Among the various compositions notated in the text Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, ragamalikas are more interesting and intriguing. Among the composers belonging to the family of Ramasvamy Diksitar, Subbarama Diksitar has employed this musical form extensively. He has composed nine ragamalikas, including the raganga ragamalika. These ragamalikas form vital study material, from the aspects of both sahitya and sangita. An attempt is made here to understand the ragamalikas of Subbarama Dikshitar as a whole, despite understanding the importance of analyzing them individually.
Though the majority of these ragamalikas were composed on the royal patrons like Pusapati Anada Gajapati Raju (kaminchina kalavatira), Raja Jadvira Muddusvamy Ettendra (endhuku ra ra ), Bhaskara Setupathy (garavamu) and Sri Rama Tiruvadi of Travancore (ni sari), he has also dedicated his ragamalikas to deities like Rajagopalasvamy (vedukato) and Kartikeya of Kazhugumalai (manatodi). All of them were composed in Telugu, excluding ‘manatodi’, which is a Tamiz composition.
Number of ragas
I kanakambari (sahitya by Krishna Kavi and music by Subbarama Diksitar)
72 (raganga ragamalika)
The sahitya of these ragamalikas not only have their raga mudras interwoven, but also have the ‘poshaka’ mudra like ‘sri muddusvami jagadvira ettendra candra’ (endhuku ra ra), ‘bhaskara mahipala’ (garavamu) and ‘pusapati ananda gajapati’ (kaminchina kalavatira).
Many of these sahityas are also replete with ‘anuprasa’. Anuprasa is an alliteration, a single syllable is repeated, but as a part of a different set of closely connected words. Using anuprasa is actually an option and not a mandate to be used in a composition. The Sama raga segment featuring in the ragamalika ‘kaminchina kalavatira’ is taken as an example. The sahitya reads as ‘kurulu mogula tegalu nagavalarulunu duru nela saga manuduru’, wherein the aksara ‘la’ is used as anuprasam. Though it is esthetically appealing, it is much more challenging for a musician to sing, especially when it occurs as a madhyamakala sahitya.
The structure of these ragamalikas can be divided into two types – those with a structured pallavi, anupallavi and caranam and those without any defined structure. The ragamalikas ‘manatodi’, ‘priyamuna’ and ‘i kanakambari’ fall under the first category. It is indeed these unstructured ragamalikas that captivate, as they are much abstruse in their construction. In many cases, the composer has prescribed stringent ways to render these compositions, making them much complex and intricate. For instance, in the ragamalika ‘kaminchina kalavathira’. This is perhaps the most asymmetric composition available. This is a ragamalika comprising 32 ragas, wherein the first 16 ragas were given an elaborate treatment, with a detailed svara-sahitya segment. Contrastingly, a single tala avarta was allotted to the second 16 ragas! The composer has grouped these 32 ragas into 16 pairs. These raga pairs are to be sung alternatively after the elaborate section consisting of 16 ragas. The composer has also prescribed unique guidelines for the ragamalikas ‘endhuku ra ra’ and ‘valapu miri’. This kind of grouping and giving directions to render these compositions are unique to Subbarama Diksitar. Though this adds value to the composition, it also makes the composition sound difficult and complex.
Analysis of the eight ragamalikas (‘i kanakambari’ is excluded from being a raganga ragamalika), shows the composer has indeed included a wide array of ragas. It ranges from the common ragas like Kalyani, Sankarabharanam to rarer ones like Rudrapriya and Balahamsa. It also reveals his personal preference for Todi. It features in all the eight ragamalikas. Kamas, having been used in five compositions, follow this. Other ragas like Bhairavi, Sriragam, Yamuna, etc., occur more than once. The raga selection seems to be completely influenced by Ramasvamy Diksitar. Every raga used in these ragamalikas, except three were used by Ramasvamy Diksitar. Pharaju, Kamas, and Rudrapriya form this trio and the above statement can be confirmed only if we get the complete corpus of the compositions of Ramasvamy Diksitar.
The composer has taken utmost care to give a new flavor to a raga when it occurs more than once. For instance, Todi was used as a panchama varjya raga in the ragamalika ‘priyamuna’, but used as a routine raga though with its different phrases in other ragamalikas. In addition, many phrases that were known/used by his family alone are seen aplenty. Be it ‘PNM’ in Kedaram or ‘SDP’ in Manohari, they stand alone. Besides these, these ragamalikas also serves us to understand the old svarupa of these ragas. For example, the phrase NSGGM in Nilambari (not in vogue today) was used profusely in his ragamalika ‘garavamu’.
An interesting feature was employed by Subbarama Diksitar in his raganga ragamalika. This is a ragamalika, serving as a lexicon to understand the 72 raganga ragas used by the Diksitar family, starting from Kanakambari and ending with Rasamanjari. In this ragamalika, when he transits from one raganga raga to its immediate successor (within a cakra), he preferred not to use the svaras unique to them!
Being raganga ragas, every member within a cakra has the same svara varieties in the purvanga (sa to ma), and they differ only in their uttaranga (pa to ni). If a difference is to be shown between any two ragas that occur in succession (within a cakra), it is much easier to show if the differing svaras are used at the beginning of the raga segment as its opening phrase. This was followed by Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer in his 72 ‘mela ragamalika’ (though we do see few exceptions). Subbarama Diksitar surprisingly did not resort to this practice (at the majority of the places). Instead, he shows the phrases unique to these raganga ragas. Therefore, at many places, we will not be aware of the change in the ragas, unless we are cautious, as the successive ragas share the same svara variety in their purvanga. For example, in the first cakra, the raga segments Kanakambari, Phenadyuti, Ganasamavarali, Bhanumati and Manoranjani starts with the phrase SRGRMPM, MGGRMP, MGRMP, MPMRR, PDPMR respectively. Tanukirti alone starts with the phrase SNDNP. Hence, the opening phrases are not suggestive of the ragas used. The ragas unveil themselves only as we travel with the composition.
Excluding the ragamalikas ‘manatodi’ and ‘i kanakambari’, all the others were composed in either rupaka or tisra eka tala. Analysis of the tala reveals the musical acumen of the composer in the arena of talaprastara. Almost in every ragamalika, we see the usage of three speeds seamlessly and skillfully resulting in various unique patterns. Again, this is an influence from the works of Ramasvamy Diksitar.
The ragamalikas of Subbarama Diksitar not only serve as reference material for understanding the raga svarupa; they also help us to understand the music of the gone era. Analysis of each of these ragamalika separately will not only help us to understand the musical thoughts of Subbarama Diksitar, but also the thoughts of Ramasvamy Diksitar as the seed of the latter’s musical thoughts and/or influence can be seen in the composition of all the Diksita-s.
Our dharma extols and worship a Guru to an extent that he is always treated synonymously with the ever pervading Almighty. Svetashvatara Upanishad, one among the celebrated 108 Upanishads says an aspirant must have unbiased worship towards his Guru and he is to be considered as a God incarnate itself. This is the only way through which he can attain the eternal bliss, prescribes this Upanishad. Advayataraka Upanishad, comparatively a lesser-known among the 108 Upanishads gives a meaning for the sabda “Guru”. The syllables ‘gu’ and ‘ru’ denotes darkness and dispeller respectively. Hence ‘Guru’ denotes a person who dispels darkness.
This truth as certified by Upanishads was sincerely followed by the
disciples belonging to all the branches of Vedic dharma and we do find this
idea percolating into the practitioners of Gandarva Veda also. Guru keertana-s
and ashtaka-s composed by Valajapettai Venkataramana Bhagavathar on his guru
Tyagaraja Svamigal is quite famous. We also see a mangalam on Svamigal composed
by two of his disciples – Venkataramana Bhagavathar and Manambuchavadi
There exist a lesser-known set of Guru kritis composed by Tanjavur Quartette on their teacher Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar and they can be collectively called as Sri Guruguha Navaratnamalika.
Tanjavur Quartette and Sri
Unlike Svamigal, Diksitar was peripatetic and this ambulant nature made
him to spread his music at various places. Whereas disciples from distant
places swarmed at Tiruvayyaru and learnt from Svamigal, Diksitar planted his
seed at various places which later blossomed to give flowers of various colour
and shapes. One such set of disciples, who has learnt from Diksitar during his
stay as a court musician in Tanjavur is Chinniah, Ponniah, Sivanandam and
Vadivelu, commonly called as Tanjavur Quartette. They hail from a musical family and further
honed their skills by learning from Diksitar for a period of approximately 8
years. As a tribute, they have composed and submitted this kritis into the
lotus feet of their Guru.
The uniqueness of Sri Guruguha Navaratnamalika
A close introspection into the Guru kritis reveals they are strategically different from the works composed by the disciples of Svamigal.
All these kritis are composed in Telugu and are on either Lord Brhadiswara or Devi Brhadiswari.
Excluding a few phrases, these kritis do not deify their teacher. But it can be well perceived that their mental image about their Guru is exactly the same as mentioned in the Upanishad.
Extra-ordinary parallelism is seen between these nine kritis and the kritis of Diksitar. In other words, these nine kritis stand out significantly from the rest of their creations! Perhaps, they could have felt, composing in the style followed by Guru would be a better tribute to show that He has bequeathed his wisdom to them.
As the name indicates, this set comprises of nine compositions set
to nine different ragas:
The kriti Mayateetha svarupini, as interpreted from Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini can be viewed here.
It is surprising to see that all of them are raganga ragas (another
term used to refer melakarta) except the kriti in Kambhoji. To approach it more
academically, even Kambhoji can be considered as a raganga raga as it was
considered as a mela by few composers in the past. A gitam by Paidala
Gurumurthy Sastri, who was an elder contemporary of Quartette can be cited as
A close observation reveals another interesting finding; four of the
nine ragas take the svaras suddha dhaivatam and kakali nishadham (raganga ragas
9,15,39 and 45). Is this merely a coincidence?
The parallelism between Navaratnamalika and the kritis of Dikshitar
As mentioned above, the compositional style unexceptionally resembles that of Dikshitar. This gets more visible by the following discussion.
Raga mudra is seen in all except the kritis in Kambhoji and
Five out of these nine compositions are set in pallavi-anupallavi
format, a common feature seen in the kritis of Diksitar (these are now called
as samasti charana kritis).
Madhyamakala sahityam is seen in all the kritis excluding the kritis
in Sailadesakshi and Purvikalyani.
A chittasvaram is affixed to many kritis in this set.
Has a graha svaram segment (only in the Dhunibinnasadjam kriti).
The raga structure portrayed in these kritis correspond exactly with
the lakshana seen in the kritis of Diksitar as notated by Subbarama Diksitar.
All these kritis bear the mudra ‘guruguha’.
Though this mudra has become synonymous with Diksitar, we do see this
mudra being used by other composers. This mudra can be seen in some
compositions of Subbarama Diksitar and Ambi Diksitar, other than the Quartette.
In these nine kritis, this mudra is suffixed with phrases like ‘daasudaithi’,
bhaktudani and sadhbhaktudani.
Only two kritis use a different form of this mudra and they give an
internal reference regarding their relationship with Diksitar. The kriti in
Binnasadjam begins as ‘sri guruguhamurtiki ne sishyudai yunnanura’, wherein the
composer declares he was a disciple of Diksitar. Another personal reference is
seen in the kriti ‘saatileni guruguhamurti’ wherein he says he is acquainted
with his Guru for a considerable period of time (aa naatanundi).
We have three sources to study and analyse these kritis. The primary one is the text “Tanjai Peruvudaiyan Perisai” published by the descendants of Quartette. To the limited knowledge of this author, this is the first text to give these kritis in notation and name them as Navaratnamalika. Second is “Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini” of Subbarama Diksitar and the third is the manuscripts believed to have been written by Quartette and now in the possession of Sri Sivakumar, a descendant of Quartette who graciously shared to do this analysis.
The notated version of all these nine kritis can be seen in the first source and only four kritis are notated in the text by Subbarama Diksitar. Subbarama Diksitar, in his treatise, has explained 72 raganga ragas and their janyas, practically by illustrating with the kritis of Muthuswamy Diksitar. Strangely for 4 raganga ragas (Dhunibinnasadjam, Siva Pantuvarali, Ramamanohari and Chamaram), no kriti of Diksitar was affixed. Instead, he has given the kritis of Ponniah as an authority to understand the ragas Dhunibinnasadjam, Ramamanohari and Chamaram (though Quartette in general were given the credit as the composer of these nine kritis, Subbarama Diksitar specifically mention the three kritis given by him as the creations of Ponniah). Siva pantuvarali is devoid of any kriti.
At the outset, no significant differences can be seen between these
two texts with respect to the raga lakshana excluding the kriti in Ramamanohari.
The raga lakshana seen in the kriti ‘sri raja rajeswari’, in the version given
by Subbarama Diksitar is more in line with the Ramamanohari gitam seen in
Samparadaya Pradarshini. Also, only Subbarama Diksitar has given a chittasvaram
for Ramamanohari and Chamaram kritis. The graha svaram segment seen in the
Dhunibinnasadajam kriti too is given only by Subbarama Diksitar.
Two inferences can be drawn from these findings – the descendants of
Quartette have taken diligent efforts to preserve the compositions of their
ancestors and Subbarama Diksitar, though belong to a different lineage has
given the versions learnt and / or known to him earnestly.
Versions seen in the manuscripts too correspond extraordinarily well
with the other sources. Few striking differences are seen:
Pantuvarali is mentioned as the
raga taking sadharana gandhara corresponding to the raganga raga 45 (this is
given as the raga taking antara gandhara corresponding to melam 51 in the text
‘Tanjai Peruvudaiyan Perisai’).
The kriti ‘sri raja rajeswari’
has few special phrases that are seen in the gitam given in Sangita Sampradaya
The manuscript gives different
versions for two kritis – sri karambu and saatileni guruguha murti. ‘Sri
karambu’ is mentioned as the raga taking the svaras of Kanakambari, raganga
raga 1 and the raga for ‘saatileni guruguhamurti’ is given as Nata, which also
serves as a raga mudra. Sivakumar opines that this is a common pattern observed
with the Quartette; to tune a single sahityam to two different ragas and to fix
two different sahityam into a single tune.
Rather than praising their Guru, Quartette has followed a different
technique of paying tribute to their Guru. They have incorporated the special
elements (like raga mudra, graha svaram segment and madhyamakala sahityam) of
Diksitar kritis in these nine compositions to show His influence on them.
These nine kritis are an important source to understand the raga laskshana prevailed in the Diksitar family and their disciples. Having kritis in nine raganga ragas might be an indication that Quartette might have composed in other raganga ragas too and are to be identified.
I profusely thank Sri Sivakumar for allowing me to peruse the manuscripts said to be written by Tanjavur Quartette.
Only few kṛti-s enjoy the unique
status of being both popular and liked by everyone. One such kṛti is ‘nagumōmu
ganalēni’ of Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ. As much as the kṛti, the controversies
surrounding the rāga of this kṛti too is equally popular. What is the rāga of
this kṛti, Ābhēri or Karnāṭaka dēvagāndhāri? If it is ābhēri, which variety of
dhaivatam is to be employed? If śuddha dhaivatam is to be employed, is it a
different rāga from the Ābhēri of Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar? If so, is it allowed to
have two lakṣaṇa for a single rāga? Almost all the students, performers,
researchers and rasikā-s are equally aware of these questions. It is always a
never ending debate whenever this kṛti is being played or heard. This article
tries to find answers for some or all of these questions by considering the old
versions, the keys to understand the truth.
Before we embark into
analysis, let us first understand these rāga-s and the present version of this
Ābhēri find its first mention in Saṅgīta Sudhā of Govinda Dīkśitar . This text and its successor, Caturdaṇḍiprakāśika of Vēṅkaṭamakhi consider this as a rāga with the svara-s taken by (present day rāga) Kīravāṇi. From the Rāga lakśaṇa of Śahaji onwards, this is considered as a rāga with the svara-s seen in the rāga Bhairavi. Rāga lakṣaṇa attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhi also advocate the same lakṣaṇa. Thus the rāga Ābhēri had śuddha dhaivata from the period of Śahaji.
Though the svara variety has not changed, we see two different lakṣaṇa-s for this rāga across the texts. In several of our posts, we have classified the lakśaṇa grantha-s available into two types; those that explain a rāga by phrases and the other one, predominantly through a scale. The lakśaṇa grantha-s falling under the first category like the Rāga lakśaṇa of Śahaji, Saṅgīta Sārāmṛta of Tulaja etc., consider this as a sampūrṇa rāga with the svara-s rṣbham, dhaivatam and niṣādha varjya (omitted) in the ārohaṇa karma. Avarōhaṇa is sampurṇa. Hence we find phrases like GMPS or SMGMPSS. More about these phrases can be studied here. As expected, Rāga lakṣaṇa attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhi follows the same structure and this is much elaborated by Subbarāma Dīkśitar in his text Saṅgīta Saṃpradāya Pradarśini. This old Ābhēri was visualized and immortalized by Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar in his kṛti ‘vīṇābhēri’ which can be heard here.
The other type is seen in
the lakśaṇa grantha-s falling under the second category, namely Saṅgraha Cuḍāmaṇi
and its allied texts like Rāga lakśana manuscript of unknown authorship, Saṅgita
Sāra Saṅgrahamu and Mahābharata Cūḍāmaṇi. The rāga here follows the scale
SGMPNS SNDPMGRS. Here, the svara niṣādha
is present in ārōhaṇa karma and hence we see phrases like MPNS. Here, we do
have an interesting point to ponder. Though the scales given in all the four
texts are same, the Rāga lakśana manuscript of unknown authorship mention this
rāga as Ābhīri and not Ābhēri! We will come to this a little later.
We can infer from the above
discussion that there were two Ābhēri-s in practice between 17-19th
centuries, though they take the same svara varieties. It can also be seen the
dhaivata used is always of śuddha variety in both the varieties.
version of the kṛti ‘nagumōmu ganalēni’
The presently rendered,
popular version of this kṛti is in complete accordance with the lakśana of Ābhēri
mentioned in Saṅgraha Cuḍāmaṇi and its allied texts. But the difference here is
the dhaivatam employed in the present renditions; it is of catuśruti variety. We
have seen Ābhēri always had śuddha dhaivata in the past. In such a case, can it
be taken as a recent change happened in the last century?
ganalēni – old versions
To get an answer for the
question posed above, we need to look into the old versions available either as
recordings or exist only in various texts and manuscripts. Let us now analyze
the available versions.
Excluding a single version by Vidushi Saṅgita Kalānidhi R Vēdavalli, every other common rendition is sung only with catuśruti dhaivatam. She uses śuddha dhaivata throughout her rendition. Other than this, the basic structure of the kṛti is not much different between the versions.
In this section, we will be
analyzing this kṛti in various published texts and unpublished texts. The first
text taking account of this kṛti is Saṅgita Sarvārtha Sāra Saṅgrahamu of Vīṇa Rāmānujayya.
The rāga-s assigned for Tyāgarāja kṛti-s in this book is a mystery and it
requires a separate paper to address. For time being, we restrict ourselves to
the kṛti in hand. The rāga of this kṛti is mentioned as Punnāgavarāḷi. Unfortunately,
notation is not suffixed with the sāhityam.
The second text that makes a note of this kṛti is “Oriental Music in European Notation’ by AM Chinnasvāmy Mudaliyār. He mention the rāga of this kṛti as Ābhēri, a janya of mēla 20, indicating the presence of śuddha dhaivatam. This text forms a new era as we find the rāga names (for Tyāgarāja kṛti-s) used here is to be followed by every other text published later (excluding few books which follow Saṅgita Sarvārtha Sāra Saṅgrahamu). Again, all the texts mention Ābhēri as a janya of 20, excluding a text published by Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar, published in the year 1911.2 This text forms an important source of reference as this author was a student of Paṭnam Subramaṇya Ayyar, one among the prime disciples of Mānambucāvaḍi Vēṅkaṭasubbaier. Vēṅkaṭasubbaier was a direct disciple of Svāmigal. At this moment of time, it is not possible to compare the version across this school. It is imperative to perform this, as it is very common to see the differences in the version, even among the members belonging to the same school. We shall provide a related example. Harikeśanallur Muttiah Bhāgavatar has a kṛti ‘īśvari rājēśvari’ in this rāga. He has treated this as a janya of mēla 20, that is with śuddha dhaivatam. It becomes clear now that the two musicians (Muttiah Bhāgavatar and Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar) belonging to the same Mānambucāvaḍi school giving two different lakṣaṇa for a single rāga! Unless we get some more versions from this family, we cannot conclude on the versions or the dhaivatha employed in this school.
Kṛṣṇa Ayyar clearly
mentions Ābhēri as a janya of mēla 22, giving another important detail; this kṛti
was sung with catuśruti dhaivatham even before Musiri Subramaṇya Ayyar cuts a record!
by Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar
This version is interesting
in many aspects. First, it is the only early version which says catuśruti
dhaivatam is to be employed. Second, it comes from one of the important
disciple lineage of Svāmigal. Third, this version has one important phrase which
gives an indication to identify the rāga of this version (not to be read as the
The version here predominantly
resembles the presently sung version with catuśruti dhaivatam. But, it has a
very important phrase which can neither be detected nor allowed in the rāga Ābhēri.
That key phrase, PNDNDP is found in the caraṇam of this kṛti. To understand the
relevance of this phrase, we need to know about a rāga called as Dēvagāndhārī.
Dēvagāndhāri or Dēvagāndhāra
Dēvagāndhārī is an old rāga like Ābhēri seen from the text Saṅgīta Sudhā .1 In this text and in the treatises classified under the first type (see the section on Ābhēri), this rāga is said to be placed under Srīrāga mēla and should have catuśruti dhaivatam. This rāga is now referred as Karnāṭaka Dēvagāndhārī by some (See Footnote 1). This important phrase PNDNDP (or NDNDP) is seen in both sūlādi and gītaṃ notated in Pradarśini.3
Based on these evidences,
it is clear that the version notated by Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar is better to be
called as Dēvagāndhārī or Dēvagāndhāra or Karnāṭaka Dēvagāndhārī. It does not
possess the features of the rāga Ābhēri, mentioned in any of the mentioned
We have another important version given by Taccur Brothers in the year 1905. They say Ābhēri is a janya of mēla 20 and the version is much similar to the present versions and the version given by Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar. Intriguingly, they give a phrase PNDNDP! The place where it occurs in the caraṇam too is same! Incidentally they have mentioned Karnāṭaka Dēvagāndhāri as a janya of mēla 21 and their Dēvagāndhāri is a janya of mēla 29 (the present popular Dēvagāndhāri).4
Have they got a version
with catuśruti dhaivata and to be in line with the prevailing system, they have
named it as Ābhēri? We raise this doubt considering the inconsistency seen in
the versions and rāga lakṣaṇa given by them in their texts.
This kṛti is always a rare find in manuscripts. The popularity of a kṛti too differs across a century. In an article on the rāga Balahamsa, we have mentioned the popularity of the kṛti-s in the rāga Balahamsa in the earlier part of last century. Contrary to those kṛti-s, this kṛti seems to be relatively unpopular, at least until Musiri Subramaṇya Ayyar popularizing this. In our study, we were able to find only two manuscripts mentioning this kṛti – manuscripts by Bharatam Natēśa Ayyar and Śrīnivāsarāghavan.
Manuscript by Bharatam Natēśa Ayyar
Though the age of the manuscript is unknown, considering the time period of Natēśa Iyer (1855-1931), it can be very well believed to have been written either in the latter half of 19th century or in the first decade of 20th century. The notations does not have a mention about the use of dhaivatam. Though the basic structure of the kṛti is comparable to the common version, we see some unusual phrases to Ābhēri like SRGR, MRS, SGRGM and SNDMGS. This indicates the rāga of this kṛti could not be fitted in to any of the two varieties of Ābhēri mentioned!
Dr Śrīnivāsarāghavan was a nephew of Tillaisthānam Rāma Ayyaṅgar, a direct disciple of Svāmigal. But he has learnt from many sources; the sources that are known to us include Tillaisthānam Pañju Bhāgavatar and S A Rāmasvāmy Ayyar. His notebooks provide a valuable reference material to understand the tunes of the past as it is generally believed that he was faithful to the versions that he had learnt. In his notebooks, he has notated this kṛti, named it as Ābhēri and clearly says, it is a janya of mēla 20. To our surprise, the kṛti starts with the phrase PDNDPM, which is certainly not allowed in any of the two varieties of Ābhēri. He continues to surprise us by giving phrases like SRG, RGMG, GRG, SRGM and DNS. None of these phrases can be fitted into any of the two varieties of Ābhēri. An astute musician he was, he has mentioned the scale of this rāga as S(R)GMP(D)NS SNDPMGRS. Though the scale is much like Naṭabhairavi or its sampūrṇa janya-s like Nāgagāndhāri, Cāpaghaṇṭāravam et al, structure of the rāga, as evidenced from these phrases is strikingly different.
that we have make a note of this version. It mentions the rāga name as Ghaṇṭāravam!
Since notations are not available, we are unable to proceed any further.
The versions see in these
manuscripts might be insular. But this insularity is striking and is common to
these versions seen in manuscripts.
There is a kṛti of Śyāma Sāstri ‘ninnuvina marigalada’ with two versions – one in Rītigaula and the other one in the mentioned in the texts. We are yet to get an older version and will be subjected to analysis once we procure.
is the rāga of this kṛti?
The answer to this question depends on the version that we believe to be original and the lakṣaṇa embedded therein.
If we rely on the version by Kākināḍa Kṛṣṇa Ayyar, it is better to call it as Dēvagāndhārī or Dēvagāndhāra. It is to be remembered that a lot of intra school differences exist within this school and we do not know whether this version was handed over to Kṛṣṇa Ayyar or it was the general version prevailed in Mānambucāvaḍi school. This becomes highly relevant as that determines the authenticity of the version.
The version given by Bharatam Natēśa Ayyar and Śrīnivāsarāghavan cannot be placed into Ābhēri or Dēvagāndhāri / Dēvagāndhāra (irrespective of the dhaivatam). It is some unknown rāga, yet to be identified.
The presently rendered version (śuddha dhaivatam version) is structured more like Ābhēri of the second class of treatises. In that case it could have been called by the name Ābhīrī, as seen in one of the treatise mentioned earlier. Over the years and also due to the ascension of Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, Ābhīrī could have been called as Ābhērī. Interestingly, there exists a rāga by name Ābhīr in Hindustani Music. The structure of this rāga is identical with Ābhēri seen in the present version using śuddha dhaivatam. The presently rendered catuśruti dhaivatam version, if it is added with the phrase PNDNDP can be comfortably called as Dēvagāndhārī / Dēvagāndhāra. In the absence of this arterial phrase, it is advisable to give a separate name as it does not satisfy the criteria to be called as Dēvagāndhāri / Dēvagāndhāra or Ābhērī.
The presently heard versions could be actually an abridged version of the original with many of its non-scale abiding phrases removed.
Getting a Vālājāpeṭṭai version definitely gives an added value.
This could be one of the apūrva
rāga kṛti of Svāmigaḷ. Alternatively it could have been composed in an old rāga,
yet to be identified. Perhaps, the lakṣaṇa seen in the version of Śrīnivāsarāghavan
can be compared with all 20 mēla janya rāga-s.
Based on this analysis, it appears that the presently heard versions might not be portraying the complete lakṣaṇa of this rāga, as visualized by Svāmigaḷ. As with many other kṛti-s of Svāmigaḷ , we might be hearing a changed version(s).
The library in The Music Academy is a repository of many valuable manuscripts written in the early part of last century, like that of Bharatam Natēśa Ayyar. I thank Sri V Sriram, Secretary, The Music Academy for permitting me to access those valuable manuscripts.
I sincerely thank Dr Chandran, descendant of Dr Srinivasa Raghavan for parting me with the manuscripts in his possession.
1. Hema Ramanathan. Rāgalakṣaṇa Saṅgraha (collection of Rāga descriptions) from Treatises on Music of the Mēla Period with translations and notes, 2004.
2. Kākināḍa C S Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayyar, Śrī Tyāgarāja Śata Kīrtana Svarāvali, 1911.
In the second type of treatises, namely Saṅgita Sāra Saṅgrahamu Mahābharata Cūḍāmaṇi and Rāga lakśana manuscript of unknown authorship this rāga is called as Dēvagāndhāra considered as a janya of mēla 20 with the same scale as Ābhēri. In that instance the difference between Dēvagāndhāra and Ābhēri is not clear (as these texts do not furnish phrases or gītam). These three treatises along with Saṅgraha Cudāmaṇi also mention another rāga, Karnāṭaka Dēvagāndhāri with the same scale as Ābhēri and Dēvagāndhāra, but as a janya of mēla 21. Simply saying, Ābhēri mentioned in Saṅgīta Sudhā and Caturdaṇḍiprakāśika exist as Karnāṭaka Dēvagāndhārī in these texts.
Changes occurred to a rāga
can be of various types ranging from trivial to drastic. There are some rāga-s
wherein some phrases have disappeared over the period of years, there are a few
wherein a rāga was made to sport a svara which is not present in its derivative
scale and lastly there are some which were given a new form altogether. The
last change is most dangerous as we are deprived to understand its old and
original form. One such ‘extinct’ rāga is Balahamsa, a rāga that was much
popular during the period of Tyāgarāja Svāmigaḷ and his contemporaries. The
Balahamsa visualized by these composers was indeed a grand ‘rāga’ with lot of
fluid phrases traversing the scale.
Though we do hear Balahamsa
now and then with the same svara sthāna as that of Balahamsa of yore, the kṛti-s
heard are mostly modern considering the lakṣaṇa of this rāga. The contemporary
Balahamsa is much scalar which is essentially to be contrasted against the
Balahamsa used by the composers mentioned above.
The present form of Balahamsa,
in texts is seen only from the period of Śahaji. But the lakṣaṇa seen here has
not changed; Tulaja too records the same, though he was late by around a
century (See Footnote 1). This rāga, essentially in the same form was utilized by
Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar in his kṛti ‘guruguhādanyam’, belonging to the set of guruguha
vibhakti kṛti-s. This kṛti as notated by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar in his Saṅgīta
Sampradāya Pradarśini follows the same lakṣaṇa as given by Śahaji and Tulaja. Unfortunately,
the later versions of this kṛti resemble this Balahamsa remotely and were
structured to be in confirmation with the commonly heard Scalar Balahamsa. This
scalar version subdued the Scale-transcending Balahamsa in the Post – Trinity era
and live through many compositions.
We have mentioned in our
earlier articles that many of the Scale-transcending rāga-s have a Scalar
counterpart and Balahamsa can be best fitted into this. It is a rarity to hear
Balahamsa in the present day concert milieu and when it is heard, it is
invariably the Scalar Balahamsa that bemuse us.
Balahamsa takes the svara
that are assigned to the mēla 28 (present system), namely catuśruti ṛṣabham, antara
gāndhāram, suddha madhyamaṃ, catuśruti dhaivatam and kaiśiki niṣādham. It is an
upāṅga rāgaṃ and svara-s alien to mēla 28 are never seen here. All the
advocatory texts of the Scalar school like Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi, Saṅgīta Sarvārtha
Sāram etc., identify this rāga and assign the scale SRMPDS SNDPMRMGS to it (See
Footnote 2). The phrase RMGS has been given an undue importance (in the
Post-Trinity era) and this phrase has almost become synonymous with this rāga
which we feel, is mainly due to the influence of Saṅgraha Cūḍāmaṇi and the lakṣaṇa
gīta given there in. The lakṣaṇa gīta notated there does not have gāndhāra in ārōhaṇa
phrases, strictly confirming with the scale and RMGS is found aplenty. Glide
towards the ṣaḍja in avarōhaṇa phrases is always RMGS, excluding a single place
wherein MGRS is seen.
This grand rāga, as noted
by Śahaji and Tulaja cannot be reined in by a mere scale. Though the svara stanāna-s
it takes are exactly the same as that of scalar one, it has many unique phrases
which was well projected by the composers like Muddusvāmy Dīkśitar and Subbarāma
Dīkṣitar. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar explains its entire firmament in a single śloka,
attributed to Vēṅkaṭamakhi:
balahamsākhyarāgōyam ārōhē ca nivarjitaḥ I sagrahassarvakālēṣu gīyatē gāyakōttamaihi II
The first part of this śloka
says ‘the svara niṣādha is varjya (absent) in the ārōhaṇa of the rāga balahamsa’. Though the śloka appears to be concise and at
times non-explanatory, the very essence of Balahamsa is communicated here
assiduously. This Balahamsa has ārohaṇa phrases, with the six svara-s used in
various permutations, excluding the niṣādha. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar gives various
illustrious phrases like SRGR, SRGM, SRMP, MPDP etc., and when they are studied
with the śloka mentioned above, gives an idea that these grantakāra-s are
willing to convey. Niṣādha is seen in the phrases like SNDP and DNDP. Beside
these standard phrases, this rāga has many unusual phrases like SRGMPMR, SRPMR,
PR and PDPS. There are two striking features in the above mentioned discussion
– the phrase RMGS is not mentioned anywhere (See Footnote 3) and the phrase
SRGMPMR, though mentioned by Dīkṣitar as very important, is seen nowhere in any
of the compositions notated by him. The point we wish to reiterate by this
discussion is that RMGS was an ignored phrase in this rāga (in the past), this
rāga can be placed in par with the rāga-s like Kāmbhōji or Rītigaula which has
very many special phrases outside the fixed scale and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar wishes
to educate us about a rāga by giving important phrases of a rāga, irrespective
of them being used in the compositions notated by him. It is thus imperative
for us to read each and every discussion or note that he gives to contemplate a
of Tyāgaraja Svāmigaḷ in the rāga Balahamsa
An astute reader will be
with a query on the svarūpa of Balahamsa seen in the compositions of Svāmigaḷ. In
the commonly heard versions, we hear only Scalar Balahamsa and the phrase RMGS
ornate each and every single composition. Also they also do not confirm with the
lakṣaṇa of the Scale-transcending Balahamsa as portrayed in the composition of
Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar or elsewhere. Does it mean both of them followed two different
schools? This puzzle can be resolved only by looking into the older versions of
the kṛti-s of Tyāgaraja Svāmigaḷ.
versions – a repository of lost tradition
We have insisted several
times in our previous posts regarding the importance of collecting and
analyzing the manuscripts preserved at various repositories. Analysis of
various versions prevalent during the early part of the last century and prior
reveal, the older form of Tyāgarāja kṛti-s too were in Scale-transcending
Balahamsa and the possibilities of them being the ‘original’ intent of the
composer is extremely high.
We have around eight
compositions of Svāmigaḷ in this rāga and we were able to identify the older version
for few of these compositions. A comparison across the versions will be done
for the kṛti-s which were able to get an old version, to draw a conclusion.
This is the rarest of the entire lot of the kṛti-s of Svāmigaḷ in Balahamsa. Surprisingly this could have been a popular kṛti in the past, getting mentioned by many musicians who had the habit of notating the kṛti-s that they have learnt. It can also be seen in published texts. Vālājāpēṭṭai version of this kṛti can be heard here. Though a small kṛti, it epitomize the Scale-transcending Balahamsa. The phrase SRGMPMR is heard in the caraṇam of this kṛti.
T M Vēṅkaṭa Śāstri was the first one to publish this kṛti in notation as early as in 1892. Though the version much resembles the Vālājāpeṭṭai version, there exist few minor differences. A prominent difference being observed is the absence of the phrase SRGMPMR and SNDNP. Instead this reads as SRMPPMR and SNDNDP respectively! (See Footnote 4)This trend gets continued in the Gāyaka Siddhānjanamu of Taccur brothers. P V Ponnammāl, a musician who lived around 1917 also recorded a similar version, but without the phrase SRGMPMR. Same is the case with Kumbakōṇam Visvanātha Ayyar, an Umayālpuram musician. There are two versions other than the Vālājāpeṭṭai version to have this phrase; one by Srinivāsa Rāghavan, a nephew of Tillaisthānam Rāma Ayyaṅgār and another one in a book published by Kākināda C S Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayyar. Srinivāsa Rāghavan has learnt from various sources including S A Rāmasvāmy Ayyar, a disciple of Vālājāpeṭṭai Kṛṣṇasvāmy Bhāgavatar and Umayālpuram Kṛṣṇa and Sundara Bhāgavatar and he could have learnt this from S A Rāmasvāmy Ayyar. The version published by Kākināda C S Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayyar is extraordinarily similar to Vālājāpeṭṭai version, but for the absence of the phrase SNDNP. Though few minor differences exist across the versions, the basic structure of this kṛti is almost similar. Strikingly, none of these versions use the phrase RMGS. The presently rendered concert version can be heard here.
Another common kṛti seen in
almost all the manuscripts written during the early part of the last century. The
lakṣaṇa of Balahamsa is similar to the other kṛti-s mentioned in the Vālājāpeṭṭai
manuscripts (‘ninnu basi’, ‘daṇdamu bettēnura’ and ‘ika gāvalasina’). We do not
find the phrase SRGMPMR here, though we find PMR and PR in plenty. Similar lakṣaṇa
is seen in the text Gānēnduśekaram of Taccur brothers. A similar version with
the complete absence of RMGS and plenty of DSR, SRGR,PMR,PDND etc., were seen
in the versions of Bālasubraḥmaṇya Ayyar, supposedly an Umayālpuram musician, PV
Ponnammāl and Srinivāsa Rāghavan. This again shows the older versions of the kṛti-s
of svāmigaḷ is much different from the presently heard versions.
This is perhaps one of the common kṛti heard in this rāga. The version that is commonly heard must have been probably sourced from Umayālpuram tradition as this version much resembles the version notated by B Kṛṣṇamūrti, as learnt from Umayālpuram Rājagōpāla Iyer, a descendant of Umayālpuram Svāminātha Iyer. This version has plenty of the phrase RMGS. This kṛti could have not been known to all (musicians of the past) is gleaned from the fact that this kṛti is very rarely encountered in the manuscripts examined by us. Fortunately, a Vālājāpēṭṭai version is available, but only in part; pallavi and the first line of anupallavi alone is notated in the transcripts available. This version is devoid of the phrase RMGS.
It can be seen the arterial phrase SRGMPMR occurs and this version is not even remotely identical with the common Umayālpuram version of this kṛti!
This is perhaps the most
popular kṛti in this rāga. Including the Vālājāpēṭṭai versions, none of the
older versions deviate from the structure of Scale-transcending Balahamsa
explained earlier. This is also applicable to the Umayālpuram version notated
by B Kṛṣṇamūrti.
Rāma ēva daivatam
This is another rare kṛti
in this rāga. Whereas the commonly heard version is replete with the phrase
RMGS and predominantly scalar, the version by Srinivāsa Rāghavan is in line
with the Scale-transcending Balahamsa. Like ‘ninnu bāsietla’, it can be
conjectured that this could have also been learnt from S A Rāmasvāmy Ayyar.
It can be seen the kṛti-s ‘daṇdamu
beṭṭēnura’, ‘taḷḷi tandrulu’ and ‘ninnu bāsietla’ were much known to the
musicians in the past and all the kṛti-s were structured only in the
Scale-transcending form. Of these versions, Vālājāpēṭṭai versions tend to
harbor more archaic, yet arterial phrase like SRGMPMR and SNDNP which has been
dropped off in the later versions. The emergence of Janarañjani with this
phrase (SRGMPMR) might be a reason that can be speculated.
This rāga was handled by
almost all the prominent Post-Trinity composers from Mysore Sadāśiva Rao to
Harikēśanallur Muttiah Bhāgavatar. Whereas the lakśaṇa of the rāga resembles
the Scale Balahamsa to a greater extent with a profuse use of the phrase RMGS,
few have also used some phrases outside the scale. SRGMPMR in the kṛti ‘dēvi dākśāyani’
of Muttiah Bhāgavatar, DM and MD in the kṛti ‘evarunnaru brōva’ of Sadāśiva Rao
can be cited as examples. This shows their acquaintance with Scale-transcending
Balahamsa and perhaps due to changes in the trend during their period, they have
composed in Scalar Balahamsa with few special phrases outside the scale to give
us an inkling about the past tradition.
As mentioned earlier,
Scalar Balahamsa rose to prominence in the Post-Trinity era mainly due to the
works of prominent composers who lived in the last century. Amongst this, we
have two composers who have made a mark by composing in the Scale-transcending
Balahamsa. Subbarāma Dīkṣitar has composed a grand aṭa tāḷa varṇa ‘śri raja rāja’
demonstrating all the vital phrases of this rāga following the lines of Tyāgarāja
Svāmy and Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar. Tiruvottriyūr Tyāgayyar has composed a kriti ‘paluka
vādēla’ in this rāga belonging to the set ‘ Śri Vēṇugōpāla Aṣṭōttara Śata Kṛtis’.
Though he has not used the phrase RMGS, he has neither used the phrases like
SRGMPMR, SNP or PDPS, the definitive features of Scale-transcending Balahamsa. So
it is neither scalar nor having all the phrases of Scale-transcending
Vs Scale-transcending Balahamsa
Having discussed the two
types of Balahamsa and the compositions therein, we wish to give a reckoner to
identify and understand these two types. The Scalar Balahamsa follows the scale
exactly with no outliers. The avarōhaṇa phrases leads to ṣaḍja only through
RMGS or a phrase having the motif ‘GS’ like SRGS. But, none of the compositions
exist to serve as an example for this Scalar Balahamsa that is following only
the scale. The compositions by the Post-Trinity composers predominantly are
scalar with few phrases not confirming with the scale.
Balahamsa has the phrase MGRS in addition with the avarōhaṇa phrases mentioned
above. Phrases like SRGMPMR, PDPS and SDNP are inherently present. The
compositions of Tyāgaraja Svāmigaḷ, Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar
come under this category. Though we do not find the phrase SRGMPMR in the
compositions of Muddusvāmy Dīkṣitar and Subbarāma Dīkṣitar, we do find a phrase
MRGMPMR in the mentioned varṇam by Subbarāma Dīkṣitar.
equivalent of Balahamsa
There is no equivalent rāga
for Balahamsa in Hindustāni music. Subbā Rao gives four types of Baḍahamsa in
his book and none of them resemble our Balahamsa.
Analysis of older versions
reveal, Balahamsa was handled only in a Scale-transcending form earlier, at
least till the period of Tyāgarāja and Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar. Though we do not
have any recordings, this is clear form all the manuscripts and the early texts
examined. Since every other evidence points towards the same direction, it can
be very well concluded that the kṛti-s of Tyāgarāja Svāmy in the rāga Balahamsa
has been changed from Scale-transcending to Scalar form. The Balahamsa that is
heard today is definitely a Post-Trinity development.
The Vālājāpēṭṭai version of
the kṛti ‘ninnu bāsi etla’ represents an original authentic version, as every
other old version, representing various other schools confirm this.
Though it is not
technically wrong in having the phrase RMGS, for some unknown reasons,
composers like Tyāgarāja Svāmy and Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar has avoided that
There are many pockets
within the broader Umayālpuram school, with total disagreement in their
versions and they are to be studied separately.
being the oldest of all maintain many archaic, yet arterial phrases which are
must to understand this rāga. Any efforts to analyze the rāga-s handled by Tyāgarāja
Svāmy will be futile without examining them.
This analysis shows there
are no two different thoughts in approaching a rāga between Tyāgarāja and
Muddusvāmi Dīkṣitar and it is the change that has happened over the time has
created this illusion.
This analysis also
highlights the importance of analyzing manuscripts to understand the truth. We
request the readers to share information about any unpublished manuscripts that
they are aware of.
The library in The Music
Academy is a repository of many valuable manuscripts written in the early part
of the last century, like that of P V Ponnammal. I thank Sri V Sriram,
Secretary, The Music Academy for permitting me to access those valuable
I sincerely thank Sri B
Krishnamurti, Smt Nandhini Venkataraman, descendant of Kumbakonam Sri
Visvanatha Iyer and Dr Chandran, descendant of Dr Srinivasa Raghavan for
parting me with the manuscripts that they possess.
Subbā Rao. Rāganidhi – A comparative study of Hindustāni and Karnatik rāga-s, Volume
1, The Music Academy, 1980.
1 – Balahamsa can also be seen in the treatises like Saṅgīta Pārijāta and Hṛdaya
Kautuka. But the rāga lakṣaṇa is different and Balahamsa with the present svara
sthāna-s can be seen only from the text by Śahaji.
2 – Saṅgraha Cuḍāmaṇi gives the scale asSRMPD SNDPMRMGSRS. Rāga lakṣaṇa, a similar text of unknown authorship gives
us the scale SRMPDS SNDPDMGRS.
3 – The phrase RMGS occur as RMGGS only once in the rāgamālika ‘śivamōhana’ of
4 – Since this article predominantly deals with the rāga Balahamsa, the various
versions were not discussed in detail.