Tag: Muthuswamy Deekshitar

Composers, Manuscripts, Notation, Personalities, Raga, Shishya Parampara

Sri Guruguha Navaratnamalika

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 Venkatasubbaier.

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 Muthuswamy Diksitar

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.

  1. All these kritis are composed in Telugu and are on either Lord Brhadiswara or Devi Brhadiswari.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

Sri guruguha murthiki – Dhunibinnasadjam – Rupakam – Raganga raga 9

Mayatheetha svarupini – Mayamalavagowla – Rupakam – Raganga raga 15

Sri karambu – Kambhoji – Kantachapu

Sarasakshi – Sailadesakshi – Adhi – Raganga raga 35

Paramapavani – Varali – Rupakam – Raganga raga 39

Needu padame – Pantuvarali – Rupakam – Raganga ragam 45

Sri rajarajeswari – Ramamanohari – Adhi – Raganga ragam 52

Saatileni guruguhamurthini – Purvikalyani – Misrachapu – Raganga ragam 53

Sarekuni padamule – Chamaram – Rupakam – Raganga ragam 56

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 an example.

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 Purvikalyani.

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’.

Guruguha mudra

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).

Sources

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.

Manuscripts

Versions seen in the manuscripts too correspond extraordinarily well with the other sources. Few striking differences are seen:

  1. 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’).
  2. The kriti ‘sri raja rajeswari’ has few special phrases that are seen in the gitam given in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.
  3. 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.

Summary

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.

Acknowledgement

I profusely thank Sri Sivakumar for allowing me to peruse the manuscripts said to be written by Tanjavur Quartette.  

This article appeared in Sruti, April 2020 issue.

Composers, CompositionAppreciation, Manuscripts, Notation, Pathantara, Raga

The mysterious ‘nagumomu ganaleni’ of Tyagaraja Svamigaḷ

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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.

Ābhēri

Before we embark into analysis, let us first understand these rāga-s and the present version of this composition.

Ābhēri find its first mention in Saṅgīta Sudhā of Govinda Dīkśitar [1]. 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.

Types

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.

Popular 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?

Nagumōmu 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.

Renditions

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.

Texts

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!

Version 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 kṛti).

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 treatises.

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.

Manuscripts

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!

Manuscript by Śrīnivāsarāghavan

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.

Vālājāpeṭṭai version

Vālājāpeṭṭai transcripts 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. 

Ninnuvinā marigalada

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.

What 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. The presently heard versions could be actually an abridged version of the original with many of its non-scale abiding phrases removed. 
  5. Getting a Vālājāpeṭṭai version definitely gives an added value.

Conclusion

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).

Acknowledgements

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.

References

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.

3. Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. Prathamābhyāsa Pustakamu, Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ Subbarāma Samasthānaṃ, 1905. 

4. Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu. Gāyaka Siddhānjanamu. Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1905.

Footnote 1

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.

Composers, Manuscripts, Notation, Pathantara, Raga, Shishya Parampara

Intriguing raga-s – Balahamsa

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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.  

Balahamsa

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.

Scalar Balahamsa

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.

Scale-transcending Balahamsa

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 rāga.  

Compositions 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.

Older 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.

Ninnu bāsietla

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.

Taḷḷi tandrulu

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.

Ika gāvalasinadēmi

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!

Daṇdamu beṭṭēnura

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.

Post-Trinity composers

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.

Unique Post-Trinity composers

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 Balahamsa.

Scalar 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.

Scale-transcending 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.

Hindustāni 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.

Conclusion

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 phrase. 

There are many pockets within the broader Umayālpuram school, with total disagreement in their versions and they are to be studied separately.

Vālājāpēṭṭai notations, 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.

Acknowledgements

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 manuscripts.

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.

References

Subbarāma Dīkṣitulu. Prathamābhyāsa Pustakamu, Vidyā Vilāsini Press, Eṭṭayapuraṃ Subbarāma Samasthānaṃ, 1905. 

Subraḥmaṇya Śāstri. Sangraha Chudamani of Govinda, 1934.

Hema Ramanathan. Rāgalakṣaṇa Saṅgraha (collection of Rāga descriptions) from Treatises on Music of the Mēla Period with translations and notes, 2004.

T M Vēṅkateśa Śāstri. Saṅgīta Svayam Bodhini, 1892.

Kākināḍa C S Kṛṣṇasvāmy Ayyar, Śrī Tyāgarāja Śata Kīrtana Svarāvali, 1911.

Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu. Gāyaka Siddhānjanamu. Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1905.

Taccur Śingarācāryulu, Cinna Śankarācāryulu. Gānēnduśekaram. Kalā Ratnākara, Mudrākśara Śālā, Cennapuri, 1912. 

B Subbā Rao. Rāganidhi – A comparative study of Hindustāni and Karnatik rāga-s, Volume 1, The Music Academy, 1980. 

Footnotes

Footnote 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.

Footnote 2 – Saṅgraha Cuḍāmaṇi gives the scale asSRMPD SNDPMRMGSRS. Rāga lakṣaṇa, a similar text of unknown authorship gives us the scale SRMPDS  SNDPDMGRS.

Footnote 3 – The phrase RMGS occur as RMGGS only once in the rāgamālika ‘śivamōhana’ of Rāmasvāmy Dīkṣitar.

Footnote 4 – Since this article predominantly deals with the rāga Balahamsa, the various versions were not discussed in detail.