Sri Ramachandra always served as a source of inspiration for poets for his ideal and desirable characters. We have innumerable compositions composed over the ages on the ‘martyavatara’ (Bhagavan who has taken the form of a human). Among all these compositions, the compositions or poems on his crowning ceremony ‘pattabhisheka’ deserve a special mention. It is said that reading or even listening to the ‘pattabhisheka’ sarga, available in the Yuddha Kanda, the sixth book of Srimad Valmiki Ramayana confers auspiciousness.
Almost every other composer or poet takes an attempt to describe the ‘pattabhisheka’ in his own inimitable way. The kriti ‘mamava pattabhirama’ in the raga Manirangu is much popular. The composer Muthuswamy Dikshitar describes this celestial event almost along the lines of Valmiki. There exists a lesser-known composition of Vaikunta Sastri in the raga Pharaju. This kriti ‘sreyase dhyayami’ starts as a paean to Ramachandra, but proceeds to mention ‘pattabhishekam’.
A very elaborative Sri Rama Pattabhishekam was picturized by Arunachala Kavirayar. Though his Rama nataka kritis are famous, this kriti intricately describing the pattabhishekam is obsolete. This kriti was set to the raga Saurashtra and has a pallavi, anupallavi and three charanas, each comprising fifteen lines. On all probabilities, this kriti ‘makutabhishekam kondane’ could be the longest composition available explaining all the events mentioned in Pattabhisheka sarga of Valmiki Ramayana.
Tyagaraja Svamigal (1767-1847) is a popular South Indian composer, well known for his devotion towards Sri Ramachandra. He is said to have composed thousands of compositions, but only around seven hundred are available. Despite being a Rama bhakta, the theme seen in his compositions is much varied. Even his ‘Rama’ based kritis can be divided into several groups. The first type of composition is those wherein he records the personal communications he had with his deity Ramachandra. Kritis like ‘adaya sriraghuvara’ in Ahiri, ‘eti yochanulu’ in Kiranavali can be cited as examples. In the second type, he delves into the Rama nama and its mahima. The kritis ‘melu melu’ in the raga Saurashtra, ‘smarane sukhamu’ in the raga Janaranjani helps us to understand this theme. The third type of composition describes his ishta devata Sri Ramachandra. The Mayamalavagaula raga kriti ‘merusamana’, ‘nee muddu momu’ in the raga Kamalamanohari can be remembered. He has also extolled the story of Rama and the kingdom ruled by Rama in the kritis ‘rama katha sudha’ and ‘karu baru’ in the ragas Madhyamavathi and Mukhari respectively. This forms the next set of kritis. The last set of kritis would be the ones wherein the incidents from Ramayana were listed. The divya nama kriti ‘vinayamu’ in the raga Saurashtra, ‘e ramuni’ in the raga Vakulabharana are good examples. This list becomes endless and we can visualize the various ways by which this composer has envisioned his devata Sri Ramachandra, his nama, and the epic Ramayana through his kritis. He literally was transported to the days of Rama Rajya!
Strangely, it is rare to see kritis explaining Sri Rama Pattabhisheka. The possibility of not getting such compositions is also to be kept in mind. From the available corpus, we will be seeing a composition that gives a vivid description of Sri Rama Pattabhisheka.
Sri Rama Pattabhisheka and Tyagaraja Svamigal
Though, the majority of the kritis of Svamigal are composed in pallavi-anupallavi-charana format, there are a sizeable number of kritis composed in pallavi-charana format and these are usually labeled as divya nama keertanas. There exist a Kapi raga kriti among the latter set wherein Svamigal has pictured pattabhisheka.
The kriti ‘sundara dasaratha’ has a pallavi and six charanas. It is a dvi-matu keertana, wherein the tune of the pallavi is different from the charanas, whereas all the charanas are set to the same tune. Here is the sahitya of this kriti
The kriti starts like any composition on Rama, not giving any clue on the theme of ‘pattabisheka’. He is described as a handsome son of the King Dasharatha. Sri Rama Pattabhisheka is visualized beginning from the first charana. Svamigal says, “O Rama! Beholding Dharaja (Sita) in your lap, I pay obeisance to you”. Though Rama is always described to be with Sita, an equal asana to Sita is given only during the pattabhisheka. The words of Valmiki ‘rAmAn ratnamayopiTE sahasItam nyavESayat’ can be remembered here. The third, fourth and fifth charana again paint us the image of pattabhisheka. Whereas the third charana mentions Bharata holding an umbrella, the fifth charana makes a rare reference to monkey chieftains, Gavaya and Gavaksha, who helped Rama to reach Lanka.
During the coronation ceremony of Sri Ramachandra, Gavaya, ordained by Sugriva brought cool water from the western ocean, in a jar set with jewels, says Valmiki (gavayaha paschimAttOyamAjahAra mahArNavat I ratnakumbhEna mahatA SItam mArutavikramaha II). Though it is common to see Anchaneya, Sugriva, Angata, and Vali being referred to in the compositions of Svamigal (or other composers), a reference about Gavaya and Gavaksha is extremely rare. The fifth charana speaks about Ghataja (Agasthya), Vasishta, Mrukandu and Gautama. These sages were invariably referred to in any keertanas describing Sri Rama Pattabhisheka.
The raga Kapi
At this juncture, it is pertinent to make a note about the raga Kapi. This is an old raga and placed as a janya of mela 22, Karaharapriya. But, the raga Kapi used by Svamigal is much different from the present form heard commonly in concerts. The svaras kakali nishadha and antara gandhara, which form an integral part of this raga are not seen in old Kapi, used by Svamigal. The accounts by Sambamurthy and Ranga Ramanuja Iyengar attest this fact. Interestingly, Turaiyur Rajagopala Sarma makes a note in Sudesamitran that the original tune of the kriti ‘mivalla gunadosha’ was lost (another kriti of Svamigal in the raga Kapi), even as early as in 1938. This evidence shows the present tune available for this kriti (also for the other kritis of Svamigal in the raga Kapi) could be a later tuned one. The Valajapettai transcripts (written by Valajapettai Venkataramana Bhagavatar and his son Krishnasvamy Bhagavatar), which gives few Kapi raga kritis in its old form, did not give this kriti in notation. It is much unfortunate that the original tune of a kriti which mentions Sri Rama Pattabhisheka is unavailable to us. Let us hope Svamigal will bless us to get the original tune in the near future. Valajapettai version of the kriti ‘intha saukhya’, in the old Kapi raga can be heard here :
The term mangalam indicates auspiciousness amongst its many other denotation that it conveys. Mangalam is usually heard at the end of a Nama samkeertanam, Sita kalyanam or at the end of a concert to be propitious to both the listener and reciter. Mangalam can be compared with the ‘phalastuthi’ recited at the end of any sloka and usually eulogizes a deity. Though presently very few mangalam-s are in vogue, each family inherited their own repertoire of mangalam-s in the past. The deity extolled here will a family deity or a deity enshrined in a town to which the family belongs to. This author has listened to his grandmother singing a mangalam addressing the Lord Devanatha of Tiruvahindrapuram in the ragam Kamavardhani. Also, age old mangalam-s runs in the family through the generations. ‘Sri ramachandranukku’, a common mangalam appended to Rama nataka kirtanam of Arunachala Kavi and often sung in Madhyamavathi is sung in Asaveri in this author’s family. Interestingly, the oldest book which mentions this kriti too gives Asaveri as the raga for this kriti.
Occasionally, mangalam-s were also composed on Saints and mortals. Though the sahityam of these compositions might superficially appear inconsequential, they provide a lot of biographical details, especially when they are composed by individuals who are closely associated with the nayaka of the mangalam.
Disciples of Tyagaraja Svamigal
Svamigal could have been one of the very few composers to have a lot of disciples. Many of them were also composers and two of them who are of interest to us are Valajapettai Venkataraman Bhagavathar and Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbaier. Both of them have composed mangalam-s furnishing a lot of details about their Guru.
Venkatasubbaier was related to Svamigal and he had trained a lot of disciples like his preceptor. He was a composer and sadly, only a few of his compositions survive through few isolated recordings like ‘avarakuta’ in the ragam Kuthuhalam and a kriti ‘samiki sari’ in the ragam Devagandhari resounding the glory of his Guru. His unknown compositions include a ragamalika ‘sivabhupathe’ and a mangalam ‘giriraja pautraya’ on his teacher among others.
Many of us are benighted about this mangalam in the ragam Surati set to khanda chapu. Only the sahityam will be analyzed to know more about Svamigal, as provided by his direct disciple.Sahityam of this mangalam is provided first followed by a discussion on some of the salient details seen in this kriti (The sahityam provided here is taken from a thesis by Nityasri on the disciples of Manabuchavadi venkatasubbaier).
giri raaja pautraaya kaarunya sindhave
gaana rasa purnaaya sri tyaagaraajaya mangaḷam subha mangalam
raama brahmaankita bhuvara suputraaya
naadabrahmaananda sri tyaagaraajaya mangaḷam subha mangalam
Caranam – 1
sitamma kruta punya baagyaaya
vimalaaya gitaya nitaya sri tyaagaraajaya mangaḷam subha mangalam
sri tyaagaraajaaya buloga ava tirṇa vaalmikaamsine
venkataanugraha sri tyaagaraajaya mangaḷam subha mangalam
This is a mangalam composed in simple Sanskrit. This gives the geneology of svamigal starting from his grandfather. Mangalam start as ‘giritaja pautraya’ meaning the grandson of Giriraja. This indicates Giriraja was his paternal grandfather (dauhitra is the term to be used to denote maternal lineage), resolving the confusions surrounding the relationship between Svamigal and Giriraja. In the anupallavi, Venkatasubbaier says Svamigal was the blessed son of a brahmana by name Ramabrahma. Interestingly, the next line gives the sanyaasa diksha name of Svamigal, ‘naadabrahmaananda’ (this is a prevalent information given by various accounts covering the biography of Svamigal). Though, the occasion which saw the birth of this mangalam is not known, it could be speculated that this could have been composed after his beatitude. It is in this context, the line ‘panca nada tiraavataaraaya’ occurring in the caranam is to be studied.
There are controversies regarding the birth place of Svamigal. Whereas the predominant view is in support of Tiruvarur, few hold a view that Tiruvayyaru should get this privilege. Though outwardly seeing, this line might refer Tiruvayyaru as the avatara sthalam of Svamigal, when combined with the previously disclosed significance of the word ‘naadabrahmaananda’, it can be well presumed that ‘panca nada tiraavataaraaya’ might refer to the second birth place of Tyagaraja ; him taking the order of Sanyaasa and taking a new birth altogether as Naadabrahmaananda. This kriti also mentions Sitamma, his mother, and considers him as an amsa of Valmiki.
Valajapettai Venkataramana Bhagavathar
Guru kritis and Guru ashtakam of Venkataramana Bhagavathar are quite famous and require no introduction. What is less known is his mangalam on Svamigal. This mangalam with notation, tuned to Madhyamavathi and set to adi talam can be seen in the book by S Parthasaradhi, a disciple of Srinivasaraghavan. This kriti, with some additional carana-s feature in Valajapettai transcripts, preserved at Government Oriental Manuscript Library, Chennai. This mangalam is seen interspersed with the transcript dealing with ‘Nauka Caritramu’ of Svamigal. Whether this mangalam was composed along with the said natakam (of Svamigal) by Bhagavathar or it was written just alongside the natakam by the scribe cannot be ascertained. Only the text of the mangalam is provided; no notations or raga – tala marking is seen. This make us to doubt whether this was rendered as a kriti or recited only as a padyam. The text seen in the transcripts verbatim are provided first followed by analysis.
Sanskrit was the language used similar to the first mangalam. No distinction of the text into pallavi and carana-s can be noted.
This mangalam gives more insight into the biographical details of Svamigal. He starts with a mention about the ‘vamsa’ of Svamigal – Kakarla. He then proceeds to say he was the divine son of Ramabrahmam and Sitamma. He is the amsa of the Lord Sri Ramachandra itself and he had two wives – Parvati and Kamalaamba. This mangalam depose the incident wherein Svamigal had a vision of Sage Narada and blessed by him – ‘naaradaacharya karuna paatraaya’. He extols his Guru by using the phrases like the ‘one who is devoid of desire and greed’ (raaga lobha vimukthaaya), ‘well versed in sangita’(gaana saastra pravinaaya), ‘always surrounded by various disciples’ (naanaa sishya samuhaaya) etc., This mangalam does not mention about his diksha name or his place of birth. But, a biography written by Valajapettai father-duo affirms he was indeed born in Tiruvarur.
Apart from slight differences in the sahityam, the third kandika cannot be seen in the version given by S Parthasaradhi. Instead, we have a new sahityam starting with ‘dhina maanava poshaaya’.
Svamigal was revered and extolled by more than one disciple, even during his lifetime. These two mangalam could have been composed at different occasions, though the exact event or incident that kindled them to compose is not known. Nevertheless, these mangalam-s stand as a testimony to know the personal details about Svamigal with an authority.
The article appeared in Sruti, January 2020 issue.
One key aspect in our assessment of the authenticity of Muthusvami Dikshita’s compositions is the reliance we place on the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) of Subbarama Dikshita. The SSP published in 1904 AD is the numero uno in this aspect as Subbarama Dikshita had evaluated both the lyric as well as the melody of every composition and presented it in an almost original form. Rare are the instances of a composition in the SSP being doubted for authenticity, though some questions have arisen especially in the case of kritis documented in its Anubandha.
Apart from the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) which was published in 1904 AD, chronologically the next publication that merits our attention is the Dikshita Kirtanai Prakashikai (“DKP”) of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai (in the lineage from Tambiappan Pillai and Sathanur Pancanada Iyer). This publication made in the year 1936 AD was a compilation of 50 kritis of Dikshita, of which 49 kritis found herein was also found in the SSP. And it had one which was not in the SSP being “Mahaganapatim Vande” in Todi which was covered in an earlier blog post.
Post this during the 1940’s after the death of Ambi Dikshita, the son of Subbarama Dikshita, a large number of compositions from outside of the SSP bearing the colophon “guruguha” came to be published by the disciples of Ambi Dikshita, which have been attributed to Muthusvami Dikshita. All these compositions are documented by Veena Sundaram Iyer who published the same during 1940’s & 50’s as the “Dikshitar Keertanai Mala” (“DKM”).
In so far as compositions not found in the SSP and those which came to published as above and seen in DKM, many questions arise as to whether these compositions not found in the SSP are truly Dikshita’s compositions.
blog we will take up one such composition, not found in the SSP but which came
to be published in the 1940’s as above. The kriti is “vadAnyEsvaram bhajEham”
in the raga Devagandhari under Mela 29, in Adi tala. The said composition is
not found listed in the SSP or in the DKP. We will look at the kriti and also
its antecedents along with renderings of the same to develop a point of view as
to its attribution to Muthusvami Dikshita.
blog it will be argued that this composition too, much like “Mahaganapatim
Vande” in Todi has all the hallmarks of a true composition of Muthusvami
Dikshita and based on available extrinsic and intrinsic evidence can be
attributed to him, notwithstanding the fact that it is not notated in the SSP.
let us take up the composition text for our consideration.
bhajE-ahaM – I worship
sadA – forever
vadAnyESvaraM – Vadanyeshvara (the great
tyajE-ahaM – I renounce
vRttiM – tendencies such as
mudA – joyfully
pada-aravindaM – (I worship) the one whose feet
are (lovely) as lotuses,
kandaM – the root-source of
dEva gAndhArava bRndaM – the protector of the multitudes of Devas and
sadA-arcitaM – the perennially worshipped
vidhi mukundaM – the one saluted by
Brahma and Vishnu,
cidAnandaM – the bliss of
consciousness of the noble Guruguha,
sadA – always.
pASa mOcanaM – (I worship) the
one who liberates creatures from bondage,
tri-lOcanaM – the three-eyed one,
panca-AnanaM – the five-faced one,
gaja-AnanaM – the one saluted by the elephant-faced –
bAla gOpa viditaM – the one
well-known even to infants, children and cowherds,
muditaM – the joyous one,
SivaM – the auspicious one,
vana vaibhavaM – the splendorous
one in the Bilva forest,
bhavam – the one who has become
everything in this universe,
nilayaM – the one residing in
Visuddhi and other Chakras,
valayaM – the one wearing
vikalpakaM – the one in whom
variations have ceased,
kalpakaM – the
wish-fulfilling divine tree to those who seek refuge,
patiM – the master of
patiM – the Consort
of Goddess Jnanambika,
mRga dharaM – the bearer of the
axe and deer,
kandharaM – the
kshaya karaM – the annihilator of
vara karaM – the one whose hands gesture freedom from
fear and granting boons,
haraM – the remover of
Sankaram – the causer of welfare and
The kriti is on the Lord Siva enshrined at Vallalar Kovil in Mayuram / Mayavaram / Mayiladuthurai, Lord Vadanyesvara and whose consort is Goddess Gnanambika
The raga mudra is indirectly embedded in the composition in a slightly truncated fashion in “dEvagandharva brindham”
The composer’s colophon is also found in the composition in “sadguruguha cidAnandam”.
The kriti is a paean to Lord Shiva with epithets in his glory strung together as a composition.
of this Composition:
this composition apart in our analysis is the very source of the pAtham
of this composition. As pointed out this composition is not found in the SSP
(1904). Nor is it notated in the “Dikshitar Kirtanai Prakashikai” (1934) of
Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, which was the next authoritative
publication of Dikshita’s compositions. Up and until 1940, these two publications
were the most authoritative compilations of the compositions of Muthusvami
The composition “Vadanyesvaram” crops up from an unexpected source in the year 1943, when it was published in the Journal of the Madras Music Academy Vol XIV (1943)- pages 147-149 (“JMA“) -see header to this blog post.
notes to the composition make it clear, it is obvious that:
The kriti has been edited by Mudicondan
The source of this pAtham is attributed to Vidvan
Keeranur Subramanya Iyer.
The text as well as the notation of the
composition is provided therein. It is in the regular SRGM notation, with 1st
and 2nd kala markings and does not carry any other gamaka signs or
such other embellishments/ ornamentations.
Unfortunately, nothing is known as to the identity of this Vidvan Keeranur Subramanya Iyer and if ever he belonged to the sisya parampara of Muthusvami Dikshita. It can be safely concluded that outside of the regular sources of Dikshita compositions, this source is an odd/unique and yet refreshing fount. And it was only later that this composition figured firstly in Veenai Sundaram Iyer’s “Dikshitar Kirtanai Mala -Volume 2- Song No 21” and then in Rangaramanuja Iyengar ‘s Kritimanimalai Vol 5 – Song No 142.
to state that this source is ex-facie of unimpeachable fidelity and we
will examine the notation further to confirm the same.
structural aspects of the composition:
It can be
seen from a stylistic perspective, the composition is Dikshitar’esque in
The language and style of the lyrics, the prAsA concordance, the gait of the composition, the construct of the pallavi-anupallavi- carana as well as the colophon and the ‘sUcita” raga mudra embedded in the composition all point to this conclusion.
The melodic material is expanded in an organized manner first in the pallavi, then in the anupallavi and finally in the carana section.
Akin to quite a few compositions, the lyrics commencing “pasupatim jnanambika patim” and ending with “…anadya vidya haram sankaram” appended to the final carana section seemingly looks to be a madhyama kala sahitya section, but is not. It has to be pointed out that to qualify as a madhyamakala sahitya section the lyrics in question must be set to exactly half the duration of the immediately preceding carana/anupallavi sahitya section.
The raga “Devagandhari” of Mela 29 is kept musically beautiful in this composition.
of the Composition:
Given below is the notation as published in the aforesaid JMA.
The composition is replete with svaraksharas on the
dhaivatha note as in “madAdi”,”mudA” in the pallavi
pancama note as in “padhAravindam” and “pasupAsa mOcanam”
Jumps are seen at “sisupAla” going directly to pancama from sadja note with R/P MP prayoga. The S/D and S\d prayogas, launched from the madhya sadja note are also found in the composition. The said jumps are reminiscent of the prayogas found in the cittasvara section of the Dikshita composition “ksitijAramanam” which is found documented in the SSP.
The sama kAla and dhruta kAla sections are marked as plain and line-on-top respectively with 2 kalai caukam as the rendering mode of the composition.
overall musical setting, the way the raga progresses in the individual sections
and the usage of adulatory paeans on Lord Siva as seen in the composition all
of them attests to the fact that the composition should have been composed by
Muthusvami Dikshita. It has to be pointed out that Dikshita has visited the
ksetra as evidenced authoritatively ( vide the kriti “Abhayambayah anyam na
janEham” in Kedaragaula on the Goddess enshrined in Lord Mayuranathasvami
Temple) in the SSP and it is therefore very well possible that he visited the
nearby temple of Vallalar Kovil as well, which is the subject matter of the
composition on hand. As an aside it can be noted that one of Dikshita’s
disciples was Vallalar Kovil Ammani which is recorded by Subbarama Dikshita in
his biography of Dikshita, who likely hailed from this place.
Thus viewed from multiple angles including the sangita, sahitya, likelihood of his visiting the ksetra and the stylistic aspects and further given the independent source of this composition coming to us through the patham of Vidvan Keeranur Subramanya Iyer ( outside of the known lineages or sisya parampara of Dikshita), all of them attest to the fact that this composition is not a spurious one and an overwhelming body of evidence exists to accept this as an authentic composition of Muthusvami Dikshita himself.
From a ksetra perspective, today the place is famous for its shrine of “medha dakshinamurti” which is located within the precincts of this Temple.
Arguably one of the finest renderings of this composition is that of the legendary Vidvan Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. I present the composition sung by him in his 1966 Music Academy recital accompanied by Vidvans Lalgudi Jayaraman on the violin, Umayalpuram Sivaraman on the mrudangam and Narayanasvami on the ghata.
In this recording, the veteran embarks first on an alapana of the raga and then proceeds to the kriti. It’s a trifle unfortunate that the recording is truncated in a few places. Nevertheless the recording is complete in itself. It can be noted that the pAtham as sung, sticks closely to the notation as published by Mudicondan Venkatrama Iyer (supra). The veteran sings it in the sedate cauka kalam bringing out the essence of Devagandhari so distilled by Dikshita in this composition.
From the past, Veena Vidvan K S Narayanasvami too is recorded to have brilliantly rendered this composition. Here is his rendering of the composition excerpted from his 1972 Music Academy Concert accompanied by Vidvan Vellore Ramabadran on the mrudanga.
Hark at the sowkhyam with which plays the carana beginning with “pasupAsa mOcanam” and his rendering of the finale “pasupatim jnanambika patim“.
And presented finally is the full suite of alapana-kriti-svaraprastara for the composition by Vidusi Seetha Rajan from a chamber recital to complete our understanding and how the composition can be melodically extended and exploited to its fullest potential to maximize ranjakatva. Attention is invited to the 2nd kala svaras sung for the composition for the pallavi line at the fag end of the svaraprastara, skillfully avoiding Arabhi in its wake, lest the color of Devagandhari is lost.
Thus, for all these aforesaid reasons, the composition “vadAnyEsvaram” in Devagandhari can be attributed to the authorship of Muthusvami Dikshita, beyond reasonable doubt. However it is indeed a puzzle why it was left out of the SSP. And as always one hopes that modern day performers will keep this kriti alive on the concert circuit by singing it frequently.
19-Aug-2020: Since the first posting, I have updated the post to include the rendering of the composition by Vidvan K S Narayanasvami and Vidushi Seetha Rajan.
It has been reiterated several times that
Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has not explained many tenets explicitly in his treatise Saṅgīta
Sampradāya Pradarṣini. It is up to the
reader to comprehend the information given by reading and analyzing various
evidences published before and after this treatise. One such tenet is bhāṣāṅga
rāgas which was covered here. Another such example will be the point of
discussion in this article – rāga-s with more than one mūrcana.
One cannot stop exclaiming seeing the lakṣaṇa
of few rāga-s when we go through Pradarṣini. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has explained
these rāga-s by giving more than one mūrcana (ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa) . Rāga-s
like Takka, Sālagabhairavi, Kannaḍagaula and Kamās can be placed under this
category. By this we get to know, multiple variant lakṣaṇa-s existed for some rāga-s even during the period of Dīkṣitar and he
was in approval of all these variants.
described by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
Kamās is considered as a dēśīya, bhāṣāṅga janya
of Harikēdaragaula. Madhyama and dhaivata are jīva svara-s. This rāga has a
restricted range between mandra sthāyi nishāda to tāra sthāyi gāndara. At some
places like RGRS in tāra sthāyi, gandhāra is sādharaṇa in nature. What is more
interesting here is the mūrcana given for this rāga. Though SRGMPDNS and
SNDPMGRS is the mūrcana given for this rāga, it can also have other ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa
like SGMPDNS/SMGMPDNS/SMGMNDNS – SNDPMGS says Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. In all the
compositions notated by him, Kamās is dealt only as a sampūrṇa janya of Harikēdaragaula.
In such a case, it is unavoidable for any reader to get a query – the relevance
of the ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa SGMPDNS – SNDPMGS, as it is totally devoid of the
svara ṛṣbham. This scale was very well accepted by Dīkṣitar can be understood
from the fact that it was not affixed with any other (derogatory) remarks as
seen with the rāga-s Husēni or Kāpi. Hence this article will cover only this
variant form and look for the presence of available compositions by analyzing older
versions. Neeedless to say, analysis of the rāga Kamās that we hear today will not be attempted.
This rāga has not been catalogued by Śahaji, Tulajā or other musicologists before their period . The Rāga lakṣaṇa, attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhi by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar too do not mention this rāga. It is interesting that Subbarāma Dīkṣitar had made a note of this rāga, without furnishing a single composition of Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar or any other member of his family. The only old composition notated there is that of Svāti Tirunal and the lakṣaṇa there well abides with the structure described by Dīkṣitar.
But Kamās is seen in Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi and its allied texts. The scale given in Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi is SGMPDNS – SNDPMGS. An absolute discordance is seen between the scale given and the lakṣaṇa gīta notated therein. In the gīta notated in Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi, many phrases alien to the scale like SGP, GPMG and GPDN can be seen . The ascend form pūrvāṅgam to uttarāṅgam is always by SGP despite the scale being SGMPDN. The phrase SGMP is conspicuously absent in the gītam. Similarly, RSNDP is to be noted, as the svara ṛṣbham is not mentioned in the ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa. Also the phrases characteristic of Kamās like SMGM, MNDN can also be not seen. Though we are able to locate a scale given by Dīkṣitar in the treatise Saṅgraha Cūdāmaṇi, the scale in no way is related to the lakṣaṇa portrayed in the gītaṃ. When the gītaṃ is reconstructed, the melody appears totally different from the Kamās described by Dīkṣitar or heard now.
Many texts have been published by the musicians
to understand rāga lakśaṇa. They serve to understand the crystallized structure
of any particular rāga and when many such publications published over the
period of time were analyzed, evolution of a rāga can be understood.
One such book, perhaps the first of its kind was published by Pazamanēri Svāminātha Ayyar in the year 1901 . Rāgavibhōdini, as it is called was also mentioned by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in his Pradarṣini. Svāminātha Ayyar was a disciple of Mahā Vaidyanātha Ayyar and represents the śiṣya parampara of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal. This book help us to understand the rāga lakśaṇa prevailed in a single branch of Mānambucāvaḍi lineage (See foot note 1). Kamās is mentioned as a janya of Harikāmbhoji with the ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa SMGMPDNS SNDPMGRS. He also mentions about the usage of kākali niṣādham in the phrase SNS. Perhaps this could be the first textual evidence regarding the use of kākali niṣādham. He then proceeds to describe this rāga by mentioning various phrases, including the one with ṛṣbham.
Kamās was explained with other dēśī rāgas by S Ramanathan in The Music Academy conference held in 1966. He has mentioned about the presence of kākali niṣādham and made a note that it is not seen in the earlier compositions . A much detail description of this rāga comes from S R Janakiraman. He avers the structure of this rāga has changed over the period of time. He proceeds to give the ārohaṇa-avarōhaṇa as SMGMPDNS SNDPMGRS and its variant SNDPMGRGS. He emphasizes on the alpatva of the svara ṛṣbham . Though we are able to get a clear definition of this rāga, our question on the scale without ṛṣbham, mentioned by Dīkṣitar remains unanswered.
Before proceeding further, we wish to add a
note on the mūrcana given in Pradarṣini and its relevance in understanding the
rāga lakṣaṇa. Though Dīkṣitar provides mūrcana for every rāga he describes, in
many cases reading mūrcana alone can mislead us in understanding a rāga. A
comprehensive examination of all the compositions notated by him inclusive of
the notes provided at the beginning is a must to get a picture of any rāga. In
other words, mūrcana is just a delineation; even worser than a
scale in describing a rāga in many instances.
In this case, the mūrcana resembles the scale of Harikāmbhōji. But the notes given by him regarding the nyāsa svarā-s, various illustrative phrases gives us a picture about Kamās. When this is combined with a study of the notated compositions, a clear picture of Kamās and possible ways to differentiate it from Harikāmbhōji can be learnt. This rāga could have not posed any problem if he had stopped with this discussion. The presence of an additional information, that SGMPDNS SNDPMGS can be a mūrcana confuses as this lakṣaṇa can nowhere be seen in the notated works. No single composition notated there is devoid of the svara ṛṣbham. As we have mentioned earlier, this scale too is to be taken with a pinch of salt. This scale doesn’t mean an entire composition could have been constructed only with this scale going up and down; rather the phrases given here must form a bulk of the composition and that version should be bereft of ṛṣbham or should have used ṛṣbham sparsely. We wish the readers to remember the phrase SRGMPMR in the rāga Balahamsa and its importance which we have discussed earlier. This phrase is nowhere seen in the compositions notated by Dīkṣitar in the rāga Balahamsa, but it was an arterial phrase mentioned in various treatises and seen in few old version of the kṛtis-s of Tyāgarāja Svāmigal in this rāga. The link between these treatises and the practice became evident only after examining the older versions.
Rāga-s live through compositions and a study of these compositions not only help us to understand a rāga, but also aid us in understanding the various ways in which a particular rāga was exploited. In the absence of gita-s in this rāga, we are left with the available old versions of kṛti-s, svarajati-s and jāvali-s in this rāga. A detailed analysis of jāvali-s in this rāga can be heard here (See footnote 2). Though the first evidence of jāvali in this rāga can be traced back to 17 CE, the musical structure is much similar to what we hear today.
We do have two kṛti-s of
Tyāgarāja Svāmigal in this rāga –
‘sujana jīvana’ and ‘sītāpate nā manasuna’. Excluding these two kṛti-s none of the compositions deserve a special
mention in this regard.
This is a well-known kṛti in this rāga set to the tāla rūpakam and needs no introduction. Renditions of this kṛti are plenteous and we do not see much variation in the versions. Uniformly, all these renditions use the svara ṛṣbham as an alpa svara. But we get a different picture when textual versions were examined. Despite being a rare find, both in manuscripts and in the texts published in the early part of the last century, the versions sketched there is common, all devoid of ṛṣbham! All the texts – ‘gāyaka siddhānjanamu’ , ‘saṅgītānanda ratnākaramu’ , ‘saṅgīta raja raṅgōm’  and ‘gandarva gāna kalpavalli’  give us the variant form of Kamās mentioned by Dīkṣitar. Though the scale followed is SGMPDNS SNDPMGS, we do find phrases like SMGM, PDM, PDS, NDN and SP. The combination of these oft heard phrases in the basic melody condition us to an extent that we don’t feel the real absence of ṛṣbham. These versions does not record a mere scale; rather they paint us the rāga Kamās in its variant form. Now we are left with a question, a vital one to understand the svarūpa of this rāga – can Kamās be outlined without the svarā ṛṣbham? Though the ‘alpa’ nature of this svara is mentioned everywhere and even the oral renditions attest the same, none of the oral versions are available for this kṛti which totally eschew this svara. There are few rāga-s wherein inclusion or exclusion of a particular svara is up to the wish of a composer. The svara dhaivatam in Nāta and ṛṣbham in Hindōlavasanta can be cited as examples. Dīkṣitar provides gīta-s with and without these svara-s in both these rāga-s. But such an indication is not given for Kamās!
Let us look into the Vālājāpeṭṭai version of this kṛti. The rāga and tāla of this kṛti is mentioned as Kamās and rūpaka respectively. The basic version is relatively similar to the textual versions, though the structure of the saṅgati-s differ. An important observation noted include the restricted usage of ṛṣbham. The svara ṛṣbham is seen only once in anupallavi in a saṅgati as GRRS. Vālājāpeṭṭai version of this kṛti can be heard here.
Whereas in the textual
versions described earlier, we were able to see many Kamās defining versions.
This version lacks those phrases; instead has some other like SMGS and GPMG.
The phrase GPMG is totally new, but seen in a sañcāri by Dīkṣitar. As said
earlier, we lack gītas, prabandās or other earlier works in this rāga and description
by Dīkṣitar alone stand as a pramāṇa. Based on the above discussion, it can be
concluded this version best fits into the variant Kamās mentioned by Dīkṣitar, without
deviating from its sampūrṇa nature. Many of the āvarta ends with the svara
madhyamaṃ highlighting its use as a nyasa svara. But dhaivata is not used
extensively as a gṛha svara, though can be considered to be used as an amsa
Also the pada-s in each āvarta are segregated differently than the commonly heard version. The second tāla āvarta in anupallavi starts from ‘cita’ instead of ‘budha’ as we hear now. Same with ‘nana’ instead of ‘dharma’ in the caraṇam (see below). This kind of pada segregation is not only followed in the Vālājāpeṭṭai version, but also in the books ‘gāyaka siddhānjanamu’ and ‘gandarva gāna kalpavalli’. In these texts, sāhitya reads differently; ‘cita’ (in anupallavi) and ‘nana’ (in caraṇam) were replaced by ‘śrita’ and ‘vana’ respectively (‘ghana’ in ‘gāyaka siddhānjanamu’). Gāyaka siddhānjanamu reads ‘dharma pālaka’ as ‘dharma pālana’.
bhujaka bhūṣanār II cita budha janāvanāt II
maja vandita śruta candana II daśa turaṅga māmava II
cāru nētra śrī kalatra II śrī ramya gātra II
tāraka nāma sucaritra II daśaratha putra II
tārakādhipā II nana dharma pālaka II
tāraya raghuvara nirmala II tyāgarāja sannutha II
From the analysis of these
old versions, it appears the Kamās handled by Svāmigal could have used ṛṣbham
to the minimal extent or not used at all. But going with the latter hypothesis
creates an impression Kamās was visualized as a shādava rāga by Svāmigal. As we
don’t have any evidence to prove that and from the knowledge gained by
analyzing the mūrcana seen in Pradarṣini, the first option suits well. In that
instance, Vālājāpeṭṭai version stands distinctly as the frequently heard
phrases like SRS, NRS, SMGM and MNDN were not seen. But we do see other rare
phrases like SMGS and GPM.
Though the aim of Subbarāma Dīkṣitar is to archive the
compositions known to him, he also took efforts to make a note on other
contemporary accepted practices. In this regard, Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini
is indeed a valuable treatise to not only learn the compositions of Dīkṣitar,
but also serve as a medium to understand the music of the past.
The liberty extended to vāggēyakāra-s by our music is incomparable and they have utilized it to the
Analysis of all the older
versions and Vālājāpeṭṭai versions is of paramount importance to understand the
music of the past.
Readers must have wondered
in not seeing any note on the kṛti ‘sītāpati nā manasuna’. It will be dealt as
a separate essay to do justice to the information that it carries.
Footnote 1 – Though we place many musicians
into a single family, like Umayālpuram, Tillaisthānam or Mānambucāvadi, differences in the versions do exist between
them. This can is more pronounced in Umayālpuram disciples. Such a difference also exist
among the disciples of Mānambucāvadi lineage. This is a generalized statement
and not related to this kṛti as this kṛti is a
hard find in manuscripts and this author was unable find this manuscript in
more than one musician in the Mānambucāvadi lineage.
Footnote 2 – The tune of the jāvali sung by Subhashini Parthasarathy is more modern. She has reconstructed the tune or sung a version tuned version by a contemporary musician is to be determined.
Śri Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar, a well-known composer of 18 th century is credited with around 230 compositions in the treatise Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini, written by his grandson Śri Subbarāma Dīkṣitar. Of these compositions, excluding two, all are kṛti-s. The standalone compositions are a daru in the rāgaṃ Śriraṅjani and a varṇam in the rāgaṃ Tōdi. Both these compositions lack the mudra ‘guruguha’. Since Subbarāma Dīkṣitar is considered to be veracious in giving us the details, the authenticity of these compositions need not be questioned.
The general opinion that Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar has composed only kṛti-s, excluding the two mentioned dispersed when this author descried a manuscript in the possession of Śri Śivakumār, a descendant of Nālvar. This paper manuscript is said to be written by Nālvar themselves and contains around 90 compositions of Dīkṣitar and a few compositions of Nālvar in notation. Of these 90, only 5 are unknown and yet to be published. The rest 85 compositions can be seen in the treatise Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini. More about this manuscript can be read here.
The interesting aspect of these 5 unpublished compositions is that they cannot be called as kṛti-s. Based on the structure of the sāhityam, they can be categorized into tōdayam, śaraṇu or maṅgalam. To be more specific, these compositions might be the fragmented components of a much bigger dance based drama form called as “Nirūpaṇam”.
The word “nirūpaṇam” is usually related with Harikatha performances, wherein the singer narrates the main story accompanied with songs and jathi-s. But the nirūpaṇam that we are going to see is a different form used mainly in Bharatanāṭyam performances.
Though our music and the various forms therein can be traced back to Bharatā, the growth of dance-drama reached its peak from the period of Nāyak rulers of Tanjāvūr. This developed into a new dimension called as nirūpaṇa, mainly during the period of Marāṭha King Śerfoji II. Nirūpaṇa-s are dance-drama encompassing various musical/dance forms and are mainly composed in Marāṭi language. The theme of these nirūpaṇa revolve around bhakti and an entire mythological story is enacted in a nirūpaṇa. The musical forms seen here and the order in which they are performed also conform to a sequence that is followed in the ‘mārgam’ format of the present day Bharatanāṭyam.1 The King Śerfoji II, who patronized this form of art also has composed few nirūpaṇa-s like ‘Kumārasaṃbhavam’ and ‘Umā Mahēśvara pariṇayam’.2
Parts of a Nirūpaṇa
In general a nirūpaṇa is considered to have 18 sections and similar to Bhāgavata mēḷa, it starts with an invocation to the Lord called as “Jaya-jaya” or “Tōdayam”.
The various parts of a nirūpaṇa includes:
It is to be mentioned here that, except for the last uruppaḍi in the rāgaṃ Ārabhī, the rāga-s for the other compositions were not mentioned. Based on the rāga svarūpam seen in the notations and inputs from Dr Ritha Rajan, the rāga-s were assigned. The rāga for the composition “Jaya-jaya” is yet to be ascertained (See Footnote 1).
When the sāhityam of these compositions are analysed, the first can be classified as a ‘todayam’ or ‘jaya jaya’, the first component of any nirūpaṇam. The uruppaḍi-s in the rāga-s Mēgarañjani and Ārabhī can be placed under “Śaranu”, second section in a nirūpaṇa. The composition in the rāgaṃ Mēcabauli, needless to say is a maṅgaḷam. Kāmakṣi namōstute is more like a gītaṃ. It is clear now that all these compositions might represent different sections of a nirūpaṇam. These compositions seen in the manuscripts written by Nālvar adds credibility to our hypothesis.
Of these 5, the first three are addressed to Goddess Kāmākṣi and the last two are generic kṛti-s addressing the Divine Mother.
Nirūpaṇā-s of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and Śerfoji II – A comparison
A preliminary analysis of these unpublished compositions gives us a clue that these can be a part of nirūpaṇa-s. But, there are few differences between these compositions of Dīkṣitar and the established nirūpaṇa-s of Śerfoji II.
Whereas the nirūpaṇa-s of Śerfoji are always in Marāṭi, all the compositions under study were composed in Sanskrit. Second difference is seen with the rāga-s employed. It is a general rule that all the components of a nirūpaṇa are to be composed in a single rāgaṃ. Here, we find five separate rāga-s employed for these five compositions. This is a major concern to be addressed.
When the five rāga-s used were studied, three of them are the janya-s of the mēla Māyāmālavagaula; other two were the janya-s of Śri and Dhīraśaṅkarābharaṇam. Of the three belonging to the mēla Māyāmālavagaula, two were addressing the deity Kāmākṣi. So, we are not wrong, if we say these two might have been a part of one nirūpaṇām. The maṅgaḷam, being a generic composition addressing Dēvi, might have been a part of this same nirūpaṇām itself. This hypothesis gets more weightage if we consider the rāgaṃ of this maṅgaḷam; Mēcabauli is also a janya of Māyāmālavagaula. So, we have three components in a nirūpaṇām composed in a janya of a single mēlam, Māyāmālavagaula. If this hypothesis is correct, Dīkṣitar, instead of composing a nirūpaṇām in a single rāgaṃ, has used a single mēlam. We don’t have a nirūpaṇa of any composer other than that of Śerfoji II to know the practice that was existent before his period. With the present available evidences, it is difficult to say whether or not Dīkṣitar has deviated from the practice that has prevailed during his time regarding the selection of rāga-s.
If we go by this theory, Dīkṣitar might have composed, at least three nirūpaṇa-s. One with the janya-s of Māyāmālavagaula and the other two using the janya-s of the other two mēla-s mentioned. Even a mere thought of this possibility make us to imagine the various janya-s that he could have used, criteria that he has followed for selecting those rāga-s as the three rāga-s used in this set are all upāṅga janya-s of Māyāmālavagaula and so on.
Of the other two, an entire nirūpaṇam could have been composed in the rāgaṃ Ārabhī, as we have a nirūpaṇam of Śerfoji II in this rāgaṃ. Alternatively, he could have used various other janya-s of Dhīraśaṅkarābharaṇam in this nirūpaṇam too. A reconstructed version of the Śaraṇu in the rāgaṃ Ārabhī can be heard here.
The available evidences make us to believe Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar has composed nirūpaṇa-s. If we go by the above mentioned hypothesis, he could have composed at least three nirūpaṇa-s. Also, there is a high possibility that only Nālvar might have been aware of these nirūpaṇa-s, as they are seen only in the manuscripts written by them and we are not aware of any other śiṣya learning from him during his stay in Tanjāvur. These compositions or a mention about these cannot be seen even in Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini, a lexicon of authentic Dīkṣitar kṛti-s.
It is to be remembered here, we have a daru and a varṇam in Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini. This opens up another question, whether or not Dīkṣitar has composed any operas during his stay in Tiruvārur? We allow the readers to ponder over this question till we get some more evidence in this line.
The first three compositions (of the unpublished compositions) were brought to light for the first time by Dr Ritha Rajan, in her monumental thesis. Though she has not mentioned the rāga names in her thesis, she suggested the rāga names to this author in a personal communication. Rāga mudra is incorporated in the sāhityam of the maṅgaḷam in Mēcabauli.
I personally thank Dr N Ramanathan for educating me about these nirūpaṇa-s.
1. Ramanathan N . Evolution of Musical forms used in Bharatanatyam
2. Krishnaswami Mahdick Rao Sahib A, Nagaraja Rao G (ed). Dance pieces in Marati by Śerfoji Raja (1958).
The blog’s heading may be a bit of a surprise. While, Goddess Meenakshi, the presiding deity of Madurai was a legendary Pandyan Princess and has been so eulogized by very many poets and composers, yet hidden in the heap of history and long forgotten is a Goddess Meenakshi, a look alike of her who made Kerala her home and thus veritably became a Queen of the Land of Parasurama and a tutelary deity enshrined in the precincts of the Palace of the Kerala Royals. And eventually while we shall look at a musical composition on this Meenakshi of Kerala in the process, we would also evaluate collateral historical information and remember a Royal who set up the Imperial House of Travancore (to which the musical composer Svati Tirunal belonged to) and who had a hand in this history.
At the outset I should confess that the inspiration for this blog post came from another avid blogger Sri Sharat Sundar Rajeev, a professional conservation architect and a history buff and an original one at that! Again, my interest in the Royal family of Travancore got kindled last year since reading the classic work “Ivory Throne- Chronicles of the House of Travancore” of Manu Pillai which went on to get him the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Purasakar. It’s indeed sad that very many historical personages and events not to say of temples and other historical monuments lie forgotten. In these blog posts I have attempted to provide that insight as well even while we get to know and relish a raga or a composition. In other words, the idea is to know and enjoy the historical context as well when we get to hear, know or learn a composition.
Over to the Goddess!
FLASH BACK CIRCA A D 1635 – Tirumalai Nayak invades nanjil nadu/southern Kerala
Tirumalai Nayak the founding father of the Royal lineage of the Madurai Nayakas ruled from Madurai, his regnal years being 1623-1659 AD. A vassal earlier to the Emperors of Vijayanagar, the Nayaks of Madura, after the collapse of the Vijayanagar Empire, in the epic Battle of Talikota had broken free and become rulers in their own right. Tirumalai Nayak was one of the greatest in that line. And when he ascended the throne, he ruthlessly went about expanding his empire and, in his conquests, laid siege to many of the small principalities of south western coastal regions of peninsular India. He was the Nayak King who moved the Capital from Trichirapalli to Madurai and thus his tutelary deity was Goddess Meenakshi enshrined at Madurai. Tirumalai Nayak thus adopted the ancient signage of the erstwhile Pandyan sovereigns, imparting both political as well as religious legitimacy to their power by anointing Her as his kuladevata. Royals of those days, to derive power and authority always aligned themselves and their lineage to a well known and fiercely venerated Temple and/or godhead. Lord Tyagaraja at Tiruvarur, Lord Brihadeeswara of Tanjore, Lord Rajagopala at Mannargudi are classic examples where the reigning Kings and Chieftains took those deities to be their mascots and shortly we will see that the Royal House of Travancore took it a step further. (See Note 1)
Tirumalai Nayak circa 1635 forayed into nAnjil nAdu (vide Satyanatha Iyer ‘s ‘Nayaks of Madura” page 121) being modern day southern Kerala, which shared its borders with his kingdom. Kerala at that point in time, was an aggregation of small principalities and for the powerful Nayak King they were no match. History has it that perhaps as a mark of his conquest and victory, Tirumalai Nayak perhaps renovated and consecrated the 13th century temple at Padmanabhapuram, the imperial seat of the Royals of Travancore, modelled on the Dravidian architecture, rather than the typical Kerala style, and installed the icon of his tutelary deity, Goddess Meenakshi therein. And legend has it that he ensured that the mUla vigrahA or idol in the sanctum sanctorum too was stylistically made on the lines of the one at Madurai, complete with a parrot on her hand! Unsurprisingly he named this deity too as Goddess Meenakshi, in the process transplanting the hoary history of the Pandya Princess into the Land of Parasurama.
And thus, while history has left us with this piece of information, if one were to embark on a search today at Padmanabhapuram, for this Nayak enshrined deity, it will yield no Goddess named Meenakshi!
CIRCA 1720 – The House of Kulashekaras or Kupakas, the Travancore Royal Family, assume sovereignty
Venad, the strip of land which stretches from Attingal to Kanyakumari in modern day Kerala was the small principality nominally ruled by the Royals of the House of Travancore or the Kulashekaras or the Kupaka dynasty as they were held, with their seat at Padmanabhapuram. Emasculated of their power they were nominal figureheads while, the real power lay with two entities. One being the Ettuveetil Pillamar (Lords of the Eight Houses) an aggregation of powerful Nair nobles, on one hand and the powerful Ettara Yogam which was an entity which managed and controlled the Temple of Lord Padmanabhaswami at Travancore. And it was at this point in time that in this Royal House of Kulashekaras/Kupakas was born Prince Marthanda Varma, known later as Anizham (Anusham- the star) Tirunal Marthanda Varma (born 1706 AD) whose regnal years was AD 1729-1758. When he ascended the Ivory throne, he quietly went about consolidating power by annexing the principalities of Quilon, Kayamkulam, Kottarakara, Ambalapuzha & Changanaserry. Marthanda Varma extended his dominions further by taking control of the holdings of the Kings of Cochin and the Zamorin of Calicut. In the famous Battle of Colachel (circa 1741) he defeated the Dutch who had interceded on behalf of the Kottarakara Royals and in the process, he became one of the handful of sovereigns of the sub-continent who had defeated a European colonial power. And finally, years later the Dutch completely succumbed to his suzerainty when they signed the Treaty of Mavelikkara which for all practical purposes anointed him Marthanda Varma as the Lord of Keralaputras. Assisted ably by his trusted Prime Minister (“Dalavai”) Ramayyan , he consolidated the Kingdom of Travancore, ushered in reforms and cut to size the entities including the Ranis of Attingal, the Ettuveetil Pillamar and the Ettara Yogam being the Devaswom Board known as Yogakkaras. (See Foot Note 2). Also realizing that all battles cannot be won militarily, Marthanda Varma calculated that he had to sue for peace with external powers as necessary including the British who were on the anvil of getting a toehold in Southern India. And so, he entered into friendship treaties including the one with the Nayaks of Madurai, who anyway by that time were a spent force. And thus, within a century after Tirumalai Nayaka had seized Padmanabhapuram, the Kulashekaras of Travancore had regained the place back, making the Royal Estate and the Palace there as their imperial seat of power. And in fact, it was his edicts and the policy that he set, which was followed to the T by his descendants all the way till 1950 when Travancore was subsumed by the Indian Union.
But Marthanda Varma wasn’t done yet. Even as he consolidated his hold over the entire Venad, he was about to perform an act that no other sovereign before him had done, which would endure all the way up to the 21st Century.
17th January 1750 – Truppadidanam
Whether it was a political master stroke to enable his suzerainty and establish and completely legitimise the rule of his Royal House of Kulashekaras into perpetuity or whether it was his unbridled devotion to Lord Padmanabha, we do not know. (See Note 5). On this date January 1750 AD, when the then 44-year-old Marthanda Varma who was at his very pinnacle of glory, made his coup de maître.
History tells us that this great King went in all pomp and splendour to the Temple of Lord Padmanabhaswami and in a ceremony called ‘thruppadi dAnam’ he laid down all his Royal regalia including his ceremonial sword before the Lord and dedicated all that he had including the kingdom to Lord Padmanabha. Travancore as a whole, thus became the property of Sri Padmanabhaswamy, the deity of the Travancore Royal family or in other words it became “God’s Own Country” as Kerala is called today!
In essence Marthanda Varma firmly ensconced himself as a mere vice regent or nominee of Lord Padmanabha/a mere dAsA who would rule for and on his behalf! Adversaries and foes would dare not wage a war again against his Kingdom for its Ruler was Lord Padmanabha himself.
And then on Anusham Tirunal Marthanda Verma went on to assume the complete Royal title “Sri Padmanabha Dasa Vanchi Pala Anusham Thirunal Marthanda Varma”. After this date all sovereigns of the Kulashekara/Kupaka House ruled in the name of Lord Padmanabha, with this title. In fact, Marthanda Varma went on to lay down the protocol that all Royal children in the matriarchal line as was the line of inheritance in the Royal families of Kerala, upon attaining the age of one would be laid before the Lord as a symbol of this dedication. Even female rulers adopted a corresponding title, for example Rani Gauri Lakshmi Bayi who was a Regent was titled as “Sri Padmanabha Sevini Vanchi Rajeshwari Maharani Ayilyam Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, Attingal Mootha Thampuran, Rani of Travancore”.
Goddess mInAkshi, the giver of eternal bliss becomes Goddess Anandavalli
Having made this lasting contribution to the history of his Kingdom, this sovereign Marthanda Varma perhaps one fine day sometime circa 1755 turned his attention to the quaint temple of Lord Neelakantaswami near the precincts of his Padmanabhapuram palace which was his imperial seat. It was his successor Karthika Tirunal who in 1795 AD shifted the imperial seat from Padmanabhapuram to Travancore.
And Marthanda Varma must have mulled the fact that it was his Nayak ally, the sovereign of Madurai then back in 1635 AD nearly 100 years ago, who had consecrated this Temple and named the consort of Lord Neelakanteswara as Meenakshi, after the great guardian deity of Madurai, building it completely in the Dravidian style. And he perhaps thought that without in anyway erasing the legacy of the Temple or remodelling or rebuilding the temple in the Kerala style, wanted to just make a symbolic change perhaps by anointing the Goddess anew with a different name. Was it that perhaps in gratitude of this Goddess having gotten him what he wanted in life, did he deign to change the name of the Deity? One does not now, but we do know for sure that this padmanabha dasa during his reign went on to change the name of Goddess Meenakshi to Goddess Anandavalli, the giver of eternal bliss!
And thus, ends our search for that old Goddess Meenakshi of yore consecrated by Tirumalai Nayak. History tells us this for sure and whence one gets a chance to visit the Temple of Lord Neelakanteswara and Goddess Anandavalli nee Meenakshi, today at Padmanabhapuram one can witness the fact that the temple bears the heritage of both its patron royale, Tirumalai Nayaka as well as Marthanda Varma whose figurines still adorn the temple. And the Goddess in the sanctum sanctorum will be holding a parrot just as the celestial Pandya Princess does in Madurai, with that suppressed smile, manda hAsa !
And before we move to matters musical, it is over to Sharat Sundar Rajeev to provide his narrative of this Temple at Padmanabhapuram along with the photos– read his blog post here which actually appeared in print in The Hindu.
And the personality of Marthanda Varma pervades even today (see Foot Note 3). And as to his master stroke in performing the Truppadidanam, his dying instructions to his successor may prove his credentials to one and all and would show why perhaps he was and is so revered even today. (See Foot Note 4)
Circa 1840 – the Musical Chapter of Goddess Anandavalli nee Meenakshi
The successors of Anusham Tirunal Marthanda Verma who ruled till modern India came into being, were:
The 6th in the lineage above who came to occupy the Ivory Throne of Travancore was the musical composer Svati Tirunal who needs no introduction. And it was left him to the immortalize this Goddess by etching her on the fabric of our music by composing the beautiful composition ‘Anandavalli’ in the haunting melody of Neelambari. Legend had already associated this sovereign known as ‘gharbha srImAn’ with the raga Neelambari, when Irayimaan Tampi the Royal Courtier composed ‘Oomana thingal kidavo’ as the lullaby for the baby King Svati Tirunal. ‘Anandavalli’ ranks on par with the other beautiful compositions in this raga and it is trifle unfortunate that it has not been rendered very frequently. Besides quite a few publishers/editors of Svati Tirunal’s compositions classify this composition as a padam. Given the lyrics of the composition, attempting to class it as padam for the simple reason it is rendered slowly in cauka kAlam does not seem logical and for all practical purposes this composition is only a kriti.
We do not have any further information as to the background of this composition and one may perhaps just conjecture that this Maharaja perhaps on one of his frequent sojourns to the Padmanabhapuram Palace must have composed it in a trice. Be that as it may this bewitching composition in chaste Sanskrit, is replete with similes and other linguistic adornments.
The text and meaning of this composition runs thus.
radanE pArijAtatarupallava caranE padmanAbhasahajE hara mE shucam || 3 ||
Oh Anandavalli! Grant me happiness without fail!
Your smile is like a ray of nectar which can wipe off the darkness of grief. O the one holding a young parrot! Hail!
One whose feet are worshipped by Indra, foe of Jambha; daughter of the king of mountains. One who is adorned with camphor on the crescent like forehead. You are like the bee to the lotus face of Shiva. O the one with lotus-like eyes. Always dwell in my heart.
Your long tresses surpass the water bearing collection of clouds. You are the only skilful one in dispelling the misfortunes of those who worship your lotus feet. One who has the glory of removing the afflictions of the three worlds. Please grant me insurmountable prosperity.
One whose face is beautiful like the charming autumnal moon; resides in the hearts of ascetics. One who has charming teeth like the beautiful jasmine buds and feet like the tender leaf of Parijata. O The sister of Lord Padmanabha! Dispel my grief!
And one should for a moment savour the lyrics at ‘dhruta shuka pota vilAsini’ in the anupallavi for that marks the fact that the icon of Goddess Anandavalli sports a parrot, the only reference in this kriti which links the past of this Goddess, when once she was Meenakshi a full hundred years ago even prior to the times of Svati Tirunal. ( See Foot Note 5)
And it wasn’t Svati Tirunal alone who had sung on this Goddess. The quite well own composer Nilakantha Sivan too had composed verses on this Goddess of Padmanabhapuram.
ஐந்து மோராறும் மீரைந்து மீராறும்
ஐமூன்று மோரொன்றும் அட்சரமாக
மந்திரம் அருள் வடிவமான தாயே
ஐந்து கரனொடு ஈராறுகரனையுமீன்ற
அம்பிகே இன்ப நிதியே அகிலாண்ட கோடி புகழ் மகராசியான
பரமானந்த வல்லி உமையே
– Nilakanta Sivan (from his “Anandavalli Dasakam”- See Foot Note 6)
Two clarifications are in order :
Older publications of Maharaja Svati Tirunal’s kritis such as the one by Sri Sambasiva Sastri( see Bibliography) provide the tala of the composition as ‘cempata’ which in Kathakali too is a 8 beat cycle tala ( some give it as 16 beats as well, a multiple) with probably a difference in the kriya or the way the beat is struck/visually demonstrated.
To the best of my knowledge none of the publications including the very latest being Sri T K Govinda Rao’s, provide the stala of this composition as Padmanabhapuram. There is a actually another ksetra known as Anandavallishwaram in Kollam, Kerala where too the Devi is named as Anandavally. Nevertheless given the facts such as the holding of the parrot by the deity and also the association of the dramatis personae to the shrine at Padmanabhapuram, this kriti can only be assigned to the Devi in that ksetra.
Sangita Kalanidhi Sanjay Subramanian, Vidvan Rama Verma and his disciple Vidusi Amruta Venkatesh have presented this composition in the public space. But for this blog I seek to present the version by Vidvan Dileep Kumar who sings two of the three caranas of this composition in this rendering of his:
And here is a brief excerpt of Sangita Kalanidhi Sanjay Subramanian singing the cittasvara section of the composition. The cittasvara section is not found notated in T K Govinda Rao’s publication.
Audio & Visuals – See Foot Note 7
The Kerala Royals are all but gone with the passing away of the last of them Utharadom Tirunal (see Foot Note 8) in 2013 and whoever survives from the very many branches are already commoners. Yet today the Royal composer’s kriti and the emotions that it evokes convinces one that a visit at least once to that hallowed shrine in the backdrop of the verdant vELI Hills at Padmanabhapuram has to be made. And one can’t but wonder what an ethereal experience it would be to sit, one autumn evening, perhaps during Navaratri on the banks of that emerald green water filled temple tank’s stone steps with the dark sky lit with the autumnal moon, the grand pavilion at the centre resplendent with the oil lit lamps even while the soft fragrance of jasmine pervades the air suffused by a soft tanpura drone and one soulfully sings or listens to an enchanting rendering of this Neelambari composition! And I am sure as one dissolves oneself in the melody, the reverie would take us all the way starting from the 13th century when the Temple was perhaps built and on to the 17th century when Tirumalai Nayak consecrated his iconic Goddess Meenakshi therein and then to Marthanda Varma who thus in the mid-18th century changed Her name to Goddess Anandavalli and on to Svati Tirunal of 19th century who composed this beautiful piece and to that moment is time in the present to feel the ambrosial experience of extolling Her as “paramAnandavallI”.
Satyanathier (1924) – Oxford University Press- ‘History of the Nayaks of Madura’ – Chapter VIII pp 110148
Shungoony Menon (1878) – Higginbotham & Co – ‘A History of Travancore from the Earliest Times’ – Vol 1- Chapter II pp -112- 175
K Sambasiva Sastri (Editor)(1932)-Trivandrum Sanskrit Series No CXIII – “The Sangita Kritis of Swati Sri Rama Varma Maharaja” pp 101-102
T K Govinda Rao (2002) – Ganamandir Publications- ‘Compositions of Maharaja Swati Tirunal’- Music Series VI pp 370-371
Sovereigns of yore have always invoked divinity to add legitimacy to their rule in one form or the other. Royal lineages, clans and dynasties have always invoked godhead and history is replete with examples. Rajeswari Ghose’s – ‘The Tyagaraja Cult’ especially Chapter 9 titled ‘Tyagaraja as Cult Typology and Legitimization of Power’ is an illustrative text on this subject.
Ettuveetil Pillamar or the Lord of Eight Houses of Kerala and Madempimar were the Nair nobles who held sway at that point in time in the run up to the ascendancy of Marthanda Varma. Curiously they bear an uncanny resemblance to the Chieftains/feudatories of the Chola Kingdom of the 9th and 10th century AD pictured so beautifully by Kalki in his “Ponniyin Selvan”, who held considerable sway and control over their overlord the Chola Kings. The Mazhavarayars of Ariyalur/Tirumalapadi, Sambuvarayar of Kadambur, Pazhuvettarayars of Pazhuvur, Malayamans of Tirukkoilur & others are the illustrated feudatories of the Colas.
Marthanda Varma was an iconic personality so much so novels and movies came to produced eulogizing him. C V Raman Pillai brought out a novel on him in 1891 adding a romantic angle as well to his history. A critical appraisal of the novel can be read here: https://wiki2.org/en/Marthandavarma_(novel)
And just as how later in the 20th century ‘Ponniyin Selvan” (of Kalki K Krishnamurthi) a historical novel with Arulmozhi Varman (later Raja Raja Chola I) as the protagonist went on to capture the imagination of the Tamil readers, Raman Pillai’s Malayalam work too became a best seller. Raman Pillai’s novel has been published by the Sahitya Akademi in Malayalam and along with the English and Tamil translations ( by Padmanabhan Tampy) as well which makes an interesting read.
A movie too was produced based on the novel which was released after a court battle over copyright, in 1933. One can read about it here:
According to Shungoony Menon (page 175 of his work), when Marthanda Varma in 1758 AD was on his death bed, he ushered in his successor, being his nephew, the next King designate Karthika Tirunal Rama Varma and gave him his instructions which provide a glimpse of this great founder of the modern Kupaka Dynasty & his innermost thoughts for his land and his subjects. His dying instructions to his successor were :
There shall be no deviation whatever made to the dedication of the Kingdom to Sri Padmanabha Swamy and all further territorial acquisitions if done shall be made over to the Devaswom
Not a hair’s breadth alteration or deviation shall be done to the established charities and institutions connected to the Devaswom
There shall be no dissension or quarrel in the Royal House
Expenses of the State should not be allowed to exceed the income at any cost
The Palace expenditure should be defrayed only from the profits of the commercial Department
And above all the friendship existing between the Kingdom of Travancore and the English East India Company shall be maintained at all costs and that full confidence should always be placed in the support and aid of that honourable association.
These six commands would show his great foresight, statesmanship and conviction without doubt.
For me ‘Anandavalli’ makes me reminisce on the similarly structured Neelambari composition ‘karunAnda catura’ of Kumara Ettendra which we featured in a blog post some time ago. The subject matter being Goddess Parvati and usage of words such as ‘nitilE’, kunda mukula radanE, padmanAbha sahajE or sAranga varada sahajE’ seems to prompt the same, while few others might see a musical correspondence with ‘shringAra lahari’ of Lingaraja Urs.
Nilakanta Sivan has to his credit a number of Tamil compositions which were a rage once upon a time. Sivanai ninaindhu (Hamirkalyani), Enraikku Siva krupai (Mukhari), Navsiddhi Petrallum (Kharaharapriya), Sambo Mahadeva ( Bhauli), Ananda natanamaduvar ( Purvikalyani) and Teruvadeppo nenje (Khamas) are some of the kritis which were sung frequently and immortalized by the likes of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, M S Subbulakshmi and D K Pattammal by their gramophone records. Sivan’s original name was Subramanian and he changed his name due to his great devotion to this Lord Neelakantaswami of Padmanabhapuram. A play list of his compositions on YouTube can be heard/viewed here:
The clippings have been sourced from Sangeethapriya and thanks are due to Sr TVG for his painstaking effort to record and collate recordings on the website. And some spectacular visuals of the Padmanabhapuram Palace, I would recommend the Flickr account of Manfred Sommer which you can access here:
Before 1900, most kīrtanams of Śrī Muttusvāmi Dīkṣitar were well-known only within the small core group of śiṣyaparamparā. A few kīrtanams were published in early musical sources such as the works of the Taccuru brothers. It wasn’t until the publication of the Saṅgīta-sampradāya-pradarśini in 1904 that many kīrtanams saw the light of the day. Vātāpi-gaṇapatim in the rāga Hamsadhvani was one kīrtanam which has enjoyed a long history in the performance platform and is seen in early music publications. Accounts of Mahāvaidyanātha Iyer’s embellished and improvised version of Vātāpigaṇapatim with many saṅgatis are well known. Saṅgīta-sarvārthasāra-saṅgrahamu of Vīṇa Rāmānujayya (1857) and the Gāyakapārijatamu of the Taccuru brothers (1877) provide the sāhitya of this kīrtanam.
Recently, an issue with the charaṇa-sāhitya of this kīrtanam was brought to our attention by a samskṛta scholar, Vidvan Brahmaśri Dr.V.Shriramana Sharma.
Here the issue is with the samāsa (compound word) in the phrase “परादि-चत्वारि-वागात्मकम्” (One who is the true import / nature of four-fold speech beginning with Parā – the other three being paśyantī, madhyamā and vaikharī) The correct expression should be “परादि-चतुर्-वागात्मकम्”. The form चत्वारि is a declined form in prathamā vibhakti and in napumsakaliṅga. In a samāsa, only the prātipadika(base) appears as there is lopa (elision) of the सुप् pratyaya that are affixed to the base. Therefore the base form of “चतुर्” is what would occur in this samāsa and not a declined form such as चत्वारि.
In this case, there are two possibilities. One is that there was an error in transmission and the second is that this was how it was composed by the composer. If we examine the first possibility, all existing published versions of the sāhitya and extant pāṭhāntara-s uniformly use the form परादि-चत्वारि-वागात्मकम्. In any case, Śrī Subbarāma Dīkṣitar himself has admitted to Pt.V.N.Bhatkande, when the latter visited him in Eṭṭayapuram, that he was not formally trained in Samskṛta (but knew enough prayoga or usage to compose kīrtanams). This is also corroborated by the fact there are some visargasandhi errors in the 1904 edition in the sāhitya of Bṛhadiśvaro rakṣatu in rāga gānasāmavarāli and the gauḷa kīrtanam Śrīmahāgaṇapatiravatu mām. However the trouble with asserting this viewpoint is that there is a second case of the identical expression used in the Aṭhānarāga kīrtanam on Bṛhaspati, “Bṛhaspate tārāpate. (incidentally this has also appeared in Gāyakalocanam, a 1902 publication).
Considering the second possibility, another Samskṛta scholar Smt.Dr. Sowmya Krishnapur adds that the ‘G r’ svara corresponding to “tvā ri” indicates the intended usage of a svarākṣara here. This svarākṣara occurs in Bṛhaspate as well. Therefore, the possibility that this is an error in transmission could be discounted. Further, in this case, another explanation is possible to justify the composer’s usage. It could be that the composer had the famous śrutivākya “चत्वारि वाक्परिमिता पदानि तानि विदुर्ब्राह्मणा ये मनीषिणः |” in mind along with the usage in Gaṇapatyatharvaśirṣa where Gaṇeśa’s tattvasvarūpa is expressed as “त्वं चत्वारि वाक्पदानि” and used the expression “चत्वारि”, despite it being in a samāsa. According to Sri.Shriramana Sharma, such a usage can be considered as an ‘anukaraṇa’ wherein the quoted word is not to be analysed grammatically with its prakṛti-pratyaya-vibhaga and ‘artharūpa’ but in terms of ‘śabdarūpa’. The “word-form as-is” that occurs elsewhere is used for the express purpose of highlighting or quoting either for repetition or recall something that is well-attested or mentioned elsewhere. Thus, the initial “परादि” specified for the purpose of clarifying what the four-fold speech is and the words “चत्वारिवाक्” brought in as-is from śrutivākya. In other words, परादि “चत्वारिवाक्” आत्मकम् | In support of this, another example is cited in śāstra. One is the Pāṇini’s sūtra, “प्राग्रीश्वरान्निपाताः” that defines the term nipāta, explained as रीश्वरात् प्राक् निपाता: and discussed by commentary writers. Mahābhāṣyakāra asks why “रीश्वराद्” is used instead of “ईश्वराद्” and the explanation is given that “रीश्वराद्” is used so that “वीश्वराद्” (when the sūtras are read as samhitāpātha) शकि णमुल्कमुलावीश्वरे तोसुन्कसुनौ” (शकिणमुल्कमुलौ + ईश्वरे तो सुन्कसुनौ) which also matches the śabdarūpa specified does not get included here but only that used in another sūtra अधिरीश्वरे. Shri. Shriramana Sharma also notes in passing that वारणास्यं is often rendered as वारणाश्यं but there is no known usage of आश्यं in the meaning of “face” to give the compound meaning “the elephant faced one”. आश्य is only known in the meaning of “eatable” and hence this could be avoided.
Based on the above, we requested Prof.S.R.Janakiraman to attempt to render the composition with expression “परादि-चतुर्-वागात्मकम्” to understand how this would impact the musical flow of the composition. Given that there is a valid explanation of such a usage, the usage of परादि-चत्वारि-वागात्मकम् can be left as such. With these, we leave the reader to ponder on the issue.