Kamalamba Navavarana Kritis – Part One
Sri Kamalamba at Sri Tyagaraja temple, Tiruvarur.
The years he spent at Tiruvavur were richly creative and highly productive for Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar, the composer. Dikshitar’s creations at Tiruvavur included a set of sixteen kritis on the various attributes of Ganesha; a set of kritis on Thygaraja and Nilothpalambika the presiding deities of Tiruvarur shrine; a set of Tiruvarur Panchalinga kritis; and eleven kritis of Kamalamba Navavarana group.
Dikshitar had developed a fascination for composing a series of kritis on a composite theme, perhaps in an attempt to explore the various dimensions of the subject. In some of these, he employed all the eight Vibhaktis, the various cases that delineate a noun.He also composed a series of kritis in a set of ragas, all ending with the same suffix (e.g.Gaula). No other composer has attempted so many group kritis in such a planned, orderly, meticulous fashion.
The most outstanding of such series of compositions is of course the magnificent Kamalamba Navavarana kritis. They are incomparable compositions and are the jewels of Carnatic music.These compositions, intellectually sublime steeped in deep devotion, are a testimony to Dikshtar’s musical genius, his mastery over the Sanskrit language; and his thorough knowledge of and intense dedication to Sri Vidya, Sri Chakra and the worship of its avaranas.
Through its graceful lyrics , majestic sweep of ragas and descriptive details rich in mystical symbolism of Tantra, Mantra, Yoga, Sri Vidya and Advaita ; Dikshitar virtually threw open the doors to the secret world of Sri Vidya,to all those eager to approach the Divine Mother through devotion and music.
It is amazing how Dikshitar builds into each of his crisp and well-knit structure of lyrics, the references to the name of the chakra; the names of its presiding deity, yoginis, mudras, Siddhis and the gurus of the Kadi tradition of Sri Vidya ;and to the seed(Beeja) mantras. In addition he manages to insert, as ever, cogently, the name of the raga and his signature. The Kamalamba Navavarana is a treasure house not merely to the classical musicians but also to the Sri Vidya upasakas.
Kamala is one of the ten maha_Vidyas, the principle deities of the Shaktha tradition of Tantra. But, the Sri Kamalamba referred to by Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar in this set of kritis, is the Supreme Divine Mother herself. The immediate inspiration to Dikshitar was, of course, Sri Kamalamba (regarded one of the sixty-four Shakthi centers), the celebrated deity at the famous temple of Sri Tyagaraja and Sri Nilothpalambika in Tiruvavur.
Interestingly, the temple complex also accommodates the shrines of Maha_Ganapathi, Subrahmanya, Dakshinamurty and Balamba; all Shakthi deities. The temple complex has a Pushkarini, a lake, named kamalalaya, the abode of Kamala.This tank is reffered to by Dikshitar , in his kritis , as Kamalalaya thirtha and the Devi is Kamalalaya thirtha vaibhave. The town of Tiruvarur is mentioned as Kamala nagara (e.g. Kamalanagara viharinai) and as Kamala pura(e.g.Kamalapura sadanam) ; referring to Devi as one who resides in and walks about the town of Kamalapura/Kamalanagara.
Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar follows the Smahara krama, the absorption path, of Sri Chakra puja and proceeds from the outer avarana towards the Bindu in the ninth avarana at the center of the Sri Chakra. At each avarana, he submits his salutation and worships the presiding deity, the yogini (secondary deity) and the attendant siddhis of that avarana; and describes the salient features of the avarana according to the Kadi School of the Dakshinamurthy tradition of Sri Vidya. It is in effect both worship and elucidation.
Dikshitar devoted one composition to each of the nine avaranas. In addition, there is a Dhyana Kriti, a verse in meditation, preceding the set of nine; and a mangala kriti, the verse celebrating the auspicious conclusion, at the end. Thus, the Navavarana composition of Dikshitar, per se, is a set of eleven kritis.
It is customary, as a prelude to Kamalamba Navavarana group of kritis, to invoke Maha_Ganapathi and Lord Subrahmanya by singing Shri Mahaganapathivaratu mam (Gaula) followed byBalasubrahmanyam Bhaje (Surati).
The Dhyana kriti Kamalambike_ashrita_kalpa_lathike is composed in Raga Todi (Rupaka); while the concluding Mangala kriti Shri_Kamalambike is in the auspicious Shri Raga.
[The Dhyana kriti in Todi does not bear the customary Raga_mudra, the name of its Raga.]
Thus the vocal tradition of the Kamalamba Navavarana has a set of thirteen kritis. The core kritis are however the nine relating to nine avaranas of Sri Chakra.
For the core nine kritis sang in worship of the Navavaranas of Sri Chakra, Dikshitar employed eleven different Ragas and eight different Vibhakthis (case endings denoting the noun) of Sanskrit grammar; and for the ninth avarana kriti he employs a garland of all the eight Vibhakthis.
As regards the Raga-mudra, a distinctive feature of Dikshitar’s compositions, the kritis in Anandabhairavi (first avarana), and shankarabharaaam (third avarana) indicate their Ragas only partially (the word “Ananda” for the former, and shankara for the latter). The kambhoji, Sahana, and Ahiri compositions have their Raga mudras hidden within complex phrases. In all the other kritis, the Raga mudra is explicit.
The following briefly is representation of the kriti, the Raga, the taala and the Vibhakthi of the nine kritis:
For the complete text of the Kamalamba Navavarana kritis in English Click here * Meaning that all the eight vibhakthis are employed ; a unique feat.
There are several theories explaining Dikshitar’s selection of Ragas for these kritis. Dikshitar was a meticulous person and had a methodical approach to life and to his works. Dr. R K Srikantan, the celebrated Carnatic musician and scholar, feels that the Ragas selected for these kritis are stringed together by an underlying scheme that is at once simple and logical. He observes that the Raga of each kriti flows into the next, seamlessly with minimum alteration in the structure of its swaras. Here is an extract from his article:
Sri Dikshitar followed the Venkatamakhin sampradaya – the scheme of classifying the Ragas – where Bhairavi and Ananda- bhairavi were treated as Upanga – Ragas. The Ragas adopted by Sri Dikshitar for the nine (Navavarana) Kritis, could broadly be classified under three main categories: two Mela-karta Ragas (Kalyani and Shankarabharnam); three Upanga Ragas (Shahana, Bhairavi, Aanda-bhairavi); and four Bhashanga Ragas (khambhoji, Punagavarali, Ghanta and Ahiri)
The Swara-structure, the sequential change of Ragas was methodical:
Sri Dikshitar has used only four Chakras * – Veda, Netra, Bana and Rudra. This corresponds to the four types of structures in the Sri-Chakra, viz.: square (chaturanga), circle (vyuha), triangle (tri kona) and point (bindu).
The Swara-structure, the sequential change of Ragas was methodical:
1. From Ananda-bhairavi to Kalyani meant a change of Gandhara.
2. From Kalyani to Shankarabharanam meant a only a change of madhyama.
3. From Shankarabharanam to Khamboji meant an addition of a nishada.
4. From khamboji to Bhairavi meant removal of the additional nishada, addition of a dhaivata and change of gandhara.
5. From Bhairavi to Punnagavarali meant removal of the additional dhavata and introduction of a rishabha.
6. The next song shows changes in gandhara and dhaivata after the removal of the additional rishabha.
7. Ghanta indicates addition of Rishabha and dhaivatha with change in gandhara.
8. The last change is extremely complex. It basically indicates addition of gandhara and nishadha.
[* Sri Srikantan is referring to 12 series or Chakras in which the 72 Melakartas are arranged:
The 72 Mēḷakarta ragas are split into 12 groups called Chakrās, with each Chakra containing 6 ragas. The ragas within the chakra differ only in the dhaivatam and nishadam notes (D and N). The name of each of the 12 chakras suggests their ordinal number as well.
The twelve Chakras are:
1.Indu (moon, one); 2.Netra (eyes, two); 3.Agni (sacrificial fires, three types: garha-patya, Ahavaniya and Daksina; and Agni has two other names : Vaishvanara and Jatavedasa); 4. Veda (four Vedas); 5. Bana (arrows of Manmatha the cupid – five : Aravinda/Asoka/Chuta/Nava-mallika/Nilotpala); 6. Ritu (seasons – six seasons of the year); 7. Rishi (sages – saptharishi -seven); 8. Vasu (a group of celestial beings – asta-vasu. eight); 9. Brahma (reference to the nine cycles of the universe, each presided over by a Brahma) 10. Dishi (ten directions – eight plus above and below); 11. Rudra (Ekadasha Rudra – eleven forms of Rudra); and 12. Aditya ( a group of twelve celestial beings )
The Svaras (notes) involved with the four Chakras referred to by Sri Srikantan are:
Veda: Sa, Chatusruthi Rishaba, Sadharana Gandhara, Suddha Ma
Netra: Sa, Suddha Rishaba, Sadharana Gandhara, Suddha Ma
Bana: Sa, Chatusruthi Rishaba, Anthara Gandhara, Suddha Ma
Rudra: Sa, Chatusruthi Rishaba, Anthara Gandhara, Prati Ma
For more , please do read Sri S Rajam’s most wonderful illustrations of the 12 Chakras and their 72 Melakarta-s.
As regards the Ahiri, the Raga of the kriti associated with the ninth avarana, there is a view, the raga has all the twenty-two notes in the octave; and such a fusion of all melodic and temporal elements in the same kriti is rather unusual especially when the pallavi has distinctive prose sections put together, seamlessly.
Before we enter a discussion on the Navavarana kritis, let us take a broad look at their association with the Chakras, the deities, the Yoginis, and Siddhis etc. of the Sri Chakra.
The Kamalamba Navavarana kritis are works of musical and poetic excellence. They are adorned with sublime music, intellectual sophistication, soulful devotional lyrics and richly imaginative poetic imagery. Listening to the kritis is a truly rewarding experience, even if one is not aware of or ignores the underlying connotations of Sri Chakra and Sri Vidya tradition.
The discussion on each of the Navavarana kritis, with reference to and in the light of traditions, concepts and lore of Sri Chakra and Sri Vidya, follows in the next page.
Continued in the Next Part
Kamalamba Navavarana Kritis – Part Two