Tyagaraja Mahadvajaroha – The Magnum Opus in Sriraga
चतुर्णां पुरुषार्थानां त्यागं अस्मात् कर्तोत्यतः |
त्यागराजम् इति ख्यातं सोमास्कन्दम् उपास्महे ||
caturṇāṃ puruṣārthānāṃ tyāgaṃ asmāt kartotyataḥ |
tyāgarājam iti khyātaṃ somāskandam upāsmahe ||
(Meaning: I offer my obeisance to that Lord Somaskanda renowned as Tyagaraja, and known so for sacrifice (i.e the sacrifice of karmaphala leading to liberation) among the four purusharthas.
(Venkatamakhin’s – Invocatory sloka in his Caturdandi Prakashika, Circa 1620AD)
And so prayed Venkatamakhin, the revered grand sire of our music and musicology to the great Lord of Tiruvarur who was the God head for the then reigning Kings of Tanjore, the Royal House of the Nayakas, as a prelude/benediction to his treatise the “Caturdandi-Prakashika”(CDP). Venkatamakhin by that single act had consecrated Lord Tyagaraja as the fountainhead of the music of Tanjore and all that of Karnataka Sangitam. More than 150 years later, the Temple at Arur had a unique relevance and nexus to Muthusvami Dikshitar, for he apart from being born at Tiruvarur went on to compose a number of kritis on Lord Tyagaraja and those countless deities that adorn the massive temple complex.
One such kriti on Lord Tyagaraja is “Tyagaraja Mahadvajaroha” in Sri raga, by Muthusvami Dikshitar who in the illustrious tradition of Venkatamakhin pays his obeisance to the Lord, which has a number of unique significances in terms of music and the lyrics. And this kriti is rarely heard in modern concerts. The kriti struck a chord in me as I read two particular texts, one being the translation of “Sri Tyagesa Maharathosava Varnana Parishloka” of the revered Mahamahopadhyaya Mannargudi Raju Sastrigal and the other being Dr B M Sundaram’s ‘Alaya Vazhipatil Isai’. The kriti ‘Tyagaraja Mahadvajaroha’ offers a pen picture of the Panguni Festival of Lord Tyagaraja and is unique in that aspect as there exists no such similar composition comparable to its underlying concept or grandeur.
Tiruvarur is one of the sapata vitaka ksetras and the rituals and rites associated with the Temple are found documented in the Siva Purana, a copy of which forms part of the manuscript collections of the Sarasvati Mahal Library, Tanjore. Conventionally speaking the Vasantotsvam or the Panguni Uttiram festival of the Temple lasts for 51 days (mark the concordance of the number with the syllabary of Sanskrit language) of which about 36 days are reserved for festivities for Lord Tyagaraja and for Lord Valmikanatha (the presiding deity or the moolavar of the Temple).
Lyrical Background to the Composition:
The kriti is obviously a narrative of the festivities of the Vasantotsavam, the Spring Festival celebrated during the Tamil month of Panguni corresponding to the months of March-April of the Gregorian calendar. This festival consists of a sequential set of processions and festivities as under:
- Dhvajarohanam – flag hoisting to mark the beginning of the festival.
- Processions of the parivara devatas – Ganapathy, Subramanya and Bhairava
- Processions of the Lord on the Gaja (Elephant), Vrushaba (Bull) and Kailasa vahanams or mounts
- The Azhi Ther or the Great Car Festival on the asterism of Aslesha (Star Ayilyam)
- Ajapa natanam by which the Lord in procession dances in a slow cadence of the natana which is native to the Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur. A form of natana is ascribed as being unique to every one of the sapta-vitanka ksetras.
- Teerthavari in the Kamalalaya tank or the ritual cleansing towards the end of the festivities.
- Pada-darshanam – Year throughout, the feet of Lord Tyagaraja are covered with flowers and cannot be sighted at all. Pada darshanam is exclusively done twice a year by which His right foot alone is beheld for darshan during the Panguni Festival and the left foot alone can be similarly beheld during the Tiruvadirai Festival. Legend has it Sage Patanjali is given the darshan of the right feet (pAdam) during Panguni Festival while Sage Vyaghrapada is similarly given darshan of the (other) left feet/pAdam during the Tiruvadirai Festival. This ritual of Eka pAda darshanam has been masterfully woven into the lyric, the musical significance of which we will see shortly.
- Procession by Lord Chandrasekarar in the paarvetai or the customary hunt and on festival days as the utsava moorti/representative icon of Lord Tyagaraja.
- The celestial wedding ceremony of the Lord whence He becomes Lord Kalyanasundaresvarar.
- Conclusion of the edition of the festival with the procession of Chandikesvarar
The kriti apart from cataloguing all these celebrations in the festival seriatim in its lyrics. has references to the following:
- Use of the nagasvara, maddala and such other instruments during the festival. From the point of view of (dviteeyakshara) prasa, since the consonantal letter occurring across the pallavi and anupallavi is ‘ga’ – (tyAga, yE-ga, Aga, nAga, yAga and bhOga), it is deduced the musical instrument is to be called ‘nAgasvaram’ and not ‘nAdhasvaram’ as we refer to it popularly.
- The application of Krishna Gandha or the black perfume – One may refer to this article by Dr Nagasvami on the perfume.
- Lord Tyagaraja is expounded by the Vedas, is the Lord of the Eight- fold path and who has the ambrosial elixir itself as his Offering.
The reference to the eight-fold path (yamadi-ashtanga-yoga) is reminiscent of the same phrase used in ‘Sri Matah shivavamanke’ (Begada) and the ‘bodhamrutha’ is the one that Dikshitar seeks from Lord Jambukesvara (vide the phrase ‘ananda-amrutha-bodham dehi’ occurring the Yamuna Kalyani kriti ‘Jambupate Mam pahi’). Though not found in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, the Margahindola kriti “Chandrashekaram sada bhajeham” too carries references found in this kriti such as ‘suddha maddala’, ‘ashtasiddi dayakam’, ‘ashtapasha hara teerta vaibhavam’ and ‘ajapa-natana-ananda-vaibhavam’. The kriti is also replete with philosophical doctrines and precepts along with the reference to the ‘ajapa’ (meaning un-recited) propitiation of Lord Tyagaraja , an esoteric yogavidya forming part of the hamsa natanam signifying the supreme vedic concept ‘hamsah-soham’,symbolizing the inward and outward breath– as being in the cadence of the ajapa nartanam- of Lord Mahavishnu who is said to be in deep meditation on Lord Tyagaraja.
From a lyrical standpoint, the sequential references to the said spring festival, the way the narrative has been seamlessly woven as a flowing lyric and the prasa concordance – the letter ‘ga’ for the pallavi and the anupallavi and the letter ‘sh’ for the carana section forms the ornamentation for the composition. That apart as always, Dikshitar weaves in his signature/mudra as well as the raga name into the fabric of the composition. It is highly likely that one year, having witnessed the festivities he must have been so enraptured and taken in by the spirit of the festival that he went on to compose the same in an auspicious and benedictory raga, being Sriraga.
The text of the kriti together with the general meaning of the lyrics can be gotten from here.
Musical Background to the Composition:
In the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini there are 4 compositions listed out as having been composed by Muthusvami Dikshitar in Sriraga and this is one among them.
1. Sri Muladhara Chakra Vinayaka
2. Tyagaraja mahadvajaroha
3. Sri Varalakshmi Namastubhyam
4. Sri Kamalambike Sive Pahimam
Apart from the above, the pallavi portion of the caturdasa ragamalika ‘Sri visvanatham bhajeham’ (found in the Anubandha to the SSP) is in Sriraga. The choice of Sriraga for this composition, ‘Tyagaraja Mahadvajaroha’ is hardly surprising given the pithy commentary which Subbarama Dikshitar provides for the raga and its greatness therein.
The following is the summary:
- Sriraga’s life blood is the rishabha which is both the jiva and nyasa svara.
- The gandhara note is vakra, occurring in the avarohana krama.
- Dhaivatha is alpa or rare in its usage and in a composition occurs only once in its body.
- RGRS and PDNP are the leitmotifs of the raga.
- The raga is classified as a ghana raga and is the preferred or appropriate melody for exposition by accomplished vaineekas.
- The raga is to be sung in the evenings and confers auspiciousness whenever it is sung.
In line with the above key lakshanas of the raga, when we view the musical setting of ‘Tyagaraja mahadvajaroha’ the following would become obvious:
- Recognizing the primacy of the rishabha note and as if to reinforce the same, Dikshitar repeatedly begins every section of this composition, pallavi, anupallavi and carana only on the rishabha note.
- The alpa dhaivatha occurs once in the composition at ‘pAda darshanam’ in the carana.
- The composition spans all the 3 octaves from mandhara pancama to the tara gandhara
- The musical phrases RGRS, P/r and M/N occur in profusion in the composition apart from the singleton PDNP.
Dhaivatha in Sriraga and the its unique usage in this composition:
As Subbarama Dikshitar points out, the dhaivatha note is rare or alpa and he says that on the authority of the lakshana shloka he cites in the SSP ascribing it to Venkatamakhin. It has to be pointed out here that the sloka which is cited in SSP is likely that of Venkatamakhin’s descendant Muddu Venkatamakhin, as the sloka cited in the SSP is at variance with the lakshana sloka for Sriraga found in the CDP. The sloka in the SSP, tracing to the Anubandha of the CDP refers to the alpa dhaivatha whereas the sloka for Sriraga found in the original CDP makes no reference to the dhaivatha usage in Sriraga.
Musicological history reveals to us that Sriraga is an old and hoary raga probably as old as our music itself. According to Venkatamakhin himself in his CDP:
śrīrāgah paripurno’pi ga-dha-yoḥ sthāna varjitah |
geyah sāya samayĕṃ sarvasampat pradāyakaḥ ||
Meaning: Sriraga is sampurnam/complete with gandhara and dhaivatha being dropped and is to be sung in the evening and which confers all fortunes.
While in Venkatamakhin’s scheme, Sriraga corresponds to the 22nd combination, it was King Shahaji who in his work “Ragalakshanamu’ (AD 1720) anointed Sriraga as one of the 19 melakartas and indicates for the first time in the musical history of the sparse occurrence of dhaivatha in the raga. The same is echoed subsequently by both Tulaja in his Saramrutha (1736 AD) and by Muddu Venkatamakhin (circa 1750 AD) in his raga compendium titled ‘Ragalakshanam’ of the so called Anubandha to the CDP.
Thus, in short it can be surmised that in so far as the music of Tanjore is concerned, the dhaivatha note made its foray into the raga only circa 1700 AD, with the convention that it should be alpa/sparse in its usage, appearing only once in a composition. Subbarama Dikshitar too in his SSP provides an older (prior to AD1700 possibly) Raganga Lakshya Gita (with the refrain ‘Sri Rukmini kalyana karana’) for Sriraga without the dhaivatha prayoga. The feature of ragas sporting alpa prayogas is an architectural construct of 17th Century music, completely lost today in modern day musicology which by its arohana/avarohana obsessed approach is devoid of mechanisms to capture such quaint features of raga lakshana. (See Foot Note 1)
In so far as the dhaivatha usage amongst the 5 compositions of Muthusvami Dikshitar listed above, the following observations can be made.
- Sri Muladhara chakra – Dhaivatha does not at all occur in the composition.
- Tyagaraja mahadvajaroha – occurs once at ‘pAda darshanam’ as PDNPMRGR.
- Sri Varalakshmi – occurs once at ‘keshava hrutkelinyai’ as PDNP.
- Sri Kamalambike – occurs once at ‘Srikari sukahari’ as PDNP.
- Sri Vishvanatham – occurs once at ‘dharanAntahkaranam’ as PDNP
It has to be thus noted that:
- The occurrence of the dhaivatha note is just once in the entire composition and
- It is through the usage, not as a standalone note but as a musical phrase PDNP and not otherwise.
Thus, one can state that ‘Sri Muladhara Chakra’ was composed by Muthusvami Dikshitar in the older/archaic Sriraga, bereft of the dhaivatha note and the others were composed in the later/contemporaneous version of the raga, strictly adhering to the singleton dhaivatha usage.
And from a rendition perspective possibly in line with the edict of the purvacharyas as alluded to Subbarama Dikshitar, the dhaivatha laden phrase PDNP should be dealt with in any expositional segment alapana, tanam, kriti, neraval or svaraprastara by any performer, by using the dhaivatha note only once.
In so far as this composition ‘Tyagaraja mahadvajaroha’ goes the dhaivatha note occurs via the phrase PDNP only once in the lyrical portion ‘pAda darsanam’ right at the very end of the composition. In other words:
- It has been used by Muthusvami Dikshitar to signify the eka pada darsanam i.e the once a year occurrence of the pada (right pada in this case) of Lord Tyagaraja.
- The same is signified beautifully through svarakshara usage with the words ‘pAda darsanam’ set to the musical cadence P D dnp thus rhyming with the lyric as well.
- The lyric ‘pAda darsanam’ quaintly occurs at the very end of the charana (equivalent of pAda) segment of the composition just ahead of the grand finale being the madhyama kala sahitya portion.
Thus, the way the dhaivatha note and the phrase PDNP along with the festive event namely the ‘eka pAda darsanam’ has been conjoined lyrically and musically by Dikshitar elegantly while architecting the composition is an ornamentation or a marvel to be enjoyed, as one beholds it while hearing or singing.
The kriti ‘Tyagaraja Mahadvajaroha’ is rarely heard on modern concert platforms and therefore there are just a handful of renderings most possibly being learnt from notation directly from the SSP. And amongst those there are two rendering styles, on being in a slow and sedate pace while the other being in a tad faster yet sprightly mode.
Presented first is the rendering of the same by Sangita Kala Acharya Smt Seetha Rajan and her disciples in the tad faster kAlapramAnam /speed of rendering.
It is my considered view, based on the notation in the SSP, the way the second kalam phrases are constructed, given the sparser kampita gamaka notes and profuse straighter notes and the pace set by the madhyama kala sahitya the composition has to be rendered in a faster kAlapramanam /tempo. It must be remembered that the 2nd kalam phrases must be rendered with felicity on the veena and that would be the benchmark optimal tempo that would be appropriate for the composition. And off course the rendering has to be taut so that one doesn’t get breathless while rendering the madhyama kala sahitya portion.
Presented next is a slower & sedate edition of the composition together with a narrative by Vidushi Gayathri Girish.
With great respect it has to be mentioned that this pace of rendering/ kAlapramAnam appears dragged and not sitting well with the composition. If rendered slowly, given the preponderance of straight notes, one has to depart from the given notation in the SSP by rendering quite a few of the said notes/phrases with a prolonged kampita gamaka in order to keep the rendering on an even keel.
The composition needs to be rendered in what Sangita Kalanidhi Vedavalli would call as the madhyama-kAlapramAnam, in contrast to the slower vilamba kAlam or the still faster dhruta kala, the basal speed of rendering of a composition. The innate kAlapramAnam native to a raga or a composition is an aspect which has to be considered in the case.
The above 30 min summary ( in Tamil or Tanglish) of the aspect of kAlapramAnam of a raga or of a composition and how one needs to be aware, is a compulsory must hear and I would greatly commend the same for hearing.
Sriraga like Atana is innately suitable for madhyamakala rendering and further given the construct of the composition and the reasons I have provided hereinabove, the tad faster rendering is the most optimal and appropriate for this composition.
I conclude this blog post with the rendering of a delectable tanam in Sri raga by the renowned Vaineeka Mysore Doraiswamy Iyengar in this YouTube audio recording starting at 44:40.
Attention is invited as to how he starts the Sri raga tanam on the prolonged rishabha note. He renders the tanam in the known sequence of Natta, Gaula, Arabhi, Varali, Sri the so called ghana raga pancakam followed by Kedaram as well, which is part of the dviteeya ghana raga panchakam.
It is hoped that performers and students of music would stay cognizant of the subtle nuances of ragas and of our musical traditions such as beginning a raga unambiguously on its jiva svara( for example by intoning the rishabha in Sriraga) or by using the dhaivatha note therein only once in deference to sampradaya, even while reserving their spirit of innovation and discovery within the four corners of established tradition.
- Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (Telugu Original 1906) – Tamil edition published by the Madras Music Academy (1961) along with the Anubandha – Pages 445-456 of the 2006 Edition of Vol II and Pages 1203-1208 of the 2006 Edition of Vol V. The English version of the original Telugu edition is available online here: Link
- Ragalakshana Sangraha –Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – Published by Dr Ramanathan – pp 1326-1341
- The Tyagaraja Cult in Tamil Nadu- Dr Rajeshwari Ghose (1996)- Published by Motilal Banarasidass Publishers P Ltd -ISBN-10: 81-208-1391-x or ISBN-13: 978-8120813915
- ALPA PRAYOGAS OR RARE USAGE
The ‘alpa’ dhaivatha usage of Sriraga is reminiscent of the ‘alpa’ rishabha usage in the raga Hindolavasanta, which we saw in an earlier blog post. The feature was also highlighted in the case of raga Yamuna Kalyani were the suddha madhyama (M1) note is fleetingly used via the Gm1RS prayoga as seen in Dikshitar’s ‘Jambupate Mampahi’ which again was dealt with in an earlier blog post.
Alpa prayogas were probably a performance technique, which probably made its way to the grammar of the raga and which was devised or intended to produce a proverbial ‘Aha’ moment to a listener during the course of a performance. A discerning listener, who being aurally satiated by the raga svarupa with the conventional or regular notes and prayogas of the raga, during the performance suddenly encounters the supposedly rare foreign note, rendered by way of an alpa prayoga, providing a sensory jolt. While we see the tradition sanctified alpa prayoga usage in the exemplars – Sriraga, Hindolavasanta and Yamuna Kalyani, from a modern perspective as we see in practice, the raga Atana is a case in point.
Sangita Kalanidhi M S Subbulakshmi as a prelude to Tyagaraja’s ‘Ela Nee daya’ first embarks on a raga vinyasa of the raga Atana parking herself firmly within the traditional bounds of the raga, from 0.29 to 2.33. Mark how pithily without repetition she paints the picture of the raga and rightly concludes it at the tara sadja, as this raga best blossoms forth in the upper reaches of the octave. From 2.34 – 4.14 of the clipping, Sangita Kalanidhi M S Gopalakrishnan(?), her accompanist on the concert embarks on his vinyasa. And at 3.49 he injects the tAra antara gandhara, explicitly for that fleeting moment to produce that contrast in a raga which sports a more oscillated sadharana gandhara, despite being categorized under Melas 28 or 29. It has to be mentioned that the raga and its lakshana is yet another worthy subject matter for a serious blog post.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS & SAFE HARBOUR STATEMENT:
The renderings provided through YouTube links as exemplars are the exclusive intellectual property of the artistes concerned. The same has been utilized here strictly on a non-commercial basis, under fair use for study & research, fully acknowledging their rights and that no part of it may be copied, reproduced or otherwise dealt without the consent or permission of the artistes concerned or the IP holders thereof.