Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Vidya (3 of 8)

13 Sep

Dikshitar and Hindustani music

dikshitar.3 jpg

While you read the article….listen to
  Jambu pathe maam pahi  in Yaman Kalyani sung by Shri TM Krishna

(Thanks to Sashidhar Vasisth)

[The majestic Jambu pathe (Yamuna Kalyani, Rupakam) a masterpiece by Sri Dikshitar, is based in the Hindustani Raga – Yaman Kalyan. The stately gait of the composition is akin to the Dhrupad style of singing.  The kriti is one of his Pancha linga group kritis extolling the manifestations of Shiva among the five elements of nature (Panchabhuta); and, is in celebration of the water-element (Appu), singing in praise the glory of Jambukeswara the deity in the temple at Tiruvanaikaval near Trichy in Tamil Nadu.

Jambupathe -Shri SRajam

The final passage – Madhyama-kala- sahitya – nirvikalpaka samAdi nishta Siva kalpakataro ; nirvisesha caitanya niranjana guruguha guro – is a rare gem , a true classic, where Sri Dikshitar calls out to Shiva , pure consciousness (caitanya), devoid of attributes (nirvisesha); the Supeme Guru (Guro);  and the one from whom originated the pristine purest (niranjana) Lord Guruguha.

 To  summarize Sri Ravi Rajagopalan in the series of articles  on : Yamuna Kalyani–A Journey Back in Time-Part III :

Sri Dikshitar invokes the deeply meditative and contemplative structure of the devotional Dhrupad in this composition. The Devotional Dhrupads are always composed in cau tala and are sung in slow tempo. The rendition of the complete composition is compulsory and no part of the devotional text is indispensable. The Alapa is either omitted or reduced to a few characteristic phrases of the raga. Rhythmic and melodic improvisation too is given little space and in some temples and traditions, improvisation is avoided.

The similarities ‘Jambupate’ has with the devotional Dhrupad give us a clue as to how the composition has to be rendered and there can be no doubt about it.

Sri Dikshitar’s Yamuna Kalyani as found in “Jambupate” has Sa, Ga and Pa as the chief nyasa svaras, Ni and Ma figuring prominently with M1 as an alpa prayoga figuring in avarohana passages through the murccana GM1R & Ni is  vakra in aroha passages. Ga and Pa seem to be the amsa svaras with Ri being very weak. The sancaras range from mandhara Pa/Dha to tara sthayi Ga. In fact there is no tradition of singing Dikshitar’s Jambupate in Madhyama sruti, while all others including the modern tuned up compositions such as  “Krishna nee begane” and “Bhavayami Gopalabalam” are all sung in Madhyama sruti.


Please check the link for the text and brief explanation ]


During his stay at Varanasi, Muthuswamy Dikshitar enjoyed splendid opportunities of listening to Hindustani music in its pristine forms. He seemed to be impressed greatly by the ancient Drupad form of singing and of playing the string instruments; particularly by its elaboration of raga (alap), the tempo and the structure of the lyrics . He diligently studied and learnt the Druphad. This had a profound influence on his creative genius, and apparently modeled his portrayal of ragas in general and in transforming the Hindustani ragas into Carnatic form, in particular. His synthesis of Carnatic and Hindustani Music systems is creative and original.


The influence of Hindustani music on Dikshitar and his works are manifold. It is not confined to composing some kritis based on Outhareya that is Hindustani ragas. The influence is evident in the structure of his kritis, the tempo of his music, in the selection of the Talas and in elaboration of the raga too.

His kritis are well structured, close knit and written in graceful Sanskrit akin to Druphad compositions. Dikshitar’s kritis do not have more than one Charanam; and many of his creations are Samasti-charanams carrying no Anupallavi or the Anupallavi acting as Charanam. His rhythm is subtle and lyrics are divine.

The Druphad way of elaboration appears to have captured his imagination. The tempo of his songs is mostly the Vilambakala– slow, measured and majestic; rich in gamaka just as the meends on a Been. Dikshitar’s treatment of the raga exemplifies the essence of raga bhaava and brings out its delicate shades. It is as if the musician is immersed in contemplative meditation. A scholar aptly remarked “…. Dikshitar’s kritis are epitome of the spiritual record of India”.

This is amply reflected in his works: for instance in Chetasri (Dvijawanthi);, Balagopala (Bhairavi); Sri Rajagopala, Meenkshi-Me-Mudam (Poorvikalyani); Jambu pathe maam pahi (yaman-kalyani); and, in  Sri Subramanyaya Namasthe (Kambhoji).

It was not all slow and spacious. He built into his compositions exhilarating bursts of Madhyamakala gathi, of speed and sparkling delight as if in celebration of the divine, towards the end.

He did not merely import the Hindustani ragas but transformed them and gave them an entire new form and luster. That was the creative genius of Dikshitar. For instance, his interpretation and rendering of ragas like Dwijavathi, Ramkali, Yamakalyani, Hamirkalyani, and Brindavan sarang are highly original and creative. He made them into his own. His Cheta sri is so wonderfully well adapted to Carnatic raga_bhava that one scarcely notices the Outhereya traces in its character. 

Similar is the case with his Kriti in Raga Bhairavam (Kaala Bhairavam bhajeham) , which has the shades of Ahir Bhairav. And, his Kriti in Raga Kashi – Ramakriya  (Soma-skanda vimanastam) has the flavour of Raga Pooriya.

He took in the best aspects of the other system, transformed them and enriched both the systems.

His Jambupathe (Yamankalyani), Parimalaranganatham (HamirKalyani),  Rangapuravihara  (Brindavana Saranga) and Mamava pattabhrama (manirangu) bear testimony to his virtuosity. They are the bench-mark kritis in those ragas; and, are splendid examples of aesthetic excellence of the ragasancharas.

The Hindustani influence spilled over to some of his compositions in Carnatic ragas too, by way of elaborate beginning and by gamakas resembling sliding meends;  as , for instance in :

the grandeur and slow paced majesty of Akshyalinga Vibho (Shankarabharanamin contemplation of the Shiva the Yogi;

 the Balagopala (Bhiravi), portraying the delight and  beauty of the divine child  Krishna.

his Nirajakshi Kamakshi in Hindolam with dha flat re-defined the way Hindolam was sung by his contemporaries and by the later Carnatic musicians.


Justice Sri T L Venkatarama Aiyar , in his biography of Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar (National Biography Series, National Book Trust, 1968) , observes that during the days of Venkatamakhin , the differences between the Karnataka and Hindustani systems were not much pronounced. And, Venkatamakhin was well versed in both the systems of Music; and, he composed Lakshana-Gitas on Ragas that  were known to have been derived from the Outhareya -Ragas.

For instance; Venkatamakhin composed a Lakshna Gita  , commencing with the words ‘ Ambarakesha Shambu Re’–  for the Raga Brindavani (based in the Hindusthani Raga Sarang). The Raga-sanchara, the Aroha  (Sa Ri Ma Pa Ni) and Avaroha  (Sa Ni Pa Ma Ri Sa) of the Raga handled by him is the same as that of the Karnataka Raga Madhyamavathi – except that it takes also Kakili (Tivra) Nishadha and has certain other characteristic Sancharas. The Lakshana of Brindavani in this Gita , conforms fully with that of Raga Sarang of Hindustani system.

After the days of Venkatamakhin, the Raga Brindavani came to be known as Brindavana Saranga, combining in itself  the names of both the systems. Under the new Raga, there was an occasional use of Sadharana (Komal) Gandhara. And, the Kakili-Nishada-Prayoga was dropped; and, this completely changed the complexion of the Raga.


Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar, who followed Venkatamakhin’s system, was also well versed in the Dhrupad of the Hindustani system; and, he adopted a similar approach. He created numerous other musical gems, assimilating the the beauties of the either melodic systems.  Of these , a special mention needs to be made of the Kriti in the Raga Yaman Kalyani (based in the Raga Yaman) – Jambu -pathe mam pahi – which, for its richness of Raga-bhava and and grandeur, stands unrivalled.

The two other Kritis composed Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar dedicated to  Lord Pashupathishvara and Sri Sathyanarayana  are  in Shiva-Panthuvarali (now called Shubha-Panturarali). This Raga corresponds to Mikya-ki-Todi of Hindustani system . These Kritis gained great popularity; and, until then Shiva-Panthuvarli was a rather an obscure Raga in the Karnataka samgita. Though the Shiva-Panthuvarali was primarily based in an Outhareya Raga, it had its own originality , and was pure. That was the creative genius of Sri Dikshitar.

Similar was the case with Raga Sarang (Brindavani ), Malkhauns (Hindolam).

And, his Kriti in Hamir Kalyani – Parimala Ranganatham- is again a brilliant composition, bringing out the characteristic features of the Raga in its Hindustani mode, occasionally touching upon Raga Kedar.

Raga Jaya-Jaya-Vanthi is another Hindustani Raga which has been adopted into Karnataka Samgita , as Dwijavanthi.  The Kriti – Chetas-Sri-Balakrishnam– composed by Sri Dikshitar in the Raga Dwijavanthi is a magnificent structure featuring a full view of the Raga in all its  aspects. And, therefore, this Kriti is rightly regarded as the epitome of the Raga Dwijavanthi.

There is another Raga called Malava-Panchama, in which Sri Dikshitar composed a Kriti – Vasudevam-upasmahe. This Raga resembles Raga Basant of the Hindusthani system; but, with a few modifications.


The Vilamba kaala rendering of Sri Dikshitar’s  Kritis, to the accompaniment of Veena, was ideally suited for gracefully executing the Jaru (sliding) Gamakas , which is also a characteristic of Drupad Samgita.  These Gamaka-graces impart beauty  and eloquence to the Raga-bhava  of the songs. The Kritis of Sri Dikshitar are unrivalled , in any system  of Music, for the richness of their  Gamakas.

With these creative compositions, Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar enriched both the systems of the Music of India.


Dikshitar was a scholar well grounded in good tradition (sampradaya) . To him, music was more than an art; it was serene contemplation, a way of worship in tranquility and it was also an outpouring of his soul in celebration of the divine. He took his music seriously. His involvement in Western or Hindustani music was not flippant .The influences of those other systems on the traditional Carnatic music, which he practiced with great devotion and diligence, was purposeful and did not in any manner diminish the pristine tradition of Carnatic music, his forte . He took the best in the other systems and adorned the Carnatic System; enriching both the donor and the recipient systems. Dikshitar revolutionized Carnatic classic ethos while firmly positioned within its orthodox framework.

The efforts of Sri Dikshitar to forge a meaningful link between the two Music traditions soon bore fruit. Hardly about seventy years after his departure , the monumental  Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini  published by his Grandson Sri Subbarama Dikshitar in the year 1903 records all those Ragas adopted from Hindustani system as having been well integrated into Karnataka Music and classified as derivatives of the Melakarta Ragas.

Such integration was brought into effect even in practice of Music. For instance; initially , the Musicians of the Mysore Durbar such as the Vainikas – Veena Seshanna, Veena Subbanna and Vekatagiriyappa – introduced new compositional format  called ‘Nagmas’ , inspired by the Music of North India. Later, Mysore Dr. V Doraiswamy Iyyangar carried on the innovative tradition by playing regularly, in the concerts, the Tillanas in Ragas, Durbari Kanada, Jhenjuti, Kapi, Behag etc.

Now, of course, most of the vocal and instrument artist do sing the adopted Ragas, regularly , without distinction.

[ Now , listen to another  delightful version of Jambu pathe  beautifully  rendered by a group of youngsters]


I cannot resist posting here some excerpts (in a summarized form) from a wonderfully well researched paper ‘North Indian Ragas in the compositions of Muttuswami Dikshitar’ written by the Musicologist, Composer and Scholar Dr.V.V.Srivatsa, an authority on the compositions of Sri Dikshitar.

Dr. V.V. Srivatsa

While discussing the relations between the Ragas adopted from the Hindustani Music into the Karnataka Music tradition, Dr.Srivatsa treats them under four broad heads:

(i) Ragas adopted from the Hindustan Music, maintained with the same nomenclature (e.g. Ramkali)

(ii) Ragas adopted from Hindustani Music, and retained with Northern music content , but with different names (e.g. Hamveer Kalyani which is Raga Kedar in Hindustani Music)

(iii) Ragas of Hindustani Music which have been integrated into Karnataka Music (e.g. Jhenjuti)


(iv) Ragas of Hindustani Music which have musical equivalent in Karnataka system (e.g. Karnataka Devagandhari – Bhimpalas)

[The Ragas carrying similar names but with different musical content are ignored]


According to Dr. Srivatsa, though Sri Dikshitar did introduce some Ragas into Karnatik Music; several were in vogue even before his time. For instance, he mentions, Lalitha, a Raga of North Indian origin, was used by all members of the Musical Trinity. And, the Ragas like Gurjari, Hamveer, Kalyani and Ramkali were in use at the Trinity’s time. Ragas like Bhairavi (Sindhu Bhairavi), Behag and Bageshri came in shortly thereafter. Recent infusions include Ragas like Shivaranjani, Bairagi-Bhairav (Revati), Basant-Bahar and so on.

Raga Lalita was in vogue in the Karnataka Music even prior to the era of the Trinity. Then, Sri Shyama Sastri’s ‘Nannu brova Lalita’; Sri Tyagaraja’s ‘Seethamma maayamma’; and, Sri Dikshitar’s two compositions ‘Agasteeshwaran Bhajeham’ and ‘Hiranmayeem Lakshmim’ immortalized Raga Lalita in Karnataka Music.

The Raga Lalita closely resembles Raga Vasanta (which sometimes is called Dakshinatya Vasanta to differentiate it from Basant of Hindustani Music).It is surmised that Raga Vasanta was from the North; and, integrated into Karnataka Music.

Raga Hamveer Kalyani was in use in the Karnataka Music from even before the times of the Trinity. The sixteenth century text ‘Rasa-kaumudi’ ( ascribed to Śrikanha, dealing with music, dance, and related general topics from the Nava Rasas to the ornamentation of women) mentions this Raga. Further; Sri Paidala Gurumuthy Sastri* had included Raga Hamveer Kalyani in the list of 22 Bhashanga Ragas that were in vogue during his time. He had clearly mentioned that the Raga was adopted from Northern system.

However, the Hamveer kalyani of the present-day Karnataka Music corresponds to Raga Kedar of Hindustani Music; but, not to Hamveer Kalyan also of Hindustani system.

There are compositions of Sri Dikshitar (Pashupatheeswaram) in Shiva Pantuvarali which corresponds to Hindustani Todi. It is believed; Shiva Pantuvarali was in use in Karnataka Music even in the days prior to Sri Dikshitar.  There is a Kriti of Sri Tyagaraja – Ennallu Oorage’– in this Raga.

(*Paidala Gurumurthi Sastri was a disciple of Sonti Venkatasubbayya and a contemporary of Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar. He was a Telugu Brahmin belonging to the Murikinati sect; and , lived during the 17th century in the village of Kayatar in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. He was famous as great composer of one thousand geetams (Veyigita Paidala Gurumurti) illustrating the Janaka and the JanyaRagas; and also lakshana geetams that illustrate the characteristic features of the Ragas . He was a composer of kritis in Rakti ragas, and had a vast knowledge of sastras and Vedas. It is said that Paidala Gurumurthi was the first to mention that Raga Sahana as a derivative of raga Kambhoji. He was highly regarded for his technical knowledge of the Ragas – Sastrajna and Raga bheda dureena .)


There are some Ragas that have come from folk tradition, And, Jhenjuti is one such. Sri Dikshitar has used the Raga-mudra (in his kriti Gajanba Nayako) as Jhenjuti and its South Indian name ‘Chenjurti’ or ‘Chenchurutti’.

Similar is the case with Raga Piloo, which is proximate to Hindustani Raga Kafi. The Karnataka Kapi  has three versions : Maharaja Swathi Tirunal ‘s version being close to Kharaharapriya; Sri Dikshitar’s being similar to Kaanada; and, Sri Shyama Sastri’s version being midway between Durbar and Kharaharapriya.


As regards Karnataka Shuddha Saveri; it is an Audava Raga with Shuddha Svaras (Rishabha, Madhyama, and Dhaivata), and does not have the Gandhara or Nishada Svaras. The Karnataka Shuddha Saveri is equivalent to Hindustani Raga Komkali. Sri Dikshitar while introducing this Raga into Karnataka Music named it as ‘maana-danda’ or the standard format. His Grandson Sri Subbarama Dikshitar later classified Karnataka Shuddha Saveri as an Upanga of the First Melakarta Raga.

Similar was the case with Kamala-manohari, a non-Vivadi Raga which is Janya of a Vivadi Melakarta.


The characteristic of Karnataka Shuddha Saveri is elaborate and elongated prayoga of Rishabha-Svara. It has a strong resemblance to Komkali, a Prabhat Kaala (morning) Raga of the Hindustani Music. And, Karnataka Shuddha Saveri was one among the favourites of Sri Dikshitar. His Ekamresha Nayike in Shuddha Saveri is a true classic.

The Karnataka Raga Shuddha Saveri approximates to Raga Malahari and to Kannada Bangala, which has a limited use of Nishada Svara. The Raga Malahari, which has no Nishada (Nishada-varjya) and which has Gandhara only in the Avaroha, is an old Raga of the Karnataka system in which Sri Pauradaradasa composed Pillari-geetas for the benefit of the beginners. Of the Trinity, only Sri Dikshitar has composed in these three Ragas- Shuddha Saveri, Malahari and Kannada Bangala. And, Sri Dikshitar alone has composed Kritis both in Kannada Gowla and Karnataka Devagandhari. 

The Karnataka Devagandhari which approximates to Raga Abheri has only Shuddha Daivata. Sri Subbarama Dikshitar in his ‘ Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini’ mentions of a Suladi composed by Sri Purandaradasa in the Raga Karnataka Devagandhari ( Hasugala kareva dhvani) set to Rangana Jati Mattya Tala.

[Dr.Srivatsa opines that the current popular version of the Abheri of ‘Nagumomu ganaleni’ is rather corrupted; and, it is not the same as Raga Abheri of Sri Dikshitar’s ‘Panchashat peetha rupini’.]

Sri Dikshitar’s Kriti in Raga Karnataka Devagandhari (Kaayaaarohanesham) has the shades of the Hindustani Bhimpalas (as in Sri Bhimsen Joshi’s rendering of Haribhajane mado nirantara).

The examples of Hindola and Malkauns can also be considered. However, the Hindustani influence is not significant in Sri Dikshitar’s Kritis – ‘Nirajakshi Kamakshi’; ‘Sarasvathi Vidyuvathi’; and, ‘ Govardhana Girisham’.


There is a special group of Ragas that use both Shuddha Madhyama and Prati Madhyama Svaras. The instances of Such Ragas are: Yamuna Kalyani, Hamveer Kalyani and Saranga. Of these, Hamveer Kalyani and Yamuna Kalyani (Yaman Kalyan) are of Northern origin.

The Ragas Yaman and Yamuna Kalyani differ in that the latter has the Shuddha Madhyama in the passage ‘Ma-Ga-Ma-Ri-Sa’ .  The Astapadi ‘Saa virahe tava  deena’ and the Devaranama ‘Hari smarane mado niratara’ are good examples of Yamuna kalyani.

In Raga Yaman, though the Shuddha Madhyama Svara is used in passages like ‘ Ma-Ga-Sa-Ni-Ri-Sa’ you will not find ‘Ma-Ga-Ma-Ri-Sa’.

The two compositions by Sri Dikshitar in Raga Yaman is an adaptation of the Northern Raga Yaman. And, Jambu Pathe is one such


There are some Ragas which are Dwi-Madhyama in structure; but, with Shuddha Madhyama as the dominant Svara; and, Prati Madhyama as the subordinate Svara. The instances of such Ragas are: Ramkali, Arda-deshi, Ahir-Marwa etc. It is only Sri Muttuswami Dikshitar that has used such Ragas.

Sri Dikshitar’s Kriti in Ramkali resembles, in structure, a Dhrupad composition. Further, the Pallavi – ‘Rama Rama kali kalusha virama’ (meaning Rama mitigates the evils of the Kali era) hides the Raga-mudra.


We go back to the case of Dwi-Madhyama Ragas . The Raga Marwa is of folk origin; and, is a Janya-Raga of Maya-malava-cowla . The Raga Marwa omits Rishabha Svara in ascendent scale, Arohana; and , has a Sampurna Arohana. The raga-scale makes it a distant cousin of Ragas Lalita and Vasanta – the difference being the presence of Rishabha Svara (Ri) in the raga Lalita and the use of Panchama Svara (Pa) in the descendent scle Avarohana of Raga Marwa.

However, the use of Prati-Madhyama Svara in prayogas like ‘Ni-Dha-Ma-Pa’ or ‘ Dha-Ma-Pa-Ni’ makes it a Bhashanga Raga and Dwi- Madhyama Raga.

We have Sri Dikshitar’s  Kriti in Raga Marwa  (Maruvaakadi Maalini).  This is similar to Raga Ramkali where the Shuddha Madhyama dominates.

Raga Poorvi, a Bhashanga Raga, which has its origin in the Northern tradition, has also Dwi-Madhyama. The only Kriti in that Raga (Ekaika Raga) – ‘Shri Guruguhasya daasoham nochet Guruguha eva hum’- is a part of the Guruguha Vibhakti Series.


Raga Brindavana Saranga is quite different from Raga Brindavani. In the tradition followed by Sri Tyagaraja, the rendering of Brindavana Saranga involves emphasis on Gandhara Svara, bringing it very close to Sri Raga (as in his Kriti Kalamalpta kula).

But, in Sri Dikshitar’s kritis – Rangapura Vihara and Soundara rajam – the Gandhara is rather weak. His Brindavana Saranga is closer to Madhyamavati.

The Raga Brindavani of northern origin; and is equivalent to Raga Shuddha Sarang of Hindustani system. The dominant Svara of the Brindavani is Kakili Nishada, which is alien to the 22nd Melakarta Raga; and, is classified as a Bhashanga Raga of the 22nd Melakarta system. Sri Dikshitar’s kriti in this Raga is ‘Swaminathena Samrakshitoham’.


The Ragas in Karnataka system are categorized and classified in as many as twenty ways. One among such methods is to group the Ragas under the broad heads of Shuddha (Pure); Sankeerna (Unclassified); and Chaayalaga (having the shadow or flavour of other ragas) – Shuddha, Chaayalakah prokto Sankeernaani thataivach.

The Shuddha Ragas are those which possess the intrinsic character (Lakshana) of the Raga; and, provide ample scope for its exposition in all the facets of its elaboration- Alapana, Sangathi, Neraval and Svara-prastara.  Further, even a flash or a single movement (Sanchara) is adequate to identify it. The celebrated examples of the Shuddha Ragas are: Kalyani; Kambhoji; Saveri; Shankarabharana, Todi; Bhairavi; Dhanyasi and so on.

Sankeerna Jati Ragas are those which are not facile enough to full exploration of Alapana; but, are usually identified by the Kritis in that Raga. The instances of such Sankeerna Ragas are : Devamrutavarshini; Mandari; and Manji etc.

A Chaayalaka Raga is one which carries the flavour of nuances of other Ragas. Lets say when one sings Raga Natakapriya, the shades of Ragas Chakravaka, Kharaharapriya and Todi pass through. And, while rendering Raga Ghanta the passages of Punnagavarali and Dhanashri with a pronounced play of Shuddha Nishada appear. Similarly, Raga Dwijavanti (Cheta Shri balakridhnam) could be said to be a Chaayalaka having the shades of Sahana, Dhanyasi and Yadukula Kambhoji.


Continued in Part Four

The music of Sri Dikshitar


Muthuswami Dikshitar – A Creative Genius by Chitravina N Ravikiran

I gratefully acknowledge Shri S Rajam’s  painting of Jambu-linga


Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Music, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Sri Vidya


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2 responses to “Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Vidya (3 of 8)

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    • sreenivasaraos

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