Tag: Muthusvami Dikshita

CompositionAppreciation, Repertoire

mAra kOti kOti lAvanya- Arabhi – Obeisance to Lord Shiva

न जानामि योगं जपं नैव पूजां। नतोऽहं सदा सर्वदा शंभु तुभ्यं॥

जरा जन्म दुःखोद्य तातप्यमानं॥ प्रभो पाहि आपन्नमामीश शंभो॥8॥

(Sloka No 8 – “Rudrashtaka” of Gosvami Tulasidas)

na jAnAmi yOgam japam naiva pUjAm nathOham sadA sarvadA sambhu thubyam |

jarA janma dhukhOdhya thAthapyamAnam prabhO pAhi ApannamAmIsa sambhO ||

Meaning: I know neither yOgA nor jApa nor worship. All I know is to be devoted to you O Lord Shambhu. Save me from this bondage/misery of old age, death and birth.

Sangita Kalanidhi Trichur V Ramachandran presents this short sloka in the raga Surati


The subject matter of this blog post is the composition “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya” of Muthusvami Dikshita found documented in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (“SSP”) of Subbarama Dikshita, which is rarely encountered on concert platforms. The sibling Arabhi composition in the SSP, “Sri Sarasvati Namostute” on the other hand is fairly ubiquitous and is typically taught to learners as one of the early kritis, for abhyAsA.

Records and accounts indicate that this composition “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya” has been rendered in the past and has also been part of the oral tradition but yet today it is rarely heard. In this blog let us get reintroduced to this composition and in the discography, section look at the renderings of this composition by two masters from the past. And I would seek to argue that this composition is immensely capable of an expanded treatment but yet inexplicably it is not been presented so by present day performers.

Let us first look at the lyrical aspect of the composition followed by the musical aspects and the related discography.

The Composition:


mAra kOTi kOTi lAvaNya mAM pAlaya

(madhya stayi madhyama to mandhara pancama and to madhya pancama)

dhIra-agragaNya vAsukI valaya

(madhya dhaivatha to tara sadja and back to madhya sadja)


dArukA vana tapO-dhana taruNI mOha-AkAra bhikshATana vEsha dhara Sankara

(madhya dhaivatha to tara madhyama and back to madhya sadja after descending upto mandhara dhaivatha)


viraktAnAM vidEha kaivalya dAna vicakshaNa -bhaktAnAM-abhaya pradAna

virinci-Adi sakala dEva-upAsyamAna – vibhUti rudrAksha-abhimAna

paraSu mRga-agni kapAla DamarukaM dadhAna -parama-advaita tAtparya-anusandhAna

para vAma dEva-Adi sakala virAjamAna – parama-ISvara guru guha samAna bhAsamAna



mAra kOTi kOTi lAvaNya     – O one handsome as crores and crores of (i.e. countless) Manmathas!

mAM pAlaya                 – Protect me!

dhIra-agragaNya            – O foremost among the courageous!

vAsukI valaya              – O one wearing the snake Vasuki as a bracelet!


dArukA vana tapO-dhana taruNI mOha-AkAra – O one whose form enchanted the wives of the sages of the Daruka forest!

bhikshATana vEsha dhara    – O one bearing the guise of a mendicant!

Sankara                    – O causer of welfare and good fortune!


viraktAnAM vidEha kaivalya dAna vicakshaNa – O the foremost at giving videha-mukti to the dispassionate!

bhaktAnAM-abhaya pradAna   – O one who bestows protection to devotees!

virinci-Adi sakala dEva-upAsyamAna – O one adored by all celestials beginning with Brahma!

vibhUti rudrAksha-abhimAna – O one who adores (wearing) vibhuti (sacred ash) and Rudraksha!

paraSu mRga-agni kapAla DamarukaM dadhAna  – O one holding the axe, antelope, fire, skull and drum!

parama-advaita tAtparya-anusandhAna – O object of contemplation for understanding the meaning of supreme non-dualism!

para vAma dEva-Adi sakala virAjamAna – O resplendent one with many great forms such as Vamadeva!

parama-ISvara              – O supreme lord!

guru guha samAna bhAsamAna – O one as effulgent as Guruguha!

Lyrical aspects of the Composition:

The following points merit our attention:

  1. At the very outset it has to pointed out that there are no internal, external or collateral evidences to demonstrate that this composition even remotely pertains to a particular deity or ksetra. Therefore any attribution of this composition to a particular ksetra is purely speculative devoid of hard evidence.
  2. Dikshita first begins the composition in the pallavi by paying obeisance to this beautiful form of the Lord, at the very outset, whose identity he reveals only in the anupallavi when he explicitly refers to the “bikshatana” form of Lord Shiva by invoking the puranic lore of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu coming together to subdue the vanity of the sages of the Darukavana ( forest of deodhar trees).
  3. The usage of a word twice consecutively such as “kOti kOti” in a lyrical device which is found used by Muthusvami Dikshita in “Sri Subramanyaya Namaste” in Kambhoji for example where the word “namaste” as well as “koti” are used twice over consecutively to mean that its being meant as many times over.
  4. While this kriti is an adulatory paean to Lord Shiva, the lyrics can be said to be propitiating Lord Shiva of the “Bikshatana” form. Lord Shiva is said to have 64 forms such as Linga, Vrushabarudha, Dakshinamurti, Kalasamharamurti, Bhairava, Tyagaraja or Somaskanda, sadAshiva and others of which the “Bikshatana mUrti” is one form.
  5. The reference in the lyrical portion of the anupallavi being “dArukA vana tapOdhana………………..vEshadhara sankara” pertains to the mythological lore of Lord Shiva assuming the form of a handsome mendicant to enchant the wives of the Sages of Darukavana, so as to teach those sages a lesson. This mythology finds reference in the stala purana of Chidambaram and Thiruvenkadu (Svetaranyam or Adi Chidambaram). The blog header is a panel from the Chidambaram temple describing this instance when Lord Shiva took the form of Bikshatana and Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini to teach the sages of Darukavana, a lesson.
  6. It may be pointed out that this lore of Lord Shiva taking the form of a bikshatana is found referenced by Dikshita in two other compositions as under:
    • dArukAvanastapOdhana” in the Bilahari kriti “hAtakesvara samrakshamAm” and
    • dArukAvana tapOdhana kalpitha” in the Caturdasa ragamalika kriti “Sri Visvanatham Bhajeham” being the Saranga raga portion of the said composition.
  7. Residents of Mylapore, Chennai may recall that the Panguni Festival in the Sri Kapaleesvara Temple features the Lord in this form with a bowl as a seeker of alms on the 9th day of the festival. In fact, Papanasam Sivan who composed the well-known Kambhoji song “kAna kann kOdi vEndum” on the “adhikAra nandhi sEva” of the Lord of Mylapore also sang “picchaikku vandhIrO” set in raga Surati as well, on this Bikshatana murti procession of Mylapore.
  8. Amongst the quartet of Tamil savants three have sung tEvArams on this form of the Lord as a seeker of alms and the following are few instances:
    • Thirujnanasambandhar – Hymn on the Lord at Tiruvalachuzhi.
    • Appar/Tirunavukkarasar – hymn on the Lord at Tiruvottriyur
    • Sundaramurti Svamigal – hymn on the Lord at Tiruvarur
  9. The Bikshatana form of Lord Shiva is a risqué imagery and again Dikshita as is his wont brings in the iconography of this form in the lyrical portion as a pen picture for us:
    • His inestimable beauty of form “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya”- being akin to the beauty of innumerable manmatAs,
    • His enchanting handsomeness “mOhAkAra” – which entranced the women folk of Darukavana.
    • His predilection for “vibhUti” and “rudrAksha” beads which he wears as ornamentation along with vAsuki the serpent to adorn his body.
    •  “paraSu mRga-agni kapAla DamarukaM dadhAna” – enumerating the pick-axe, deer, fire, skull and the drum. Curiously the bhikshadana form is seen to hold only shUlA (Trident), kapAla (skull), the antelope and the bowl for alms in the 4 hands, whereas Dikshita identifies 5 objects as being held by the Lord.
  10. The lyrical portion “guruguha samAna bhAsamAna” is reminiscent of “guruguha samAnavaraOjasE” which occurs again in “Hastivadanaya Namastubhyam” in Navaroj.
  11. The raga mudra is beautifully interwoven in the lyrics at “mOha-AkAra bhikshATana”. Dikshita has adroitly woven in the same (‘sUchita’ raga mudra) much like how he has done in “citpratibimbE galajitasankE” (“Sri Matah Sivavamanke” in Begada) and “samAnavara OjasE” in “hastivadanaya namstubhyam” in Navaroj. Dikshita has enmeshed the raga mudra Arabhi in his other two compositions in the same raga as under;
    • “samsAra bhItyApahE” – in “Sri Sarasvati Namostute
    • “srutajana samsara bhItyApaham” in the Arabhi raga portion of “Sri Visvanatham bhajeham”, the caturdasa ragamalika
  12. While these two instances above belong to the same category from a usage/meaning perspective, Dikshita has very beautifully invoked the raga name in the instant case of “mAra kOti kOti” by placing the mudra at the junction of two words which together describes Lord Shiva as the enchanting mendicant.
  13. As always, the composer’s colophon “guruguha” appears explicitly in the final madhyama kala sahitya section at the fag end of the composition.


In this section I present versions of the composition as available in the public domain so that we can have an idea as to the melodic contours of this rarely encountered composition.

And I start with the version of Sangita Kalanidhi Alathur Srinivasa Iyer. Before we hear his rendering, it would be interesting to divine the likely source of the pAtham of his. We do know for sure that the Alathur Brothers namely Sri Sivasubramanya Iyer and Sri Srinivasa Iyer were associated with the legendary Vaineeka Sri Sambasiva Iyer. Sri Sambasiva Iyer was a Srividya Upasaka and which may likely explain the fact that compositions like “Sri Matah Sivavamanke” in Begada was part of his repertoire which he may have passed on to Alathur Brothers. This kriti “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya” too could have been part thereof.

In this recording Alathur Sri Srinivasa Iyer renders “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya” prefacing it with a succinct alapana. Attention is invited to how the veteran pivots the raga anchoring it firmly at pancama (with the rishabha as the ending note for his phrases) and then tara sadja and tara rishabha notes and how he caresses the dhaivatha note ever so gently, summarizing the raga every now and then, thus presenting the unalloyed Arabhi of yore for us even as he concludes it with the fluid madhyama kala akara passages . The way in which the raga vinayasa is expounded by the legend, is a veritable lesson for a student of music.

The accompanist though not indicated in the sleeve notes, appears to be Vidvans Lalgudi Jayaraman on the violin and the legendary Palghat Mani Iyer on the mrudanga.

Alathur Srinivasa Iyer renders “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya”

Presented next is a rendering of the same composition by the veteran music composer Tanjavur Sankara Iyer from a private chamber recital.

Tanjavur Sankara Iyer renders “mAra kOti kOti lAvanya”

The Musical Aspect of the Composition:

I choose to present the musical side of this composition finally in this blog post to highlight, the hidden nuances of the composition as documented in the SSP which have hitherto not been fully presented. I would further argue that with greater fidelity to the notation found in the SSP, the composition’s true beauty can be envisioned and brought out by performers today.

  1. The composition begins with an elongated madhyama note as a svarakshara, a rarity in Arabhi, where pancama is always a strong note or jiva svara. The composition is found notated in 1 Kalai misra jhampa tala and 2 ½ aksharas of the tala is found allocated to this opening madhyama note. The commencement on the dhirgha madhyama making it a graha adds a singularly different complexion to the rendering and the texture of Arabhi of this composition. In my opinion, as notated by Subbarama Dikshita, this opening madhyama is not an oscillated note but a steady, prolonged, deep and sonorous dhIrga madhyama note. This madhyama graha note of the composition as envisaged, is perhaps of the same type as the madhyama of the raga Sama as one would hear being rendered at the very outset of “mAnasa sancara rE” of Sadasiva Brahmendra, set to music by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (with the madhyama note both as a svarakshara & graha). As an aside it can further be noted that one other kriti where Dikshita tellingly uses the madhyama note as a graha svara is the Mahuri composition “mAmava raghuvIra” where it is used both in the pallavi and the carana commencement so beautifully both as a grahasvara and a svarakshara.
  2. At the pallavi itself, the lyric “lAvanya” is svara wise “dd-pd SSR’ which is a beautiful phrase not heard in any rendering of this composition. In fact, in this entire composition it is the only place where the mandhara pancama is touched.
  3. The anupallavi section “vEshadhara sankara” is PDP,MGRnddSR/M and is typically sung fully around the pancama note without descending to the mandhara dhaivatha note as notated. And quite uniquely in this entire composition this is the only place which is ornamented (the mandhara dhaivatha & nishadha notes) with the vaLI gamaka and the lyric “sankara” looks like it should be rendered with a hUmkAra with the jAru gamaka to the elongated madhyama graha svara of the pallavi.
  4.  As is his wont, Dikshita has invested the composition with svaraksharas on the pancama and dhaivatha notes as well apart from the madhyama as pointed out earlier.
  5. From an architecture perspective given that the madhayama is the graha svara or commencement note, Dikshita accesses the starting note of the pallavi as  dSR/M (the lyric being “sankara” with the vaLI gamaka on the mandhara stayi notes as pointed out earlier), from the mandhara stayi in the case of anupallavi and SNDDP ( the lyric being “bhAsamAna”) from the tAra sadja in the case of carana, as we loop back to the pallavi refrain thus providing a refreshing variation.
  6. Against the lyrical lines of the kriti for the pallavi and anupallavi above I have provided the musical movement as well in those lines to demonstrate how Dikshita has progressively expanded the raga elaboration in the kriti before embarking to display the entire gamut of the raga in the carana segment without traipsing up and down the scale.
  7. The madhyama kala sahitya section appended to the carana has been developed by Dikshita spanning the three octaves in 3 sections, spanning mandhara dhaivatha to tara madhyama note completing his musical conception.

It is my humble opinion that the SSP notation of this composition ought to be rendered as the first/base/plain sangati for every line and as appropriate, suitable lines can be taken up, expanded melodically through additional sangatis so as to burnish and embellish the composition.


In the last century, the great performing vidvans of yester-years, made some ragas or particular compositions their very own and as a result they became synonymous with that raga or the composition as the case may be. Vidvan Madurai Mani Iyer’s renderings of “Sarasasamadhana” (Kapinarayani, Tyagaraja) or Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s “Dakshinamurte” ( Sankarabharanam, Muthusvami Dikshita) or his extraordinary renderings of the raga Kharaharapriya are examples that comes to one’s mind instantly. It is my most humble opinion that modern day musicians haven’t made use of this stratagem and “mAra kOti kOti” offers one such opportunity.

In sum “mAra kOti kOti” in Arabhi is yet another bewitching composition lying dormant in the SSP even as it awaits a modern-day performer to take it up, embellish, perform beautifully by taking the core skeletal notation in the SSP as the base, expanding and building on it and thus finally making it as his or her own.  Would it happen?  


  1. Subbarama Dikshita (1904) – Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (1977) in Tamil -Vol IV- Mela 29 – Pages 846-852

Disclaimer & Credits:

The recording of the rendering by Vidvan Tanjavur Sankara Iyer has been sourced from the uploads made in Sangeethapriya. The relevant references have been suitably hyperlinked to complete the attribution. The blog header has been sourced from the web, being a panel depicting the lore of the Darukavana from the Cidambaram Temple and the painting of the Lord as a Bikshadana murthi is of artist Sri Siddalinga Svami of Mysore.

CompositionAppreciation, Notation, Sahitya

“vadAnyEsvaram bhajEham” – A Critical Appraisal


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.

In this 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.

In this 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.

But first let us take up the composition text for our consideration.

The Composition:


bhajE-ahaM                  – I worship

sadA                        – forever

vadAnyESvaraM               – Vadanyeshvara (the great benefactor).

tyajE-ahaM                  – I renounce

mada-Adi vRttiM             – tendencies such as arrogance,

mudA                        – joyfully


pada-aravindaM              – (I worship) the one whose feet are (lovely) as lotuses,

Ananda kandaM              – the root-source of bliss,

pAlita dEva gAndhArava bRndaM – the protector of the multitudes of Devas and Gandharvas,

sadA-arcitaM                – the perennially worshipped one,

vinata vidhi mukundaM       – the one saluted by Brahma and Vishnu,

sadguru guha cidAnandaM     – the bliss of consciousness of the noble Guruguha,

sadA                        – always.


paSu pASa mOcanaM           – (I worship) the one who liberates creatures from bondage,

tri-lOcanaM                 – the three-eyed one,

panca-AnanaM                – the five-faced one,

praNata gaja-AnanaM         – the one saluted by the elephant-faced – Ganesha

SiSu bAla gOpa viditaM      – the one well-known even to infants, children and cowherds,

muditaM                     – the joyous one,

SivaM                       – the auspicious one,

bilva vana vaibhavaM        – the splendorous one in the Bilva forest,

bhavam                      – the one who has become everything in this universe,

viSuddhi-Adi nilayaM        – the one residing in Visuddhi and other Chakras,

maNi valayaM                – the one wearing bejewelled bracelets,

vigata vikalpakaM           – the one in whom variations have ceased,

Srita kalpakaM              – the wish-fulfilling divine tree to those who seek refuge,

paSu patiM                  – the master of all creatures,

jnAnAmbikA patiM            – the Consort of Goddess Jnanambika,

paraSu mRga dharaM          – the bearer of the axe and deer,

nIla kandharaM              – the blue-throated one,

aSubha kshaya karaM         – the annihilator of the inauspicious,

abhaya vara karaM         – the one whose hands gesture freedom from fear and granting boons,

anAdi-avidyA haraM          – the remover of primordial ignorance,

Sankaram                    – the causer of welfare and good fortune.


  1. The kriti is on the Lord Siva enshrined at Vallalar Kovil in Mayuram / Mayavaram / Mayiladuthurai, Lord Vadanyesvara and whose consort is Goddess Gnanambika
  2. The raga mudra is indirectly embedded in the composition in a slightly truncated fashion in “dEvagandharva brindham”
  3. The composer’s colophon is also found in the composition in “sadguruguha cidAnandam”.
  4. The kriti is a paean to Lord Shiva with epithets in his glory strung together as a composition.

The Provenance of this Composition:

What sets 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 Dikshita.

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.

As the notes to the composition make it clear, it is obvious that:

  1. The kriti has been edited by Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer.
  2. The source of this pAtham is attributed to Vidvan Keeranur Subramanya Iyer.
  3. 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.

Suffice to state that this source is ex-facie of unimpeachable fidelity and we will examine the notation further to confirm the same.

Key structural aspects of the composition:

It can be seen from a stylistic perspective, the composition is Dikshitar’esque in its form.

  1. 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.
  2. The melodic material is expanded in an organized manner first in the pallavi, then in the anupallavi and finally in the carana section.
  3. 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.
  4. The raga “Devagandhari” of Mela 29 is kept musically beautiful in this composition.

Notation of the Composition:

Given below is the notation as published in the aforesaid JMA.

  1. The composition is replete with svaraksharas on the
    1. dhaivatha note as in “madAdi”,”mudA” in the pallavi
    2. pancama note as in “padhAravindam” and “pasupAsa mOcanam
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The 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.

Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer renders “vadAnyEsvaram bhajEham” in Devagandhari of Muthusvami Dikshita

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.

Veena Vidvan K S Narayanasvami renders “vadAnyEsvaram

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.

Vidushi Seetha Rajan renders “vadAnyEsvaram” with alapana and svaraprastara


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.

Update History:

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.

CompositionAppreciation, Raga, Repertoire

The Extinct Malavasri


Prologue & A Prelude:

Ragas like Saranganatta, Desakshi, Samantha and Malavasri once upon time ruled the roost but today lie forgotten and unsung. Malavasri is a raga in which both Tyagaraja and Muthusvami Dikshita have composed. This blog post is to document the history of the raga in brief and introduce Dikshita’s composition to the reader of this blog.

But before that, is a prelude. The year was 1945, when the Second World War was winding down, with the day being March 25th, a Sunday. If one had tuned into the All India Radio Madras 1 Station at 10PM that day, after the rendering of  the popular “ Nee Inrangayenil” by the young and sprightly M S Subbulakshmi, the listener would have next heard the kriti of Tyagaraja in the raga Malavasri (“Evarunnaru brova”) played from the vinyl record rendered by the then 26 year old D K Pattammal in her inimitable style, followed by Dikshita’s “Manasa Guruguha rupam” in Anandabhairavi – vide the extract of the day’s broadcast schedule from the “Indian Listener” pinned as the header to this post.

The same recording made by her close to 90 years ago can be heard here:

Yet another is a dance piece for listening- Kubera Stuti- in tisra eka tala set in the raga Malavasri.

The raga Malavasri belongs to the 22nd Mela (Kharaharapriya/Sriraga) taking the following svaras/murrcanas in its ascent and descent, according to the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP).

Arohana: S G2 G2 M1 P N2 D2 N2 S

Arohana: S N2 N2 D2 P M1 P N2 D2 M1 M1 G2 S

Mark the emphasis on the gandhara, madhyama and nishadha notes in the progression. This raga is an oddity for more than one reason for it also incorporates a few now-lost 18th century raga architectural attributes. While Natta, Gaula, Arabhi, Varali and Sri were the traditional ghana ragas (pancakam) of the first category, the ragas Reetigaula, Narayanagaula, , Bhauli, Malavasri and Saranganatta are the constituents of the dviteeya ghana pancakam.

Historical Background to the Raga:

The raga right through history has been recorded by musicologists and with the advent of the mela scheme, Venkatamakhin (1620 CE) as well as Shaji (circa 1700 CE) and Tulaja (circa 1732 CE), placed the raga as a shadava raga skipping rishabha altogether under Sriraga mela. And the raga is documented as-is in the Ragalakshanam of Muddu Venkatamakhin (circa 1750). Older texts while helping in validating the broad lakshanas of ragas, do not provide us with the intricate details or compositions and we are left to rely on the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) of Subbarama Dikshita which details this raga for our benefit.

The SSP’s narrative provides us with this nominal raga structure for us.

Arohana: S G2 G2 M1 P N2 N2 D2 N2 S

Arohana: S N2 N2 D2 P M1 P N2 D2 M1 M1 G2 S

Attention is invited to the vakra dhaivatha in the arohana and the SNDPM, SNDNPM, SNDNPM combinations that occur in the descent. Further Subbarama Dikshita asserts on the authority of the older texts that there are no sancaras beyond the madhya stayi. In fact, Muthusvami Dikshita’s kriti provided as an exemplar goes one step further as the raga is dealt with only between madhya gandhara and tara pancama, with no sancaras below.

The SSP documents the following compositions as exemplars of the raga, none of which are in currency on the modern concert stage.

  1. Mangalambayai Namaste” of Muthusvami Dikshita in misra jhampa tala
  2. Devi Sathatham” of Krishnasvami Ayya in Matya capu tala – the musical setting perhaps being done by Subbarama Dikshita himself
  3. Indha perumai” – a padam in Tamil by Mukkupulavar in misra eka tala – the sahitya being that of the Ettayapuram Court poet and the musical setting likely of Balasvami Dikshita

The SSP apart from documenting the lakshya gitam ascribing it to Venkatamakhin as authority for the raga’s grammar also documents a unique gitam commencing as “manmadha naLa” called as “mukta-pada-grastham” whereby the ending syllabic constituent unit of the previous sahitya section becomes the first syllabic constituent of the succeeding sahitya portion. (andhadhi). Much like the Narayanagaula gitam documented in the SSP, this gitam must have been in currency and must have been a popular composition. It must be emphasized that gitas or gita prabhandas were the concise repositories of a raga’s lakshanas, encapsulating pithily the set of all possible svara combinations or murrcanas of the raga, akin to how we treat the varna in modern days.

A perusal of the said gita offers us vital clues as to this raga’s lakshana:

  1. The raga delineated spans the madhya sadja to the tara madhyama. There are no mandhara stayi phrases in the gita.
  2. The gita is divided into two parts – the first one being the dhruvam – the so-called opening refrain or what we today call as the pallavi. The second is the javada or the so called anupallavi part which loops back to the dhruvam or the refrain.
  3. Nishadha followed by the madhyama is found greatly emphasized by their repeated usage both in the dheergha and janta varieties.
  4. The salient arohana and avarohana murrcanas found are as under:
    • Madhya stayi- ascent- SGGM-MMP-MPNNDN-NDNS
    • Tara stayi – S,GS- MMGS-SMGS-MGSMGS-

Apart from the SSP two other documented sources of this raga from olden times even antecedent to the SSP are as under:

  1. manmadha nala” the gitam in Malavasri found in the SSP is also published in Pallavi Svara Kalpavalli (published in 1900 CE) by Tiruvottriyur Tyagier. There are a few variations here and there save for one crucial aspect which is that in one place the mandhara nishadha is touched.
  2. Sri Ramani kucakumkuma” – a ragamalika gitam of 32 ragas in Dhruva tala of which Malavsri is one is found published in “Sangeetha Sarvaartha Sara Sangrahamu” of Veena Ramanujacharya (1873 CE). The sahitya and the corresponding musical notation which runs for one avarta of tala is as under:
1 2 3 4 5 6
S , M M G S
gA . . . ya ka
N S N D    
pa . rA .    
N N D M    
ya nu rE .    

The notation in italics is the tara sancara notes of the raga. This brief snippet of  the raga encompasses madhya stayi madhyama to tara stayi madhyama, emphasizing   nishadha madhyama notes, corresponding to the treatment of the raga in  “Mangalambayai Namaste” as we will see shortly. And while dhaivatha is vakra in the arohana, it is more seen vakra in the avarohana as well though a lineal SNDP is not forbidden. Vakra sancaras are de rigueur in this raga, which by incorporating multiple flows of murccanas follows the classical 18th century raga architecture.

It has to be pointed out that the raga’s lakshana as embodied in the SSP fully accords with the musical history right from the times of Venkatamakhin staying under the Sri raga mela and omitting rishabha. Both Sahaji and Tulaja in their works reinforce the same lakshana for the raga. Even the Sangraha Cudamani, the lexicon of the ragas of compositions of Tyagaraja omits rishaba in its structure and provides roughly the same arohana-avarohana krama for the raga.

And off course all musical texts are unanimous as to the rishabha being omitted and the raga being a upanga raga under 22nd mela.

Mangalambayai Namaste” of Muthusvami Dikshita

Before we delve into the musical aspects of composition, let’s look at the sahitya and its meaning first:


namastE                        – Salutations to you,

SrI  mangaLAmbAyai              – to (you who are) Goddess Mangalamba!

SrI vAncha linga nija SaktE    – O personal, active power of Shiva (Vanchalinga)!

vilIna cit-SaktE               – O embodiment of the hidden mental power!


sangIta sAhitya sArajna sannutE – O one celebrated by those who know the essence of music and literature,

mangaLa-Alaya gupta gangA taTa sthitE – O one dwelling in the auspicious temple on the bank of (the tank) Gupta Ganga,

ananga-Adi-upAsitE              – O one worshipped by Manmatha and others!

SRngAra-Adi yutE                – O one possessed of the various sentiments (Rasas) beginning with love(Shrngara)!


manda smita-AnanE               – O one with a gentle countenance

mALava SrI janE              – O one who has good people (as devotees) in the country of                                                        Malava!

indirA-AlOkanE                  – O one who blessed Lakshmi with your gaze!

ISvara-ArAdhanE                 – O one who worships Shiva!

indIvara-Asana-Adi-IDita      – O one acclaimed by the gods led by the lotus-seated Brahma!

Siva-anganE                     – O young wife of Shiva!

sindUra kastUri candana-AlEpanE – O one anointed with vermillion, musk and sandal paste!

kunda mukuLa radanE             – O one with teeth like small-jasmine buds,

guru guha hRtsadanE             – O one whose abode is the heart of Guruguha,

sundari                                           – O beautiful one!

mRdu gadanE                               – O soft-spoken one!

sukha-tara kara madanE         – O one who grants great joy to Manmatha!

  1. The raga name and the colophon of Dikshita are seamlessly woven into the lyrics referring to the Malava/Malwa region (modern Central India)
  2. The ksetra of the composition is Sri Vanchiyam and Goddess Mangalambika is the consort of Lord Vanchinatha who is the presiding deity.
  3. Sri Vanchiyam is a hoary ksetra and is rich in stala purana from a mythological standpoint. Refer: http://templesoftamilnadu.co.in/srivanchiyam/
  4. Dikshita has composed three kritis, on Lord Vanchinatha and Goddess Mangalambika, of this ksetra as documented in the SSP as under:
    • Mangalambayai Namaste – Malavsri – misra jhampa tala
    • Sri Mangalambike – Kalyani – Khanda Ata
    • Sri Vanchanatham – Surati – Adi

From a musical aspect, the setting of the composition is itself very interesting.

  1. Subbarama Dikshita in his commentary makes a number of pertinent points about the raga:
    • He says the raga is shadava with rishabha being dropped totally and dhaivatha varja. It has to be pointed out that in the lakshana sloka dhaivatha is said to dropped (varjitha) in the arohana.
    • Malavasri is a ghana raga of the dviteeya category.
    • Gandhara, nishadha and madhyama svara are the key life-giving notes
    • From a lakshya standpoint the raga spans madhya stayi sadja to tara stayi madhyama.
    • SGGMPNNS -NNDPMPNDMMGS is the arohana and avarohana krama
  2. In the kriti however, Dikshita implements the raga as under:
    • While rishabha is dropped, dhaivatha is vakra in the arohana and not varjya. Dhaivatha note occurs as MPNDNS in the arohana and SNDP or SNDMP or SNDNP in the avarohana krama.
    • The raga effectively spans madhya stayi madhyama to tara stayi madhyama, with two outliers/exceptions – in the tara stayi the pancama (“srng-ArAdhiyutE”)is touched in one place and in the madhya stayi gandhara (“vilInacit saktE)” is touched in another place.
    • In other words, there is no sancara below madhya stayi gandhara, while the tara pancama is the outermost svara in the upper register.
    • The madhyama kala sahitya portion appended to the carana commencing “kunda mukula radanE” captures the effective gamut of the raga as visualized by Dikshita in this composition.
    • The primacy of the tara madhyama with which the composition starts and the repeated emphasis on the nishadha note (at “mangalAlaya” for instance) are key aspects to be noted.
    • Kampita gamaka adorns nishadha and gandhara throughout the composition.
    • Given the madhya stayi gandhara to tara madhyama only scope as dealt with in the composition, the murcchanas occurring thereof can be noted as below:
      1. MPNNS; MPNNDNS; GMNNDNS and SNDP, SNDPMPG, MPNNDM, SNDMPM in the madhya stayi
      2. SGS, SGMGS, SMGS and PMGS in the tara stayi
  3. From a rendering perspective the following aspects has to be observed for this composition:
    • The song commences on the tara madhyama and therefore a vocalist should “park firmly” at the madhyama note in the upper register, without deviating in any manner, such as intoning the gandhara instead as the commencing note.
    • Keeping in line with the delineation in the composition, any sancara below madhya gandhara should advisedly be eschewed in any sangati or alapana or neraval or svara prastara, so as to ensure fidelity to the intent of the composer as he has kept to that as the gamut of the raga in this composition.


In this section I present the my rendering of “Mangalambayai Namaste” to the best of abilities , keeping to my interpretation of the notation found in the SSP. I should hasten to add that errors and omissions are entirely mine.

In this context the following points are to be noted:

  1. A version of this composition is found in the public domain ascribed to Sangeeta Kalanidhi Smt. Aruna Sairam. It is most respectfully submitted that the said version does not conform to the notation as found in the SSP and much liberties has been taken with the same. Here is the recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHSmlUKZ1PI
  2. It is even more unfortunate that the composition is seen rendered in khanda capu tala as well inflicting even greater damage to the composition. As recorded in earlier blog posts, the Jhampa Tala compositions of Dikshita such as “Sri Venugopala” ( Kurinji), “Sri Kalahasteesa” ( Huseini) are seen rendered in khanda capu tala, doing incalculable harm both the intent of the composer and the rhythmic setting of the kriti.
  3. Notations as well narratives of the raga found in the public domain provides the arohana and avarohana krama of the raga wrongly. Rishabha is seen included in the descent. It has to be noted that the raga is entirely devoid of rishabha note. Students as well as performers need to stay wary of these obvious errors. Example: https://karnatik.com/c5787.shtml
  4. There is another composition “ Kanakasabapatim” passed off as a composition of Muthusvami Dikshita in the raga Malavasri. Again it is most respectfully submitted that this is a plain misattribution as the composition can neither be of Dikshita’s nor is it the Malavasri of the SSP as it does not in any way conform to the lakshana of the raga found in “Mangalambayai” and documented in the SSP. And therefore, the said composition is not considered in this blog post.

Malavasri as featured in Ramasvami Dikshita’s 108-Raga-Tala Malika

This magnum opus as published in the SSP, features the raga Malavasri as the 13th portion/khandika set in rAjacUdAmani tala. The notation shows traversal of Malavasri in the mandhara stayi upto the mandhara madhyama. And above all a considerable portion of the lyrics are notated in mandhara stayi in obvious discordance to Subbarama Dikshita’s own commentary that the raga does not permit sancaras below madhya sadja ! However the raga as delineated is otherwise in line with the stated lakshana of the raga being SGMPNNS/SNDPMGS.

Vidushi R S Jayalakshmi in Dec 2014 gave a lecture demonstration of this mammoth composition of Ramasvami Dikshita. In this Youtube Link she demonstrates the Malavasri portion starting 1:07:18 onwards.

Malavasri & the SSP and Tyagaraja’s Compositions:

Thus, Malavasri has always been a shadava raga of the Sriraga mela, omitting rishabha. And in the SSP as we see there are two other unique aspects:

  1. Dhaivatha is vakra in the arohana and
  2. Sancaras span only from madhya gandhara to tara pancama. And according the Subbarama Dikshita sancaras below madhya stayi sadja are not seen in the raga. This feature of the raga is akin to that of Surati where no sancaras are seen below the sadja of the middle register.

In this context we have to assess the melodic contours of the Malavasri found in Tyagaraja’s compositions “Evarunnaru” and “Ennalu tirigedi”. It is to be noted that this composition of Tyagaraja – “Evarunnaru” is only found listed in Rangaramanuja Iyengar’s publication and is not found documented in other publications or compendia of Tyagaraja’s compositions.

The lyrics of the composition can be found here: http://thyagaraja-vaibhavam.blogspot.com/2007/09/thyagaraja-kriti-evarunnaaru-brova-raga.html

While the rendering of Smt D K Pattammal was presented earlier, the other rendering being that of Sangita Kalanidhi T V Sankaranarayanan is given below:


The following conclusions can be drawn from these renderings:

  1. The melody indeed involves the notes of Mela 22, duly eschewing the rishabha note.
  2. The composition as well as the renderings span the full middle register and up to tara madhyama.
  3. Dhaivatha is seen rendered vakra in the arohana krama.
  4. The carana section “manasAraga dhyanimpanu– manasu nilupu marmambu telipi” seems tinted with rishabha (perhaps due to an oscillated flatter gandhara) which is avoidable. It has to be mentioned that the tara sancaras are rendered with SMGS or its variants without any trace of rishabha.

A cleaner version devoid of even a faint suggestion of rishabha in the said places in the kriti along with a sharper sadharana gandhara intonation, is this rendering of Vidvan Dileepkumar which is presented below:

The other kriti of Tyagaraja “ennalu tirigedi” of Tyagaraja is rendered by Dr Ritha Rajan which can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdvhTBoydpY


The evaluation of the musical material available to us shows that for Malavsri, the gitam as well as the kritis of Muthusvami Dikshita and Tyagaraja present an unalloyed and complete picture of the raga, which is sufficient for one to comprehend, understand and assimilate the raga, from the point of view of both a student and a performer. Further the raga as well as the Dikshita’s composition “Mangalambayai Namaste” can not only be rendered with practice but can be dealt with along with alapana, neraval and svaraprastara. By properly imbuing the composition and the raga lakshana therein, with fidelity to the notation and the intent of the composer, the composition can be performed competently. It is earnestly hoped that this beautiful composition with its uttaranga and upper register centric pivot, will be encountered more frequently on the concert circuit in the days to come.


  1. Subbarama Dikshitar (1904) – “Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini” – Republished in Tamil by Madras Music Academy (2006) -Vol II- Sriraga Mela- Pages 489-496
  2. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – “Ragalakshana Sangraha”- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 816-828
  3. Prof S R Janakiraman & Subba Rao (1993)- “Ragas of the Saramrutha”- published by the Madras Music Academy -pp 34-35
  4. Savitri Rajan & Michael Nixon (1982)–“Sobhillu Saptasvara” – published by CBH Publications -pp 115 & 135