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.
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.
Tamiz month Thai (January – February) in the year 1904 marked a new beginning
in the history of Karnataka Music. 15th February, 1904 (Rakshasa, Krishnapaksha chaturdashi)
saw the first printed copy of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini written by Brahma Sri
Subbarama Dikshitar. SSP, as it is frequently called was a brainchild of AM Chinnasamy
Mudaliyar, but got the present shape only by the benevolence and munificence of
the ruler of Ettayapuram, Raja Jagadveera Rama Venkateswara Ettappa Maharaja.
we consider SSP as a single book, it is indeed a collection of various aspects
of our music and musicology. The book is mainly divided into two segments –
theory and practical sections and this was
much intended by Subbarama Dikshitar himself. An adequate knowledge on
these segments is a must to understand and interpret this treatise.
The theory segment consists of the following sub-divisions:
An index to the compositions notated in SSP.
Sangita lakshana pracheena padhathi dealing with grama,jati etc.
Sangita lakshana sangrahamu dealing with svaras, gamakas etc.
Ragaangopaanga bhaashanga murchanaalu dealing with the arohana-
avarohana of various ragas.
Errata (tappoppulu) and section on identifying and rectifying the mistakes
practical segment starts by giving notations with gamaka symbols for various
kritis which extends as anubandham.
Sri Subbarama Dikshitar is much appreciated for his treatise which deals with
both the lakshana and lakshya of music, his accomplishment as a composer is
often abated. This article will deal only with Subbarama Dikshitar as a tribute
to his priceless contribution.
embarking into the versions notations in SSP, it is imperative to understand
that the svarupa of ragas shown there in not only reflect the lakshna seen
during his time, but also that of an era which saw the birth of Trinity. Understanding
this concept alone helps us to relate with the music provided by him.
Works of Subbarama Dikshitar
creations of Subbarama Dikshitar can be equalled with that of well celebrated
Trinity of Karnataka Music. His handling of ragas, use of alliterations, scrupulously
obliging the rules of prosody are all unsurpassed and are to be enjoyed
personally. He has composed around 35 compositions across various genres like
varnam, daru, jatisvaram, keertanam and ragamalika and also tuned the
compositions of other poets like Sri Krishnaswamy Ayya. The kriti ‘amba
paradevate’ which is almost synonymous with the raga Rudrapriya was a creation
of both Krishnaswamy Ayya (lyrics) and Subbarama Dikshitar (music). Though, the
quantity appears to be less, they are all replete with arterial phrases of a
raga which not only appeal the mortals like us, but also evoke the raga devata
which are a personification of ever pervading ‘nadabrahmam’. Quite in the line
of his predecessors, archaic phrases which can be seen only in ancient gitas
can be seen aplenty in his works. Perhaps, he could be one of the modern
composer to visualise the varnas in its old form – with an anubanda. All his
varnas end with the pallavi (due to the presence of anubanda at the end of
citta svara) and not with the caranam as is seen with majority of the varnas.
compositional style, though resemble that of Muthuswamy Dikshitar in many
aspects, has its own inimitable style. Incorporating raga mudras (punnagagandhari in the kriti mannaru ranga
deva and rama ramakali kalusha in
the kriti rama rama) and use of the mudra ‘guruguha’ in some of the kritis
might resemble the style of Muthuswamy Dikshitar. As with any other member of
Dikshitar family, he has also employed many antique ragas like Gauri, Kapi and Mechabauli
in his kritis.
bulk of his compositions are ragamalikas. In general, ragas employed in his
ragamalikas were the usual members patronized by Diksitar family like Gauri,
Padi, Paraju, Darubaru and Sri. In this regard, extraordinary resemblance is
seen between Subbarama Dikshitar and Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar. Another
pathognomonic feature, unique to the family of Dikshitar is the serial use of
allied ragas. In his 32 ragamalika ‘kaminchina kalavathira’ on Vizianagaram
Raja Pusapati Ananda Gajapati Raju, he has used Lalitha, Paraju and Gauri
adjacently (all are janyas of Mayamalavagaula).
has a long ragamalika to his credit ‘I kanakambari’, a grammar to understand
the 72 raganga ragas. The sahitya of
this ragamalika was composed by one Krishna Kavi and was tuned by Subbarama
Diksitar. Ragamalika demands the use of raga mudra in the sahityam and we can
see a seamless integration of raga name into the sahityam in the compositions
of Subbarama Dikshitar. Be it the phrase “kaamita subha phaladayakaa
pinaakapani” wherein the raga mudra Kapi is woven or “priyamunaayame kori”
wherein the raga mudra Yamuna features in, one cannot stop wondering the genius
of this composer.
of anu-prasa and ‘yamaka’ can be seen in the compositions of Subbarama
Dikshitar. One such example is the usage of the word “maana” in his daru in the
ragam Natanarayani. Maanani, maanavati and maanamagu are the few forms in which
this word features.
Unfortunately only few of his compositions like ‘kanthimathim’, ‘sankaracharyam’ and ‘parthasaradhi’ are in circulation. This author has attempted to give life to few of his compositions as a part of his 180th Birthday Celebrations (1839 – 2019), which can be viewed here.