Music of India – a brief outline – Part Twenty

14 Jun

Continued from Part Nineteen – Lakshana Granthas– Continued

Part Twenty (of 22 ) – Lakshana Granthas – Continued

15 . Sri Subbarama Dikshitar and Sangita –Sampradaya-Pradarshini


 subbarama Dikshitar

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar is the last of the Great Musician-Composer-Musicologist-Scholars of the Karnataka Sangita.  His towering personality and scholarship stands far above any of his contemporaries. And, there is none equal to him even during the present times. He was the culmination of a long, historic and a chaste tradition of Indian Music that evolved over the centuries.  Sri Subbarama Dikshithar combined in himself a great musicologist, historian, composer, and a great musician. His unique contribution is the composition of sancharis for all ragas figuring in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.

The whole world of Karnataka Sangita lovers, musicians, musicologist, scholars and everyone associated with Indian Music are greatly indebted to Sri Subbarama Dikshitar for his monumental Sangita-Sampradaya-Pradarshini and its associated works. But for his Great works into which he poured all his learning and knowledge, the accumulated wisdom of the centuries would have been lost to the modern age.  Dr. V. Raghavan compares Sri Subbarama Dikshitar’s Sangita –Sampradaya-Pradarshini to a huge and permanent dam which impounded and preserved the music of the golden age of Karnataka music; and from which practicing musicians, theorists, editors and publishers of recent times have been continuously drawing inspiration and sustenance .

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar was the inheritor of a distinguished and glorious tradition- Dikshitar Parampara – of Musician-Composer-Scholars. The three successive generations of the great composer-musicians of the Dikshitar Parampara are indeed like the pillars of Karnataka Sangita.

The crest jewel in this Sarasvathi-kanta-abharana – that is the Dikshitar Parampara, was Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar (1775‑1835), one of the Trinities of Karnataka Sangita. He was the son of Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar (1735 – 1817 A.D) who was proficient in the Lakshana (theory) and Lakshya (practice) of Karnataka Sangita. The popular Raga Hamsadhwani with which the concerts invariably takeoff (after the Varna) and which has also become a    regular part of repertoire of Hindustani Music is said to be the creation of Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar. He is also credited with large number of Tana-varnas, Pada-varnas, Darus, Raga-malikas and Kirtanas. His Raga-malika in 108 ragas and Taalas (Ashtottara Satha Raga Taala Malika) is an icon of his versatility and creative genius.

After Mutthuswamy, two sons – Chinnaswamy and Baluswamy–and a daughter Balambika were born to Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar. All were accomplished musicians.

Chinnaswamy Dikshitar (1778-1823) the second son of Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar was, in his own right, a gifted musician and composer. His two Kritis composed in honor of Sage Narada: Ganalola karunalavala (in Todi) and Narayanananti (in Kalyani) are well known. The first line of the Pallavi Ganalola karunalavala, and the Anupallavi manita guna sujnana dhurina were popularly sung in Raga-Tana-Pallavi rendering during the early parts of the 20th century. Chinnaswamy is said to have created Sanchari phrases for many Ragas; and also used diverse Taalas like Dhruva, Triputa, Adi, Matya and Ragana Matya in his compositions. Sadly; Chinnaswamy died quite young at the age of 45, while on a pilgrimage to Madurai.

The youngest of the three brothers was Baluswamy Dikshitar (1786‑1858). He was younger to Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar by nearly about ten years. Since his illustrious elder brothers had taken to Veena, Vocal music and composing, Baluswamy decided to try something different and new. At the suggestion of the Dubash Venkatakrishna Mudaliar who was their family friend and patron, Baluswamy started learning to play on the western instrument – Violin – that was just getting popular in Madras. Venkatakrishna Mudaliar appointed an European tutor to teach Baluswamy. Within about three years, Baluswamy became an accomplished violinist. It was his genius that adopted the western instrument Violin to Karnataka Sangita. He soon started accompanying, on violin, his elder brother Mutthuswamy who played Veena. Thus, what started as a jest or an experiment, in due time, became a regular feature of the Karnataka Sangita. Now, it is hard to imagine a Karnataka Music concert without its most visible and audible element, the violin , accompanying the main singer.

[ Please also see : ]

Dikshitar Family tree

[I acknowledge with thanks the source; the Thesis of Dr. R K Dhanya, at ]


Sri Subbarama Dikshitar (1839-1906) comes in as the fruit or the culmination of the distinguished Dikshitar Parampara. He was born in Tiruvarur in 1839 (i.e. four years after the demise of Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar) as the second son of   Shivarama Iyer and Annapurni who was Baluswamy Dikshitar’s youngest daughter.

[Though he gained fame as Subbarama, the initial name accorded to him after birth was Balasbrahmanya Sarma]

[Sri Subbarama Dikshitar in his Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini writes a brief note about himself in the Chapter Vaggeyakara Caritam under the Paragraph 72 Subbarama Dıksita :

With the name’ Balasubrahmanya Sarma ´, I am the son of Balasvami Dıksiita, the youngest brother of Muddusvami Dıksita. Balasvami Dıksita’s youngest daughter’s name was Annapurniamma. Her husband was Sivaramayya who belonged to Bharadvaja Gotra, and Drahyayana Sutra. Ramaswami Ayya, who was his first son, was very talented in music and Veena was felicitated by kings and attained heavenly abode at the age of 45. And, Ramasvami Ayya had two sons, Veena Cinnasvami; and, the other was the third principal of the Maharaja’s High School and musical connoisseur, Venkatarama.

I was born as the second son (of Sivaramayya and Annapurniamma) in Tiruvarur in the Saka year 1761 (1839 A.D.) during the year of Vilambi, Tula Rasi, and Hasta Nakshatra.

When I was five years old, Balasvami Dıksita took me to Ettayapuram, and got me tutored in Sanskrit, Telugu, and music. At that time, Jagadvıra Rama Kumara Ettappa Maharaja, who was very well versed in astrology, summoned the great astrologers, and studied my horoscope. He looked at Balasvami Dıksita, and told him, “The bearer of this horoscope is the son to all the three of you. So, adopt him. He will be famous like Dıksita.” Just as his command, my maternal grandfather, Balasvami Dıksita adopted me during Plavanga ˙ year, Makara Rasi; and , initiated me into Brahmopadesa and Srı Vidya-upadesa. I learnt the sciences of epics and drama, great epics like Manu Caritra and Vasu Caritram, Grammar, and poetic meters from Vilattikolam Krsnayamatya, who was a great Sanskrit and Telugu scholar. I not only learnt Veena from my father, but also learnt in detail the secrets (intricacies) of laksya and laksana of music.]

Please also check :


dist23 crop

None of the three brothers – Mutthuswamy, Chinnaswamy nor Baluswamy – had a male child. On the advice of Kumara Ettappa Maharaja of Ettayapuram, who was their patron, Baluswamy adopted Subbarama the second son of his daughter Annapurni as his son. When Subbarama was adopted and brought to Ettayapuram he was just a lad of five years. Baluswamy, under the patronage of the Maharaja, arranged for the education of Subbarama in Sanskrit (Vyakarana, kavya, Alamkara), Telugu, Music and Veena. Subbarama was a bright young boy eager to learn; and, by the age of 17 he was just flowering into a talented musician and composer.

Ettiyapuram emblem

[ For more on the Rajas of the Ettayapuram , please click here.]

[ For a very informative study of the Historical importance of Ettayapuram by Sheeba Parvathi , please check here]

[It is however very sad to see the present state of  the Ettayapuram palace, almost in  ruins . Please click here and follow  the heart-breaking pictures]


Sri Subbarama Dikshitar later in his life fondly recalled his teen-years in Ettayapuram, his education and the patronage of the Maharaja. He said:

 “When I was only seventeen, I composed a Tana Varna in Darbar and when it was presented before the King, some in the assembly thought that my father had actually composed it. The King, therefore, told me, ‘I am going out and shall come back in one hour; by that time you should sit here, compose and keep ready for me a Jati-svara in Yamuna Kalyani. and , the King specified that in the Jati-svara, after Pallavi and Anu-pallavi, there should be a Svara-passage starting on Dha, and the next Svara-passage should be set in three tempos fast (druta), medium (madhyama)  and slow (Vilamba) , and again in the same three in reverse order, and then the Muttayisvara. The King, to test my ability ordered that I should not, while composing the piece, leave the spot;  and , he also set two guards to watch me.

I finished the Jati-svara in the given format before the scheduled time. And , the King, after listening to it, himself took me to my father, announced the new composition, made me sing my new composition and rewarded me with a pair of shawls and ten sovereigns’’.

EttayapuramPalace remains

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar also speaks of his experiences as a musician in the Court of Ettayapuram:

 “For Jagadvira Rama Eddappa Maharajah, I composed two Chowka -varnas for dance  in Anandabhairavi and Surati; and a Raga-malika in nine Ragas. And, in the distinguished Sadsas (gathering) that included His Holiness Sri Sankaracharya of Kamakoti Pitha, Veena Subbukutti Iyer, Tirumalaraya-pattanam Ramudu Bhagavatar, Tirukkadayur Bharati (a direct pupil of Mutthuswamy Dikshitar) and Vidvans in different Shastras, I sang a Tana-varna in Ramakriya and the Kriti Sankaracharyam in Sankarabharana*”.

[* The Kriti Sankaracharyam celebrating the many faceted genius of Sri Sankara was made popular by Smt.MS Subbulakshmi in her concerts. Please check the link for her rendering of the Kriti:  ]

In his nineteenth year (1858), Subbarama Dikshita was appointed Asthana Vidwan of Ettayapuram, succeeding his foster-father Baluswamy Dikshitar who just had passed away.

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar led a busy and academically rich life at Ettayapuram. Sri Subbarama Dikshitar gained fame as a musician and a composer (Vak-geya-kara).

Though later in his life Sri Subbarama Dikshitar gained fame as a Lakshanakara, his contributions as a Vaggeyakara are also significant. While basically adhering to the style of Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar , Sri Subbarama Dikshitar displayed a great versatility , and produced not only kritis but also many Tanas, Chowka and Pada Varnas, Svarajatis, Raga-malikas and Darus with liberal Svarakshara passages and alliterations. And, he also employed many antique ragas like Gauri, Kaapi and Mechabauli in his compositions..

He composed the music for some of Krishnasamayya’s (another artist attached to the Court) lyrics. In his description of one of Krishnasamayya’s kritis, Devi divya nama in the Raga Mechabauli, he mentions that the music for it was composed by him. 

The kriti ‘Amba paradevate’, in the Raga Rudrapriya, is said to be a creation of both Krishnaswamy Ayya (lyrics) and Subbarama Dikshitar (music).

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar also set to music, the Valli-Bharatam, a Tamil composition by Kadigai Namassivaya Pulavar of the Ettayapuram Court. And, he set another composition, Ma-moha-lahiri in Khamas by the same Tamil scholar to dance-music, similar to famous Useni Svarajati. It is printed in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini. He also did a Tamil translation of the Telugu Mahabharata.

His writings and compositions were generally in Telugu language.


As regards the Lakshana of his Kritis, Sri Subbarama Dikshitar followed the Mela- classification according to Govindacharya, though in his Raga-Lakshana Grantham Sangita-Sampradaya-Pradarshini, he  adopted the Venkatamakhin classification of Melas.

His compositional style, though resemble that of Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar in many aspects, has its own inimitable style.

He builds in to his compositions some of the features of the Kritis of Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar. For instance; he integrates the Raga-mudras into the Sahitya (lyrics) ; say, as in the case of  Punnagagandhari in the Kriti Mannaru ranga deva; and, Rama-ramakali-kalusha in the kriti Rama-rama. He also employs the Mudra ‘Guruguha’ in some of his Kritis.

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar was  also an adept in using poetic Alamkaras like Anu-prasa and Yamakas. For instance; his Daru Varnam in the Raga Nata-Narayani, has alliteration of the word Mana in the phrase: Maanani, Maanavati and Maanamagu

None can deny that Sri Subbarama Dikshitar had his own unique style. 


His Raga-malika compositions employ the Ragas, like: Gauri, Pahadi, Paraju, Darubar and Sri. In his Raga-malika’ Kaminchina kalavathira’, Sri Subbarama Dikshitar used Ragas, such as: Lalitha, Paraju and Gauri, in a series (all are Janya-ragas of Mayamalavagaula).

His Raga-malika – ‘Kanakambari’, the Sahitya of which was composed by one Krishna Kavi, is virtually a Grammar illustrating seventy-two Raganga-Ragas. Here, Sri Subbarama Dikshitar has succeeded in seamlessly integrating the Raga-mudra into the Sahitya. For instance; in the phrase’ kaamita subha phaladayakaa pinaakapani’, the Raga-name Kaapi is woven; and, in ‘Priyamuna-ayame kori’, the Raga Yamuna is hidden.


Poetic excellence and musical prowess are the hallmark of his compositions. Some of his exquisite Varnams gained popularity. For instance; his Chowka Varnam in Raga Surati beautifully portrays the Raga-bhava with its delicate prayogas and Gamakas. In this Varnam, the Sahitya (meaningful words) succeeds   the Charana; and the Varnam concludes with the Pallavi.

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar preferred to follow the traditional pattern of Varnams having an Anubanda. All his Varnams, therefore, end with the Pallavi (due to the presence of Anubanda at the end of Citta Svara) ; and,  not with the Caranam , as in the case of the Varnams of other composers.

[Pada Varnams used for dance choreography are also called as Chowka Varnams or Ata Varnams. They usually are set in slower tempo (Chowka kalam) ; and, have longer lines and pauses, enabling  apportrayal of the Bhava of the Varnam . All its Svaras are accompanied by Sahitya (lyrics) and Sollukattus which are made up of rhythmic syllables. The dancer performs the Sahitya in Abhinaya and the Sollukattus in Nritta. Chowka Varnams, are, thus, well suited to dance. 

Further, learning to sing Chowka Varnams is considered a part of developing a good voice culture. The Chowka kalam rendering helps one to explore the Raga, in depth. It also helps the learner to balance the Tala; to adjust the Gamakas; and, to pay greater attention to pauses.]


The body of his known Musical creations  (about 35) include Eight Kritis (two in Bhairavi, two in Shankarabharanam; and one each in Sriranjani, Yadukula kambodhi , Natakuranji , and Kalyani); Seven  Raga-malikas (of these four are in praise of the King); Twelve Varnams (four Tana-varnams, three Chowka Varnams and five Pada varnams ); and two Darus.

Most of his compositions are set in Rupaka Taala or Tisra Eka Taala.

[ For a list of the Compositions of Sri Subbarama Dikshitar , please check : ]

Somehow very few of Sri Subbarama Dikshitar’s  Kritis are rendered in the concerts. V. Subramanyam (in Shanmuka Jan-Mar 2008) wonders that might be because his compositions are tightly knit and sophisticated; their musical content is hard to assimilate and to bring out the nuances and Sancharas effectively; and, they do demand Sangita jnana.


As mentioned earlier,Sri Subbarama Dikshitar followed the Mela-classification according to Govindacharya, though in his Raga-Lakshana Grantham Sangita-Sampradaya – Pradarshini , he  adopted the Venkatamakhin classification of Melas,

Sri Tyagaraja gave form to most of the Ragas in the Sampūrṇa-Raga-paddhati system, where each Mela-karta has all the seven Svaras in their Aroha (ascending) and Avaroha (descending) scales. Here, the 72 Melakarta Ragas (from Kanakangi to Rasikapriya) are grouped under Twelve Chakras.

(Please check here for Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Appendix (Anubandha) to Chaturdandi  Prakashika )

Sri Mutthusvami Dikshitar followed the other system – Venkatamakhin’s classification  of Melas  – termed  as Raganga Raga (equivalent term to Mela-kartha) , which adopts the principle that the Raganga Raga needs to be Sampurna in either Aroha or Avaroha,  but non-linear (A-sampurna , not-sampurna).  Here , under  Venkatamahin’s scheme (Kanakambari to Rasamanjari) ,  Sri Mutthusvami Dikshitar gave form to most of those Ragas through his compositions. (But, at the same time, he was quite aware of the classifications under the other system as well)

Prof. Ramanathan explains: The difference between Mela-karta and Raganga-raga is that while the former (Mela-karta) had to have all the seven Svaras in both the Aroha (ascent) and in the Avaroha (descent); but, for the latter (Raganga-raga) it was sufficient if the seven Svaras were present  either in Aroha or in Avaroha.

Further , in Mela-karta, the  Aroha and Avaroha the seven Svaras have to occur in their regular (krama) sequence ; while in the Raganga –raga , the  sequence of Svaras in   Aroha  and  Avaroha could be irregular (vakra) .

In other words; the Melakarta Ragas are all Sampurna Ragas, but the converse is not true, i.e., all Sampurna Ragas are not Melakarta Ragas.

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar in his Sampradaya-Pradarshini, meticulously explains, describes and illustrates , in great detail, all the 72 Raganga Ragas,  spread over three volumes: Volume I (1-24); Volume II(25-36); and  Volume III(37-72).

In Volume One  of Sampradaya-Pradarshini, pages xix to xxvi , Sri Subbarama Dikshitar provides the names and other details of the 72 Raganga and Janya Ragas, in a tabular from under the title “ Ragangopanga Bhashanga – Raga Murchana Table’.

Please check ; and go to page xix.

And , on page xxxvii , Sri Subbarama Dixshitar  provides the graphic presentation  of the 72 Raganga Ragas , in the Raganga Raga Chakram

Raganga raga Chakram0001


Sri Subbarama Dikshitar in his Sangita-prachina-paddathi outlines the Guna–Dosha (merits and shortcomings) of a Vak-geya-kara, the composer who sets his lyrics to music. According to him, the composer of a traditional Karnataka Sangita Kritis that satisfy the norms and requirements as laid out in the Lakshana Granthas: should be endowed with sharp intellect; should possess thorough knowledge of Vyakarana, use of various types Vibhakthis and Chhandas; should have the gift of dexterous use of words , the ability to bring out various shades of their meaning picturesquely ; should have an insight into dance and other art forms;  and, necessary have the  sense  and understanding of the Rasas.

At the same time, he cautions that a Composer should keep aside professional jealousy, prejudices and rivalry while working. He should have a sense of balance and keep his mind open to alternate views and opinions. And yet; he should have the ability to establish his stand in the gathering of the learned (Sadas).

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar was indeed a repository of all such virtues and merits.


Unlike in the case of Sri Tygaraja, the main line of disciples (Shishya-parampara) in the Dikshitar tradition (Dikshitar-parampara) is represented by its family members. Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar was followed by his famous son Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar. And, Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar was followed by his brother Baluswamy Dikshitar who in turn was followed by his son Subbarama Dikshitar.

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar was followed by his son whom he named him as Mutthuswamy Dikshitar (who later gained fame as Ambi Dikshitar). And, Sri Ambi Dikshitar was followed by his son Tiruvarur Baluswami Dikshitar.

[As said; Sri Dikshitar’s line was  carried on , mainly,  by his family members.  Apart from his descendants and the Tanjavur Quartet, Sri Subbarama Dikshitar mentions the following  few as Muddusvami Dıksita’s disciples:

1. Tirukkadayur Bharati, an expert in Tamil and music; 2. Avudayargudi (koil) Veena Venkataramayya; 3. Tevur Subrahmanyayya; 4. Tiruvarur suddha mrdangam Tambiyappa, well versed in mrdangam, laksya and laksana; 5. Koranadu Ramasvami, an exponent of laksya and laksana of Bharata ; 6. Tiruvalandur Bilvavanam, an expert Nagasvaram player; 7. Tiruvaur Ayyasvami, composer of many tana varnas;  8. Tiruvarur Kamalam, famed in the arts of music and dance; and, 9. Vallalargudi (koil) Ammani well versed in music.]

Please also check here for an article featuring the Dikshitar Shishya parampara.


Ambi Dikshitar

Sri Ambi Dikshitar (1863-1936) who succeeded Sri Subbarama Dikshitar as the Asthana Vidwan (court musician) at Ettayapuram, stayed there for a long time. Later, he migrated to Madras where he lived for the rest of his life.

Sri Ambi Dikshitar is credited with Kritis , such as : Ganapathe mahamathe (Kalyani); Gananathaya (Gowli); Ganapathi sodaram (Arabhi); Varasidhi vinayakam (Naata); Sri Saraswathi vidhiyuvathi (Devakriya); Gopika manoharam (Mohanam) and a few others. He adopted the signature (Mudra) Guruguha, following his celebrated ancestor Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar.  

[ please check here for the list of the compositions of Sri Ambi Dikshitar]

But, his fame rests mainly on preserving and propagating the Kritis of Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar; and bringing up a line of eminent disciples.

While in Madras, Sri Ambi Dikshitar gathered around him a circle of disciples, scholars and admirers. Sri Ambi Dikshitar made his life mission to preserve and propagate the Kritis of Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar in their pristine purity. In his efforts, he was ably aided by Justice T. L. Venkatrama Iyer; brothers Tirunelveli, Anatakrishrna Iyer and Sundaram Iyer; and others.

DK PattammalSri Ambi Dikshitar initiated and guided Smt. D. K. Pattammal in singing Dikshitar’s Kritis.  He was also the teacher of the renowned musician –  Artist Shri S. Rajam who popularized rendering of Dikshitar’s Kritis over All India radio Madras. Shri Rajam also presented pictorial representations of many of Dikshitar’s Kritis.


The making of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini

Dr. V Raghavan describes in detail the course of events that led to Sri Subbarama Dikshitar writing the major work of his life [Collected Writings on Indian Music by Dr. V. Raghavan, Vol.III.  P.87-95]. Here is a summary of that.

Sri  A.M.Chinnaswāmi Mudaliyār , a Superintendent at that time in the Madras Government Secretariat, a Roman Catholic Christian with a consuming passion for Karnataka music, having started on his gigantic project of presenting Oriental Music in European Notation, sought out representatives of the direct Shishya-parampara of Tyagaraja like Walajahpet Krishnaswami Bhagavatar and wrote out 800 pieces of Tyagaraja and other composers in Staff Notation, checking his scripts with the aid of violinists trained in Western music who were asked to play them by sight.

Though this journal was praised by many, the response was meager and Chinnaswamy Mudaliar had to discontinue its publication.


During this period (1895) , A.M.Chinnaswāmi Mudaliyār  , with his eyesight failing after years of notating and casting types,  began corresponding with Sri  Subbarama Dikshitar , who was then serving as the Asthana Vidwan at the Court of Ettayapuram , known for its patronage of arts.  He also came into contact with Sri Subbarama Dikshitar and the Rajah of Ettayapuram.  This relationship proved very significant, as it culminated in the publication of the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini in the year 1904, with the patronage of the Rajah of Ettayapuram. But, sadly, Sri Chinnaswamy Mudaliar passed away before the Book was published.

For a detailed study on the life and works of Sri Chinnaswamy Mudaliar ; as also on the notation system developed by him for the Karnataka Samgita , please do read the research paper produced by Smt. Aishwarya Shankar . Please check here.


[ Sri Subbarama Dikshitar , explaining the context, writes:

With the intention of making music as language, A. M. Cinnasami Mudaliyar , M.A. started writing a book called ‘Pracına Gana ‘, in English notation, in the year 1895; and, was trying to publish it. At that time, he came to know about me, brought to me the work he was doing. I mentioned to him the details of the Gamakas and other features of the Venkatamakhi’s system of music.  I suggested to him that it would be useful to publish the Kritis of Carnatic music using the staff notations , to bring out their characteristic shades and Bhavas. 

Thereafter, Cinnasami Mudaliyar stopped his projects; and, for three years, learnt the intricacies of Gamakas and the traditions of Venkatamakhin from me. Later he came to Ettayapuram, visited the Maharaja, and requested him that he should order Subbarama Dıksita to complete this ‘Sangıta Sampradaya Pradarsini’ in Telugu, which would prevent the loss of Venkatamakhin’s rules of laksya and laksana; and, also include the symbols for the Gamaka, tala kala pramanas (time scale), and have it printed in the music printing press ‘Vidya Vilasini’, belonging to the Court. As per the command of the Maharaja to me, I started on the 21st December 1901, and not only completed the ‘Purva vaggeyakara caritramu’; but also the information that is contained in this book, ‘Sangıta laksana sangraha ‘ that supports the symbols of Gamakas and Talas, which was started on 17th December, 1903, and is being continued.]

Between the years 1895 and 1899 , Sri Subbarama Dikshitar made several trips to Madras to stay with Chinnaswamy Mudaliar and teach him the compositions of Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar and confirming the corrections of Chinnaswamy Mudaliar’s staff notations.

By about 1899, Chinnaswamy Mudaliar was finding it very difficult to carry out the printing and publication of these works, because of his failing eyesight. He therefore visited Ettayapuram and personally appealed to all those who mattered, including the Rajah himself, and convinced them the need for the Ettayapuram Samsthanam to take up the task of completing his mission and to ensure publication of  his compilation. He also urged that Subbarama Dikshitar should be allowed to help in finalizing the notations for the entire music of the Dikshitar School.

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar himself records that he would not have undertaken the huge task but for the appeals and insistence of Sri Chinnaswami Mudaliar. In the year 1901, Subbarama Dikshitar at the age of 60 began working on the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini. It is truly a work of great love and intense dedication for the subject of Music. It reflects the depth of learning and artistic wisdom of Sri Dikshitar. Besides the original musical works  (Varnas, Kritis, Raga-malikas, Darus  etc)   which Sri Subbarama Dikshitar himself composed , the explanatory notes  he offers on the Raga-lakshanas, that illustrate the  unique characteristic Svara phrases of each Raga, he adds elaborate Sanchari phrases that help in understanding the structure of the Raga.

An important aspect of this Book is the use of Gamaka signs in the notation that help in defining minute details in the musical structure of the composition. The explanations on how the Gamaka signs are to be interpreted and rendered in vocal and instrumental music are also given. This method of notation, aimed at reflecting the form of the song as it would be sung, has helped to retain the compositions in their original form, ensuring some uniformity and authenticity in the way they are rendered.  

And, it is through his monumental work that we know about many compositions of Vaggeyakaras before and during his time.  His Book, an encyclopedia of musicology, is indeed a treasure house.

Before the task got underway, Sri Chinnaswami Mudaliar made an appeal to Sri Subbarama Dikshitar that he should put down in writing notations and everything that he knew without holding back anything for any reason. Sri Dikshitar agreed to that. True to his word, he unselfishly poured out his entire learning and knowledge into the Great Book the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar worked on Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini for more than four years. Its printing began towards the latter part of  1901 ; and , just as the work was in progress, Sri Chinnaswamy Mudaliar sadly passed away in December 1901.

-Ettaiyapuram_raja Jagannathan ChettiarThanks to the continued patronage of the Rajah, the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini was completed in the middle of 1904, after four years of hard work. Its types for Telugu and for the Gamaka-signs were ordered and specially made.  The credit for having printed this very difficult material at a time when printing in this country was in its infancy goes to Sri T. Ramachandra Iyengar and the Vidya Vilasini Press at Ettayapuram. The book was published under the authority of Rao Bahadur K. Jagannathan Chettiar, Secretary of the Ettayapuram Samsthanam. It was doubtless one of the most authentic documenters of Indian music and musicology.

In his work, Sri Subbarama Dikshitar acknowledged the assistance he got from the Principal of Maharaja’s College in Pudukottai, Sri S. Radhakrishna Iyer, for his research on the Lakshanas, drawing material from various early works on musicology.

Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini

The Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini was published on 15, February 1904, (Śobhana, Phalguna , Krishna-paksha, Chaturdasi, Monday)  in two volumes running into 1770 pages. In 1905, his book Prathama-abhyasa Pustakamu was published.

This included early lessons in music as well as some Kritis. It contains both theoretical and practical aspects of elementary teaching methods; and is relevant to the music field even to this day. In this book Sri Subbarama Dikshitar included thirty-two compositions, under the title Nottaswara Sahithyamu with Svara notation, as technical compositions for beginners (Abhyasagana).

In 1906, the book Samskritantara Dravida Keertana with tunes he composed for Krishnasamayya’s sahitya was brought out.

Later, Sri Subbarama Dikshitar intended to bring out the Collected Edition of the compositions of Sri Tyagaraja, the Kritis of Syama Shastry and the Padams of Kshetrayya. But, before his dream could be realised, death snatched him in the year 1906, when he was just about 67 years of age.


Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini

The monumental work contains the biographies of 77 musicologists and musicians right from the time of Sarangadeva to those of Subbarama Dikshitar himself, as also the biographies of some Ettayapuram rulers.

There is also  an exhaustive tabular statement of Raganga, Upanga and Bhashanga Ragas with

    • their Murchanas;
    • 170 Gitas of Venkatamakhin ;
    • 10 Prabandhas ;
    • 229 compositions of Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar; 
    • 41 Chittai-tanas of Venkatamakhin;
    •  some Raga-malikas  (including the longest Raga-malika, the Asttotttara-sata-ragamalika of Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar and the  superb 72 Raganga-raga-malika of Sri Subbarama Dikshitar),
    • Suladis, SvarajatisVarnasDarus,  and Padas – all numbering about one hundred.
    • The 72 Melas and their Janyas, with Raga-lakshanas, explanations, illustrative Lakshana-Gitas and Sancharas are also given.


Regarding the organization of the material in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, Dr. P P Narayanaswami writes :

The mathematical precision with which Sri Subbarama Diksitar penned this great work is really amazing. The Svara-sahitya, vertical alignment everywhere is executed with utmost care. The format of presentation of the various Raganga and the Janya-ragas follows a uniform pattern. The Chakra and Mela number and the mnemonic phrases are listed at the commencement of each section.

This is followed by the name of the particular Raga with a specification of whether it is Raganga or a Janya, with the classification of Bhasanga or Upanga Raga.

Immediately following this, a Laksana Sloka by Muddu Venkatamakhin is provided. Then comes the Arohana/Avarohana scales of the Raga, referred to as “Murccana“, to indicate that they are not mere scales in the usual sense; but a way to understanding the melodic characteristics of the Ragas. The Arohana- Avarohana scales do not follow the conventions we are used to (where we expect all seven notes in the proper sequential order; and no Dlrgha notes to be present).

In the next paragraph, the Laksana details are provided by Sri Subbarama Diksitar. On the Lakshya side, we first see a Gitam by Venkatamakhin. This is followed by some compositions in that Raga, which invariably includes one or two by his grand uncle Sri  Muttuswami Diksitar.

While major Ragas like Bhairavi, kambhoji, Shankarabharanam feature many important compositions, most others have just only one or two illustrative compositions. Sometimes, there are Cauka-varnas, Prabandhas, Padas, and so on.

Each section concludes with a Sancari composed by Subbarama Diksitar himself in some specific Taala structure. Due to limitations in printing, the various Avartas in each song are arranged in a continuous manner,  with the Danda mark (I or II) separating them (and not in separate vertical columns of equal length, that we are accustomed to in present day musical work)

The book employs several carefully crafted Gamaka symbols. The role of each of them is clearly explained by the author in the chapter on Gamaka symbols, with illustrations.


For the details of the Ragas and Taalas dealt in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, please check :

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar introduced symbols for the 15 Gamakas of Karnataka Sangita, perhaps based on his discussions with Sri Chinnaswamy Mudaliar.

Some compositions of Sri Tyagaraja and Sri Shyama Sastri, besides 229 of Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar also find place.  In addition to two volumes of the main work Sri Subbarama Dikshitar also brought out Prathama Abhyasa Pustakam of 230 pages meant for the beginners. 

Thus, the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini is a singularly valuable resource for understanding the traditions of Karnataka Sangita and of Sri Muttuswami Dikshitar in particular.

In order to celebrate the 100 years of its publication in 1904, an English translation was undertaken by Dr.P.P. Narayanaswami and Dr. Vidya S Jayaraman along with a team of volunteer proofreaders.  An English Web-edition has also been brought out. The English Web-edition is based on the original Telugu version and includes all the Gamaka symbols (ornamentation) and Svara notations as given in the original Edition. The Vaggeyakara Caritamu, the biographical accounts of Composers, is also given.

For an analysis of the of Sangita sampradaya Pradarshini , please check :


For the Web-edition of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, please check the following link.

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Sri Subbarama Dikshitar, Sri Chinnaswamy Mudaliar, The Samsthanam of Ettiyapuram and its printers for this magnificent work.  The efforts of the translators (into English) and their teams are truly commendable.


[ For a detailed study of the Life and works of Sri Subbarama Dikshitar, please do read the Doctoral  Thesis submitted to the University of Kerala by Dr. Smt. R K Dhanya, during the year 2013.

Dr. Dhanya, in her excellently well prepared paper, comprehensively covers the life-sketch and events of Sri Subbarama Dikshitar; study of literary and musical excellence his compositions; comparison with the compositions of Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar; and, the Ragas and Talas dealt in Sri Subbarama Dikshitar’s monumental  work  the Sangita sampradaya Pradarshini

You may start with the link:

And, thereafter, follow the links to each of the eight chapters of her paper , commencing with :



Continued in

Next Part

Sources and References

  1. Collected Writings on Indian Music (Vol.III. P.87-95 ) by Dr. V. Raghavan
  2. Dikshitar Parampara by Dr. R. Vedavalli
  3. The Birth of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini by Dr.Arvindh Ranganathan
  4. V Subramanian, Shanmuka Jan-Mar 2008 Subbarama Dikshitar Vaggeyakara.

7. Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini (English Web Edition)

The pictures are taken from Internet.


Posted by on June 14, 2015 in Music, Sangita


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 responses to “Music of India – a brief outline – Part Twenty

  1. Rsr Swamy

    October 28, 2019 at 5:04 am


    • sreenivasaraos

      October 28, 2019 at 6:45 am

      You are most welcome

      Wish you and your family a Very Happy Deepavali

      May the Great Mother Bless You All


      • Aravind T R

        November 12, 2020 at 1:19 pm

        Dear sir,

        Thanks for the article on Sri Subbbarama Deekshitar. I am the author of the article you cited, namelt “The birth of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini ‘. Can yiu suggest a way to contact you?

      • sreenivasaraos

        November 12, 2020 at 2:08 pm

        Dear Dr. Arvind

        You are welcome
        You just have contacted me.


      • Aravind T R

        November 12, 2020 at 2:11 pm

        Can I get your mail id ? It is better to discuss in mail .


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