History, Raga

Hindolavasantam – The sprightly blossom from the Royal Gardens of Tanjore


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

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

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

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


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

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

Arohana        : S G M P D N D s

Avarohana     : s N D M G S

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

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

Hindolavasanta –As found in Sangita Sudha:

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

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

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

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

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

Hindolavasanta – As found in King Tulaja’s Saramruta:

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

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

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

‘syadindolavasantastu rishabhena tu varjitah
arohena nivarjya syadavarohe nivakritah’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


SSPP DNDDM PDs gs sNDPD NDMMGG (Santana Ramasvaminam)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Tanjore Royal Palace

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

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

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

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

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

Update History:

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

3 thoughts on “Hindolavasantam – The sprightly blossom from the Royal Gardens of Tanjore

  1. excellent read. can you please comment on Hindolavasantham in the context of Tyagaraja’s Saramathi and Margahindolam? How ancient are these compared to H.vasantham? I presume Saramathi was the Saint’s “creation”.

  2. Interesting write up on a fascinating ragam. Just a few observations.
    * What is the last ‘m’ in the title of the article?
    * Needamangalam is indeed on the road from Kumbakonam to Mannargudi, but even more importantly, on the E-W national highway between Tiruvarur and Tanjavur.
    * M.D.Ramanathan’s version of Ra Ra Sita Ramani seems to have the D1.
    * SSI’s version of Santana ramasvami is brisk and nice, and the only doubtful part is the ascent to the Sa in the caranam (the word ‘gatram’), which seems to have a hint of PDNDNS, rather than a clean PDNDS. But one can’t say for sure.
    * Finally, the speculation of D2 appearing in later usage is interesting, but why discuss PD1NS vs PD2NS? I thought most of the texts were clear that it is DS (notwithstanding comment above!).

  3. Prasanna:

    – Margahindola appears to be a much older raga & is found mentioned along with Hindola.
    -Saramathi seems to have been handled first by Tyagaraja. In his raga compendium ‘Raga Lakshanangal’ ( Music Academy) Prof SRJ indeed speculates if Hindolavasanta was the base for Saramathi. He also points out in the same breath that rishaba svara which is not there in Hindolavasanta is a key svara for Saramathi.


    – Have removed the ‘m’ in the heading- a typo :)
    – You are right. MDR’s version indeed sports D1. The popular version ( Umayalpuram?) sports D2.
    – Given SSI’s subsequent svaraprastara as well, it is/should indeed be PDNDs. If you hear otherwise lets give the pitamaha the benefit of doubt :)
    – My ‘detour’ w.r.t to PD2Ns was to only highlight the fact that (apparent) problem in rendering D1 in ascent in mela 20. Nothing more. And in so far as Hindolavasanta goes it is only PD1NDs or PD1s.

    And it is also worth observing here that surprisingly both Dikshitar and Tyagaraja have not gone past the tara sadja or below the madhya stayi sadja ( save for ‘cinmaatram’ or the cittasvara which features ndpdS in ‘Santhanaramasvaminam’).


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