Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Vidya (7 of 8)

14 Sep

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.  Sri 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.

Sri  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 Sri 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 Sri 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.

Thyagarajasvami and his consort Nilotpalamba

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 referred to by Sri  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.

Sri 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.

The Dhyana kriti Kamalambike_ashrita_kalpa_lathike is composed in Raga Todi (Rupaka). The Vaggeyakara Mudra is in  – Guruguhakarane Sadashiva antahkarane

[The Dhyana-kriti in Todi does not bear the customary Raga_mudra, the name of its Raga.]

The concluding Mangala Kriti – Sri Kamalambike  Shive pahimam, Lalite , Sripathi Vinute  – is in the auspicious Sri Raga , set to Khanda Eka Taala. The Raga Mudra is in the opening line as Sri; and, the Vaggeyakara Mudra is the phrase Shankara-Guruguha-bhaktha vasankari.

Apart from these 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).


Thus , the vocal tradition of the Kamalamba Navavarana has , in all, 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, Sri Dikshitar employed nine different Ragas and eight different Vibhakthis (case endings denoting the noun) of Sanskrit grammar; and, in addition,  for the ninth avarana kriti he employs a garland of all the eight Vibhakthis.

As regards the Raga-mudra, a distinctive feature of Sri 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:

Kamalamba Vibhakthi

For the complete text of the Kamalamba Navavarana :

kritis in English Click here ;and for the Sanskrit text please click here.

There are several theories explaining Dikshitar’s selection of Ragas for these kritis. Sri  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.

[For more on that theme, please check here ]

[* 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- Rig, Sama, Yajur & Atharvana );

5.Bana (arrows of Manmatha the cupid-five: Aravinda/Asoka/Chuta/Nava-mallika/Nilotpala);

6. Ritu (seasons – six seasons of the year-Vasanta, Greeshma, Varsha, Sharad, Sisira and Hemanta );

7. Rishi (sages – saptharishi – seven –Gowtama, Viswamitra, Kashyapa, Jamadagni, Bharadwaja, Atri and Vasishta);

8. Vasu (a group of celestial beings –  asta-vasu. eight – Aapa, Dhruva, Soma, Dava, Pratyusha, Anila, Anala and Prabhasa));

9. Brahma (reference to the nine cycles of the universe, each presided over by a Brahma – Nava Brahma- Atri, Angirasa, Brighu, Daksha, Kashyapa, Pulaha, Marichi, Vasishta and Pulastya);

10. Dishi (ten directions – eight plus above and below – their guardians being : Indra, Agni, Yama, Niruddhi, Varuna, Vayu, Kubera and Isana ; plus , Akasha and Patala);

11. Rudra (Ekadasha Rudra – eleven forms of Rudra – Aja, Dwasha, Ekapada, Triambake, Aparajita, Isana, Tribhuvana, Sambhu, Hara, Rudra and Ahirputniya); and

12. Aditya ( a group of twelve celestial beings – Dwadasha Aditya – Poosha, Bhaskara, Marichi, Arka, Khaga, Surya, Mitra, Aditya, Ravi, Bhanu, Savita and Hiranyagarbha)


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.

Kamalamba yogini


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.

[Please click here for an article covering an overview of the Sri Kamalamba Navavarana kritis.]


The scholarship of Sri Dikshitar as a Vainika has reflected in these compositions through the Gamakas, Viaba-kala and Madhyama-kala -Sahitya. His treatment of the Ragas and use of rare phrases at times bring in an unusual melody and effulgence to these compositions.

The Kamalamba Kritis ranges from Madra to Tara-Sthayi; and , in the other way too,  presenting a complete picture of the range and scope of the Raga,  bringing out  the Lakshaa and grandeur of the Raga, in full measure.


As regards the Taala, Sri Dikshitar in this series has employed the Suladi-Sapta-Taalas, with the exception of Dhruva and Mathya Taalas.

The Taalas used include Rupaka (3 beats); Tisra-Tripua (7 beats); Ata-Taala (14 beats) ; and,  Misra-Jhapa (10 beats).

There appears to be a method or a progression in accordance with the sequential order of the Avaranas of the Sri Chakra.

The Kalyani Avaraa is an enclosure of 16 lotus petals (2 times of Adi Taala).

The third Avaraa in Shankarabharaa is in Rupaka Taala, consisting of 6 Kriyas (2 times of Rupaka).

The fourth Avaraa in Kambhoji is in Aa-Taala,  having 14 Kriyas,  representing  the nature of 14 angles of Chakra.

The fifth Avaraa in Bhairavi is set to Jhapa Taala, having 10 Kriyas denoting the ten angled Chakra.

The sixth Avaraa in Punagavarāli set in Rupaka Taala,  has 6 Kriyas according to its order of Avarana .

The seventh Avaraa in Raga Sahana is set in Tisra-Jati-Tripua-Taala; it  being the seventh one in order.

The eighth Avaraa is in Adi Taala referring to 8 Kriyas.

The ninth Avaraa in Ahiri is in Tisra-Jati-Eka-Taala,  has 3 Kriyas , although it is  now being sung in Rupaka with 6 Kriyas highlighting the three elements residing in the Bindu Chakra.

The choice of the Taalas follows a definite scheme. The Avarana in Anandabhairavi is also sung with Misra Chapu Taala; because it has the same number of Taala units, although they differ in the Kriyas. Sri Subbarama Dikshitar, in his Sangita-Sampradaya-Pradarshini, has remarked that this Avarana could be sung with Misra-Jati-Eka-Taala , which again has the same  measure of 7 Matras. That is to say; this Avarana could be sung in three different ways, having either the Triputa, Misra-Eka, or Misra Chapu ( 3 ½ *2=7 Aksharas) , effecting slight change in Kala-pramana.


The Kamalamba-Navavarana-Kṛitis are enriched with rhetorical beauties or the decorative Angas.

The other aspects observed in the Navavaraa-Kritis  are summarised as follows.

Todi is a Raga which generally reflects compassion; and, Sri Dikshitar in the invocatory composition begins the song with Madhya-Sthayi-Nishada in accordance with the invocative nature of the song. Another significant description in the composition is Her sitting posture as ’Vinoda Carane’, which means enchanting feet. Sri Dikshitar addresses Her as one who enjoys music and one who bestows best poetic qualities on those who sing in praise of her ‘Sangita-rasike sukavitva -pradayike’,  suggesting both his music and poetry are due to Her blessings . Sri Dikshitar addresses the Devi by varied epithets, such as: ’Tripuradi-chakreshvarī’, ‘Animadi-siddishvarī’, ‘Kshitipura-Trailokya-Mohana-Chakravartinī; and ‘Prakata-Yoginī’.

The Kalyani Avarana has the word ‘Kamala’ in the Anupallavi has different meanings with reference to the subsequent word. Kamala inKamala-Vani” refers to Lakshmi and Vani is Sarasvathi; Kamala in “Kamala-pura-sadanā” refers to Tiruvaruru; and , the Kamala  in “Kamala- vadanam” refers to lotus-like face.

The ninth Avaraa is represented by a Bindu. This is here the Mother Goddess resides. She being the empress of the entire empire of Sri Chakra, named as Sarva-anandamaya Chakra, wherein the MahaTripura-Sundarī lives with Kameshvari. It has all Vibhaktis and the lengths of Pallavi, Anupallavi and Caraa represent the three natural equal parts of the Bindu- Moon, Sun and Fire.

The Mangalam Kṛiti is befittingly composed in the Raga Sri set to Khanda-Eka-Taala. This composition has exquisite descriptions and reflects the immense devotion of Sri Dikshitar; and, his adherence to Sri Vidya.

[ Source : Melodic Aspects of Kamalāmbā Navāvaraṇa Kṛti-s of Śrī Muttusvāmi Dīkṣita by Ms. Niranjana Srinivasan]


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


Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Music, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Sri Vidya, Tantra


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4 responses to “Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Vidya (7 of 8)

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