Intriguing raga-s – Kamas
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.
Kamās as 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.
Kamās in treatises
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.
Kamās in other texts
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.
Mūrcana in Pradarṣini
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 svara.
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 maximum extent.
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.
1. Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. Saṅgīta Sampradāya Pradarṣini. Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ Samasthānaṃ, 1904.
2. Hema Ramanathan. Rāgalakṣaṇa Saṅgraha (collection of Rāga descriptions) from Treatises on Music of the Mēla Period with translations and notes, 2004.
3. Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi – Kamās lakṣaṇa gītaṃ – Pg 164. The Adyar Library, 1938.
4. Pazamanēri Svāminātha Ayyar: Rāga Vibhōdini, 1901.
5. Rāmanāthan S : Desi rāga-s in Karnātik music. Journal of Music Academy, pg 24-25, 1966.
6. S R Janakiraman. Rāga lakṣaṇaṅgal – Part 1, pg 128. The Music Academy, Madras, 1995.
7. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu. Gāyaka siddhāṅjanamu, Part 1, pg 137. Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1905.
8. Tenmaṭam Vēṅkaṭācāryulu, Tenmaṭam Varadācāryulu. Saṅgītānanda ratnākaramu, pg 53. Śrīnikētana mudrāyantramu, Madras, 1917.
9. Reṅganātha Ayyar. Saṅgīta raja raṅgōm, pg 289, 1928.
10. Rāmulu Ceṭṭi. Gandarva gāna kalpavalli, pg 56. Śrī ‘Rāma’ Mudrākṣaraśāla,1929.