OVERVIEW – CONTINUED
Before we get to the specifics of the ‘Golden Age’, let us digress for a while; and, talk about Karnataka Samgita, in general, till date.
Karnataka-Samgita, One of the world’s greatest musical traditions, enjoys a long and a hoary textual tradition going back to Matanga (Brhaddeshi, Ca.5th century), Sarangadeva (Sangita-ratnakara , 13th century) and Rama-amatya (Svara-mela-kalanidhi, 16th century) followed by Govinda Dikshitar (Sangita-sudha, mid 16th century).
Govinda Dikshtar’s son Venkatamakhin’s work Chatur-Dandi-Prakashika (Ca.1660) is relevant today mainly because of its Anubandha (Appendix), which suggested a system for classifying the then known Ragas. However, the descriptions of the features (Lakshana) of those Ragas are not of much importance today; because, much of it has undergone revisions.
Venkatamakhin also experienced a similar difficulty with regard to the Lakshanas of the Ragas mentioned in Sarangadeva’s text, written about three hundred years prior to his time.
Venkatamakhin remarks: Sarangadeva claims to have described the Lakshanas of about two hundred and sixty-four Ragas. But, all those Ragas have disappeared today. My venerable Guru could lay down the Lakshanas for only fifty Ragas.
Strangely, many of the Ragas described by Venkatamakin also suffered a similar fate. Therefore, what has tangibly come down to us from the Chatur-Dandi-Prakashika is only the initial scheme of 72 Melakartas.
It is here, the Golden age of Karnataka-Samgita of the early and the middle of the Eighteenth Century enters as a life-saver. The traditions of Karnataka Samgita found a new lease of life during this period, when the Lakshana and Lakshya of the Ragas were clearly defined, preserved and passed on to the succeeding generations.
The Karnataka-Samgita of today, I reckon, can be said to be primarily rooted in the practices that were prevalent and developed during the Golden Age of the early and mid Eighteenth Century.
The scholars opine that the main reason for such a successful phenomenon is the unbroken lines of Guru-Shishya-Paramapara that has come down to us till this day, preserving and bringing along the Ragas, the compositions and the distinct practices of each School or tradition of Music.
Here, one has to necessarily appreciate the value of the Oral Traditions, which has enabled and ensured to pass on the Lakshana and Lakshya of the Karnataka-Samgita from generation to generation over the past two and a half centuries, without incurring much damage.
It was perhaps the lack or the absence of such a chain of Guru-Shishya oral tradition that led to the loss of Music compositions and the Raga-Lakshanas during the long and hazy period of three centuries that separated Sarangadeva and Venkatamakhin.
As compared to that, the Music traditions-of Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Shyama Shastry – in the following three centuries have survived and propagated remarkably well, principally due to the continuing Oral Tradition through the unbroken lines of the Gurus and the Shihyas.
Another factor that truly has served to proliferate the Karnataka Samgita, over the couple of centuries, among the various sectors of the community is its ’openness’.
Unlike in the medieval times or in the earlier phase of the Hindustani Samgita, the Karnataka-Samgita was never treated as a family-heirloom or as a well guarded preserve of a particular School (Gharana). It was open to the community as a whole. Here, the Bhajana-Sampradaya, Divyanama and Utsava -Sampradaya -Kirtanas played a very significant part. The Bhaktas at the Bhajana Mandalis sang the devotional Kirtanas, which, in fact, were not mere simple songs.
Take for instance; the Divya-nama-Kirtanas of Sri Thyagaraja such as Hariyanuvaari (Todi); Sri Rama-dasa (Dhanyasi); Nammakane (Asaveri); Naatha-Brovavve (Bhairavi) ; Rama –Rama (Huseni) and Sita-Nayaka (Ritigaula) and so on, do have a certain degree of sophistication in their structure, in the spread of their Ragas and in the choice of their Taalas. Such Kirtanas of great merit were practiced and sung in a group even by the ‘un-initiated’ lay singers. These did help in spreading a ‘Music-culture’ among the members of the community.
Even prior to the Golden Age, the Padas of Sri Purandara Dasa who had adopted Unch-vrtti (walking along the village streets, going from house to house singing and collecting grains etc., needed for the day) meant that the community in which he lived was exposed to and gained familiarity with chaste Music, almost every day of their lives. Sri Thyagaraja also followed such Uncha-Vrtti. And, when he went around the village, from house to house singing his Divyanama and Utsava-Sampradaya-Kirtanas, perhaps many would have joined him and sung along with him.
These practices, to a large extent, helped to build up and maintain a widespread, healthy music fraternity. It also ensured that the Karnataka-Samgita is not restricted to being a mere ‘chamber-music’ confined within a limited space for the pleasure of a few. Thus, Karnataka-Samgita is more than a mere performing Art. It is indeed a cognitive Art that is appreciated and enjoyed by the varied sections of the Society. That has also helped in bringing about a greater degree of interaction between the performers and listeners; and, perhaps, between the performers too, particularly of those living within a small distance of one another.
Apart from such interaction between the performer and the listener, another significant feature of the Golden Age was the remarkable variety in the musical content of the vast output.
Till about the mid-eighteenth century, the Sahitya was the dominant factor. Generally, a renowned great poetry, the Namavalis or the Stotras etc., extolling the virtues and powers of the gods and goddesses were set to music, largely as an offering to the deities, as also to benefit the devotees. Music here was a vehicle to convey pious ideas and sentiments.
With advent of the Golden Age and of the Celebrated Trinity, the Music did gain some ascendancy, although the Sahitya continued to be very important. The body of the Musical compositions of this period is distinguished by the sheer variety, modes of structure, the prolific and large output of classic Kritis, Varnas, Svarajatis and the Gitas etc. Here the Music came into its own exuberant form, in its multiplicity and glory. And, the Dhathu took over the Mathu. The range of musical rhythmic phrases was improvised in varied patterns with great ingenuity, and creative imagination.
The salient features of the Kritis of the Golden Age coul said to be : the well structured Kritis , having a judicious balance of Raga and Sahitya; of Kalpita and Manodharma Samgita ; of carrying forward the Music tradition in its essential purity.
The rendering of the Kritis and other types of compositions gained boundless array and depth with the introduction of the Manodharma Samgita, the rhythmic variations in the Kalpana-Svaras, Neravals and Sangathis. The other Mathu-Dhatu-Samkykta- Alamkaras like Svarashitya, verities of Gamakas, Prasas and Yatis came in to adore the Kritis.
These decorative features also facilitated greater freedom to a gifted performer to display her/his musical genius, virtuosity and originality in giving musical expressions to a wide range of ideas and emotions. Thus, Karnataka-Samgita, emerging from the shadows, was no longer confined to or bound to a fixed uninspired regimen. It gained more range, depth and immense reach.
And, for an ardent student of Music, the best way to learn the idioms and phrases that define Grammar (Lakshana) of a Raga is through diligent repetitive practice of the Varnas and Kritis composed in that Raga.
In the early stages of her/his learning, the student tries to faithfully reproduce what he is taught.
And, once she/he attains a certain level of proficiency, an amazing thing happens. She/ he will try to improvise upon her/his earlier experience; the initially internalized compositions that she/he was taught to sing are now turned into well formed segments of varying Gatis and Layas. She/he will strive to gain freedom to communicate her/ his musical ideas, through the set composition. One will try to innovate, search for more enterprising, venturous, expressions; and, assert ones individuality.
The student progresses from simple regimented replications to complex creative musical forms within the ambit of the finite fundamental rules of Karnataka-Samgita. That facility is aided by the fact Karnataka-Samgita is an open ended system; it provides scope for creating new Ragas by permutations of the Svaras. And, a Raga could be rendered in more than one ways.
Creativity is at the core of any Art-form. And, there are several layers of creativity.
Karnataka-Samgita is such a Symbolic System as it ties together the Classic and the free flowing music with natural grace and felicity; and, at the same time recognizing each one’s potential, its ability as also its context-sensitive limitations.
This is similar to learning a language. Once the student grasps the vocabulary of Raga, she/he will try to extract the finer and the more appealing aspects of the Raga; and, present it as a fluent, delightfully enterprising rendering. It is the aesthetic beauty of such creative Music that truly matters. It is perhaps such creativity and diversity that has kept the Karnataka Samgita alive and thriving.
A kriti-rendering, indeed, is quite flexible. It can be elaborated, expanded, and stretched out exploring its full potential through innovative strings of Sangathis, Neravals and Kalpana-Svaras. On the other hand, it can also be rendered without much elaboration. But, what is of essence is that the rendering should be pure and aesthetically pleasing.
Apart from the performer, the followers and admirers of Music also have enjoyed greater freedom. Once a Kriti was composed and was sung, it no longer remained the sole property of the composer. There are numerous instances where Svarashitya and Svarakshara were inserted in to the compositions at a later time either by the disciples or the admirers of the Composer. The performers also gained the liberty to offer varied interpretations to the musical phrases of the Kriti; sometimes slightly altering the lines of the Kriti (Patantara); adding adornments such as Sangathis and Chitta-Svaras and so on.
[ The Kritis of Sri Thyagaraja have come down to us through the lines of his major disciples: Tillaisthanam Rama Iyengar, Walajapet Venkataramana Iyer and Umayalpuram brothers. Each of those traditions has its own version (Patantara) of the Kritis composed by Sri Thyagaraja.
Each performer, in turn, opts for the version, which according to her/him, is aesthetically pleasing . And, there is no ostensible finality in these matters.]
There are also instances where the Raga of a Kriti , as set by the composer, was at a later time altered by knowledgeable musicologists for certain valid reasons. For instance; Kumbakonam Sri Rajamanickam Pillai re-set Sri Thyagaraja’s Kriti Jnana-mosaga-raada in Raga Purvi Kalyani, since the Raga originally suggested in the text – Shadvidha Margini– was virtually unknown to most performers.
Sri Semmangudi Sreenivasa Ayyangar re-tuned the popular Kriti Bhavayami Raghuramam of Maharaja Swati Tirunal set originally in Raga Saveri. He converted the Kriti into a Ragamalika , a delightful garland of Ragas ; setting its various sections in Natakuranji, Dhanyasi , Mahanam, Mukhari, Purvi Kalyani, and Madhyamavathi. This Ragamalika is now hugely popular.
One might perhaps say the noticeable factors that differentiate the Music of the Golden Age from that that of the present-day are mainly: (1) The contribution of Vac-geya-karas; the output of new Kritis; and the creation of new Ragas; (2) the quality of interaction between the composer-performer and the listener; and (3) the application of Music for varieties of purposes.
As regards the composers; the Kritis of the Uttama-Vac-geya-karas of great merit, such as Sri Pallavi Gopala Ayyar; Sri Thyagaraja; Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar; or Sri Shyama Shastry are endowed with rich, distinct characteristics and unique individuality. They differ not only in their approach to Music in general; but also in regard to the phasing of their structure, application of Alamkaras and in the Mathu and Dhatu phrases. They created new Ragas; brought to life rare and forgotten Ragas; composed a great number of compositions; experimented with different Sancharas, Gamakas and Taala patterns. Their Music was marked by freshness and a remarkable sense of enterprise.
Such a tremendous musical activity both in terms of quality and quantity perhaps became possible mainly because of their inspired and intimate involvement, the relations that existed among the music community as also between the composers and the listeners of those days. And, their Music took on its own enchanted life.
Perhaps it is difficult in any field of activity to sustain such a high degree of intensity for over a long period. Following the ebb and flow phenomenon of fluctuations, a lean period was bound to occur.
It appears that the Karnataka Samgita is presently passing through such a lean phase.
In regard to the Vac-geya-karas, Sri Mutthayya Bhagavatar and Sri Mysore Vasudevacharya were perhaps the last in the line of Classic Master Composers of Karnataka-Samgita. Since nearly about the last one hundred years no other composer of equaling merit has appeared on our Music scene; although there have been great many fabulous stage-performers. That is to say; we are thriving on the past glory.
In regard to the interaction between the performer and the listener, owing to numerous reasons and limiting factors, the type and its quality have undergone a sea change, a profound or notable transformation. Such proximity as that existed between the two is no longer possible.
What we now have, mostly, is the faceless-interaction. Even the attendance at the Music-Sabhas, I understand, is either stagnated or is dwindling. The TV Channel too hardly set apart a slot for Classical Music. Although a plethora of music-pieces are posted over the net, there is no meaningful dialogue between the listeners and the performers. The appreciation or otherwise is restricted to posting minions, thumbs-up or down. Many a times, the present-day singers of the Karnataka-Samgita feel they exist in a vacuum or as if they are walking through an uninhabited tunnel.
The rare and rather difficult Varnams, Svarajatis of Sri Shyama Shastry or the Kritis of Sri Dikshitar are neither much attempted on the stage nor or they sought for. The preference seems to be for the Ragas and Kritis that are light, easy and pleasant on the ears.
The teaching methods and practices also seem to tread along similar path. It is a fait accompli. The learners seem to have no option.
But, the simplified Karnataka-Samgita, in its wake, has in a way has helped it reach a wider audience; say, by way of film-music or light-songs based on classical Ragas. These at times re-define the Grammar of the Karnataka Samgita.
These developments underline the fact that each variety or style of Karnataka-Samgita, in its own context, undergoes changes, giving rise to revaluation of the earlier styles of rendering. It is this inventive diversity, I believe, that has ensured Karnataka Samgita is not stagnant; bringing in fresh ideas and reshaping its Grammar; and, enlarging its Music-community.
These factors might not exactly be peripheral.
Having said that, let me also mention that what truly is the need of the day is the applications of the cognitive general principles of Karnataka -Samgita as are relevant in the present context; preserving its purity; and, carrying it forward for greater acceptance , beauty and splendor .
[One could gainfully employ ones time and learn a lot reading the highly articulate and analytical study in tandem of Language and Karnataka-samgita: The Grammar of Carnatic Music by K G Vijayakrishnan (phonology and Phonetics, 2007)]
The Golden Age
The decades spread over the Seventeenth and the Eighteenth centuries are aptly lauded as the Golden Age, the brightest epoch, of Karnataka Samgita. That period of great and innovative activity not merely gave birth to significant texts that re-defined Music theories (Lakshana); but it also witnessed the flowering of various Music forms in abundance; as also, the creation of new formats of compositions of sparkling beauty and charm, such as : Kirtana, Kriti, Daru, Varna, Padam , Javali, Thillana, Naamavali and so on.
And, as regards the performance and practice of Music (Lakshya), it was indeed the most sublime period when the Grand Masters, the highly inspired meritorious composers (Uttama-vac-geyakaras) flourished.
Venkatamakhin (son of Govindacharya, a Kannada speaking scholar and musicologist who migrated from Mysore to Thanjavur), in his landmark work Chaturdandi-Prakasika (ca. 1650) gathered various music-forms under a four-fold system (Chatur-dandi); comprising Gita, Prabandha, Thaya and Alapa.
Here, the term Prabandha denotes a composition having specific characteristics; and, that which is well composed – ‘prabandhayeti Prabandha’. However, the definition was narrowed down to include only those compositions which were made up of Six Angas (Birudu, Pada, Tenaka, Pāta and Taala); and, Four Dhatus (Udgrāha, Melāpaka, Dhruva and Abhoga).
It appears that by about the time that the Chatur-dandi came to be composed, Prabandha as a class of Music was almost on its way out. And, in its later stages, the term Prabandha came to be understood as the final component of a four-fold system (Chatur-dandi) devised by Venkatamakhin: Raga; Thaya; Gita; and Prabandha.
Although, Prabandha, as a genre, has now disappeared, it needs to be said that the Prabandha did serve, for a long time, as a very versatile, resourceful musical format allowing scope for many of the regional variations to model their structure as per their special needs in the context of their culture. Prabandha was the dominant form of Music, Dance and other poetical works for more than a thousand years ending by 1700 AD or a little later.
The influence of the Prabandha has been long-lasting, pervading most parts, elements and idioms of Indian Music – both of the North and of the South. The structures, internal divisions, the elements of Meter (Chhandas), Raga, Taala and Rasa, as also the musical terms that are prevalent in the Music of today are all derived from Prabandha and its traditions. Many well-known musical forms that are in practice today have all emerged from Prabandha.
Apart from the Kritis, the other diverse musical forms, such as: Svarajati, Varna, Pada, Tillana, Jawali, Raga-malika etc., derived their fundamentals from the ancient Prabandhas. Only their musical-content and lyrics were attuned to suit the context of the occasions and times.
It could be said; the Prabandha helped the Karnataka Samgita, enormously, in defining its concepts and terms, specifying the structures of its songs, refining its Grammar; and, in ensuring continuity of our ancient tradition.
Thus, Prabandha is, truly, the ancestor of the entire gamut of varieties of patterns of sacred-songs, art-songs, Dance-songs and other musical forms created since 17-18th century till this day.
The more significant contribution of Venkatamakhin’s work is the Appendix (Anubandha) attached to the main body of the text.
The Chatur-dandi-prakashika is known and recognized today mainly because of the 72 Mela-Scheme it introduced; and, the great influence it exercised over the attempts to reorganize the Ragas and the Music structure in Karnataka Samgita.
The Appendix (Anubandha) to his Chatur-dandi-prakashika suggested the possibility of classifying Ragas, built on 12 Svara-Sthanas , under a 72 Mela scheme, made into two groups of 36 each (Shuddha-Madhyama and Prathi Madhyama) . It was, at this time, only a theoretical possibility, since most of those 72 Melas were yet unknown.
Out of such 72 Melas, Venkatamakhin was able to identify the Ragas of only 19 Melas. The rest (53) he considered as mere theoretical possibilities; and, non-functional, since no known Ragas could fit in to his scheme of these Melas. Therefore, he could name only 19 Melas; the rest (53) were not assigned any names.
Venkatamakhin went by recognizing a Mela-Raga if all the seven Svaras occurred in it, either in the Aroha or in the Avaroha. He did not insist that a Mela Raga should be a Sampurna Raga, with all the seven Svaras in both the Aroha and Avaroha
In Venkatamakhin’s grandson Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Ragalakshana a drastic shift takes place in the Mela-concept. He synthetically creates Janya Ragas for the remaining 53 Melas that were earlier considered non-functional.
Here, for the first time, the Raga-description is based purely on its Svara-sthanas. It is also at this stage that the Raga Grammar or its characteristic is described in terms of its Aroha and Avaroha Svaras.
He uses the terms Raganga-Raga (equivalent term to Mela-kartha) and Janya Raga; and, adopts the norm that the Raganga-Raga needs to be Sampurna in Arohana or Avaroha; not necessarily in both the orders. It is a non-linear (A-sampurna) system.
It is believed that it was Muddu Venkatamakhin, who gave the nomenclature for the Mela Ragas, (Kanakambari and Phenadhyuti etc) in his Gitam called Raganga-Raga-Anukramanika-Gitam; and, wrote Lakshanas for the Raganga (Mela) ragas and their Janyas.
Again, it was during late 17th – early 18th century, a person called Govindacharya the author of the Samgraha-chudamani , changed the names of some Melas of Venkatamakhin, by assigning the nomenclature Kanakangi, Ratnangi etc. to the 72 Mela kartha Ragas.
The long-drawn process spread over the centuries to identify the number of Melas ended during the Golden Age ; and, it settled down at 72 .
Govindacharya expanded on Venkatamakhin’s Mela concept by introducing the Sampoorna-Meladhikara (a term equivalent to Melakarta) scheme, which has a complete (Sampoorna)-Saptaka: both in its ascent (Arohana) and descent (Avarohana) structure; and, importantly it has the Svaras in the linear order (Krama). In this scheme, the Mela-kartas arise out of systematic permutation of the seven Svaras into the twelve Svara-sthanas.
This scheme is not merely of academic interest; but, is also of immense practical value to all musicians, musicologists and students.
Govindacharya is also said to written Lakshana-gitas and Lakshana-slokas (numbering in all 366) covering 294 Janya Ragas. And, it is believed, he refined the Katyapadi prefixes by linking the Mela Ragas to their first two syllables of their names. Govindacharya’s Sampurna Arohana–Avarohana profile lent the Mela-kartha a sort of elegance. This system of 72 Mela is the Karnataka Mela system of the present day.
Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar followed Venkatamahin’s scheme – A-sampurna Mela Paddathi- (Kanakambari-Phenadyuti); while, Sri Thyagaraja and Sri Shyama Shastry gave forms to most of the Ragas in the other scheme – Sampurna Mela Paddathi of Govindacharya-(Kanakangi-Rantnangi). The subtle but main difference between the two schemes appears to be the importance given to the linearity and non-linearity of the Svaras in Arohana and Avarohana.
[But, in the later period, the distinction between the Mela and the Raganga-Raga gradually faded away; and, the two concepts merged into one system of Janaka-raga and Janya-raga.]
The Uttama Vac-geyakara, the best among the highest class of composers is described as the Dhatu-Mathu-Kriyakari – as the one who writes the lyrics (Mathu), sets them to music (Dhatu) and ably presents (Kriyakari) his compositions.
The peak of the Golden Age was the phase that was adorned by extraordinarily brilliant music composers, musicologists and singers – the Uttama Vac-geyakaras. These Masters were endowed with proficiency and scholarship in Vyakarana (Grammar), Kavya-shastra (prosody), Alamkara-shastra (rhetoric), thorough knowledge of the languages and their dexterous use, and a refined aesthetic sense (Rasa-bhava), Suti-laya-jnana, besides an depth knowledge of Raga , Taala and Gamakas.
The wealth of the musical genius of Karnataka music flowered and bloomed during this period, when every branch of music and music related art-forms got enriched.
The most fortuitous occurrence or the heavenly blessing of this period was the sublime Music created by the Trinity of Karnataka Samgita (Samgita-Trimurthi), who flourished around the same time.
It was an invigorating phase that ushered in innovation and elaboration of fresh Ragas, just as the 72 Melakarta scheme was beginning to take root.
It was also during this period, the Kriti format of Nibaddha-Samgita musical compositions, developed over a long period of time; and, was evolving out of the shadows of the older Prabandha and its immediate predecessor Kirtana or Pada, reached its definitive form. Though several composers of repute prior to 17th century, such as Muthu Tandavar and Margadarsi Sesha Ayyangar, had experimented with the Kriti format, it was the celebrated Trinity of Karnataka Samgita that perfected it during the 18th century.
During this period , the importance of the aspects of harmony (Laya) in Music was brought to fore. It was said; Laya, the rhythmical movement in time and space, governs every process in the universe; every aspect of life; and, even the functioning of body and mind. And, Laya is vital to the Music as well.
Here, in Music, the Laya is said to have two aspects or dimensions: one is the Sruti-laya, which determines the pitch of the Svara; and, the other is the Taala-laya, which relates to the measurement of time-units and its divisions. In a musical phrase, Laya signifies rhythm or rhythmical movement; and, Taala is that which measures the tempo of this movement. Though technically, the terms Laya and Taala are defined differently; Taala cannot exist without Laya.
However, both Sruti and Taala are essentially abstract in their nature.
Sruti is understood as the distinct interval between two Svaras; But, it is not a precise mathematical or physical measure. The listening acumen of the musician is the sole guide to measure the rise or fall in Sruti. And, this is achieved only by diligent practice (Sad-abhyasa), as Abhinavagupta says: Sruteh Sabdasya Srotragr-Abhyasya utka.
Similarly, Taala the time involved in a musical context is also abstract; and, it cannot be physically measured. One has to maintain Taala instinctively. One tries to keep track of it through Kriya, the action of hand, palm or cymbal for reckoning the Taala units (Matras).
The innate Laya-jnana (awareness) is as essential as the Sruti-jnana for a performing artist, whether she/he be a singer or a player on an instrument.
It was during this period that besides the essential Angas (Pallavi, Anu-pallavi and Charana) many ornamental features were introduced into the Kriti format, by the musical Trinity.
Sri Thyagaraja is credited with introducing the practice of singing Sangathi (lit. putting together) – a set of melodic variations to expand on the various shades of a theme in all its angles, gradually unfolding the melodic (Raga-bhava) potential of a phrase (Sahitya) in combination with Svaras. Some say that Sri Thyagaraja adopted Sangathi-rendering from dance-music, where variations are done for display of Abhinaya and for articulating the different shades and interpretations of the basic emotion (Bhava).
The other decorative Angas integrated into the Kriti as embellishment in order to heighten its aesthetic beauty were:
(a) Chitta-svara or a set of Svara passages sung at the end of the Anu-pallavi and Charana; and, compared to a bunch of flowers of a beautiful creeper. Usually the Chitta-svaras are in the same Laya (rhythm) as of the Kriti. But, one may try to improvise in Druta, increasing the Laya or speed by two degrees. In some Kritis which may carry Viloma-Chitta-svaras, the same set of Svara-passages can be in the reverse order as well, but sounding the same.
(b) Svara-sahitya – where the Svaras (Notes) flow briskly, as if riding a wave, at even pace, in Madhyama-Kala, weaving melody (Raga), rhythm (Taala) and words (Mathu) into grand patterns of beauty and delight (e.g. Sri Thyagaraja’s Ghanaraga-Pancharatna-kriti Jagadananda-karaka in Nata Raga, Adi Taala, contains some of the most beautiful Svara-sahitya-Chittasvaras in the Charanas.)
The Svara-sahitya can be in the Kritis as also in the Pada-varanas and Svarajatis.
In the Kritis having Svara-sahitya, the Svara-passage is sung at the end of Anu-pallavi; and, the related Sahitya-passage will be sung at the end of the Carana.
In the Pada-varna, the Svara-sahitya is applied for the Muktayi-svara and ettugada-svaras. Here, the Sahitya is sung just after the Svara-passage.
And in Svarajati, the Svara-sahitya is appended to the Caranas.
(c) Madhyama-kala-sahitya – a decorative Anga is an integral part of the Kriti; and has two or three Avartas, occurring towards the end of Anupallavi, Charana or Samasti-charana. In some of the Kritis of Sri Thyagaraja, the Madhyama-kala-sahitya comes after the Anu-pallavi (as in Manasu-Svadheena in Sankarabharana); and, in some others, they occur after the Charana (as in Sadhimchane in Arabhi, and Entaro-mahanu-bhavulu in Sri-raga)
(d) Solkattu are regular Chitta-svaras, where in some portions, instead of Svaras, appropriate Jatis or bunch of syllables or spoken rhythms and patterns are added. Jatis are sung to the music of the displaced Svaras after the Charana; often Solkattu Svaras are sung after Anu-pallavi in Vilamba-kala and after Charana in Druta-kala,
(e) Gamakas (the ornamented flourishes of the Note) are the graces or embellishments added for enhancing the melodic beauty of the Kritis. Gamakas are the very vital factors of Karnataka Samgita. They bring out the unique nature of the Raga (Raga-svarupa) in diverse modes of Raga-sanchara, by altering the plain character of the Svaras into delightful sound patterns. The Gamakas help to draw out the beauty that is inherent in Svaras. It also seamlessly and aesthetically bridges two adjacent Svaras in a Raga-phrase.
These are executed in varied forms, such as: graceful turn, curve or sliding touch given to a single note or a group of notes, which animates Svaras to bring out the melodic character and expression (bhava) of a Raga. Gamaka-rendering is a highly individualistic and a specialized skill. The Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry are remarkable for their Gamka-prayoga.
The Gamakas are said to be one of the special features of the Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry. His compositions set in Vilamba-kala are apt for use of Gamakas excelling in Chowka-kala like Kampita (oscillations) and Jaru (glides)
(f) Svarakshara-Dhatu-Mathu-Samyukta-Alamkara is a variety of Sabda-lankara, a structural as well as a musical beauty, created by the confluence of the Svara syllable and the identical or like-sounding syllable in the Sahitya of a Kritis, Varanas, Raga-malikas, Padas, and Javalis etc. This is to say; a Svara-akshara and Svara-sthana-varna is one wherein Solfa letters figuring in the Sahitya of a passage are sung to the music signified by those letters.
Many of the compositions of Thyagaraja start with a Svarakshara. For instance; Marubalka in Sriranjani begins on the Svara ‘Ma’; and ‘Nee bhakti bhagyasudha‘ in Jayamanohari begins on the Svara ‘Ni’. In the Kriti ‘Sri Rama Padama’ in Amritavahini, the word ‘pa-da -ma ‘ is a Svarakshara phrase.
Sri Dikshitar, at times, used Svaraksharas i.e., the words matching with the syllables of the notes. For instance; Sadasrita (in Akshayalinga-Vibho) could be tuned as Sa-Da-Pa-Ma; and, Pashankushsa-Dharam (in Siddhi Vinayakam) could be tuned as Pa- SA- Ga- RI- Ni- SA.
Sri Shyama Shastry was indeed an adept in building Svarakshara-sahitya passages in to the Chitta-svaras of a Kriti; for instance, the identical sounding syllables such as ‘Padasarara‘ correspond to the Svaras: Pa-Dha-Sa in the Kriti, Devi-ni (Kambodhi).
Sri Shyama Shastry is remarkable for the rhythmic beauties that adorn his kritis. For instance; we find in his compositions many words constituted of the five syllables, like Anudinamu, Durusuganu, Gatiyanuchu, Mahimalanu, Sarasamukhi, Vara-mosagu, Padayugamu, Kamalayuga and Kamalamukhi etc. corresponding to the spoken rhythmic pattern “ta dhim gi na thom”.
(g) Mani-pravala (Mani=gem; Pravala=coral) is a type of beauty, where words of two or more languages figure in the Sahitya of a Kriti.
Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar brings in the Telugu and Tamil words amidst Sanskrit terms in three of his Kritis: Shri-Abhayamba-ninnu – chinthinchina-variki (Raga Sri); Venkatacalapate (Karnataka Kapi); and, Sri-maharajni (Karnataka Kapi).
The Travancore Maharaja Sri Swati Tirunal had composed 15 Mani-pravala kritis using Malayalam and Sanskrit as Mani and Pravala
The Sangita-Kavitvam (creative music) reached its peak during this epoch. In addition to the musical embellishments, the composers of this period brought in verities of Sabda-alamkaras (figures of speech) as in the Sanskrit prosody (Kavya-shastra) such as: Prasa, Anuprasa, Yati and Yamaka etc., in order to enhance the charm and poetic beauty of the Sahitya (lyrics) of the Kriti, in enterprising manners.
Prasa, generally, stands for rhyme, the repetition of the second letter (Dvitiya-akshara-prasa) in the first Avarta and in the same position in the subsequent Avartas. It may also occur in the first letter (Adi-prasa) and also in the end syllable (Antya-prasa).
The Prasa can be for a single letter or for groups of two or more letters. The length of the syllable preceding the Prasa letter should be the same throughout. Different types of Prasas were employed. Such Sabda-alamkaras of like-sounding pleasant words or phrases are meant to heighten the poetic elegance.
Anu-prasa is the repetition of similar letters, syllables or words.
Yatis are the Dhatu-Mathu-Samyukta-Alamkara, where the rhyming words are musically set in different patterns; The structures and the lengths of certain lines in the compositions of a Kriti, as also in the playing of the Mrdanga, are said to follow certain rhythmic patterns (Yati-s).
Different varieties of Yatis used by the composers are Sama-yati or Pipilika yati; Gopuccha-yati; Srotovaha-yati; Mrudanga, and Damaru etc.
In Sama-yati, where the lines are of uniform length (Sama), the same letter or sound is repeated at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.
In regard to the length of the lines in other Yatis: (1) Srotovaha-yati is broadening or increasing like the flow of a river; (2) Gopuccha-yati is tapering or decreasing like a cow s tail; (3) Mrdanga-yati is broadening towards the middle like the contours of a drum; and, (4) Damaru-yati is where the length of the lines first decrease and then increase; narrowing towards the middle, as the contours of an hourglass-shaped drum.
Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar was a skillful expert in the application of the Yati-Prasa-sabda-alamkara.
In his Sri Varalakshmi (Sri) and in Maye–Twam-Yahi (Sudha-Tarangini), he used the tapering pattern of Gopuccha.
And, in his kriti Tyagarajayoga Vaibhavam (Anandabhairav) , Sri Dikshitar uses both the Yatis : Gopuccha Yati and Srotovaha.
The phrases are: Gopuccha Yati (like a cow’s tail):
Tyagaraja Yoga Vaibhavam
Agaraja Yoga Vaibhavam
And Srotovaha Yeti (flowing or expanding like a river )
Tatva svarupa Prakasham
Sakala Tatva svarupa Prakasham
Shivashaktyadi Sakala Tatva svarupa Prakasham
Another literary decorative Anga, an exercise of words, often used in the Kritis is the Yamaka, a Sabda-alamkara, is a well-known device, where the same word or a repetition of vowels and consonants in the same order, give forth different meanings. That is; repeating words similar in sound; but, in different sense.
For instance; Sri Thyagaraja has used Yamaka-alamkara in the Kriti ‘Telisi-Rama-chintanato‘ (Purnachandrika), the words Rama, Arka and Aja are good examples of Suddha-Yamaka. Here, the word ‘Rama‘ is used in the sense of lady and in the sense of Brahman or the Absolute Being. The word ‘Aja‘ is used in the ·sense of goat and in the sense of Brahma or the creator; and the word ‘Arka‘ in the sense of sun and the plant caltrop
Amazingly, Sri Thyagaraja as also Sri Dikshitar and Sri Shyama Shastry, perhaps independent of each other, all contributed to the development of Kriti form, although they did not seem to have particularly corresponded or coordinated their efforts in this regard.
And, that was the turning point (Parva-kala) that gave a new sense of direction, vigour and identity to the music of South India. Their Kritis glowing like pure gems adorned with captivating fragrance (Sauganghika-svarna-pushpa) of sublime Ragas set in most fascinatingly elegant Sahitya are indeed matchless.
It is, fundamentally, the contribution of these brilliant and prolific composers that has enriched the art; given a definite form, substance and identity to the Karnataka Samgita and all the other related art-forms as are being practiced today. We all owe those Great Masters a deep debt of gratitude.
Continued in Part Three