvAsini –
O one who is reliable in this diverse, complicated universe!
vijaya kAncI nagara
nivAsini – O one dwelling in
the victorious city of Kanchi!
It can be seen from the
composition is on Goddess Kamakshi of Kancipuram as it is so stated
mudra occurs right at the beginning of the composition and has been used to
mean that Goddess Kamakshi is one who captivates Goddess Sarasvati. The epithet
is reminiscent of the opening lines of the Manji composition “Sri Sarasvati
Hite” meaning “O the benefactress of Goddess Sarasvati”.
phrase “akArAdyA-kshara svarupini” reminds one of the similar phrase – “ahantA
svarUpini” occurring in “Brihannayaki Varadayaki” in Andhali.
composer’s colophon “guruguha” occurs as well in the composition which is set
in Adi tala.
Sarasvati Manohari featured in the ragamalika “pUrna candra bimba”
Apart from this solitaire, the raga is also found featured in the ragamalika which is found documented in the Anubandha to the SSP. There are those who argue that this ragamalika being bereft of Dikshita’s colophon “guruguha” is not his but that of Ramasvami Dikshita. Be that as it may, Subbarama Dikshita has assigned the same to Muthusvami Dikshita in the Anubandha. The said ragamalika features ragas which are only janyas of Mela 29 Sankarabharana and they being Purnchandrika, Narayani, Saravati Manohari, Suddha Vasantha, Hamsadhvani and Nagadhvani.
The lyrics “pUrna phala prada caranE sarasvati manoharI” being the second anupallavi section to the main pallavi section being “pUrnacandra bimba vijaya vadanE kamalAbikE”, is set in Sarasvati Manohari. The notation and lyrics in rupaka tala runs thus:
As can be seen the motif d/R being Dikshita’s novelty or improvisation as to this raga is seen employed with the overall grammar of the raga being in accordance with what is seen in the kriti “Sarasvati Manohari”. This can perhaps be taken as a point of evidence that this composition is likely to be Dikshita’s given the employment of his novel leitmotif, which is not seen in the generic raga lakshana.
Sangita Kalanidhi T Brinda renders the composition “Sarasvati Manohari” here:
(Google/Yahoo ID would be required. Hit the URL and scroll down the items listed in the page)
Sangita Kalanidhi M Balamuralikrishna renders “Purna candra bimba” in this recording. Saravati Manohari portion is featured between 3:36 -4:10. The said portion of the rendering accords with the notation found in the Anubandha for the composition.
Musical history must be properly evaluated and understood and due regard must be had to the authentic versions of the compositions as passed on to us. The fact that raga name Sarasvati Manohari came to be wrongly assigned to the raga of “Entha Veduko” should be acknowledged which would help us in appreciating the creations of both Tyagaraja and Dikshita for their individual beauty, without any confusion whatsoever. Tyagaraja spun many nouveau ragas which weren’t in existence prior to his times and his kritis are the sole exemplars for those ragas. The raga of “Entha veduko” too is one such creation of his, which must have been assigned a new name, instead of repurposing an existing older raga name causing confusion for all concerned. Further no normalization should be inflicted by attempting to render Dikshita’s kriti with N2 or Tyagaraja’s with N3. Each kriti should be preserved and sung as documented. And if we do this Sarasvati Manohari is no conundrum for anyone.
It is indeed sad that discussions and lecture demonstrations are held, the subject being how the same raga has apparently been dealt with differently by Dikshita and Tyagaraja, without realizing the folly committed in the late 19th century and perpetuated into the 20th century and till date. It is humbly submitted and hoped that the Music Academy will take the lead in documenting this anomaly formally and assign newer names to these ragas of Tyagaraja so that the same is not just recorded for posterity but also serves to illuminate students and listeners alike, with the confusion being avoided once and for all.
Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (1977) -Part IV- Mela 29 Pages 915-919
Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 1261-1264
Sangita Kalanidhi T V Subba Rao & Dr S R Janakiraman (1993)- “Ragas of the Sangita Saramruta” – Published by the Madras Music Academy – pp 113-118
Dr R Sathyanarayana (2010)- “Ragalakshanam” of Sri Muddu Venkatamakhin- Published by IGNCA
Ramachandran K.V. (1950) – “Carnatic Ragas and the Textual Tradition” – The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 99-106, Madras, India.
Ramachandran K.V. (1950) – “Apurva ragas of Tyagaraja’s Songs” – The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 107-109, Madras, India.
The Kamakshi icon painting, being the featured image in this blog post heading is by artist Shri Rajeshwar Nyalapalli and was sourced from his online webstore.
While the year 2000 was a sort of milestone for us, the year circa 1800 too was a momentous milestone in the modern history of Tanjore, the Eden of South India. It marked the end of political issues plaguing the region and the ascension of Prince Serfoji (AD 1798) as the King of Tanjore. The Kingdom of Tanjore was riven by internal strife and famine during the 1770-1800 period, so much so that many fled the region for the safety and security of Chennapatna or Madras which was under the rule of the British East India Company. It was after these tumultuous events that peace returned to Tanjore circa 1800 and the decade thereafter was marked by peace and prosperity, more particularly the first quarter of the 19th century.
Dikshita’s Sojourn to Tanjore:
Accounts of Muthusvami Dikshita’s
life talk of his sojourn to Tanjavur during this time period- during the first
decade of the new century on the invite of his pupils, the Tanjore Quartet Ponnayya,
Chinnayya, Sivanandam and Vadivelu. The Quartette by then had firmly ensconced themselves
in the Tanjore Royal Court of King Serfoji and it was then they must have
invited their master/guru Muthusvami Dikshita to Tanjore, who it seems stayed
for a while in Tanjore.
Legend has it that at this point
in time when the Quartet played host, they requested Dikshita to compose kritis
in all the raganga ragas of the Venkatamakhin tradition so that these kritis
would become shining exemplars of those melodies. Accordingly, Dikshita set
about the task and this stay in Tanjore produced a number of kritis in these
Subbarama Dikshita’s Sangita
Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) catalogues all these compositions. It must be
mentioned that the SSP does not feature Dikshita’s compositions for certain
ragangas/melas such as Binna Sadjam (mela 9), Ramamanohari (Mela 52) and Chamaram
Amongst those said to have been composed during Dikshita’s sojourn to Tanjore and catalogued in the SSP is the composition in the 5th Mela raga/raganga Manoranjani. Barring some of the main ragas, Dikshita seems to have composed kritis in his shorter format in these mela ragas. This shorter format lacks a full blown carana. Few exceptions to this observation are the following kritis in the raganga ragas ( not major ones) , from an SSP perspective, which are in the full blown format including a carana portion as well.
“Kanakambari Karunyamrutalahari” in Kanakambari – 1st mela
“Bakthavatsalam” in Vamsavati – Mela 54; But the other kriti “Vamsavati Sivayuvati” is in the shorter format.
These shorter format kritis with
just the pallavi and anupallavi is always appended with a cittasvara section.
In the case of the 5th
Mela the composition of Dikshita recorded in the SSP is “Balambike Pahi” let us
first evaluate the raga first and then
the composition, in this blog post.
Manoranjani – A Study:
The raga and the scale is obviously a post 1750 AD development arising as a part of the 72 mela scheme formulated by Muddu Venkatamakhin as the raganga of the 5th Mela taking the notes of R1, G2, M1, P, D2, N3 with the gandhara being dropped in the ascent because of the R1G2 combination being a vivadhi pair. The raga also came to be documented as a janya under the Kanakangi-Ratnangi Scheme catalogued by the Sangraha Cudamani, with Manoranjani being categorized as a janya under the 5th Mela, the heptatonic krama sampurna raga Manavati. Tyagaraja’s “Atukaradani” is an exemplar of the same.
According to the SSP, the following
are the features of the raga:
The operative arohana-avrohana krama is as under:
S R1 M1 P D2 N3 S
S N3 D2 P M1 R1 G1 R1 S
In the footnote Subbarama Dikshita remarks that MGRS is seen used in the compositions.
The vivadhi combination of R1G1 is worked-around by dropping the gandhara in the ascent.
Apart from the lakshya gitam, gitams & tanams and the sancari of Subbarama Dikshita, the kriti “Balambike Pahi” of Muthusvami Dikshita in catusra matya tala is provided as the exemplar.
It has to be noted that though
the lakshana sloka provides for gandhara being vakra in the avarohana, the
kriti, as pointed by Subbarama Dikshita, sports MG1R1S as well.
Dikshita’s Kriti in Manoranjani:
Here is the kriti and the meaning
of the lyrics:
bAlA-ambikE – O Goddess Balambika!
dEhi dEhi –
sAlOka-Adi mukti sAmrAjya dAyini
– O the bestower of liberation, beginning with Saloka!
Sankara nArAyaNa manOranjani
– O one delighting the heart of Lord Sankaranarayana!
dhanini – O repository of all
nIla kaNTha guru guha
nitya Suddha vidyE – O eternal pure knowledge of the blue-throated Shiva and
It is seen that Dikshita’s
colophon “guruguha” and the raga mudra “manoranjani” are embedded
in this composition segueing seamlessly with the lyrics, which is set in catusra
matya tala (1 kalai). While the name of the Goddess as also her Consort’s name appears
in the composition, there is no explicit reference to the ksetra name in the
The Ksetra or Temple of this Kriti:
The kriti is on Goddess Balambika consort of Lord Sankaranarayana as is obvious from the lyrics. It has to be pointed out that Goddess Balambika is the name of the deity enshrined in Vaideesvarankovil ( vide the kriti “Bhajare Re Citta” – Kalyani – Misra Eka) with the presiding deity being Lord Vaidyanatha. And Lord Sankaranarayana is the presiding deity of the temple at Sankarankovil where his consort is Goddess Gomathi. As seen in one of the previous blogs, Veenai Sundaram Iyer has much later to the SSP published a kriti “Sankaranarayanam” in the raga Narayana Desakshi, attributing it to Dikshita,
On the contrary this kriti “Balambike Pahi” on Goddess Balambika and wherein Dikshita proclaims her as the consort of Lord Sankaranarayana and does not specify the ksetra or the temple or any reference to it in the body the kriti. There is no likelihood thus of the composition being sung on the deity at Sankaran Kovil or Vaideesvaran Kovil.
As pointed out in the prologue, we have reliable textual authorities who have recorded Muthusvami Dikshita visited Tanjore and composed on the various deities in around Tanjore, including Lord Brihadeesvara and Goddess Brihannayaki, in the ragangas of the Venkatamakhin tradition. Both Dr. V Raghavan and Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer in their works (see reference section below) have provided a narrative to this effect.
Dr V Raghavan in his famous NCPA Red Book asserts that Dikshita undertook the project to compose at least one composition in every one of the 72 raganga ragas of the Venkatamakin scheme. And he marks a number of kritis in the raganga ragas, of Dikshita and also provides the ksetra where the same was purportedly composed, based on the internal evidence. He asserts thus:
series ( i.e corpus of songs to illustrate the 72 ragas mela-janya scheme) is
not completely available and I shall give here a list in so far as I have been
able to compile it…..”
However, no reference is provided to this composition “Balambike Pahi” in his aforesaid listing in the NCPA Red Book.
Some individuals in the public domain assert that this composition is on Goddess Balambika at Vaideesvaran Kovil, without any authority whatsoever, merely on the strength of the name of the presiding Goddess which is plain misattribution. It is also seen that those who provide the meaning for the lyrics of this composition provide the meaning for the line ” Sankara nArAyaNa manOranjani” as ” O one delighting the hearts of Shiva and Vishnu! ” without realizing that the reference here is not the Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu individually but to Lord Sankaranarayana. It is respectfully submitted that these reasonings do not hold water.
In the context of the raga of this composition being Manoranjani, the 5th mela we can surmise that:
this kriti was likely composed when Dikshita visited Tanjore ;
And as a part of his endeavor to compose a kriti on the mela ragas, he composed this one as well ( for Mela 5) while at Tanjore :
And therefore Goddess Balambika, the subject matter of this kriti must be deity of a temple somewhere in or around Tanjore.
Fortuitously the perusal of an old publication titled “Siva-Vishnu Ksetra Vilakkam” (Tamil)-see below, provides a reference to a temple in the town of Tanjore where the presiding deity’s name is Lord Sankaranarayana and the name of the Goddess being Balambika.
The book refers to the temple as being located in Tanjore mEla rAja veedhi at its southern end. Based on the said reference I have marked the same in the Google Maps below.
The said temple has also been covered in an article in a daily as well- refer the Reference section below. The temple also finds reference in the “Tanjapuri Mahatmiyam”. It is also recorded that during the reign of King Serfoji circa 1805, a consecration ( Kumbabishekam) for the temple was performed. Given that this coincides with the probable period of Dikshita’s visit, one wonders if he composed this kriti and paid his obeisance to Goddess Balambika during the festivities.
Thus, given the preponderance of probabilities and the data points agreeing, it can be deduced, that Dikshitar could have visited this particular temple during his Tanjore sojourn and composed this kriti in raga Manoranjani on Goddess Balambika enshrined there.
In so far as the history of this Temple of Lord Sankaranarayana is concerned, in his critical commentary to the work “Tanjapuri Mahatmiyam” part of the “Cola Campu” of Virupaksa, Dr V Raghavan records that the Tanjore King Bhima Chola’s wife hailed from lands of Tirunelveli and her family deity was Lord Sankaranarayana of Sankarankovil. And to fulfill his wife’s desire to worship the Lord in Tanjore itself Bhima Chola built the temple for Lord Sankaranarayana at what is today known as west Main Street, the subject matter of this blog post.
Presented first is the rendering
aligned to the notation found in the SSP by Vidvan G Ravi Kiran (The video
upload wrongly mentions the name of the performing artiste).
Presented next is the rendering of the same composition, again close to the SSP notation, along with the rendering of the cittasvara section and preceded by a brief raga alapana by Vidushi T S Sathyavathi. This rendering is based on the SSP notation and has been embellished suitably as a concert platform piece, within the confines of the spirit of the notation.
Sangita Kala Acharya Smt Suguna Purushothaman renders the composition here:
The kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita especially in the mela ragas, are pithy and are ideal to both learn and perform professionally. These compositions with brevity being their hallmark need not be be-labored upon and can be sung with a brief raga vinyasa and concluded with a couple of cycles of svaras. One fervently hopes that artistes include these compositions more in their performances in the days to come.
Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (2006) -Vol 1- Mela 5 Pages 26-30
Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 855-856
Dr R Sathyanarayana (2010)- “Ragalakshanam” of Sri Muddu Venkatamakhin- Published by IGNCA
Dr V Raghavan (1975) – NCPA Quarterly Journal Vol IV – Number 3- September 1975 -pp 10-11 – referred to as the NCPA Redbook
T L Venkatrama Iyer (1968) – “Muthuswami Dikshitar” – National Biography Series published by National Book Trust of India -Chapter V – pp 46-53
Dr V Raghavan (1951) – Commentary on “Cola Campu” of Virupaksa – TSMS No 55 – Edited by T Chandrasekaran
Safe Harbour Statement:
The renderings used or linked as
above in the body of this blog has been made strictly for purposes of education
and knowledge under fair use category. The intellectual property belongs to the
respective artistes and the same cannot be shared or exploited without their
The raga name is just Chayanata as has been dealt with from yore, with the prefix “bhoga” being a later day addition, made in the “Ragalakshanam” of Muddu Venkatamakhin so as to yield the mela number of 34 under the katapayadhi samkhya system. And this Chayanata bears no melodic relation whatsoever to the Northern Chayanat ( a very popular raga) which is an altogether different melody, which goes as under:
Arohana krama: SR2G3M1PS or SR2G3M1N2D2PS
Arohana krama: SD2N2PR2G3M1R2S
with RG3M1N2D2PR2 being the
salient murcchana (M1/N2 and P\R2 being the salient building block. Watch out
for the occasional M2 which may also be used ( see video below for a primer on
this interesting Northern melody)
Finding the Carnatic scalar equivalent
albeit a close one for the Hindustani Chayanat is left as an exercise for the discerning
The Carnatic heptatonic 34th melakartha “Vagadeeswari” (exemplified by Tyagaraja’s “Paramatmudu”) is a scalar equivalent. For this brief post I will be keeping focus on (Bhoga) Chayanata as dealt with by Muthusvami Dikshita only.
Chayanata is an old raga but curiously has not been documented by both Govinda Dikshita and his son Venkatamakhin in their works. It has been documented by Sahaji in his Ragalakshanamu (Circa 1800 AD) and also by Tulaja in his Saramruta (1832 AD) and the same melodic contour being documented by Muddu Venkatamakhin (Circa 1850) which is available to us through the Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP).
Arohana : S R3 G3 R3 G3 M1 P N2 N2 S
S N2 D2 N2 PM1R3 S
Anointed as the head of the mela
No 34, Chayanata for all practical purposes has dhaivatha which is varjya (dropped)
in the arohana both dhaivatha and gandhara are vakra (devious) in the avarohana
krama, with janta nishadha and madhyama indicated to be the life-giving notes
by Subbarama Dikshita. Along with its ilk, such as Desakshi and Samantha,
Chayanata in its form has all but been forgotten by us.
The beauty of this raga is the
purvanga murchanas employing R3G3M1P, PN2N2S and PM1R3 in combination with the SN2D2N2P
which is leitmotif of the uttaranga, used by a number of ragas we
have seen in this series of blog posts, such as Devamanohari and Malavi.
In sum in terms of the grammatical
construct of 19th century raga architecture, in this raga Chayanata:
SRGMP alone is permitted. PDNS, SNDP and PMGRS are to be eschewed.
PNNS, SNDNP and PMRS are the vakra sancharas and motifs.
Dhaivatha is varjya in the arohana (PDP should not be used) and both dhaivatha and gandhara are vakra in the avarohana krama. PNNS and PS occurs in profusion.
It has to be mentioned here that though the R3G3 may be a vivadhi combination, yet like Natta, this raga Chayanata permits SRGM in its ascent. A raga that we saw in a previous post Ragachudamani SM1R3G3MPN2N2S dropping the dhaivatha in the ascent is structurally similar to Chayanata from an ascent perspective.
The SSP apart from documenting the raganga lakshana gitam and a tanam, documents the sole kriti in this raga, being the one by Muthusvami Dikshitar apart from the sancari of Subbbarama Dikshitar.
– O one who takes pleasure in the enjoyable puppet-play (that is this
dEhi – Give me
jAyE – O wife of Lord
guha janani – O
mother of Guruguha!
O the blemish-less one!
jana rakshaNi – O the protector of people who have sought
santOshiNi – O the one who pleases Shiva!
mOksha vitaraNa nipuNa-tarE – O the great expert at bestowing (both) enjoyment
sannuta – Oh
one well-extolled by all people, beginning with Brahmins ,
Oh the one with lotus-like hands!
The raga name as well the
composer’s mudra (colophon) makes it appearance in the composition which is bereft
of the carana but has a concise cittasvara passage appended to it. The composition
is on Goddess Brihannayaki, the consort of Lord Brihadeesvara of Tanjore (Big Temple).
Legend has it that during Dikshita’s sojourn to Tanjore (when the Tanjore
Quartet were under his tutelage), he composed a number of kritis on the deities
situated in an around Tanjore in the mela ragas tabulated by Muddu Venkatamakhin.
This composition is one such and is sole exemplar of the 34th mela.
Though there are quite a few
renderings, I choose to present the one very close to the notation found in the
The artiste is Vidvan Ravi Kiran
who renders the composition true to the notation documented in the SSP.
Attention is invited to the
pallavi commences with SG3SM1 and NOT SR3SM1. In
many renderings it is heard only as SR3SM1, which is not
what is notated in the SSP.
madhyama kala sahitya portion is to be ONLY sung with the notation as MGMP-RGMP-MPNNS;
SSNN-SNDN-PMRPMR – (underline indicates portion is in second
kalam) as is done in the exemplar above cited.
Much liberty is seen taken in other renderings, which is not in conformance with the notation as pointed above.
3. One other aspect to be noted is that in all ragas where the combination R3G3 occurs, the descent as employed by Dikshita in his compositions is almost as a rule PM1R3S and not PM1G3M1R3S. However, in the cittasvara section of this composition, GMRS is seen used.
Its in very much in realm of possibility that a concise alapana, neraval and svaraprastara can be presented for this raga/composition by a performing musician. Yet neither this composition nor an exposition of the raga is encountered in the music circuit. It is hoped that the kriti and this raga is taken up for exposition and rendered frequently in the days to come in true fidelity to the notation found in the SSP.
Dikshitar (1904)- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini Part IV– Tamil Edition
published by the Madras Music Academy in 1977 – pages 973-978
Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions-
Sita (1983) – “The Ragalakshana Manuscript of Sahaji Maharaja’ – Pages 140-182-
JMA Vol LIV
R. Janakiraman & T V Subba Rao (1993)- ‘Ragas of the Sangita Saramrutha’ –
Published by the Music Academy, Chennai, pages 298-299
(Meaning: I offer my obeisance to
that Lord Somaskanda renowned as Tyagaraja, and known so for sacrifice (i.e the
sacrifice of karmaphala leading to liberation) among the four purusharthas.
(Venkatamakhin’s – Invocatory
sloka in his Caturdandi Prakashika, Circa 1620AD)
And so prayed Venkatamakhin, the
revered grand sire of our music and musicology to the great Lord of Tiruvarur
who was the God head for the then reigning Kings of Tanjore, the Royal House of
the Nayakas, as a prelude/benediction to his treatise the
“Caturdandi-Prakashika”(CDP). Venkatamakhin by that single act had consecrated
Lord Tyagaraja as the fountainhead of the music of Tanjore and all that of
Karnataka Sangitam. More than 150 years later, the Temple at Arur had a unique
relevance and nexus to Muthusvami Dikshitar, for he apart from being born at
Tiruvarur went on to compose a number of kritis on Lord Tyagaraja and those
countless deities that adorn the massive temple complex.
One such kriti on Lord Tyagaraja
is “Tyagaraja Mahadvajaroha” in Sri raga, by Muthusvami Dikshitar who in the
illustrious tradition of Venkatamakhin pays his obeisance to the Lord, which
has a number of unique significances in terms of music and the lyrics. And this
kriti is rarely heard in modern concerts. The kriti struck a chord in me as I
read two particular texts, one being the translation of “Sri Tyagesa
Maharathosava Varnana Parishloka” of the revered Mahamahopadhyaya Mannargudi
Raju Sastrigal and the other being Dr B M Sundaram’s ‘Alaya Vazhipatil Isai’.
The kriti ‘Tyagaraja Mahadvajaroha’ offers a pen picture of the Panguni
Festival of Lord Tyagaraja and is unique in that aspect as there exists no such
similar composition comparable to its underlying concept or grandeur.
Tiruvarur is one of the sapata
vitaka ksetras and the rituals and rites associated with the Temple are found
documented in the Siva Purana, a copy of which forms part of the manuscript
collections of the Sarasvati Mahal Library, Tanjore. Conventionally speaking
the Vasantotsvam or the Panguni Uttiram festival of the Temple lasts for 51
days (mark the concordance of the number with the syllabary of Sanskrit
language) of which about 36 days are reserved for festivities for Lord
Tyagaraja and for Lord Valmikanatha (the presiding deity or the moolavar
of the Temple).
Lyrical Background to the Composition:
The kriti is obviously a
narrative of the festivities of the Vasantotsavam, the Spring Festival
celebrated during the Tamil month of Panguni corresponding to the months of
March-April of the Gregorian calendar. This festival consists of a sequential
set of processions and festivities as under:
– flag hoisting to mark the beginning of the festival.
of the parivara devatas – Ganapathy, Subramanya and Bhairava
of the Lord on the Gaja (Elephant), Vrushaba (Bull) and Kailasa vahanams or
Azhi Ther or the Great Car Festival on the asterism of Aslesha (Star Ayilyam)
natanam by which the Lord in procession dances in a slow cadence of the natana
which is native to the Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur. A form of natana is ascribed as
being unique to every one of the sapta-vitanka ksetras.
in the Kamalalaya tank or the ritual cleansing towards the end of the
– Year throughout, the feet of Lord Tyagaraja are covered with flowers and
cannot be sighted at all. Pada darshanam is exclusively done twice a year by
which His right foot alone is beheld for darshan during the Panguni Festival
and the left foot alone can be similarly beheld during the Tiruvadirai
Festival. Legend has it Sage Patanjali is given the darshan of the right feet
(pAdam) during Panguni Festival while Sage Vyaghrapada is similarly given
darshan of the (other) left feet/pAdam during the Tiruvadirai Festival. This
ritual of Eka pAda darshanam has been masterfully woven into the lyric,
the musical significance of which we will see shortly.
by Lord Chandrasekarar in the paarvetai or the customary hunt and on festival
days as the utsava moorti/representative icon of Lord Tyagaraja.
The celestial wedding ceremony of
the Lord whence He becomes Lord Kalyanasundaresvarar.
of the edition of the festival with the procession of Chandikesvarar
The kriti apart from cataloguing
all these celebrations in the festival seriatim in its lyrics. has references
to the following:
Use of the nagasvara, maddala and
such other instruments during the festival. From the point of view of
(dviteeyakshara) prasa, since the consonantal letter occurring across the
pallavi and anupallavi is ‘ga’ – (tyAga, yE-ga, Aga, nAga, yAga and bhOga), it
is deduced the musical instrument is to be called ‘nAgasvaram’ and not
‘nAdhasvaram’ as we refer to it popularly.
The application of Krishna Gandha
or the black perfume – One may refer to this article by Dr Nagasvami on the perfume.
Lord Tyagaraja is expounded by
the Vedas, is the Lord of the Eight- fold path and who has the ambrosial elixir
itself as his Offering.
reference to the eight-fold path (yamadi-ashtanga-yoga) is reminiscent of the
same phrase used in ‘Sri Matah shivavamanke’ (Begada) and the ‘bodhamrutha’ is
the one that Dikshitar seeks from Lord Jambukesvara (vide the phrase
‘ananda-amrutha-bodham dehi’ occurring the Yamuna Kalyani kriti ‘Jambupate Mam
pahi’). Though not found in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, the
Margahindola kriti “Chandrashekaram sada bhajeham” too carries references found
in this kriti such as ‘suddha maddala’, ‘ashtasiddi dayakam’, ‘ashtapasha hara
teerta vaibhavam’ and ‘ajapa-natana-ananda-vaibhavam’. The kriti is also
replete with philosophical doctrines and precepts along with the reference to
the ‘ajapa’ (meaning un-recited) propitiation of Lord Tyagaraja , an esoteric
yogavidya forming part of the hamsa natanam signifying the supreme vedic
concept ‘hamsah-soham’,symbolizing the inward and outward breath– as being in
the cadence of the ajapa nartanam- of Lord Mahavishnu who is said to be in deep
meditation on Lord Tyagaraja.
a lyrical standpoint, the sequential references to the said spring festival,
the way the narrative has been seamlessly woven as a flowing lyric and the
prasa concordance – the letter ‘ga’ for the pallavi and the anupallavi and the
letter ‘sh’ for the carana section forms the ornamentation for the composition.
That apart as always, Dikshitar weaves in his signature/mudra as well as the
raga name into the fabric of the composition. It is highly likely that one
year, having witnessed the festivities he must have been so enraptured and
taken in by the spirit of the festival that he went on to compose the same in
an auspicious and benedictory raga, being Sriraga.
The text of the kriti together
with the general meaning of the lyrics can be gotten from here.
Background to the Composition:
the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini there are 4 compositions listed out as
having been composed by Muthusvami Dikshitar in Sriraga and this is one among
Muladhara Chakra Vinayaka
Kamalambike Sive Pahimam
from the above, the pallavi portion of the caturdasa ragamalika ‘Sri
visvanatham bhajeham’ (found in the Anubandha to the SSP) is in Sriraga. The
choice of Sriraga for this composition, ‘Tyagaraja Mahadvajaroha’ is hardly
surprising given the pithy commentary which Subbarama Dikshitar provides for
the raga and its greatness therein.
following is the summary:
life blood is the rishabha which is both the jiva and nyasa svara.
gandhara note is vakra, occurring in the avarohana krama.
is alpa or rare in its usage and in a composition occurs only once in its body.
and PDNP are the leitmotifs of the raga.
The raga is classified as a ghana
raga and is the preferred or appropriate melody for exposition by accomplished
The raga is to be sung in the
evenings and confers auspiciousness whenever it is sung.
In line with the above key
lakshanas of the raga, when we view the musical setting of ‘Tyagaraja
mahadvajaroha’ the following would become obvious:
Recognizing the primacy of the
rishabha note and as if to reinforce the same, Dikshitar repeatedly begins
every section of this composition, pallavi, anupallavi and carana only on the
The alpa dhaivatha occurs once in
the composition at ‘pAda darshanam’ in the carana.
composition spans all the 3 octaves from mandhara pancama to the tara gandhara
musical phrases RGRS, P/r and M/N occur in profusion in the composition apart
from the singleton PDNP.
Dhaivatha in Sriraga and the its
unique usage in this composition:
As Subbarama Dikshitar points out, the dhaivatha note is rare or alpa and he says that on the authority of the lakshana shloka he cites in the SSP ascribing it to Venkatamakhin. It has to be pointed out here that the sloka which is cited in SSP is likely that of Venkatamakhin’s descendant Muddu Venkatamakhin, as the sloka cited in the SSP is at variance with the lakshana sloka for Sriraga found in the CDP. The sloka in the SSP, tracing to the Anubandha of the CDP refers to the alpa dhaivatha whereas the sloka for Sriraga found in the original CDP makes no reference to the dhaivatha usage in Sriraga.
Musicological history reveals to
us that Sriraga is an old and hoary raga probably as old as our music itself.
According to Venkatamakhin himself in his CDP:
Meaning: Sriraga is
sampurnam/complete with gandhara and dhaivatha being dropped and is to be sung
in the evening and which confers all fortunes.
While in Venkatamakhin’s scheme, Sriraga
corresponds to the 22nd combination, it was King Shahaji who in his
work “Ragalakshanamu’ (AD 1720) anointed Sriraga as one of the 19 melakartas
and indicates for the first time in the musical history of the sparse
occurrence of dhaivatha in the raga. The same is echoed subsequently by both
Tulaja in his Saramrutha (1736 AD) and by Muddu Venkatamakhin (circa 1750 AD)
in his raga compendium titled ‘Ragalakshanam’ of the so called Anubandha to the
Thus, in short it can be surmised
that in so far as the music of Tanjore is concerned, the dhaivatha note made
its foray into the raga only circa 1700 AD, with the convention that it should
be alpa/sparse in its usage, appearing only once in a composition. Subbarama
Dikshitar too in his SSP provides an older (prior to AD1700 possibly) Raganga
Lakshya Gita (with the refrain ‘Sri Rukmini kalyana karana’) for Sriraga
without the dhaivatha prayoga. The feature
of ragas sporting alpa prayogas is an architectural construct of 17th
Century music, completely lost today in modern day musicology which by its
arohana/avarohana obsessed approach is devoid of mechanisms to capture such
quaint features of raga lakshana. (See Foot Note 1)
In so far as the dhaivatha usage
amongst the 5 compositions of Muthusvami Dikshitar listed above, the following
observations can be made.
Sri Muladhara chakra – Dhaivatha does not at all occur in the composition.
Tyagaraja mahadvajaroha – occurs once at ‘pAda darshanam’ as PDNPMRGR.
Sri Varalakshmi – occurs once at ‘keshava hrutkelinyai’ as PDNP.
Sri Kamalambike – occurs once at ‘Srikari sukahari’ as PDNP.
Sri Vishvanatham – occurs once at ‘dharanAntahkaranam’ as PDNP
It has to be thus noted that:
occurrence of the dhaivatha note is just once in the entire composition and
is through the usage, not as a standalone note but as a musical phrase PDNP and
Thus, one can state that ‘Sri
Muladhara Chakra’ was composed by Muthusvami Dikshitar in the older/archaic
Sriraga, bereft of the dhaivatha note and the others were composed in the
later/contemporaneous version of the raga, strictly adhering to the singleton
And from a rendition perspective
possibly in line with the edict of the purvacharyas as alluded to Subbarama
Dikshitar, the dhaivatha laden phrase PDNP should be dealt with in any
expositional segment alapana, tanam, kriti, neraval or svaraprastara by any
performer, by using the dhaivatha note only once.
In so far as this composition
‘Tyagaraja mahadvajaroha’ goes the dhaivatha note occurs via the phrase PDNP
only once in the lyrical portion ‘pAda darsanam’ right at the very end
of the composition. In other words:
has been used by Muthusvami Dikshitar to signify the eka pada darsanam i.e the
once a year occurrence of the pada (right pada in this case) of Lord Tyagaraja.
The same is signified beautifully
through svarakshara usage with the words ‘pAda darsanam’ set to the musical
cadence P D dnp thus rhyming with the lyric as well.
The lyric ‘pAda darsanam’
quaintly occurs at the very end of the charana (equivalent of pAda) segment of
the composition just ahead of the grand finale being the madhyama kala sahitya
Thus, the way the dhaivatha note
and the phrase PDNP along with the festive event namely the ‘eka pAda darsanam’
has been conjoined lyrically and musically by Dikshitar elegantly while
architecting the composition is an ornamentation or a marvel to be enjoyed, as
one beholds it while hearing or singing.
The kriti ‘Tyagaraja
Mahadvajaroha’ is rarely heard on modern concert platforms and therefore there
are just a handful of renderings most possibly being learnt from notation
directly from the SSP. And amongst those there are two rendering styles, on
being in a slow and sedate pace while the other being in a tad faster yet
Presented first is the rendering of the same by Sangita Kala Acharya Smt Seetha Rajan and her disciples in the tad faster kAlapramAnm/speed of rendering.
It is my considered view, based on the notation in the SSP, the way the second kalam phrases are constructed, given the sparser kampita gamaka notes and profuse straighter notes and the pace set by the madhyama kala sahitya the composition has to be rendered in a faster kAlapramanam /tempo. It must be remembered that the 2nd kalam phrases must be rendered with felicity on the veena and that would be the benchmark optimal tempo that would be appropriate for the composition. And off course the rendering has to be taut so that one doesn’t get breathless while rendering the madhyama kala sahitya portion.
Presented next is a slower &
sedate edition of the composition together with a narrative by Vidushi Gayathri
With great respect it has to be mentioned that this pace of rendering/ kAlapramAnam appears dragged and not sitting well with the composition. If rendered slowly, given the preponderance of straight notes, one has to depart from the given notation in the SSP by rendering quite a few of the said notes/phrases with a prolonged kampita gamaka in order to keep the rendering on an even keel.
The composition needs to be rendered in what Sangita Kalanidhi Vedavalli would call as the madhyama-kAlapramAnam, in contrast to the slower vilamba kAlam or the still faster dhruta kala, the basal speed of rendering of a composition. The innate kAlapramAnam native to a raga or a composition is an aspect which has to be considered in the case.
The above 30 min summary ( in Tamil or Tanglish) of the aspect of kAlapramAnam of a raga or of a composition and how one needs to be aware, is a compulsory must hear and I would greatly commend the same for hearing.
Sriraga like Atana is innately suitable for madhyamakala rendering and further given the construct of the composition and the reasons I have provided hereinabove, the tad faster rendering is the most optimal and appropriate for this composition.
I conclude this blog post with
the rendering of a delectable tanam in Sri raga by the renowned Vaineeka Mysore
Doraiswamy Iyengar in this YouTube audio recording starting at 44:40.
Attention is invited as to how he
starts the Sri raga tanam on the prolonged rishabha note. He renders the tanam in
the known sequence of Natta, Gaula, Arabhi, Varali, Sri the so called ghana
raga pancakam followed by Kedaram as well, which is part of the dviteeya ghana
It is hoped that performers and students of music would stay cognizant of the subtle nuances of ragas and of our musical traditions such as beginning a raga unambiguously on its jiva svara( for example by intoning the rishabha in Sriraga) or by using the dhaivatha note therein only once in deference to sampradaya, even while reserving their spirit of innovation and discovery within the four corners of established tradition.
Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini
(Telugu Original 1906) – Tamil edition published by the Madras Music Academy
(1961) along with the Anubandha – Pages 445-456 of the 2006 Edition of Vol II
and Pages 1203-1208 of the 2006 Edition of Vol V. The English version of the original
Telugu edition is available online here: Link
Sangraha –Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Published by Dr Ramanathan – pp 1326-1341
The Tyagaraja Cult in Tamil Nadu-
Dr Rajeshwari Ghose (1996)- Published by Motilal Banarasidass Publishers P Ltd
-ISBN-10: 81-208-1391-x or ISBN-13: 978-8120813915
ALPA PRAYOGAS OR RARE USAGE
‘alpa’ dhaivatha usage of Sriraga is reminiscent of the ‘alpa’ rishabha usage
in the raga Hindolavasanta, which we saw in an earlier blog post.
The feature was also highlighted in the case of raga Yamuna Kalyani were the
suddha madhyama (M1) note is fleetingly used via the Gm1RS prayoga as seen in
Dikshitar’s ‘Jambupate Mampahi’ which again was dealt with in an earlier blog
prayogas were probably a performance technique, which probably made its way to
the grammar of the raga and which was devised or intended to produce a
proverbial ‘Aha’ moment to a listener during the course of a
performance. A discerning listener, who being aurally satiated by the raga
svarupa with the conventional or regular notes and prayogas of the raga, during
the performance suddenly encounters the supposedly rare foreign note, rendered by
way of an alpa prayoga, providing a sensory jolt. While we see the tradition
sanctified alpa prayoga usage in the exemplars – Sriraga, Hindolavasanta and
Yamuna Kalyani, from a modern perspective as we see in practice, the raga Atana
is a case in point.
Sangita Kalanidhi M S Subbulakshmi as a prelude to Tyagaraja’s ‘Ela Nee daya’ first embarks on a raga vinyasa of the raga Atana parking herself firmly within the traditional bounds of the raga, from 0.29 to 2.33. Mark how pithily without repetition she paints the picture of the raga and rightly concludes it at the tara sadja, as this raga best blossoms forth in the upper reaches of the octave. From 2.34 – 4.14 of the clipping, Sangita Kalanidhi M S Gopalakrishnan(?), her accompanist on the concert embarks on his vinyasa. And at 3.49 he injects the tAra antara gandhara, explicitly for that fleeting moment to produce that contrast in a raga which sports a more oscillated sadharana gandhara, despite being categorized under Melas 28 or 29. It has to be mentioned that the raga and its lakshana is yet another worthy subject matter for a serious blog post.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & SAFE HARBOUR STATEMENT:
The renderings provided through YouTube links as exemplars are the exclusive intellectual property of the artistes concerned. The same has been utilized here strictly on a non-commercial basis, under fair use for study & research, fully acknowledging their rights and that no part of it may be copied, reproduced or otherwise dealt without the consent or permission of the artistes concerned or the IP holders thereof.
This raga Rudrapriya as listed in
the Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) which we take up in this
blog post along with the compositions available to us, would confound any
student or practitioner of music when viewed against the available
musicological texts and musicological history. The objective of this blog post
is to evaluate the material available to us and seek a plausible explanation
for the confusing or contradictory aspects. This raga belonging to the mela
varga or the clan of ragas under Mela 22 Sriraga, is a raga of late 18th
century vintage (post 1750 AD), as it is not seen in the prior musicological
texts, such as those of Shahaji or Tulaja.
Overview of Rudrapriya:
In the modern musical parlance, the raga
Rudrapriya is an upanga janya under Mela 22 Sriraga, taking all the 7 notes in
the arohana lineally while dropping the dhaivata note in the avarohana.
Arohana krama/murcchana: S R2
G2 M1 P D2 N2 S
Avarohana krama/murcchana: S N2 P M1 G2 R2 S
Simple as the definition may sound, yet the
raga plays hosts to a number of unique features beyond what is conveyed by the
above skeletal definition, which is also the source of confusion for us. We
will start the exercise of dissecting the raga, from the commentary provided by
Subbarama Dikshitar in the SSP and the exemplar compositions provided
The SSP’s take on Rudrapriya:
According to Subbarama Dikshitar:
raga is bhashanga
sampurna with dhaivatha being varjya in the avarohana
is the graha svara of the raga
a desya raga
raga can be sung at all times
is a key note of the raga, identified by the dheergha note in the arohana krama
and the Janta combination with which it occurs in the avarohana
and gandhara are the other jiva and nyasa svaras
A brief evaluation of the above commentary
in the modern context is required for us to understand the raga and let us
taken them up seriatim.
Subbarama Dikshitar says that the raga is bhashanga, it is not so in the modern
sense. As pointed out earlier in our other blog posts, such as the one on
Gopikavasanta raga, a proper reading of the SSP as a whole would show that
Subbarama Dikshitar has presented the term “bhashanga” in its older sense, when
ragas were classified as upanga, bhashanga and kriyanga ragas on an entirely
different aspect. The perusal of the Lakshya Gitam of Sriraga, the parent raga
of the 22nd Mela varga in the SSP would show that Sriranjani,
Madhyamavati and Devamanohari are also shown as bhashanga janya ragas of the
mela (22), which we know, they are not, in the modern sense. Today we call a
raga bhashanga if it takes a note which is foreign to the parent scale. Rudrapriya
does not take any note from outside the notes of Mela 22 so is upanga in the
context of the SSP, it has to be pointed out that Rudrapriya is not mentioned
in the Sriraga lakshya gitam either as a upanga or a bhashanga janya
thereunder. Suffice to state that the
raga must have been inducted into the Anubandha listing (to the Catur Dandi
Prakashika probably authored by Muddu Venkatamakhin) much later in time.
as a foot note at the very end of the last composition provided as the
exemplar, Subbarama Dikshitar makes a mention that the prayoga M1G2M1
in certain places is rendered as M1G3M1 which is called as
Hindustani Kapi. Without wading into this controversial point at this juncture
as to the usage of G3/antara gandhara alluded to by Subbarama Dikshitar and
confining ourselves to Rudrapriya alone, we can safely conclude the following
none of the exemplar compositions that Subbarama Dikshitar cites in the SSP,
does MG3M occur or is so notated.
usage of G3 may have been seen by Subbarama Dikshitar during his times but was
not an intrinsic part of the sastraic definition of Rudrapriya.
for us today therefore is a upanga janya under Mela 22 taking no foreign notes.
Subbarama Dikshitar says that the raga is sampurna. What it meant in the older
context was that taking together both arohana and avarohana krama all the seven
notes occurred in the raga. And given that dhaivatha was varjya in the
avarohana, Subbarama Dikshitar rightly provides his summary so. From a
practical perspective thus the musical motif SN2P becomes
defining to mark out this raga. Further since D2 is said to be varjya, or
avoided in the avarohana, the phrase SN2D2N3P should not occur in the raga.
Dikshitar’s reference to sadja being the graha svara of the raga is superfluous
for us today, for even by the late 18th Century ragas had adopted
the sadja note only as the graha svara. The erstwhile architectural construct
of svaras other than sadja, being graha or the commencement/basal note had long
to Subbarama Dikshitar, Rudrapriya is a desya raga. The concept of desi/desya
ragas as referred to by him relates to the aspect of the origin of the raga.
Ragas were classed as Ghana, Naya and Desi right from the days of Shahaji
(circa 1700). A century before Shahaji, Venkatamakhin (circa 1620 AD) in his
trail blazing ‘Caturdandi Prakashika’ is seen using the term ‘desi raga’ and identifies
Kalyani and Pantuvarali/Ramakriya as desi. Venkatamakhin uses the term
“turuska”, meaning Turkish or a Moslem import into Indian music. Though the
practice of classifying ragas as ghana, naya and desya had gone out of vogue,
still in the SSP, Subbarama Dikshitar has in his commentary of the ragas called
out certain ragas as desya ragas- for example Pharaz, Nayaki etc. These so
called ‘auttara’ or foreign origin ragas probably imported into our Music from
the North were nevertheless seen as ranjaka or pleasing to the ear and hence
came to be accepted along with the other established and ordained ragas, by the
Subbarama Dikshitar’s description that Rudrapriya is a raga which can be sung
at all times of the day, relates to a concept which has long since died out in
our system of music. As we saw in prior blog posts, SSP still latches on to this
concept of ragas and the time of the day in which they are to be rendered, for
instance the raga Ahiri is supposed to be sung in the first quarter of the
night ( bhANa yAmE pragIyatE). Again, suffice to say that this concept of
singing a raga at the anointed time has long since gone out of vogue.
according to Subbarama Dikshitar, the janta nishadha is a unique feature of the
raga which is reinforced in the arohana/avarohana murchana krama that he
provides. It is janta in the arohana krama and dheergha in the avarohana krama.
apart Subbarama Dikshitar also identifies gandhara (dhirgha) and rishabha as
preferred jeeva and nyasa svaras. We can see the import of these when we
discuss the exemplar kritis in the sections to follow.
In sum, the Rudpriya of the SSP goes as
an upanga janya raga under mela 22.
It is sampurna
in the arohana and devoid of dhaivatha in the avarohana krama.
Nishadha, dirgha nishadha and gandhara are the hallmarks of this raga with
rishabha figuring as a preferred jiva and nyasa note.
Though Subbarama Dikshitar does not specify
unique motifs for the raga, nevertheless we will endeavour to identify them
when we study some of the exemplar kritis later on in this blog post.
Kritis in the SSP:
Apart from providing the lakshana of the
raga, Subbarama Dikshitar lists out the following compositions for us in the
SSP as illustrating Rudrapriya:
Kopa Jaatha Veerabadhram Ashyraye” of Muthusvami Dikshitar in rupaka tala,
composed on Lord Veerabadhra, the Lord of the Shiva Ganas and considered an
aspect of Lord Shiva Himself in the Hindu mythology.
Senapathi” of Balasvami Dikshitar in Rupaka tala, a composition in Telugu
propitiating Lord Subramanya at Kazhugumalai (or Kazhugachalam or Grudhra Giri)
wherein he seeks the Lord’s benign blessings for his Royal patron Kumara
Ettendra. It may be pointed out here that the Lord at Kazhughachalam/Kazhughumalai
was the presiding deity of the Ettayapuram Royals who were the patrons of the Dikshitars.
rasikashikamani” a daru (ode) again of Balasvami Dikshitar in Adi tala on his
Royal patron Venkatesvara Ettappa, the then Ruler of Ettayapuram.
paradevate” of Krishnasvami Ayya in matya capu tala
Unnai nambinen ayya” a composition by Venkatesvara Ettappa, again on the Lord
own sancari in matya tala.
While this is the listing from the main
SSP, in the Anubandha, Subbarama Dikshitar lists out two more compositions in
this raga attributing the same to Muthusvami Dikshitar:
first being a kriti on Lord Ganesha, “Gananayakam Bhajeham” in Adi tala. It is
the notation of this kriti and the extant versions of the same which causes
considerable confusion to a discerning listener of music, which we will deal
with in the relevant discography section.
second is “Tyagesam Bhajare” again in
Outside the ken of the SSP, from amongst
the lot of kritis which came to be published by Veenai Sundaram Iyer
purportedly from out of the palm leaf manuscripts of Ambi Dikshitar, the son of
Subbarama Dikshitar, we have three kritis attributed to Muthusvami Dikshitar,
available to us:
Bhaktobhavami” (misra capu tala) as part of the set of vibakti kritis on Lord
Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur
in Rupaka tala
in Adi tala
While we take up a few key individual
compositions for analysis, we will also briefly look at the other collateral
aspects of the composition and its subject matter to bolster our understanding
and also enhance our appreciation of the raga and the composition, in unison.
Kopa Jaatha” of Muthusvami Dikshitar:
This kriti is on Lord Veerabadhra,
considered by some as a form of Lord Shiva himself, but yet the popular
mythology places the deity as having been born out of Lord Shiva’s wrath as Muthusvami
Dikshitar very neatly encapsulates it in the opening pallavi of the
composition. Let’s first look at the lyrics and the meaning of the composition.
sadA – Always,
hRdaye – in (my) heart,
AshrayE – I surrender to
vIrabadhram – Lord Virabhadra,
rudra-kOpa-jAta – He whose arose from Shiva’s
– the Consort of Bhadrakali,
bhava-haraNam – the remover of (the sorrows
of) worldly existence,
the one whose feet are adroit in granting prosperity,
one ornamented with garland strung of Rudraksha beads,
preventer of petty or cruel effects,
bhakta-bharaNam – the supporter of devotees,
vijita-vidhi-hari-hari-hayam – the one who subdued Brahma, Vishnu and
Indra (who has golden horses),
vira-adhi-vIram – the bravest of the brave,
abhayam – the fearless one,
rajata-parvata-Ashayam – the one residing in the silver hued mountain,
ravi-vidhu-tEjOmayam – the one who embodies the sun, moon
gaja-mukha-gaNEsha raksham – the protector of the elephant-faced
aja-vadana-daksha-shiksham– the one who taught a lesson to the goat-faced Daksha,
nija-rUpa-dAna-daksham – the adept at granting knowledge of
one’s real self,
nija-guruguha-svapakShststayiam – the one who has his preceptor Guruguha on
The composition encapsulates the portion of the story of Sati or Dakshayani, Daksha’s (son of Lord Brahma) daughter who married Lord Shiva, much against Daksha’s objections. When She attempted to seek the rightful share of the sacrificial offering (haavis) in the yajna that her father conducted, without duly inviting Lord Shiva, Daksha insulted her & Lord Shiva and thereupon Sati immolated herself. It was at this juncture Lord Shiva upon hearing the fate of Sati, was subsumed by anger at Daksha. And in wrath he plucked the locks of his matted hair and split them into two. From one rose Lord Veerabadhra or Aghora Veerabadhra and from the other, his consort Goddess Mahakali appeared. Lord Shiva bade them to go and destroy Daksha’s sacrifice in divine retribution for the sacrilege that he had committed. When Lord Veerabadhra leading Shiva’s bhutaganas, descended on the place where Daksha was conducting his yajna, a great war ensued between them and the Gods including Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Indra on Daksha’s side. Lord Veerabadhra defeated the Gods and exacted revenge by slaying Daksha. When Lord Shiva was thereafter duly propitiated by the Gods, he condescended and revived Daksha by fixing a goat’s head on his decapitated torso. Sati was thereafter reborn as Parvati (daughter of Himavan) and she duly reunited with Lord Shiva. The esoteric worship of Lord Veerabadhra and the related mantras propitiating him can be accessed here.
Muthusvami Dikshitar adroitly weaves this
puranic lore dealing with Lord Veerabadhra in this composition by the following
rudra kOpa jAta, – Veerabadhra
being born out of Lord Shiva’s wrath
Veerabadhra being the consort of Bhadra Kali.
Vijita-vidhi-hari-hari hayam – In the war that
took place between Veerabadhra and Daksha’s forces, Veerbadhra vanquishing Lord
Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Indra
Rajata-parvata-Ashryam – As a
Commander of Lord Shiva’s Ganas, Veerabadhra being a resident of Mount Kailasa,
referred to as a silver hued mountain
Veerabadhra by slaying Daksha for his act of sacrilege thus teaching him a
As is his wont, in the body of the composition,
Dikshitar weaves in part, the raga mudra and his colophon ‘guruguha’ in the
lyrics, even while keeping his date with prasa concordance. It has to be
mentioned that the lyrics provides no specific stala/ksetra reference as the
abode of the deity.
The notation of the composition in the SSP
would show the following for us:
SGRS (especially in tara stayi) forms the alternative progression of the raga
on the purvanga. Actually, SRG is not seen in tara stayi and almost as a rule
only SGR is seen.
uttaranga, PDNS in the madhya stayi and MPNS in the mandhara stayi, (for
example the notation of the lyric “abhayam” in the caranam) are the prayogas
seen. It has to be noted that both PDNS and PNS are thus used in the
composition with the caveat that PDNS figures in the madhya stayi and PNS in
the mandhara stayi.
foregoing would clearly show that the raga conforms to the 18th
Century raga architecture whereby different/multiple progressions in
purvanga-uttaranga are taken in the madhya and mandhara stayi.
NgrsNP and sgrsNP along with MGM are recurring motifs with rishabha being a
preferred phrase ending note.
nishadha and kampita gandhara are seen used. In fact,the NNsNPM can be anointed
as the leitmotif of the raga (the lower case sadja being the tara sadja note).
However, this specific murccana is not found explicitly in this composition,
terms of octaval traversal, the kriti stretches from mandhara madhyama to tara
always Dikshitar unveils his conception of the raga with its delectable turns
and twists, in the madhyama kala sahitya section starting “gajamukha”. The
musical notation of this segment of the composition being the finale goes thus:
Note: Notes in lower case is mandhara
stayi, upper case is madhya stayi and italics is tara stayi.
For this composition, presented is a
compact and almost close to the SSP notation, rendering of the composition by
the Rudrapatnam Brothers in this Youtube audio recording with a raga vinyasa,
kriti rendering followed by a few avarta of svaras.
However, the following points merit
attention in the context of the rendering above:
raga vinyasa could have been structured with more janta nishadhas and by ending
the musical phrases with rishabha note so as to remove any traces suggestive of
lyrical portions of the caranam being “harihayam” and “abhayam” ought to have
been rendered as per SSP with the notation as RnRGM and npmpns respectively.
Instead it is heard as SRGM and npdns. To that extent the fidelity to the
notation of the SSP is not seen in the rendering barring which the rendering otherwise
closely aligns to the SSP.
madhyama kala carana portion is brought out satisfactorily in accordance with
the SSP notation.
There are other renderings of this
composition but they do not meet the benchmark set by SSP and are at best left alone.
With this we move on the next kriti.
Before we embark on dissecting this
composition, a brief note on some aspects of this composition merit our
This composition was published as a part of the Anubandha to the SSP by Subbarama Dikshitar attributing the same to Muthusvami Dikshitar. Some scholars cite this as an infirmity, in a sense, whether the composition was indeed Dikshitar’s and why was it that Subbarama Dikshitar made it part of the Anubandha rather than making it part of the SSP itself.
Further in support of this point of view it is argued that:
The eduppu or the take-off of “Gananayakam” (½ edam of the second beat of the adi tala) and it overall rhythmic format is reminiscent of the style of Tyagaraja. This feature is not seen in any kriti of Muthusvami Dikshitar and thus is stylistically alien to him.
The melody or musical setting/mettu of this composition is uncannily similar or exactly the same as that of “Sri Manini Manohara” a composition of Tyagaraja which goes with the raga name of Poornasadjam. It has to be pointed out that the Anubandha to the SSP states that raga of ‘Gananayakam” as Rudrapriya and not Poornasadjam.
Thus, we are left holding with an issue as
to the antecedents of this composition which can boiled down into the following
a composition of Muthusvami Dikshitar?
is the raga lakshana of Rudrapriya found documented for this composition in the
Anubandha to the SSP?
Rudrapriya and Poornasadjam same or similar, or are they different?
We will proceed to find a satisfactory
explanation for these vexing questions by adopting the following methodology:
the composition from a lyrical and musical perspective (both with the notation
found in the Anubandha and the extant renderings of the composition)
the composition from a musical perspective with “Rudrakopa Jaata” and ‘Sri
the take of musicologists on these questions, if any and summarize our
The notation of the composition:
The Anubandha to the SSP documents the
notation of “Gananayakam” ( catusra eka tala). The perusal would show a number
of distinctive aspects:
is completely avoided both in the arohana and avarohana
kriti itself is architected with the nominal arohana/avarohana murchanas as
S G R G M N
N S / S N P M G R S
to emphasize the core raga lakshana of Rudrapriya, Nishadha note is made the
pivot of the composition both the dheergha and the janta variety littering this
short and exquisite piece.
is invited to stark contrast between the musical texture of “Rudra Kopa Jaatha”
and “Gananayakam” especially the dropping of the dhaivatha note in both arohana
& avarohana and pancama in the ascent.
When we examine the available recordings of
this composition, we have two main varieties of rendering:
1 -Rendering strictly based on the Anubandha notation eschewing dhaivatha
completely in both the arohana and avrohana while pancama in avoided in the
2- Rendering of the composition by normalizing the phrases to incorporate PDNS
wherever MNNS occurs, throughout the composition. This would make the raga
lakshana of the composition to accord with the version laid out in the main SSP
of which ‘Rudrakopa Jaatha” is the exemplar.
In this I present the mellifluous vocalist Sangita
Kalanidhi Dr M L Vasanthakumari rendering the composition fully in accordance
with the Anubandha to the SSP notation. Attention is invited to the musical
notes of the lyrics “dayakam” in the anupallavi, “viradham” in the carana and
the svara kalpana sally on the pallavi wherein the MNNS (not PDNS) figures as
the building block for her. Both “dayakam” and “viradham” are notated as MNNS
in the anubandha to the SSP and she sings the same in strict accordance with
Sangita Kalanidhi D K Jayaraman of the Ambi
Dikshitar sishya parampara sings in accordance with the notation found in the
If we surmise that this was the Ambi
Dikshitar version was this how it was taught?
I present the rendering of the legendary
Sangita Kalanidhi Dr M S Subbulakshmi who begins one of her innumerable
concerts with ‘Gananayakam Bhajeham”. Attention is invited to the musical notes
of the lyrics “dayakam” in the anupallavi, “viradham” in the carana and the
svara kalpana sally on the pallavi wherein the PDNS figures as the building
block for her. Both “dayakam” and “viradham” are notated as MNNS in the Anubandha
to the SSP and NOT as PDNS as she sings.
I next present a detailed exposition by
Sangita Kalacharya Dr S Rajam who too traced his patham to Ambi Dikshitar.
Attention is invited to the introduction he
provides to the raga before commencing his recital. Again, if he too had learnt
it from Ambi Dikshitar, why is the version of the composition is different as
between him and Sri D K Jayaraman? Food for thought, one should say.
Dichotomy in the Raga Lakshana:
The discography above as evidenced by the
two versions poses us with the further question whether the raga of Gananayakam
is Rudrapriya, as exemplified by “Rudra Kopa Jaatha”. The raga seen in ‘Gananayakam’,
being totally devoid of dhaivatha and eschewing panchama in the ascent, cannot
be melodically equated to the Rudrapriya of “Rudra Kopa jaatha”. Yet Subbarama
Dikshitar in his wisdom calls the raga of both the compositions as Rudrapriya.
It is in this context that the raga
lakshana found in ‘Gananayakam” came to be found as being exactly like the one
in Tyagaraja’s “Sri Manini” and similar to the famous ‘Lavanya Rama” which are
labelled in all musical texts as being in the raga by name Poornasadjam.
Without wading into the two Tyagaraja kritis, lest we deviate away from the
subject matter Dikshitar kritis on hand, I refer the reader to the rendering of
the two compositions by the late Vidvan Ramnad Krishnan, available in the public
Which now leaves us with the question as to
the difference between Rudrapriya and Poornasadjam.
two ragas can be compared with the available musicological records as
is found mentioned only in Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Ragalakshanam and in
Subbarama Dikshitar’s SSP. No other prior musicological text talks about this
is found documented only in Sangraha Cudamani and the later Ragalakshanamu.
As reiterated in these blog posts the Sangraha Cudamani (SC) is found to be documenting
the ragas of the compositions of Tyagaraja.
of the raga
22 – Sri Raga or the
equivalent heptatonic mela Karaharapriya
20 – Natabhairavi or
Narabhairavi, as SC calls the Mela, the raga is seen documented in SC.
S R G M P
D N S
S N P M G
S P M P D
P S and
S N D M G
varjya or vakra
omitted in the descent
and Ni omitted in ascent and Pa being omitted in the descent. The sloka in
the SC as well as the Ragalakshanamu are individually as well as mutually,
noticed to be inconsistent
Compositions we hear today
Kopa Jaatha” of Muthuswami Dikshitar and “Amba Paradevate” by Krishnaswami
composition exists in this scale
The very perusal of the authoritative
musicological texts would show that the ragas going by the names of Rudrapriya (found
only in Muddu Venkatamakhin’s raga compendium and the SSP) and Poornasadjam (found
only in the Sangraha Cudamani and its related text called Ragalakshanamu) are
so dissimilar originating in different melas and having different scales. And
further there is no raga similar to Rudrapriya (of SSP) documented in the
Sangraha Cudamani. The facts as above would lead us to only one conclusion:
raga of “Sri Manini Manohara” is not Poornasadjam as the notes found in the
composition belong to the 22 Mela, given that Purnasadjam is a janya of the 20th
mela, on the authority of the Sangraha Cudamani.
assignment of the name Poornasadjam as the raga of “Sri Manini” is most
possibly a misattribution, borne out of ignorance of musicological history, a
phenomenon we have seen repeatedly in the case of a number of instances as
documented in these blog posts, by which some name has been randomly been
assigned to the raga.
the raga of “Sri Manini Manohara” is therefore not Poornasadjam as defined by
The above table for the raga that we today call
as Poornasadjam will be thus:
raga that we today call as Poornasadjam
textual or musicological authority exists for the raga. Only Post 1906 AD
publications talk about this raga.
of the raga
S R G M N
(N) S /S N P M G R S
varjya or vakra
completely omitted in the raga and pancama is omitted in the ascent
Compositions we hear today
Manini Manohara” and “Lavanya Rama”
the raga of certain oral versions of “Gananayakam” (as we saw by Dr M S
Subbulakshmi) and the notation that is given in the Anubandha to the SSP
conform to this scale, we still call the raga of “Gananayakam” as Rudrapriya
only and NOT as Poornasadjam.
Therefore, the question that survives for
our consideration is given the similarity of the tonal material of “Sri Manini”
with “Gananayakam” and on the authority of the Anubandha to the SSP, can the
raga of “Sri Manini” also be Rudrapriya?
Amba Paradevate of Krishnasvami Ayya:
But before we embark to find the answer to
this question, we should look at the other compositions, renderings of which
are available for us. In the same breath we have to note that the other
compositions in the SSP, being the two compositions of Balasvami Dikshitar, the
kriti of Venkatsvara Ettappa and the sancari are aligned to the Rudrapriya
described by Subbarama Dikshitar and delineated in “Rudra Kopa Jaata”. All
these compositions go with the SRGMPDNS/SNPMGRS as the common murccana arohana/avarohana,
whereas “Gananayakam” goes with the melodic structure of SRGMNNS/SNPMGRS in
Leaving this at this point, we take up the
exposition of Rudrapriya by the renowned Sangita Kalanidhi Flute T Visvanathan
who prefaces his demonstration of Krishnasvami Ayya’s “Amba Paradevate” with
his commentary of the raga and its lakshana.
Here is the audio of the rendering: Link (requires Yahoo or Gmail sign in credentials)
is a live video of his rendering (excerpt) of the same: Link
It has to be said that though the doyen’s
presentation of the composition is par excellent, it is tinted much with Karaharapriya,
with no distinguishing features in place. The rendering may be immaculate from
a scalar grammar perspective duly avoiding the dhaivatha in the descent but
does it convey the melodic idea of Rudrapriya as a scale distinctive in itself?
I leave the answer to a discerning listener to decide for himself. One can
however say with certainty that the musical texture and conception of
Rudrapriya as seen in “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” is nowhere seen in ‘Amba Paradevate”
atleast from this popular rendering of the composition.
And to conclude our exploration of
Rudrapriya we move over to the final piece of this discography section.
“Sri Tyagarajasya Bakthobhavami” of
We move on next to this composition which
is not found in the SSP. This composition is identified by certain
musicologists as being part of a set of compositions being the Vibakti
set/series of kritis on Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvarur. While in the SSP,
Subbarama Dikshitar clearly identifies such sets of compositions (example the
Vaara kritis and the Navavarana Kritis on Goddess Kamalamba) by way of his foot
notes, no such reference is made by him in so far as this set of compositions
go. Be that as it may I first take up the rendering of the composition by Vidushi
The evaluation of this rendering assuming
it is as per the published notation of this composition would yield us the
Vidushi embarks first on an alapana embellishing it liberally with PDNP and
phrases ending with rishabha. Every time she fleshes out a musical phrase, she
keeps the DNP or SNP as a refrain so as to keep any trace of Karaharapriya at
same time quite controversially, she repeatedly uses PDNPGR in the madhya stayi
descent phrases, while it ought to be PDNPMGR. These madhyama varjya
sancaras bring a different texture to the raga (tinting it with the feel of
Rathipatipriya – Mela 22- SRGPNS/SNPGRS). The madhyama has a solid pride of place
in the raga Rudrapriay both in the ascent and descent and hence while a casual
or one-off rendering of madhyama varjya phrases could be artistically
supported, repeatedly or only using the phrase PDNPGR almost as a rule is
certainly unwarranted. Similar is her usage of the MGS in the tara sancaras which
conveys a very different feel to the raga.
her rendering of the composition too seems to carrying these phrases as well
lending a different feel to the raga, in contradistinction to the one
delineated in the SSP and ‘Rudra Kopa Jaatha”.
perusal of the notation of the composition as published by Veeni Sundaram Iyer
reveals a few puzzling aspects. In more than one place the phrase PMNDN and DND
figure prominently. Further phrases such SNDS, PNDNS too occur. Grammatically
speaking these phrases do not conform to the laid down lakshana and if the
composition is so notated with these non-kosher phrases not seen in the SSP, it
certainly needs further explanation and authority. And it would be yet another
flavour or variant of the Rudrapriya apart from the versions found in “Rudra
Kopa Jaatha” and “Gananayakam”
Thus, neither does the musical setting of
the composition strictly conform to the lakshana of the raga as found in “Rudra
kopa jaatha” or SSP nor does it sound stylistically aligned to how Dikshitar
would set the melody of the composition. It must have been perhaps for this
reason that Subbarama Dikshitar in his wisdom decided to keep the composition
out of the SSP (assuming that he had the lyrics with him). Given this problem I
keep this composition out from further discussion in this blog post.
It must be pointed out that from a lyrical content
perspective the kriti is replete with references to the hoary traditions and mythologies
surrounding the Tyagaraja Temple. To conclude this section, it is observed that
this kriti too does not take us any further in resolving the dichotomy that we
see in the raga’s lakshana.
The foregoing thus shows that:
kriti “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” is the benchmark or standard or exemplar which
conforms to the laid down lakshana of Rudrapriya and evidenced by Subbarama
Dikshitar’s commentary of the same in the SSP.
raga as conceptualized by Muthusvami Dikshitar in the said composition is
unique like Reetigaula ( different prayogas in the different registers) by
sporting PNS and not PDNS in the mandhara stayi (and) PDNS and not PNS in
madhya stayi and again sporting SRGM in madhya stayi while its equivalent tara
stayi prayoga being SGRS, reinforcing the 19th Century raga
architecture tenet that multiple progressions for a raga are permissible in its
purvanga and or uttaranga and/or in the mandhara/madhya/tara registers/octaves.
mettu of ‘Gananayakam” and ‘Sri Manini” being the same/similar, the raga of the
composition is certainly not Poornasadjam (as defined under Sangraha Cudamani)
the scale SGRGMNNS/SNPMGRS found in these two kritis should probably be treated
as a form/variant or a truncated version of Rudrapriya.
One could possibly reconcile
the foregoing and conclude that this variant of Rudrapriya (SGMNNS/SNPMGRS as seen
in “Sri Manini Manohara”/”Gananayakam”) was perhaps an offshoot of the original
Rudrapriya whereby primacy was given to janta nishadha by dropping dhaivatha
altogether. Hence the Rudrapriya found in “Gananayakam”/”Sri Manini” represents
yet another interpretation of the raga. Harmonically speaking it can be
reasoned that only when dhaivatha is absent will dheergatva and janta prayoga
on the nishadha note make musical sense.
Compositions in Rudrapriya by other
Leaving aside the case of the kritis “Lavanya Rama” or ‘Sri Manini Manohara” of Tyagaraja which are obviously not in the same musical mould as the Rudrapriya found in “Rudra Kopa Jaatha”, there are no other available compositions in the raga. The only known composition from the post Trinity composers in this Rudrapriya, seems to be the kriti “Nee Dasudani” of Veena Varadayya (AD1877-1952). A recording of the same is available on the web –Link.
Is the composition “Gananayakam” really
Muthusvami Dikshitar’s, given the points as to the stylistic aspects which has
been raised? In this regard we should take notice of the following factors:
Anubandha to the SSP also documents a few other compositions of Muthusvami
Dikshitar including the famous Caturdasa Ragamalika. On the strength of
Subbarama Dikshitar’s assertion we have to go with this attribution. Further
along with “Gananayakam”, Subbarama Dikshitar also provides ‘Ananta
Balakrishnam” in Isamanohari, ascribing it to Muthusvami Dikshitar. And again,
he provides ‘Ananta Balakrishnam’ in the Prathamabyasa Pustakamu as well.
Considerable thought must have gone into his decision to make these kritis part
of the SSP Compendium attributing authorship to Muthusvami Dikshitar and
therefore it would be in the fitness of things to acknowledge his call at face
value and accept that the kriti is indeed of Muthusvami Dikshitar despite the
stylistic reservations as aforesaid.
respected music critic of the last century Sri K V Ramachandran in his erudite
Music Academy lecture demonstration, published in the Journal titled “Apurva
Ragas of Tyagaraja’s Songs” (The Journal of the Music Academy XXI, pp. 107-109,
Madras) has this to say:
the two composers (Tyagaraja and Dikshitar) have composed several songs with
the same dhatu as though in friendly rivalry: –
Sri Venugopala and sri Rama in Kurinji, Kamakshi Mampahi and Sri Rama
padama (Suddha Desi), Syamale Meenakshi and Pahi Ramachandra (
Sankarabharanam), Gananayakam and Sri Manini (Rudrapriya), Gatamoha and
Gurumurte ( Sankarabharanam),Ananta Balakrishnam and Dinamani vamsa (
Isamanohari); and Eramuni of Tyagaraja resembles a Dikshitar song in
Vasantabhairavi. If a diligent search is made, we could find many other songs
with the same musical idea…………..”
And rightly so in olden days,
composers used to conjure lyrics for a popular captivating tune and that was
never frowned upon as plagiarism. It may be pointed out that the famous
Svarajati of Melattur Virabhadrayya in Huseini spawned many a copy. As it is
said imitation is the best form of flattery. In this instant case of
“Gananayakam” and “Sri Manini”, who imitated whom, will never be known. Yet
here are these compositions for us to hear, learn and relish with the full
knowledge of all these contradictions and confusions. With passage of time,
none of this will ever be resolved.
In so far as the question of what is
Rudrapriya and what is Poornsadjam, the following points merit our attention.
The Music Academy Experts Committee in the year 1955 (JMA Volume 27 1956 pp 27-28) took up the detailed discussion on the raga Rudrapriya. After discussing the lakshana laid down in the SSP and the musical setting of “Lavanya Rama” and the identical progression of the raga in “Gananayakam” the Committee reiterated the position that we see today: Rudrapriya is SRGMPDNS/SNPMGRS under Mela 22 and the other being Purnsadjam with SRGMNS/SNPMGRS under mela 22 as well.
Unfortunately, the Committee never went into issue of the textual authority supporting the parent mela of raga Purnasadjam as Mela 20 nor did they get into the other aspects of Rudrapriya such as the janta/dheergha nishadha and the usage of MPNS, PDNS and SGR as some motifs as found in ‘Rudra Kopa”. Nobody seems to have even come forward to sing “Rudra Kopa”. Further the kriti “Sri Manini” and its melodic closeness with “Gananayakam” is not even mentioned in the said discussion. It can be noted from the discussion, that the divergence between the stated SSP lakshana and the melodic progression in “Gananayakam” seem to have troubled the veteran Sangita Kalanidhi Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer, who has ventured to explain it away by suggesting that with passage of time the raga’s structure might have changed.
The Music Academy Experts Committee again in the year 2009 (JMA Volume 80 2009 pp 103-114) discussed the raga Rudrapriya along with its allied ragas without any definitive conclusion as to its individual lakshana. According Dr N Ramanathan, who has summarized the said discussion as an article in the JMA:
The original musical setting of the kriti “Gananayakam” must have been lost and therefore the composition possibly must have come to be rendered in the tune of “Sri Manini”. Subbarama Dikshitar wary of this therefore relegated it to Part B of the Anubandha and not presenting it in the main SSP.
The phrase ‘MPNS’ seen in “Rudrakopa Jaatha” is reminiscent of Hindustani Kapi but there the nishadha is kakali. The phrases RMP too occurs in profusion along with NPMGR and NPGR in “Rudrakopa” and “Sri Tyagarajasaya”
K V Srinivasa Iyengar mentions the raga of “Sri Manini” as Purnasadja and “Lavanya Rama” as Rudrapriya. In the absence of a reliable notation of these two Tyagaraja compositions it is difficult to determine what the melodic forms of these compositions.
It is respectfully noted that this discussion of the Committee of Experts of the Music Academy in 2009 seems to have taken no notice of the earlier discussion made in the year 1955, cited above. The 2009 discussion too seems to have completely ignored the fact that the raga Purnasadja as documented by Sangraha Cudamani belonged to Mela 20. Further the analysis of the raga has been done mainly with reference to Hindustani Kapi and the sibling ragas Kanada, Durbar and Karnataka Kapi, without getting in depth into the raga Rudrapriya’s contours on a standalone basis.
For us, the raga name ascribed to “Lavanya Rama” as Rudrapriya by Sri K V Srinivasa Iyengar adds yet another twist to the tale, making us doubt whether the raga of that composition too has been normalized by dropping dhaivatha completely and aligning it to the nominal structure of SRGMNNS/SNPMGRS. Could it have been that “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” and “Lavanya Rama” were in one bucket while “Gananayakam” and “Sri Manini” were in another? One would never know.
Be that as it may, right or wrong, one silver lining in this entire controversy is the final conclusion drawn by the 1955 Music Academy Experts Committee Meeting supra, which for us today resolves the naming convention of the raga found in the compositions so that students of music of today aren’t confused as to the raga and it name in the context of these compositions. Thus, if the scale used is SRGMPDNS/SNPMGRS then it is Rudrapriya and if it is SRGMNNS/SNPMGRS it is Poornasadja, both under Mela 22, notwithstanding the assignment of the raga name as Rudrapriya to “Gananayakam” in the Anubandha to the SSP. Despite this, today we still see Dikshitar’s compositions being called only as Rudrapriya and the Tyagaraja compositions being called as Poornsadjam.
In this blog post I have consciously
avoided discussing the raga Rudrapriya in the context of its allied ragas as
well as its melodic affinity if any to the Northern Kafi. Instead I have
focussed only on the determination or examination of Rudrapriya’s core musical
form as available to us through the SSP.
At this juncture it must be reiterated that
any work of art must always be represented with utmost fidelity to the intent
of the composer, of which we have cognizance based on appropriate facts and
circumstances. In the instant case on hand one therefore ought to conclude
kriti “Gananayakam” ought to be sung as notated in the Anubandha to the
SSP (vide the rendering of Sangita Kalanidhi Dr M L Vasanthakumari) and should
not be normalized to the nominal arohana/avarohana krama given in the main SSP.
There is no need to apply our judgement in this matter in the light of the
proper notation as provided by Subbarama Dikshitar for “Gananayakam” in the
the kriti “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” ought to be sung duly emphasizing the MPNS &
avoiding PDNS in the mandhara stayi and by using only PDNS in the madhya stayi
and SGRS in the tara stayi. Again, there is no need to normalize the prayogas by
replacing the MPNS with the PDNS and rendering the same, based on our defective
belief that ragas must have octaval symmetry or that it can be only of one
Thus, in sum, compositions ought to be
rendered with complete adherence to the composer’s intent as found in the
composition and any transgression from the same ought to be eschewed
completely. Similarly attempting to morph raga lakshanas by standardizing the
svaras/combinations is a pernicious tendency which we must get rid of. Under
the garb of normalization, we have mauled or mutilated the compositions of the
Trinity, which we have repeatedly been seeing this these blog posts. We must
accept and acknowledge that two or more variants of a raga can be there
(musical isomerism) and no harm will be caused by rendering the kriti properly
in accordance with the raga lakshana found therein.
It is sincerely hoped that students as well
as professional performers of our music would respect these aspects as to
lakshya, lakshana and the adherence or fidelity to the laid down lakshana in
the composition are kept in mind, to the best of ability, while learning and rendering
compositions of the great vaggeyakaras.
Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (Telugu Original 1906) – Tamil edition published by the Madras Music Academy (1961) along with the Anubandha – Pages 556-567 of the 2006 Edition of Vol III and Pages 1359-1361 of the 2006 Edition of Vol V and the English version available online here: Link
Ragalakshana Sangraha – PhD Dissertation of Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Published by Dr Ramanathan – pp 1084 and 1158
Dr V Premalatha – Note on Ghana Naya Desya Ragas – Link
Journal of the Music Academy Madras (2009) – JMA Volume 80 – Editor Pappu Venugopala Rao – pp 103-114
Journal of the Music Academy Madras (1956) -JMA Volume 27 – Editor T V Subba Rao & Dr V Raghavan- pp 27-28
Journal of the Music Academy Madras (1950) -JMA Volume 21– Editor T V Subba Rao & Dr V Raghavan- pp 107-109
The proof of the pudding always lies in eating it. And with that note & on this Vijayadasami Day I present my amateur interpretation of Dikshitar’s “Rudra Kopa Jaatha” duly prefaced with a brief raga vinyasa just to highlight that indeed a very professional and thoroughly delectable presentation of the raga is in the realm of possibility.
I learnt this SSP interpretation from the revered Prof C S Seshadri, a guru of sorts for me. However, all errors and omissions in this rendering are entirely mine and I have also further improvised the version I learnt from him. As can be noticed, in the rendering, my first sangati for a line of lyric will always be completely aligned to the SSP while the second/additional sangatis if any thereafter shall be fully in consonance with the laid down lakshana seen in the composition.
The raga Kāmbhoji needs no introduction to a discerning listener of our music. In it, is a composition of Muthusvami Dikshitar, which is the subject matter of this brief post, which is the first one in this new composition appreciation series of short blogposts. Personally, I consider this as one of the serious and contemplative pieces ever composed in our music and particularly by Dikshitar. Considerable thought ought to have gone into this composition as it is truly a magnum opus of epic proportions set in khanda ata tala, 14 aksharas, with a full suite of pallavi, anupallavi and carana and the last two sections invested with a madhyama kala portion, the sahitya rich in lyrics, sthala/ksetra references and needless to add, infused with Kambhoji as its life and blood.
The Kriti – A Background
During his stay at Tiruvarur, sometime CE 1820 , the itinerant he was, Dikshitar visited the nearby village of Kuzhikkarai perhaps on the occasion of the consecration of the Shiva temple there, whose patron was one Vaidyalinga Mudaliar. The temple being analogous to the one at Kasi, has Lord Kasi Visvanatha as its presiding deity. Musical history tells us that during his sojourn there, Dikshitar composed quite a few kritis including this Kambhoji masterpiece. ‘śrī viśvanātham’, the caturdasha ragamalika, ‘annapūrṇe viśālākṣi’ in sama, ‘viśvanāthena samrakṣitoham in samanta are the other ones which are recorded in history as having been composed by Dikshitar in this ksetra. Near the temple precincts in a water body/tank /kuLaM (in tamizh). The legend associated with the temple has it that by bathing in it, a person afflicted by leprosy would be cured of the same (“kuśṭha-roga-apaha-gartatīrtha-śambho”) and that, propitiating the Lord in this kshetra would give one, benefits greater than what can be got by being to kashi itself (“kāśī-kśetra-sadṛśa-adhika-phalada-garta-tīra-vāsa”).
The kriti in its sahitya sports all these references directly or indirectly as under:
भवरोगहर-चतुर-वैद्यलिङ्ग-विभो (bhava-roga-hara-catura vaidya-linga-vibho) – reference indirectly to Vaidyalinga Mudaliar
गर्ततीर-वास भक्तविश्वास ( gartatīra-vāsa bhaktaviśvāsa) & कुष्ठ रोगापह-गर्ततीर्थ-शम्भो (kuśṭha-roga-apaha-gartatīrtha-śambho) – Reference to the sacred water tank ‘gartatIra’ and its medicinal property to ward off leprosy (kushta roga)
And as is Dikshitar’s wont, the raga mudra and his colophon are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the composition as under:
भद्रदायक-अम्भोजकर-विभो – meaning “O the one whose lotus hands grant benign fortune and happiness!”
शिवगुरु-गुहजनक-पशुपते – meaning “O the auspicious one, the progenitor of Guruguha and master of all creatures!”
The complete lyrics and the meaning of this composition in Sanskrit can be found here:
Kambhoji Quartet – The Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP’s) take:
Subbarama Diksitar’s treatise documents the following compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar in the raga Kambhoji:
Shri Subramanyaya Namaste – Rupaka
Shri Valmikalingam – Ata
Kamalambikayai Kanakamshukayai – Ata
Kashi Vishvesvara -Ata
Each one of the above ‘Kambhoji Quartet’ is a musical marvel, presenting the raga Kambhoji in its seemingly infinite variations and facets and rivalling only each other in their beauty of the melodic construction and intricacy of architecture. But before one looks at the construct of the composition, it has to be first heard. Sadly, the composition “kAsi visvesvara” is never heard on the concert circuit and gives one the impression whether it is even being taught and learnt, leave alone being sung! While the performers, from amongst the above listing of compositions of Dikshitar, take to the ubiquitous ‘Sri Subramanyaya Namaste’, the three others have never been known to be taken up for rendering or serious elaboration. And sadly, keeping the above Kambhoji Quartet aside, performers have taken recourse to the other kritis, (mis)attributed to Muthuswami Dikshitar, such as “Marakatavallim” or “Kailasanathena” which are not only of doubtful antecedents but also not at all comparable or in the same league as the aforesaid Quartet of compositions.
Be that as it may, before we look at the lyrical and musical construct of the composition, the available renderings must be first heard.
It is known with certainty that this composition formed part of the repertoire of the late Sangita Kalanidhi D K Pattamal who used to wonder at it saying that singing this composition was nothing short of performing a yagna. Unfortunately, we do not have any recordings of her rendering of this piece. In all probability she must have learnt it from Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, the repository of Dikshitar compositions, from whom she learnt many Dikshitar compositions.
Presented first in this section is the rendering of the composition by Sangita Kalanidhi B Rajam Iyer who too learnt it from Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer, which we fortunately have.
Presented next is a rendering of the same by the revered Prof S R Janakiraman, who has rendered it in his own inimitable style.
It has to be pointed out here that the above two are the only available rendering of the composition in the public domain and perhaps luckily become a high-fidelity or pristine version/gold copy of the composition, unsullied by likely extensions or interpolations. A discerning listener ought to immerse himself/herself in the rendering, with the SSP notation by the side to soak up the musical and lyrical essence of the composition.
Musical & Lyrical Construct of the Composition:
From a musical perspective the following points stand out:
The musical phrase ‘DP DM MG MR GR GS’ is the recurring leitmotif which occurs in this composition. The notation for the anupallavi & charana lyrical portions ‘bhakta viś v ā sa’, ‘vaidyalingavibho’, ‘gartatīrtha śambho’ and ‘cinmātra’ would show that they are set to this phrase as it were a refrain of sorts. The pallavi lyrical portion ‘karuṇānidhe’ too sports an equivalent phrase ‘DP DM MG MR rpmG MG MR GS’ as its mettu. By design this musical motif is found in the anupallavi and the charana portions, occurring in the 8th to the 14th akshara of the ata tala cycle.
SN3P finds an acknowledged place in the musical setting. The loop back portions from the anupallavi and the charana back to the pallavi, respectively at ‘dakshina’ and ‘citsabhāpate’ sport SN3P explicitly.
The raga’s purvanga as it appears in the composition eschews SRGMP completely save for a tāra sancara usage at the sahitya ‘rogāpaha’ occurring in the carana. Thus, it is SGRGM, SP or SMGM which dominate the raga’s purvanga prayogas. And the quaint MGPDS as well as the standard SMGMPD appear aplenty in the composition.
The madhyama note is seemingly given a pride of place in the composition. For instance, the anupallavi section of the composition commences with a dheerga madhyama.
The two madhyama kala sahitya portions appended to the anupallavi and the carana portions are a marvel in themselves. The word ‘deva’ is used consecutively but yet to connote different epithets of the Lord, a form of aNi (அணி)or a lyrical motif. This form of lyrical ornamentation is found in a number of compositions of both Muthusvami Dikshitar and Subbarama Dikshitar, as documented in the SSP.
Similarly, the prathamakshara and dvitIyakshara prAsa concordance is found in the two madhyama kala sahityas as under:
The syllable ‘de’ occurring at the 1st and 8th (exact half of ata tala 14 beat cycle) aksharas covering the two full tAla avartas of the anupallavi madhyama kala sahitya section “dEśika kaṭākṣeṇa darśita
|dEvatā-sārvabhauma-mahā || dEva-devadeva-deva nuta |dEva rāja pūjita dakshiṇa||”
The syllable ‘va’ occurring at the 2nd and 9th aksharas covering the two full tala avartas of the carana madhyama kala sahitya section “bhuvana bharaṇa-bhūtagaṇapate -bhava hara-nata-vidhi-śrIpate|| Siva guruguha-janaka-paśupate |nava maṇi-vilasita-citsabhāpate ||
Dikshitar has made the composition capacious. In other words he distributes the sahitya in such a way that even while he keep prAsa in mind, he also incorporates long kArvais, pauses and musical phrases to fill every one of the 14 aksharas. I draw the attention of the reader to what we saw in the previous post on the composition ‘rEnuka dEvi samrakshitOham’ in Kannada Bangala. There Dikshitar took the stylistic route of matching the hrasva and dhirghA syllables of the sahitya to exactly fit the sahitya in a 1:2 ratio- for example if every hrasva sahitya syllable were to be sung for 1 akshara of the tala ( jhampa in that case) then the dhIrgha syllables would be at 2 aksharas and the entire sahitya of the composition would be structured as well to fit into exactly the total tala cycle, leaving no surplus or deficit of either sahitya syllables or tala aksharas. In other words, there was no need for a pause/kArvai to extend sahitya to fill the tala nor was there a need to accelerate to second speed in the midst in order to complete the sahitya within the tala cycle. This construct of mAtu laya is not adopted by Dikshitar here. Contrastingly in ‘kAsi visvEsara’ he liberates himself from this self-imposed constraint of matching the sahitya and tala in perfect mAtu laya. Instead he pitches for long kArvais – sustained intonation/elongation of sahitya/note on to multiple contiguous tala aksharas and gamakas keeping in mind the raga of his choice for the composition namely Kambhoji. Kambhoji as a rakti raga can we melded to this compositional style with elaborate gamakas or kArvais, which we can say as mellismatic whereas a raga like Kannada Bangala which is more note or phrase based would be amenable to a matu laya model composition. It is an accepted tenet that kArvais or elongation of svaras is generally responsible for bringing visrAnti or reposefulness to rAga elaboration.
In preparing his compositional canvas with ata tala , Dikshitar also pegs the pace of rendering the composition – the rendering ought to be sedate and languorous without either rushing the sahitya through or eliding/abbreviating the pauses. There are those who have attempted to abbreviate the compositions of Dikshitar to shorter talas, as we saw in the case of ‘rEnukA dEvi samrakshitOham’. In fact there are those who render the other Kambhoji ata tala creation of Dikshitar namely ‘srI valmIkalingam in a faster tempo, wreaking havoc on the composition and also eliding the kArvais therein. In sum Dikshitar’s idea of a longer tAla cycle with sparser sahitya per tala must have been to potentially make the performer linger a lot more on every note and have it rendered in a sedate style so that every note and its movement can be slowly partaken by the listeners.
While the sahitya is rich, Dikshitar has strung them in the section with the greatest of care, creating a monumental edifice. From a tala perspective for example the Pallavi itself takes 4 cycles, anupallavi takes 6 cycles with two of them being madhyama kala sahityas and the caranam in 14 cycles again with two of the them being madhyama kala sahitya sections.
And as Dikshitar proceeds to set the composition to music he has for some reason has chosen the phrase in second kAla DP DM MG MR GR GS as the quintessential leitmotif for this composition, repeating this in atleast 5 places spread over the composition as pointed out earlier.
The anupallavi of the composition has been constructed effectively taking Kambhoji’s uttaranga followed by a foray into the tara stayi and back to the Madhya sadja. Launching thus on the madhyama note ( at ‘kAsi ksEtra’) the khandika or section proceeds all the way to the tAra gandhara ( fleetingly touching the tAra madhyama at ‘garthatIra”) before descending to sadja ar ‘vishvAsA’. The delectable anupallavi madhyama kala sahitya section ‘dEsika katAksEna’ distills the Kambhoji of yore for us, spanning exactly the same octaval coverage made earlier in the anupallavi proper.. Attention is invited to the different varieties of madhyama employed in the anupallavi, for example the straight/plain variety at ‘Kasi’ and the quivering variety at ‘ksEtra’.
While this is so of the anupallavi, a serious commentary on the construct of the caranam is best provided by the late Veena Vidushi and Musicologist Smt Vidya Shankar in one of her articles ( “A Comparative Study of the Music Trinity”), wherein she demonstrates that the musical setting of this composition is the best exemplar as to how a raga has to be elaborated or laid out in a composition in a systematic/structured manner, which she refers to as ‘AlApana paddhathi’. Again the final madhayama kala sahitya section of the carana ‘bhuvana bharana…………citsabhApatE’ stands out as a grand finale of this magnum opus of Muthusvami Dikshitar.
This magnificent composition deserves a thoroughly scholarly and aesthetic presentation by an artiste after duly absorbing the melody and lyrics. And it is probably for the likely effort involved in doing so which perhaps deters performers from learning and rendering it. One fervently hopes that this would change in the days to come.
And in parting I conclude this blog post with a piece, a tillana rendered by Sangita Kalanidhi Dr M L Vasanthakumari, in a very contrasting raga. It is in a haunting melody Dayavati which goes with the notes: Arohana : S R2 G2 P N2 S and Avarohana: S N2 P M1 G2 S composed by Late N S Ramachandran in khanda triputa tala. The composition is obviously a solitaire, the only one of its kind serving as the sole exemplar of this raga.