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Sri Shyama Shastry (1763-1827) – Part Six

Continued from Part Five

Sri Shyama Shastry – Music-Continued

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Kshetra Kritis

The collection (Samucchaya) or the series of compositions that are dedicated to a common theme or to a particular Deity or Deities are known as Kriti-Samucchaya-Srinkhala.

And, the group of the Kritis (Kriti-Samucchaya) that relate to Kshetras (places sanctified by the presence of renowned temples or sacred rivers) are termed as Kshetra Kritis.

It was a tradition in those days for the musical composers of merit to compose and sing songs in honor of the presiding deities, whenever they visited a prominent temple-town. Such compositions were classified as Kshetra Kritis. Sri Thyagaraja as also Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar followed that time-honored tradition –Sampradaya  . So did Sri Shyama Shastry.

Such Kritis that primarily sing the glory, splendor and the adorable nature of the god or the goddess presiding over the Kshetra; have also built into their Caranas few details concerning the temple, its architecture etc., as also references to the Parivara-Devathas surrounding the principal Deity; the greatness (Mahima) of the sacred (Punya) Kshetra; and, the magnificence of the god residing there.

Sometimes, the name of the place/ temple-town (Sthala- Kshetra) where the musical-work was actually composed is built into it. The indications to that effect are called Sthala-mudra or Kshetra Mudra.

The Kshetra-Kritis are musical gemsremarkable for their soulful music, inspired rich lyrics and complex structure. Each of the compositions here is remarkable for the beauty of expression, devotional fervor and literary excellence.

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There are numerous instances of such series or group of compositions , as : the Pancha-ratna Kritis composed by Sri Thyagaraja at each of the pilgrimage centers he visited, in submission to the gods and goddesses   residing in the temples there , like : Varadaraja Swamy (Sri Rangam); Kamakshi (Kanchipuram); Venkateshwara (Tirupathi); Sundareshwara (Kovur); and, Saptha-risheeswara and  Devi Srimathi  (Lalgudi ).

The series of Kritis such as: Panchalinga Kshetra Kritis; Tiruvaruru Pancalinga Kritis; Navagraha-Kritis; Abhayambavibhakti-Kritis; Madhurambavibhakti-Kritis and similar others composed by Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar are well known. And, his Kamalamba-navavarna and Nilotpalamba-vibhakti Kritis are indeed marvelous and matchless.

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The only time that Sri Thyagaraja went out of Thiruvarur was at his age of seventy-two in order to honour an invitation extended by his Guru-samana Sri Upanishad Brahmendra of Kanchipuram. He hesitated much; and, set out of his home only after he was assured and promised by his family and disciples that they would unfailingly offer worship (Rama-panchayatana) to his beloved deity Sri Rama, regularly at all the tree times of the day. During that fairly long sojourn lasting for about six months or a little more (from April to October 1839) he visited several places and temples. The farthest place that Sri Thyagaraja visited was Tirumala, the abode of Sri Venkatesvara, atop the Tirupathi hills.

Among the Trinity, Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar was the foremost in this regard. He was a pilgrim virtually all his life. He visited a large number of shrines and sang about them and the deities enshrined there.

He composed soulful songs in praise of a number of gods and goddesses. About 74 of such temples are featured in his Kritis; and there are references to about 150 gods and goddesses. The most number of his Kritis (176) were in praise of Devi the Mother principle, followed by (131) Kritis on Shiva. Dikshitar was the only major composer who sang in praise of Chaturmukha Brahma.

In addition to submitting his prayers and praising (Stuti) the Devi or Devatha, Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar artistically built into his Kritis the details such as: the brief references to the temple; its architecture; its rituals; and, its deity. Amidst all these details he skillfully wove the name of the Raga (Raga-mudra) and his own VaggeyakaraMudra, signature. All these were structured into well-knit short Kritis composed in grand music, glowing with tranquil joy, embodied in delightfully chaste Sanskrit.

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Sri Shyama Shastry, unlike Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar, did not travel much; nor did he visit many temples. He was a rather reclusive person by nature; and, was greatly devoted to his own Mother Goddess – Bangaru Kamakshi, whom he regarded as if she were a living Goddess (Sakshat-pratyaksha-Devata) ; and, whom he worshiped, without fail, each morning, noon and evening (Tri-kaala-puja). He would scarcely be away from his Mother; and, hardly took out time to travel to other places

Apart from the place at which he  was born (Thiruvarur) and Kanchipuram, a place of special significance to him, as being the  home of his beloved deity Devi Kamakshi, Sri Shyama Shastry is said to have visited only four other places: Thiruvanaikal/ Jambukeswaram, Pudukottai, Nagapattinam and Madurai.

Of these places, Kanchipuram was the farthest from Thanjavur (say 190 miles).And; the next distant places were Madurai (120 miles); Nagapattinam (60 miles); and, Pudukkottai (60 miles).

He did not seem to have undertaken temple-tour (Thirtha-yatra) to visit these towns. He might have gone there as and when needed, perhaps, on invitation, to participate in certain occasions.

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While on the visit to those places, outside of Thanjavur, Sri Shyama Shastry prayed at some temples; and composed a few Kritis praising the presiding deity of those temples.

About twenty-two of his Kritis are addressed to Devi Kamakshi of Kanchi. Although he did visit the temple of Sri Kamakshi, situated in the city of Kanchipuram, all of those Kritis in praise of Kamakshi were surely not composed while he was at Kanchipuram.

His Kshetra-Kritis, apart from, at times, mentioning the name of the deity, do not give out much details of the temple, Deity or the Kshetra.

Perhaps, the few instances of Kshetra Mudra / Sthala-mudra that appear in his Kritis pertain to two or three Kritis out of the Nine he composed in praise of Devi Meenakshi of Madurai, while he visited her temple there.

In the Kriti ‘Devi nee Pada-sarasa’ (28-Kambhoji, Adi) the Sthala-mudra appears in the Anu-Pallavi, as: Sri Velayu Madhura nelakonna Chidrupini

In the Kriti Mariveregati (20-Anaandabhairavi, Misra Chapu) the Sthala-mudra appears in the first Carana as: Madhurapura-nilaya Vani.

Kadamba-kanana or Kadamba-vana usually refers to Madurai. The phrase Kadamba-kanana-mayuri appears in the opening line of the Pallavi in the Kriti Devi nee-paada-sarasamule (Khambhoji, Adi), which was sung by Sri Shyama Shastry at the Meenakshi temple in Madurai.

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Apart from the Varnam ‘Samini rammanave’ (Ananadabhairavi-Ata Taala), a Sandesha, where the Nayika sends a message, through her maid (Sakhi) to her beloved  Lord Varadaraja; and, the Kriti ‘Sami nine nammiti’ (Begada Adi Taala) praying to Muthukumaraswami of Vaitheeswaran-koil, all the other songs of Sri Shyama Shastry are dedicated to the Mother Goddess in her various forms and names; as:

Kanchi-Kamakshi; Bangaru-Kamakshi; Brihannayaki; Akhilandeshwari; Brihadamba ; Meenakshi;  Dharma-samvardhini; and Nilayatakshi  – enshrined in  various  Kshetras (temple-towns).

As many as of his 35 compositions are dedicated the Goddess Kamakshi – either as Kanchi-Kamakshi (16 Kritis); Kamakshi (8 Kritis); Kamakoti (6 Kritis); or as Bangaru Kamakshi (5 Kritis).

There are also Kritis addressed to the other forms (Rupa) and names (Nama or Abhidana) of the Mother Goddess as: Madura Meenakshi (8 +1 Kritis); Akhilandeshvari (5 Kritis); Brihannayaki (5 Kritis) ; Brihadamba (4 Kritis); Dharma-samvardhini (3 Kritis); and, Nilayathakshi  ( 2 Kritis)

various deities

Brihannayaki shrine

Thanjavur

Sri Shyama Shastry was entirely devoted to the Mother Goddess in her various forms.  Even while he lived in Thanjavur for about 44 years, he did not seem to have composed any songs in praise of the presiding deity of the Great Temple of Brhadishvara.

He did, of course, compose five Kritis calling out to the Goddess of that temple – Devi Brhannayaki. Perhaps, if one so chooses, the group of these Kritis might be called ‘Brhannayaki-pancha-ratna-Kritis’.

Brhannayaki

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Thiruvarur

 Sri Shyama Shastry did of course visit Thiruvarur the place where he was born; and where he spent about twenty years of his early life during his childhood and adolescence. The holy Kshetra of Thiruvarur is the home of Lord Pancha-nadi-shvara and Goddess Dharmasamvardhini.  Sri Shyama Shastry has composed three Kritis praising the Devi Dharmasamvardhini, specifically.

Dharmasamvardhini

This,  he did, of course, after he, along with his family, had moved out of Thiruvarur in order to settle at Thanjavur  during the year 1783-84. In fact, the musical career of Sri Shyama Shastry commenced only after he left Thiruvarur.

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Kanchipuram

Kanchipuram had a special significance to Sri Shyama Shastry. It is the seat of Kanchi Kamakshi, his Ishta Devatha; and, was the original abode of Bangaru Kamakshi, the deity he worshipped every day with utmost devotion.

However, most of his compositions dedicated to Kamakshi were composed by him while he was at Thanjavur. The scholarly opinion is that perhaps the Varna in Ananadabhairavi ‘Samini rammanave’ was dedicated to Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram. This Varnam is unique in another way too.  Almost all of the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry exude Bhakthi and Karuna Rasa. The Varnam ‘Samini rammanave’ is a rare instance of Madhura Bhakthi, where the Nayaki sends out a message (Sandesha) through her maid to her beloved Nayaka Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram beseeching him to come to her.

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Other Kshetras

A few other places that Sri Shyama Shastry visited and composed songs in praise of the presiding deities of the temples there are said to be: Vaitheeswarankoil (Muthukumaraswami); Thiruvanaikal (Akhilandeshvari); Pudukottai (Brihadamba) ; Nagapattinam (Nilayatakshi); and Madurai (Meenakshi).

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Thiruvanaikal / Jambukeswaram

In Thiruvanaikal / Jambukeswaram (near Tiruchirapalli) is the famous temple dedicated to Shiva where he manifests as Appu-Linga, the principle of the water-element (Appu or Jala). The Goddess of this Kshetra is Devi Akhilandeshvari, who is adorned with Sri Chakra inscribed in her earrings.

Sri Shyama Shastry composed five Kritis praising the glory of Devi Akhilandeshvari. The set of these five Kritis could perhaps be regarded as the Akhilandeshvari -Pancha-ratna of Sri Shyama Shastry.

Akhilandeshvari

Of these, the Kriti dedicated to Devi Akhilandeshvari– ‘Shankari Shamkuru-Chandra mukhi- Akhilandeshvar-Shambhavi- Sarasijabhava vandite- Gauri-Amba’(15- Saveri , Adi-Tisra-gati)- is indeed a masterpiece, a magnificent work of Art, which is very often sung in the Musical concerts.

The Kriti composed in highly lyrical Sanskrit is adorned with most delightful phrases for describing the beauty, virtues and splendor of the loveliest Devi; and, for addressing her with a range of suggestive names: Kalyani; Hara-nayike; Jagaj-janani; Bhavani; Bale; and Sundari etc.

The Kriti also praises the Devi through her countless virtues and powers, as: Sankata-harini; Ripu-vidarini; Sada-nata-phaladayike; Jagad-avanollasini; Angaja-ripu-toshini; Akhila-bhuvana-poshini; Mangala prade; Mardani; Marala-sannibha gamani; Sama-gana-lole;  and, Sadarti- bhanjana-shile

It is a simple prayer followed by many phrases, invoking the blessings of the Goddess.  There is joy, compassion, eagerness (Uthsukatha) and a sense of fulfilment (Dhanyata-bhava) in the Sahitya and in the Music as well. Unlike in some other Kritis, there is here neither sadness; nor pleading to the Mother to protect and rescue him from the miseries of life. He is requesting the Devi to grant happiness and wellbeing to all (Shamkuru).

Anupallavi

Sankata-harini; Ripu-vidarini; kalyani / Sada-nata-phala-dayike; Hara-nayike; Jagaj-janani

Carana (1, 2 and 3)

Jambu-pati-vilasini; Jagad-avanollasini; Kambu kandhare; Bhavani; Kapala-dharini; Shulini

Angaja-ripu-toshini; Akhila-bhuvana-poshini; Mangala prade; Mardani; Marala-sannibha gamani

Syamakrshra sodari; Shyamale; Satodari; Sama-gana-lole; Bale; Sadarti- bhanjana-shile

(Please check here for a rendering of the Kriti)

akhilandeswari

Pudukottai

The Seventh Century rock-cut cave temple of the Goddess Brihadamba is located near Pudukottai. Four compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry, all in Telugu, are said to be in praise of Brihadamba of Pudukottai. In all these Kritis, Sri Shyama Shastry prays to the Mother to protect him (Devi-nannu-brovavamma); to rid him of all sins (papamella pariharinci); and to show him love, compassion and mercy (Daya-chudu, Dayachesi varamiyamma Mayamma).

Brhadamba

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Nagapattinam

The ancient (6th century) shrine of Shiva as Kaya-rohana-swami and his consort Nilayathakshi is located in Nagapattinam, a coastal town. Sri Shyama Shastry two Kritis, in Telugu, in tribute to Devi Nilayathakshi.

Nilayatakshi

* In some versions the Raga of this Kriti is indicated as Mayamalavagaula

Here, Sri Shyama Shastry again praises the Mother by an array of names: Adishakthi; Maheshvari; Kumari; Nilayathaksi-Jagathsaksi; Palita-sruta-sreni; Sama-gana-lole; Komala-mrudu-vani; Kalyani; Omkari; Shambhavi; and, Dhrama-Artha-Kama-Moksha micchedi . And, he requests the Mother to please protect him (nannu brovarada O Jagadamba dayaceyave) .

The epithet ‘Nada-rupini’ appearing in the last lime of the Third Carana of the Kriti Nannu-brovarada (Janaranjani) – Shambhavi O Janani Nada-rupini Nilayathakshi, reflects the term Nada-rupini  (299) and Nada-rupa (901) of Lalita-sahasra-nama .

It is said; the Kriti Nannu-brovarada (Janaranjani) when it is rendered in Triputa-Tisra, its Chittasvaras and Svarasahitya are rendered in Madhyama-kala (?). The general practice appears to be sing Chittasvaras and Svarasahitya in Vilamba-kala.

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Nava-ratna-malika

While on a Visit to Pudukottai, an unknown person is said to have suggested to Sri Shyama Shastry to have a Darshan of Devi Meenakshi of Madurai; to compose and sing songs celebrating her matchless (Aprathima) glory (Mahima) and splendour (Vaibhava).

Accordingly, Sri Shastry went to Madurai; sat in front of Meenakshi Amman ; and , is said to have composed a garland (malika) of gem-like (ratna-samana) nine excellent (Bhavya, Divya) Kritis  exuding  Bhakthi-rasa, mostly in  Rakthi-ragas, set to attractive    rhythmic structures; and, adorned with ornamental  Angas  like Gamaka, Chittasvara, Svara-sahitya and rhetorical beauties like Yati, Prasa etc.

Navaratna malika

Although this set of Kritis is titled as Nava-ratna-malika; meaning that it comprises nine splendid Kritis, there is much debate about composition of the group. Nevertheless, it has, customarily come to be celebrated as Nava-ratna-malika, the garland of nine gems.

In the early references, only the first seven Kritis were included under the series. And, the remaining two slots were left undecided. But, it was surmised that the other two Kritis might be in the Ragas Nattakuranji and Sri; without, however, specifying the lyrics of the Kritis.

Since, the only two Kritis composed by Sri Shyama Shastry in those two Ragas were ‘Mayamma nannu brova’ and ‘Karuna-judavamma’, they have been provisionally included in the list, despite the fact their lyrics do not mention either the name of the deity as Meenakshi or its Sthala-mudra as Madhura.

[In some of the versions, the Kriti ‘Rave Parvatha-raja-kumari’ in the Raga Kalyani is reckoned as the eighth Kriti in the series.]

[Please click here for the Text of the Nava-ratna-Malika Kritis in Sanskrit.]

Madurai Meenakshi

  1. Mayamma Yani (8-Ahiri, Adi)

The Raga Ahiri, an ancient melodic type, a Janya of Hanuma-todi, is said to be a difficult Raga; but, highly rewarding. It is a Raga with Sampurna Svaras, both in the Arohana and the Avarohana, with Vakra-Sanchara.

Ahiri is very well suited for portraying Karuna Rasa, seeking for compassion. It is an early morning Raga, giving out a sense of devotion and pathos; and, is deeply meditative.

The nature of the Raga Ahiri (Raga-bhava) is very apt for the Sahitya of this Kriti.

The Kriti, starts with an emotionally charged  call to the Mother , pleading with her  ‘ Oh Amba, why do you not respond and talk to me even when I call out to you several time as  My Mother’  (Mayamma Yeni pilichte, nato matadarada , Amba).

Sri Shyama Shastry, the devotee, who calls himself a child (Bidda, Biddayani), affirms his unflinching faith in his Mother Goddess. The Raga, the emotive content and the lyrics set in simple, childlike, innocent appeals to the Mother, are all in harmony.

The Kriti follows the Tri-Dhatu format; and, has Pallavi-Anupallavi followed by three Caranas.  The first two Caranas have six lines (Paada) each; and the Third Carana has seven lines.

The Pallavi is in Vilamba-kala; but, the First Carana – Sarasija bhava Kari Hara-nuta Su-Lalita- commences as if in Madhya-gati.

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Normally his Kritis set in Adi-Taala commence in Vilamba-kala; and, all its Angas (Pallavi, Anupallavi and Carana) will be set in the same tempo.

But, in the case of this Kriti (Mayamma Yani), because of the increase in the number of words used in the Carana, the tempo of the Carana is made to pick up. And, the Carana commences as if it is in Madhyama-kala

That goes along with the Mano-bhava of the Sahitya. The Pallavi commences with the pleading in Vilamba-kala, imploring the Mother to talk to him. ’ Is it fair on your part Meenakshamma not to respond even when I call you as my Mother? You are my only resort; who else is there for me?(Ninnuvina vere gati yavarunnaaru)

Then, after a while, he seems to get impatient; and, starts to protest, as a child does. The tempo of the music in the Carana quickens with the line ‘Sarasija-bhava-Hari-Hara- nuta-su-lalita’; and, moves up to Madhyama-gati. And, pelts the Goddess with questions: Are you not generous (nera datavu gada)? Don’t have compassion for your child (bidda-pai goppa-ga daya-rada)?

A remarkable feature of the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastri is the coordinated movement of its Mathu and Dhatu along with emotional content  (Bhava) of the Sahitya and its corresponding Svara structure.

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2 .Meenalochana -brova (8-Dhanyasi, Misra Chapu)

The Raga Dhanyasi is again a Janya of Hanuma-Todi. It again is a Raga apt for making an emotional appeal.

Sri Shastry pleads with the Devi Meenakshi (Meenalochana): why are you hesitating to protect me? And, he cajoles her by praising her in many ways, saying: Oh Devi, the one who rejoices in music, there is no one who is equal to you in this world.

And, he pleases the Mother by describing and admiring her beauty and splendour through many evocative phrases and epithets such as   Gana-vinodinI, Minalochana, Kundaradana, and Niradaveni etc.

The Carana with lyrical rhythmic (Prasa-baddha) words describes the beauty of Devi Meenakshi: Kunda-mukunda-radana; Himagiri-Kumari; kaumari-Parameshvari; Kama paalini; Bhavani; Chandra-kala-dharini; neerada-veni.

The Kriti has Pallavi and Anupallavi of equal length/ duration having 8 Avartas each; followed by three Caranas, having uniform Dhatu (Music). The Carana is of 16 Avaratas duration.

[Normally, the duration of Avartas in the Adi-Taala Kritis is 2-2-4 for the Pallavi, Anupallavi and Carana, respectively. But, in the case of the Kritis set to Misra-Chapu-Taala, they follow the pattern of 8+8+16 for the Pallavi, Anupallavi and the Carana, respectively.  And, if Svarasahitya is appended to the Carana, it would then mean another eight Avartas, by taking the Svara and Sahitya parts together as a single unit.]

The Kriti is sung either with the Misra Chapu or the Viloma Chapu. The application of the complicated rhythmic cycle of Viloma Chapu would seem lend greater clarity to the Raga-svarupa of the Dhanyasi.

[It is said; after Sri Shyama Shastri rendered this song sitting in presence of Devi Madura Meenakshi, the temple authorities awarded him the highest honour that the temple could confer on any devotee. He was presented the Pattu-saree worn by the Goddess as Devi-prasadam. He was also gifted with a Tambura, with the figure of Yali facing upright.]

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  1. Nannu brova Lalita (15-Lalita, Misra Chapu)

The Raga Lalita is a Janya of the 15th Melakarta – Maya-malava-gaula; and, shares many characteristic Prayogas with Raga Vasantha, having similar scales. It suits the import of the Kriti which pulsates with emotions imploring Devi, Bhakta Kalpalata (the legendary wish-fulfilling creeper) to protect him quickly (vegame). As the Kriti progresses, the pitch of the notes also ascend, implying the increasing eagerness (Utsukatha) or anxiety (Cinta) of the devotee.

The Kriti is structured in Pallavi, Anupallavi and Four Caranas. The Caranas are sung to the same Dhathu.

This is one of the four Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry (among the sixty) that has Four Caranas.

Vilōma Chāpu (4+3) can be seen in the Pallavi, where the Kṛiti starts in viṣhama graha

The Raga-mudra is in the opening line ‘Nannu brova Lalita‘.

The phrase ‘ Nannu brovu , Ninnu vina‘ is an instance of Sharaba prasa.

In the second Caraṇa, the Devi is addressed  with  prāsa or rhyming words like ‘purāni vāni indrāni rāni‘.

The second Carana has a string of phrases of literary beauty, praising the Mother Goddess Lalita, the Queen (Rani): Purani-Vani-Indrani- Vandita Rani- Ahibhushana – nuni Rani.

One of the terms used in the Fourth Carana, like – ‘Sumhendra-madhya-nilaye ‘and ‘Maha-rajni’ resemble the phrase occurring in the Lalita-sahasra-nama  as ‘ Sumeru-madhya-shrungastha’.

There are several such instances in his other Kritis as well; such as: Maha-Tripurasundari; Kadamba-vanavasini; Kadamba-kanana-mayuri; Kadamba-kusuma-priya; Nadarupini; Raja-Rajeshvari; Samagana-priya (Vinodini); and, Vishalakshi so on.

This Kriti, again, is sung with Misra Chapu or with Viloma-chapu Taala

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  1. Mariveregati (20- Anandabhairavi, Misra Chapu)

Raga Anandabhairavi, a Janya of the 20th Melakarta Nata-Bhairavi, is a traditional Raga, which evokes Karuna Rasa. Sri Shyama Shastry is particularly associated with the  Raga Anandabhairavi; and, two of his compositions in this Raga – Marivere and O Jagadamba – which are adorned with Chittasvara-Sahitya , are often sung in the Musical concerts.

Here again, in this Kriti, Sri Shyama Shastry pleads and appeals to the mercy of the dark hued-like-a rain-bearing-cloud (Ghana-shyamala)- the infinitely compassionate  (Apara-krupa-nidhi) Mother Goddess : Oh Mother, who else is there in this world to protect me, but for you? You are my sole redeemer; I trust you implicitly; do rescue me (rakshimpa) – Marivere gati evvaramma mahilo nannu brochutaku.

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The Kiti ‘Marivēre-gati’, set to Chapu-Taaa with a Viamba-Laya, is another splendid example for Sri Shyama Shastry’s genius. It explores the Raga Anandabhairavi in depth.

The Kriti is adorned with many Jaru-Gamakas, like ‘Sa-Sa/Sa’ and ‘Sa/Ma’ for the Sahitya- phrase ‘Saranagatha’ and ‘Rakshaki’. The Svarakshara pattern ‘Pa-Dha-Pa-Ma’ for the word ‘Padayuga’ in the Chittasvara-Sahitya in Vilamba-kala provides much depth to the emotional content of the Kriti.

The phrase ‘Nammiti’ occurring twice over in succession shows the depth of trust he has in the Mother Goddess.

And, a slow ‘Janta’ phrase ‘Ni-Ni—Sa-Sa—Ga -Ga—Ma-Ma’ for the Sahitya ‘Niratamu ninnu’ in the Chittasvara is another feature highlighting the Mano-Dharma of the Anandabhairavi Raga.

In the phrase ‘Pa-Ma-Ga3-Ga3-Ma’, the Anya-Svara Ga3 is well demonstrated.

The Gamaka for the phrase ‘Ma—Ma-Ga-Pa-Ma—Ga-Ri’ blending very well with the words Shyamala’ is another instance of a good coordination between Svara and Sahitya.

The phrase ‘ R—Sa-Ni-Dha-Pa—Dha-Pa-Ma-Ga-Ri—Ga—Ma’ in the Chittasvara is graced by the flavour of the Raga Anandabhairavi.

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This Kriti described as a Chowka-kala-Kriti has, in its structure, Pallavi, Anupallavi, Chittasvara, Svarasahitya and Three Caranas.

Normally, in the Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry, the Music setting (Dhatu) of the three Angas are separate. And, all the Caranas are sung in the Dhatu that is set for them.

But, here, in this Kriti, the last two lines of the Carana are sung to the Dhatu that was set for the Anupallavi.

Smt. Sharadambal writes :

The Kriti Marivere in Anandabhairavi Raga in Misra-Chapu Taala is found with 8-8-16 Avartas; and, also with a Chittasvara for another eight Avartas

Most of the Kritis in Misra-Laghu or Misra-Chapu are found with the pattern 8+8+16; and, only in some Kritis , the additional element Svarasahitya is found for another eight Avartas , taking into consideration the Svara part and Sahitya part as a single unit.

The music settings of the three Angas are separate and all the Caranas are sung to the same Dhatu in the compositions of Shyama Shastri. Only in rare cases, for example, in the Kriti ‘Marivere’ in Ânandabhairavi and ‘Brôvavamma’ in Manji Raga, the last two lines of the Carana are sung to the same Dhatu as that of the Anupallavi. 

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There are some Kritis in which pauses occur in different places i.e. at the end of the Pallavi; at the end of the first Avarta; and so on. There are Kritis which do not have pauses in between the Avartas; but, pause occurs only after finishing the Pallavi at the end of the second Avarta.

For example, in the Kriti ‘Durusuga’ in Saveri Raga, we find pause only at the end of the Pallavi, whereas In the Kriti ‘Marivere’ in Ânandabhairavi Raga, we find a pause at the end of the first Avarta itself in both the lines as : Marive ……| ……re | ga ti ye vva | ram … ma ||Mahilo ……| …….I. | mahilo ….. | brocu taku ||

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The Kriti is set in Misra Chapu Taala

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The Kriti abounds in rhythmic beauties like Chittasvaras, Samvadi Svaras flowing in succession; and, often linked by the Jaru-Gamakas. Four to five Sangatis are also sung to the Pallavi.

According to Smt. Sharadambal: The Svarasahitya here starts in Shuddha Svarakshara as:  P; ; ; D P M | Pa da yu ga … There are many Svaraksharas here and there, throughout the Svarasahitya

Regarding the tempo of the Svarasahitya, Sri Shyama Shastri has not introduced Madhyama-kala through this element.

In the Kriti’ Marivere’ in Anandabhairvai, there is an appearance of an increase in the tempo.  In the Pallavi, Anupallavi or Carana of this Kriti, we find the numbers of Sahitya syllables are four or five in one Avarta while they are six or seven in an Avarta in the Svarasahitya passage. For example; here the number of Sahitya letters are as follows:
Pallavi – Marivere || . . . . . re || gati Evva || ram ma ||

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Smt. Sharadambal explains: In the Svarasahityas of the two Kritis ‘Durusuga’ and ‘Marivere’ of Sri Shyama Shastri, we also find patterns in the organisation of the Svaras.

In the Svarasahitya in Saveri Raga Kriti Durusuga, the Svaras are formed in Tisra (npd- srs) and Khaòda patterns (mpmdp- sndrs).

 In the Ânandabhairavi Kriti ‘Marivere’, the Janta-svaras and the Dhatu-svaras figure (nnssggmm- janta) (psnd, pndp, dpd – datu).

 In both these Svarasahityas we find a pattern of svara at the end.

  • Durusugag R s n d – r S n d P – g r n; para kusalu – parâdiyani – vipudu
  • Mariveren s n r S – n d p P – m g r G m; dharalonata – vanakutu – htaïa…..ni vega

*

The Svarasahitya of this Kriti is said to be an example for Gaja-tana, where the grouping of the Svaras resemble the gait of a majestically slow moving elephant. The text of the Svarasahitya, which follows the Third Carana, in fact, compares the leisurely walk of the Devi to that of an elephant in Musth (mada gaja gamana)

paada yugamu madilo dalaci koriti vinumu mada gaja gamana / parula nutimpaganE varam(o)sagu  satatamu ninu madi maravakane / madana ripu sati ninu hRdayamulo gati(y)ani dalaci stuti salipite / mudamuto phalam(o)sagutaku dharalo nat(A)vana kutUhala nIvEga (mari)

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  1. Devi nee paada sarasamule (28 Kambhoji, Adi)

Kambhoji, an ancient and a popular Raga, is a Janya of the 28th Melakarta Harikambhoji.  It is classified as a Ragini (female); and is said to be suitable for conveying the sentiments of Srngara (romantic), Hasya (humorous) and Karuna (pathos).

Here, again, Sri Shyama Shastry surrenders at the feet of the Devi who embodies the supreme consciousness (Chidrupini) who resides in Madhura; and, entreats her saying that there is nowhere else he can go. You are my one and the only shelter;

Devi-nidu-paada-sarasmule-dikku.Vere-gati-evaramma-Madhuralo-nelakonna  Chidrupini Sri Meenaksha-amma?

The epithet Chidrupini here, resembles the term Chidakarasa rupini in the Lalita-sahasra-nama

This is a fairly lengthy Kriti having Pallavi, Anupallavi and Three Caranas; each Carana having seven lines (Paada). The Pallavi and Anupallavi have two Avartas each.  And, each Carana, having eight Avartas each, is almost four times the length of the Pallavi.

The Kriti is set in slow moving Chowka-kala. The Music (Dhatu) of the Caranas is uniform.

The Taala is Adi Taala.

*

Prasa is a type of Sabda-alamkara, a literary embellishment. It mainly involves rhyming, where the first letter or the second letter is repeated between the Avartas. The Antya-prasa is the repetition of a letter or group of letters at the end of the Avarta.

It is said; with regard to the occurrence of the Prasa-aksharas in the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry, they can be divided into four categories,.

  1. Dhirgha (long) syllables preceding the Prasa-akshara in the Carana alone.
  2. Dhirgha (long) syllable precedes in the all the three Angas.
  3. Hrasva (short) letter is found throughout the composition.
  4. Dhirgha (long) syllable is found in Pallavi and Anupallavi; and, the Hrasva (short) syllable is used in the Carana.

This Kriti Devi nee paada sarasamule’ (Khambhoji) is cited as an instance where the both the long and the short syllable are used in the Kriti. 

*

[The Kriti in Shankarabharanam (Devi Mina netri) and the Kriti in Kambhoji (Devi nee pada) commence with similar Sahitya and Svara (Pa, ma magagagaa; De-vee). But, the manner in which the Svaras are treated and rendered brings out the difference in the Raga-svarupa of the two Ragas. Only the deft handling of such Ragas can ensure maintaining their individual characteristics.]

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6..Devi Mina netri (29- Shankarabharanam, Adi)

Dhīra-śankarābharaa, commonly known as Śankarābharaa, is the 29th Melakarta.  Since this Raga has many Gamakas (ornamentations), it is also called as Sarva-Gamaka Maika-Rakthi-Raga.

The nature of this Raga is mellifluous and smooth; spreading a feeling of joy and exhilaration.

In this Kriti- Devi Meena-netri brovarave dayacheyave, brovaravamma; Sevinchevari-kellanu Cintamaniyaiy-unna ra – Sri Shyama Shastry again requests the Mother Goddess to protect him. He praises her as Chintamani, the most precious magical gem that spreads joy and dispels darkness and sorrow. She indeed is the Chintamani (the wish-fulfilling gem) for all those who seek her protection.

The Kriti Devi-meena-netri consists of Pallavi, Anupallavi, Chittasvara and three Caranas, which are lengthy and are adorned with literary beauties like Varna-alamkara, Prasas etc.

This is a Chowka- kala composition with two Avartas for the Pallavi and Anupallavi; and, with eight Avartas for the Carana. The Chittasvara is sung in two degrees of speed. [His other Kriti in Shankarabharanam is in the Madhyama-kaala]

*

The Prasa prayoga can be seen in the array of words  : Baala-Chaala-meeḷa-kaalasheela-leela

Chittasvara  here is  very attractive .

The Kriti is set to Adi Taala.

*

 Vidushi Smt. Vidya Shankar explains in her article Tala-anubhava of the Music Trinity

It is said; In an Avarta or elongation of the last syllable creates a pause for a few seconds. This silence itself is music. This enriches and enhances the atmosphere of melody by giving emphasis on the phrase that follows, with the expressions through Bhava and Raga.

The Carana of the Vilambita- Kriti, ‘Devi Meena-netri ‘(Shankarabharanam), is often cited as an illustration of this aspect.

The Raga-svarupa is captured in the very commencement of the composition, within the first half-Avarta, crowning with Arudi on the dot of the Druta.

The other Kriti of Sri Shyama Shastry ‘Devi-nee-paada-sarasa’(Kambhoji) , which starts with similar Mathu (Sahitya) and Dhatu (Svaras) , in a similar manner, with its Svarakasharas  ‘pa da saa’ establish the  Raga-lakshana.

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Smt. Sharadambal offers expert comments as: The kriti Devi-meena-netri centres round Madhya-sthâyi, with occasional touches of Mandra-sthâyi and Tara-sthâyi. The Graha-svaras of the various Angns are: Ma, Ga, Ma (Pallavi); Sa, Pa, Ma, Pa (Anupallavi); and Ga, Ma, Pa (Carana).

Though the words are relatively less in this Kriti, use of Dhirgha- Svaras is limited;  and , the Tara- pulse is filled with more ‘Aaa-karas’.

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  1. Saroja-dala-netri (29-Shankarabharana-Adi)

This Kriti is again in Raga Shankarabharanam.  This, along with the Kriti Devi Meena-netri, is considered as twin Yugala-Kritis. Both are in Raga Shankara- bharanam; and, have similar notations (Svara-sthana).And, both are in Telugu.

The Kriti, commencing with asvarakṣara sāhitya  in the PallaviSaroja-dala-netri-Himagiripurti-nee-padambuja-mulane-sadaa-nammi-nanamma-shubhamimma-Sree Meenakshamma – is a highly popular Kriti; and, is very often sung in the Musical concerts.

In this Kriti, Sri Shyama Shastry sings of the beauty, glory and the noble virtues; and, of the boundless compassion and generosity of the most enchanting Goddess Devi Meenakshi. He calls her as the treasure-house of all the noble virtues (Gunadhama); and as one who delights in Music of Sama (Sama-gana-vinodini). And, requests her to bless him and wish him well (Shubha).

Sri Shastry compares the enchanting beauty of her eyes to the lotus petals (Saroja-dala) ; and her face to the radiant moon (Indu-mukhi) .

The Kriti consists of Pallavi, Anupallavi and three Caranas. All the segments of the Kriti are set to the same Music (Dhatu).

*

The Sabda-alamkaras are introduced in the Anupallavi through a string of lyrical phrases (Sahitya) – Purani-Shukapani-Madhukaraveni-Sadashivuniki-Rani.

*

The Kriti is set to Adi Taala.

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Smt. Sharadambal observes regarding the tempo or Kala-pramana of the Compositions:

Though, most of the songs of Shyama Shastri are in slow medium tempo in Adi-Taala, here are some songs in fast medium tempo.

The songs in Misra-Chapu and Triputa-Taalas also are mostly sung in slow medium tempo. The long drawn out rhythm with many pauses is seen in Chapu-Taala compositions with less number of words; and, with pauses here and there are found in these Kritis.

Some of his compositions in Adi-Taala have a tight knit relation between the Taala–Aksharas and the Sahitya letters. Almost all the Svara-letters have Sahitya-letters; and , Hrasva letters found in profusion.

For example, songs like’ Sarojadala-netri’ in Shankarabharana Raga; and in ‘Devi Brova’ in Chintamani Raga, though are set in Adi-Taala, the tempo seems to be increased and gives the impression that the song is set in Madhyama-kala. We do not find extensive pauses in these songs. The pauses are limited ;and, words are many and this appears that the tempo is increased.

The songs set in Adi-Taala, Rupaka and other Taalas are set in fast medium tempo. ‘Parvati-ninnu’ in Kalkada, ‘BiranaVaralicci’ in Kalyani can be cited as examples. Thus we find three different tempos such as slow, slow medium and fast medium tempos among the compositions of Shyama Shastri.

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The Kriti ‘Saroja-dala-netri’ starts from Tara Sa ; and , comes down to Madhyasthâyi in the Pallavi , ending with a Prayoga in the descending order as ‘s-n-d-p-m-g-r-s’. Both Anupallavi and Carana centre round Tara-sthâyi, after starting from the note as ‘s-Ss’ and ‘P- pppm’, respectively. The upper limit is only Tara ‘Ga’. The ‘Sn-P’ and ’sd-P ‘are the viseshaprayogas found in this kriti. The Jaru prayogas are found in the Anupallavi as  ‘s-Ss/Sss’ and ‘mP/sdP’.

*

The Sangathi, the melodic variations that are improvised while rendering the Pallavi or Anupallavi (rarely in Carana), without, however, altering the Sahitya is a much used Anga in the Kritis of Sri Thyagaraja. But, Sangathi is not a major issue in the Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry.

But, now while singing the Kriti Saroja-dala-netri’ (Shankarabharanam) the Sangathis are developed by the performers and extended over the whole Avarta in the second line of the Pallavi. The First Sangati is developed from the place ‘Sri Meenaksamma’; while the second is developed from the beginning with slight changes occurring here and there.

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  1. Mayamma nannu brova (28-Nattakuranji- Adi)

Nattakuranji is described as an Audava Janya Raga of 28th Melakarta Harikambhoji.  It is an asymmetric Raga, having three types of ascending (Arohana) and descending scales (Avarohana).All the three types, as well as other Prayogas are in use.

In this Kriti commencing with the Pallavi – Mayamma nannu brovavamma Mahamaya Uma – Sri Shyama Shastry pleads with the Mother; and, questions her ‘ O Mother  of Shyamakrishna (ShyamakrishnaJanani) why (ela) are you delaying (tamasamela) , please come and protect me (Nannu brovu).

This is a relatively short Kriti; having Pallavi and Anupallavi of one Paada (line) each; and, a Carana of two lines. The Carana is followed by Svarasahitya structured in two lines (Paadas).

With a series of vowel extensions, the Kriti is better suited for Vilamba-laya rendering

The Pallavi starts on Madhya-sthayi-madhyama (M;) – the Jiva-svara of the Raga with Svarakshara (Ma-yam-Ma).

The Anupallavi, with a series of lyrical sounding terms ending with the vowel Aa () Satyananda-Sananda-Nitya-Ananda-Ananda-Amba, describes the cosmic nature of the Mother as being the very embodiment of eternal (Nitya) bliss (Ananda). This line is extended by a series of Svaras.

The Svarasahitya is appended to the Carana addressing the Mother in a series of beautiful names as: Sarasijakshi; Kanchi Kamakshi; Himachalasute; Suphale; Marakatangi; and, Maha-Tripura-Sundari

mAdhavAdi vinuta sarasijAkSi Kanci-KAmAkSi tAmasamu sEyakarammA / marakatAngi mahA tripurasundari ninnE hrdayamupaTTukoni

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The Kriti is set to Adi Taala

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  1. Karuna judavamma (22-Sri, Viloma Chapu)

The ancient Raga Sri is described as the A-sampurna-Melakarta equivalent of the 22nd Melakarta Kharaharapriya. It is one of the Ghana-Ragas of the Karnataka Samgita; and, is regarded as a very auspicious Raga.

And, it is apt to conclude the splendid series of Nava-ratna-malika with this Mangala-kara Raga submitted to Devi Brhannayaki.

The kriti is structured into Pallavi, Anupallavi and three Caranas. And, the Carana ends with the line: Tamasambu itu-seyaka naa paritapa-mulanu pariharinchi-nanivu; please, without any further delay, relieve me (pariharincu) of my miseries (paritapa-mulanu).

As regards the Taala, there are two practices; either to sing in Viloma Chapu Taala; or in the Adi Taala. Both seem acceptable.

Technically, this composition could be said to be set in Telugu. But, except for the verbs and the appeals made to the Mother all the other terms either describing the beauty of the Goddess or addressing her through a a string of melodious names are in chaste Sanskrit

The most graceful Devi, who delights in Music (Gana-vinodini) is lovely to look at, having a beautiful face (Sunda-radana); her complexion glowing like gold (Hemangi); her hair dark as the rain-clouds (Ghana-nibha-veni); and, her stately walk, as the gait of an elephant (Samaj-gamana).

Sri Shyama Shastry with great Love and admiration calls his Mother with a variety of names: Sarasija-asana; Madhava-sannuta, Brhannayaki; Lalita; Hima-giri-putri; Maheshvari; Girisha-ramani; and , Shulini. 

kanchikamakshi

In some of the versions, the Kriti Rave Parvatha-raja-kumari’ in the Raga Kalyani is reckoned as the eighth Kriti in the series.

The Kriti Rave Parvata Rajakumari’, is set in the familiar Raga Kalyani; and, in Taala Jhampa.( This, somehow, is labelled  as a ‘rare-kriti’)

This Kriti is dedicated to Devi Meenakshi. It has the Pallavi, Anupallavi and Two Caranas.

In the Pallavi and Anupallavi, Sri Shyama Shastry again requests the Mother to listen to him; to protect him; and to come quickly to him- Rave Parvata Rajakumari, Devi nannu brochutaku vegame. He pleads:  O Mother have I not been trusting you; have I not regarded you as my sole refuge- Neeve gatiyeni nammiyunti-gada; Neeve gatiyani nammiyunti Amma.

The two Caranas sing the greatness of the beautiful (Nirada-veni) Mother of all the three worlds (Tri-Loka-janani) , who is worshipped by all the gods; whose glory , auspicious legends and victories are sung and extolled by many sages; and, who protects (rakshaki) and brings delight (toshini)to the virtuous world of gods.

O Mother Meena-locani, the princess, the daughter of Parvatha-raja (Parvata-Rajakumari) the benevolent (Udaara-gunavati) ancient Goddess (Purani), kindly (krupu-judu) rid us of all fears (Abhaya) and protect us all (brovu).

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In all the nine compositions, the Sri Shyama Shastry seeks Devi’s help and protection, praising her glory, splendour and her countless virtues. The beauty and loveliness of the Devi is depicted in every Kriti   . There is a child-like innocence, admiration and Love for his Mother (Mayamma), pleading with her   repeatedly, with an open-hearted affection, to protect him and rescue him from the surrounding mundane existence. These Kritis exude a sense of tenderness, optimism and immense faith in the Mother.

 Overall in these Kritis, the verbs and the appeals made to or the conversation with the Mother is in the day-to-day commonly spoken Telugu, with informal colloquial expressions. Though they do not possess philosophical ideas in profusion, they do express the natural filial  affection and tenderness of the child trying to reach the Mother.

But, the descriptions of Devi’s beauty , splendour and her infinite powers and virtues; as also her varied names are all recited in  graceful, refined, lyrical Sanskrit. These passages are pure poetry; they are simple and elegant. There are many passages with a string of adorable phrases with prosodic beauties in harmony with the Music.

The Kriti mainly appeals to the beautiful Goddess of lotus-petal-like radiant eyes (Pankaja-dala netri) by addressing her through a variety of sweet-sounding names; Shankari; Karunakari; Raja-rajeshvari; Sundari; Paratpari; Gauri; Giri-raja-kumari; Parama-pavani; Bhavani; Katyayani and Kalyani  so on.

Both the familiar major Ragas and the minor Ragas like Ahiri and Lalita have been skilfully employed. The introduction of brilliantly crafted Chittasvaras, Svarasahitya etc, excelling in poetic beauty, have added sparkle and lustre to these Kritis.

Similarly, the application of the Misra Chapu Taala and Viloma Chapu Taala ;  as also the Gamaka Prayogas of tender  oscillations and glide, have lent depth as also  amazing agility  to the movement of the Musical phrases in the progression of the latter parts (Carana) of the  Kritis. This comes out vividly in contrast to the Vilamba-kala elaboration of the Pallavi and Anupallavi passages.

For instance; in the Kriti Mayamma (28-Nattakuranji, Adi) the Pallavi commences in Vilamba-kala, with straight notes pleading for affection and understanding. Later, with the Kampita (Oscillations) of the Gamaka-prayoga, the same set of Svaras gathers momentum to express the urgency of his pleas. A sense of loveliness, joy and abundant faith in the Love of the Mother permeates this Kriti.

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At the conclusion of the Nava-ratna-malika  it is customary to sing the most pleasing and lovely Mangala-Kriti (Shankari-Shankari, Kalyani, Adi) , a benediction (Svasthi-vachana)-a prayer entreating for divine blessings , the good- hearted Vidwan, the child (Shishu) of Shankari,  humbly appeals to his Mother, the Supreme Goddess Raja-Rajeshvari ,  who is the very embodiment of  all the spiritual knowledge  (Tattva-jnana-rupini) and one who enlightens  all (Sarva-chitta-bohini )  to bless  and grant (Disa)  all of this existence   (Sarva-Lokaya) happiness , prosperity (Jaya) and wellbeing  (Shubha)

 MangalamJaya MangalamShubha Mangalam

Kamakshi Thanjavur

In the next Part we shall discuss about the structure, the language  and other elements of the Kritis composed by Sri Shyama Shastry

Continued

In the

Next Part

Sources and References

All images are taken from Internet

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2020 in Music, Sangita, Shyama Shastri

 

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Sri Shyama Shastry (1763-1827) – Part Five

Continued from Part Four

Sri Shyama Shastry – Music

shyama shastry

Introduction

The Music of Sri Shyama Shastry is universally acclaimed as a sublime and soulful melody. His Kritis, which exude pure Love for the Divine Mother, pleading with her, as a child does, through simple and pleasing words; and, in poignant Ragas rendered in Vilamba-kala have gained the admiration of all Music lovers and Devi-Upasakas.   It is the serene delight, devotion, absolute faith and the yearning, the eagerness (Utsukatha) for the affection of Devi Kamakshi, which permeates his earnest compositions, that has captured the hearts of the listeners over the generations.

At the same time; the intricate rhythmic phrases combining Taala, Laya and also Gamaka, which is an essential aspect of Mano-dharma-Sangita; and, adorned with varieties of decorative Angas like, Chittasvara, Svara-sahitya, Madhyama-kala-sahitya and Sabda-alamkaras and such other rhythmic beauties (Dhatu-Mathu-Samyukta-Alamkara) like Svarakshara are structured into the Music of his Kritis. And, in some places, he has also used patterns like employing the Dhatu of the Anupallavi in the Carana.

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Apart from his compositions in the familiar Ragas, his Kritis in Apurva-Ragas like Chintamani, Manji, Kalagada, and Karnataka-kapi; as also  the transformations he be brought about to the Raga Anandabhairavi ; to the  Svarajatis; and to the Chapu Taala are a testimony to his unique genius and creativity in discovering  new modes of expression, which the others had not attempted.

Taala and Laya, over which Sri Shyama Shastry had gained mastery; and  his way of dexterously combining them with the Sahitya are among the special features of his compositions. He has excelled in the handling of the different patterns of the Chapu Taala.  He had experimented with altering the sequence of Matras in the Misra Chapu; and crafting the innovative Viloma Chapu.

And, he had also extensively employed various Grahas or Eduppus (the points within the Āvartanam or cycle of a Taala when a composition or stanza in a composition begins) in his Misra Chapu Kritis.

Another versatile feature of the Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry, with regard to Taala, is that he has composed Kritis in Taalas and Gatis (sub-divisions of a beat in a composition) that are interchangeable. For instance; his Kriti ‘Shankari Shamkuru’ (Saveri) and ‘Birana varalichi’ (Kalyani) can be rendered in both Rupaka Taala (Chatursra- gati) and also in Adi Taala (Tisra gati).

Gamaka, as its very name indicates, provides movement (gamana, gati)  to the sequence of Svaras along their progression. The Gamakas–the graces which adorn and transform the Svaras through oscillations, glides, and curves etc,; and, the other devices that artistically combine together the literary  (Mathu) and Musical (Dhatu) features  are among the many virtues that distinguish the excellence of Sri Shyama Shastry’s art.

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And, therefore, only the musicians who have attained a high degree of proficiency in their art can do justice to the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry, where devotion,  verse  and Musical elements  amicably come together to provide an elevating experience.

Having said that let me add that though the musical structure of his Kritis might look intricate, it is neither laboured nor artificial. There is a natural flow to his Kritis. There is Laya-soukhya, the ease and comfort in its rhythmic movement. It takes some discipline and certain understanding to follow the Mano-dharma of their Samgita.

It is always considered a rare accomplishment for a performer to render the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry in the spirit they were envisioned and composed by him during the moments of ecstasy while in presence of Bangaru Kamakshi.

Quite often, one comes across remarks about his comparatively lower output in terms of the numbers. As Dr. N Ramanathan observed; it would be rather unjust to merely go by the number than by the merit of his compositions.

And, it would be more prudent to view and appreciate Sri Shyama Shastry’s well-crafted musical compositions from the point of view of what he has achieved, rather than from what he did not attempt.

One has to recognize that Sri Shyama Shastry was an erudite composer, in every sense of the term. He was an inspired artist who had a distinct style of his own.

It could be said that it was Sri Shyama Shastry who revolutionized  some aspects of the music of his times by introducing certain innovations that stemmed from inside of the musical tradition, rather than being imposed on it from outside.

Vajra

Just to summarize after discussing with my friend; and, again:

The Music of Sri Shyama Shastry is indeed a Tri-veni-sangama; an icon of the sublime confluence of mutually responsive Mano-bhava, Raga-bhava and Artha-bhava. And, it is graceful and leisurely, like a gentle flowing river. It spreads a sense of calm disposition; Visranthi or peace. In his Music, his emotional state, the longing for the Love of the Mother Goddess Kamakshi, appealing to her childlike, in simple words set in blissful Ragas, spread over in Vilamba-kala; all gracefully combine to provide a rare kind of aesthetic pleasurable experience.

Apart from creating Kritis of sheer delight and soothing-flow in their progression, Sri Shyama Shastry enriched the Karnataka Samgita by introducing several innovative features, extending the variety and depth of its Music and Sahitya (Mathu –Dhathu).

The Raga Chintamani was the innovation of Sri Shyama Shastry. The rare Ragas like Kalgada and Manji that had almost faded out of memory were revived by him. The old-folk melody Anandabhairavi was creatively transformed and reinvented through his Kritis, endowing it with flexibility to express varied shades of its Raga-bhava. And, the repertoire of the Ragas like Gaulipanthu and Pharaju was enlarged through his Kritis.

Sri Shyama Shastry was the first composer to use Svarasahitya, the Dhathu-Mathu-Alamkara, gracefully and elegantly bridging the Sahitya and the Samgita.

He was also the first to introduce rhetorical beauties like Prasa and Svaraksharas into the Gitas that were till then treated as simple melodic songs.

His three Svarajatis have numerous examples of both Shuddha and Suchita- Svaraksharas in the Svarasahitya; as do the Varnams he composed.

Sri Shyama Shastry’s contribution in reforming the Svarajatis is indeed unique. He was probably the first to compose Svarajatis in a new form of musical genre, where the compositions can be rendered in vocal or in instrumental form, with all the embellishments. Prior to this, the Svarajati was primarily a dance-song, resembling the Pada-vara, in its structure.

Here, in the Svarajatis of Sri Shyama Shastry, the elegant Svara passages blend naturally with the emotionally rich Sahitya. What you experience here is the harmony that binds the soulful Ragas; the lyrical elegant Sahitya; and, the innovative Taala patterns.

The Varnas composed by Sri Shyama Shastry, adorned with Chittasvara passages, are also of a high order, lending scope for varied musical expressions. 

Sri Shyama Shastry was an adept in the aspects of Taala, Laya and Gamakas.

He had worked out, in detail, and wrote down the charts of the Svara-Prastara – the elaboration of rhythmic patterns for a given Taala.

The Prastara of Taala-Anga (the structural units of a Taala) denotes splitting up the Anga into its possible components or subsidiary units, from out the six Angas (Shad-anga) such as: Anudruta; Druta, Laghu, Guru; Pluta; and, Kakapada. And, the resultant possible varieties are presented in the performances; and , are also and preserved in tabular forms or charts, for the benefit of the posterity .

Such charts prepared by Sri Shyama Shastry are said to be now in possession of his descendants.

Among the Trinity, Sri Shyama Shastry was the only one to have used the Tisra Ata and Tisra Matya Taalas. He was also the only one to have rendered a Pallavi set to the complicated Sharabha-nandana Taala of 79 Aksharas.

Gifted with an extraordinary sense of timing, Sri Shyama Shastry had gained mastery over the complex rhythms and tempos of Musical rendering. He lent a creative dimension to his favorite Misra-Chapu-Taala, by reversing the sequence of its Matras. His compositions are ever distinguished by their rhythmic brilliance.

The Gamakas he built into Vilamba-kala and Madhyama-kala phrases set to different Taalas bring out the varied shades and hues of the Raga. Many Gamakas can also be found in his Svarajatis. It is these Gamakas that transform an otherwise an ordinary Svara into one of great charm; and, elevates the Musical experience.

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Apart from selfless Love and devotion to the Goddess Kamakshi and to his Music, which, in fact, was the medium through which he conversed with the Mother, nothing else in life seemed to truly matter to him.

That is perhaps is the reason Dr. Raghavan calls Sri Shyama Shastry as an absolute Musician; and, his Music sparkling with spontaneity and effortless ease as the absolute Music.

Thus, it is the excellence of the Music and the richness of its expressive outpouring emotions, in a highly creative manner,  that lend a distinct character to the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry. They radiate a sense of devotion (Bhakthi), submission (Prapatthi) and tranquil joy (Ananda) of being in the presence of the Mother.

When you look at the Mano-bhava, Sahitya and Samgita of his Kritis, what you witness here is Atma-nivedana (absolute surrender to the will of Ista-devatha) with unwavering faith in his Deity; Karuna-rasa poignant appeals to the Goddess; and Vatsalya-bhava pure love and affection of a child towards its Dear Mother.

In his most pleasing and lovely Mangala-Kriti (Shankari-Shankari, Kalyani, Adi), a benediction (Svasthi-vachana)-a prayer entreating for divine blessings, the good-hearted Vidwan, the child (Shishu) of Shankari,  humbly appeals to his Mother, the Supreme Goddess Raja-Rajeshvari ,  who is the very embodiment of  all the spiritual knowledge  (Tattva-jnana-rupini) and one who enlightens  all (Sarva-chitta-bohini)  to bless  and grant (Disa)  all of this existence (Sarva-Lokaya) health, happiness , prosperity (Jaya) and well-being  in  all its forms (Shubha)

 MangalamJaya MangalamShubha Mangalam

How I wish all the performers of Karnataka Samgita bring into practice the rendering this auspicious Kriti before the final Mangalam.

Genius and goodness of the heart are not measured by mere numbers.

deepavali lamps

Outline

Just to take an overview of the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry, before we get to analyze their specific aspects:

Depending upon the source, the number of compositions credited to Sri Shyama Shastry range between 65 and 75.   However, the number of the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry that are presently available could perhaps be taken to be about Seventy-two (72) , for the limited purpose of this article.

These include: 60 Kritis; 5 Gitas; 4 Varnas; and, 3 Svarajatis.

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Most of the compositions are in the Telugu language.

Of the total 72 compositions, as many as 52 are in Telugu; 15 are in Sanskrit (4 Gitas + 1 Varna+10 Kritis); and the rest 5 are in Tamil (1 Gita + 4 Kritis). The Telugu here is simple and direct; but, the Sanskrit is delightfully rhythmic, elegant and very pleasing.

    • [Among the 60 Kritis: 10 are in Sanskrit; 4 are in Tamil; and the rest 56 are in Telugu.
    • Among the 5 Gitas: 4 are in Sanskrit; and 1 is in Tamil
    • Among the 4 Varnas: 1 is in Sanskrit; and 3 in Telugu
    • Svarajatis: All the 4 Svarajatis are in Telugu]

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As regards the Ragas, Sri Shyama Shastry, in all, employed about 33 Ragas. And these include Five Mela-ragas (Todi, Shankarabharanam, Nata, Varali and Kalyani); and 28 Janya-ragas.

Altogether, his compositions cover the Ragas that fall under 13 Melas (Mela Numbers: 8, 13, 15, 17, 20, 22, 28, 29, 36, 39, 53, 56 and 65).

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And, although he seemed to have avoided Vivadi-Melas, he did compose Kritis in the Janya-ragas of the Vivadi-Melas, such as Kalkada; Nata and Varali.  The Raga Kalkada is  a Janya of the 13th Mela Gāyakapriya; Raga Nata is the Janya of the 36th Mala Chalanata;  and, Varali is the Janya of the 39th Mela Jhālavarāli. Of these three Vivadi-Ragas, Nata and Varali are classed under Ghana-Ragas.

[Dattilam says Svaras are seven, starting with Shadja ( Svarah shadjadyah sapta gramo shadja madhyamo – Dattilam .11) ; and they are of four types:  Vadi (sonant); Samvadi (consonant); Anuvadi (assonant) and Vivadi (dissonant). Vadin is the note that produces the melody. As Vadin is repeated often, the other notes are used in relation to it.  For instance; the two Svaras with an interval of eight or twelve Sruti-s between them are called Samvadi of each other. Ni and Ga are Vivadi (discordant) to other Svaras. The Svara following a Vadi Svara is called Anuvadi.

The Vadi and Samvadi are Mitra Svaras; and, have a harmonious relationship with each other like the Shadja and Panchama; or Shadja and Shuddha-madhyama. In contrast, Vivadi is defined as one which is unmelodic in nature; and, is differentiated by an interval of two Srutis; for example, Shuddha-Rshabha and Shuddha-Gandhara or Chatshruthi-Dhaivata and Kakali-Nishada.]

Sri Shyama Shastry composed four Kritis in three Vivadi Ragas: Kalkada, Nata and Varali; all which are Janya-Ragas; and, two of which are Ghana-Ragas (Nata and Varali).

Vivadi Ragars of Sri Shyama Shastry

Parvathi Ninnu’ is a very melodious Composition, in which the Raga-Bhava of Kalkada, a rare Vivadi-Raga is delicately portrayed. The Vivadi-Sancharas such as, Pa-Dha-Ni-DhaPa and Sa-Sa-Sa-Pa-Dha-Ni—Dha-Pa etc., both in the Pallavi and in the Caranas; as also  the Jaru -Gamakas from Sa to Pa in the Pallavi are enchanting.

Pahimam Sri Rajarajeshvari’ in the Nata Raga , has an  unique structure with multiple (Bahu-dhatu) Caranas in Madhyama-kala , with  vibrant Raga-Sancharas. In the Anupallavi, the lyric ‘Simhasana-rudhe’, starts with the Vivadi-Svara ‘Chatshruti Rshabha’; that is, ||Ri-Ri-Sa|Ni-Sa-Ri-Sa-Ri||; and, brings out the  Sahithya-bhava very well.

Both the compositions in Nata and Kalkada begin from Svarakshara; that is, ‘Pahimam ‘and ‘Parvathi ninnu’ on the note Panchama (Pa).

Both ‘Karuna judavamma’ and ‘Kamakshi Bangaru’ in Raga Varali, commence with the Vivadi-Svara-Sancharas such as ||…Sa-Ni|Ga-Ri-Sa|| and ||Ga-Ma|Ga-Ga-Ri|| ||Sa..|…|| with Shuddha-Gandhara. They vividly express his devotion (Bhakthi-bhava) to the Goddess  Sri Kamakshi.

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For his Kritis, Sri Shyama Shastry used only four of the PratimadhyamaRagas (Varali, Purvikalyani, Chintamani and Kalyani). There is predominance of Janya-ragas and Shuddha-madhyama Ragas.

Although Sri Shyama Shastry mostly used the familiar Ragas, some of his Kritis are composed in rare Ragas, like: Chintamani, Kalagada, Manji and Karnataka-kapi.  The other two of the Trinity have not composed in Chintamani or in Kalagada. 

The Raga Anandabhairavi, said to be a favourite of Sri Shyama Shastry, has Seven compositions (Six Kritis and One Varna); and, Saveri has five compositions (4 Kritis and One Gita).

But, there are Eight Kritis and a Varna composed in the 65th Melakarta, Kalyani, which employs Parti-Madhyama.

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In regard to the structure of the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry, as many as 36 of them have Pallavi, Anupallavi followed by three Caranas; 8 have Pallavi, Anupallavi and two Caranas;  6 have Pallavi, Anupallavi and three Caranas  followed by  Svara-sahitya; and, 4 have Pallavi, Anupallavi and a single Carana.

As many as four Kritis have only Pallavi and Caranas (no Anupallavi).The number of Caranas, in these four cases is: 3, 6, 8 and 11.

While one Kriti is structured in Pallavi, Anu-Pallavi, Muktayi Carana, and Svara-sahitya; another one has the sequence of Pallavi, Anu-Pallavi, Svara-sahitya followed by Carana.

As regards the five Gitas, one has five segments; two have four segments; and, the other two have three segments.

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The three Svarajatis created by Sri Shyama Shastry are much admired, comparing them to Gems (Rathna).

The Gita Santatam (in Raga Pharaju) is a rather rare instance of a Gita composed in Tamil

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One of the special features of the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry is the artistic use of Taala, the tempo and the rhythm. The Misra-Chapu was the often used Taala in his compositions.

As regards the application of Taalas in the 72 compositions, the break up is: Adi (30); Misra-Chapu (18); Triputa (10); Ata (3); Rupaka (5); Jhanmpa (3); and, Mathya (3).

Sri Shyama Shastry was the earliest to introduce the Viloma-Chapu-Taala (4+3), which is the reversed sequence of the Krama-Chapu or normal Chapu (3+4).

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Gamakas are the ornamental flourishes that help to bring out 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.

Gamaka (ornamented note) is any graceful turn, curve or cornering touch given to a single note or a group of notes, which adds emphasis to each Raga’s unique character. Gamaka, in short, is the movement of Svaras which bounce, slide, glide, shivers, rapidly oscillates or skips. It provides movement and animates Svaras to bring out the melodic character and expression (bhava) of a Raga. Each Raga has specific rules on the types of Gamakas that might be applied to specific notes, and the types that may not. Every Raga has, therefore, to be necessarily rendered with the appropriate Gamakas. They depend on the manner of quivering, oscillations or shaking that the Svaras can be endowed with.

Gamaka-rendering is a highly individualistic and a specialized skill. Not merely that the Gamakas are designed specifically for vocal music and for instrumental music, but also that each performer would, in due course, develop her/his own Gamaka-improvisations. And therefore, two Ragas with identical ascending (Aroha) and descending (Avaroha) Svaras and born out of the same parent (Janaka) Raga might sound totally different in character and expression, mainly because of the Gamakas that are employed. [In Hindustani Music , Meend  and Andolan  are similar to Gamakas.]

The Gamaka-prayogas or the decoration of the Raga-phrases, which are aesthetically pleasing in slow tempo; and Laya (rhythm) are said to be the special features of the Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry. His compositions set in Vilamba-kala are apt for use of Gamakas, excelling in the long-drawn Chowka-kala like Kampita (oscillations) and Jaru (glides) which animate and provide a lively movement to the Svaras.

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All his compositions are addressed to the Mother Goddess in her various forms; excepting the two , of which one is in praise of Kanchi Varadaraja-swami , and the other in praise of Mutthukumara-swami.

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The numbers

Considering the rather limited number of compositions that are available and are credited to Sri Shyama Shastry, their listing has been highly inconsistent. It ranges between 65 and 75.  

Sri T K Govinda Rao mentions 71 as the total number of compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry. Smt. Vidya Shankar takes it as 70 by excluding the Kriti Parakelanamma in Natakuranji.

Dr. Y Saradhambal adds back to the list of Sri T K Govinda Rao, the Kriti Nannu-karuninci (29-Shankarabharana-Rupaka). Thus, Sri T K Govinda Rao’s list, effectively, comes back to 72. However, Dr. Y Saradhambal added a word of caution saying, the authenticity of the Seven compositions that are ascribed by some to Sri Shyama Shastry needs to be verified. The Six Kritis and one Varna mentioned by her in that regard are:

(1) Rave-Mayamma-Bangaru (15-Saveri- Adi); (2) Nannu Brova (15-Lalita /Vasantha-m/Eka);(3) Sarasaksi-Ee-vela (20-Anandabhairavi-Ata); (4) Brovumu-Maanini (Kiravani-Jampha); (5) Bangaru-Kamakshi (20 Anandabhairavi -Adi); (6) Ninnu Vina (Bilahari-Jampha); and, (7) Ninnu -namminanu (Pada Varna- 20 -Anandabhairavi-Adi)

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A Doctoral thesis submitted to the University of Kerala by Dr.  Manju Gopal adopts  72 as the total number of the known compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry.

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Another site dedicated to the Music of Sri Shyama Shastry lists as many as 75 compositions of the Master.

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Here, I have , for the limited purpose, taken the total number of works of Sri Shyama Shastry as 72 (60 Kritis+5 Gitas+4 Varnams+ 3 Svarajatis).

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Melas and Ragas

The total number of Melas employed Sri Shyama Shastry for all his compositions are 13 (namely: 8, 13, 15, 17, 20, 22, 28, 29, 36, 39, 53, 56 and 65). These are:

(1) 8-Todi (Hanuma-todi); (2) 13– Gayakapriya; (3) 15– Mayamalavagaula; (4) 17 – Suryakantam;(5)20-Natabhairavi;(6)22-Kharaharapriya;(7) 28 -Harikhambhoji;  (8) 29 -Dhira-Shankarabharanam; (9) 36- Chala-Nata ; (10) 39 – Jhalavarali ; (11) 53 – Gamanashrama ; (12) 56 -Shanmukhapriya ; and,  (13) 65- Mechakalyani.

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The number of Ragas employed by Sri Shyama Shastry is comparatively fewer in number. He made use of just 33 Ragas in all, comprising 5 Melakartas and 28 Janya Ragas.

The Five Mela-Ragas used by Sri Shyama Shastry for all his compositions are:   Todi  (4); Shankarabharanam (2); Nata (1); Varali (2) and, Kalyani (9)

– a total of 18 compositions; including 1 Svarajati in Todi and 1 Varna in Kalyani.

For his five Gitas, he used four Ragas that fall under three Melakartas:

Pharaju and Saveri (15-MāyamālavaGaula); Bhairavi (20-Natabhairavi); Madhyamavathi  (22-Kharaharapriya).

The Four Varnas are in: 

Saurastra (17); Anandabhairavi (20/22); Begada (22); and, Kalyani (65).

The Three Svarajatis are in

Todi (8); Bhairavi (20) and, in Yadukulakanbhoji (28)

Mela Ragas

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Janya Ragas

As regards the rest 44 compositions (34 Kritis +5 Gitas +3 Varnas+2 Svarajatis), they are set in 28 Janya Ragas of the other 8 Mela Ragas.

Sri Shyama Shastry mainly used Rakthi Ragas (meaning  pleasing, lovely or charming Ragas) and familiar Ragas. Such Rakthi Ragas, which evoke a particular Rasa, are Gamaka-Pradhana-Ragas; and, are mainly dependent on their Raga-svarupa. Each Raga elicits certain Rasa, which shines forth upon the application of right Gamaka.  The Rakthi Ragas can either be Mela or Janya Ragas. The ragas like Sāvēri, Kāmbōji, Śakarābharana, Bēgada, Tōdi, and Ānandabhairavi etc. come under this category.

Sri Shyama Shastry used Rakthi-Ragas like Anandabhairavi, Saveri,  Madhyamavathi , Purvikalyani, Bhairavi and Kedaragaula  etc., (apart from Todi, Shankara-bharanam and Kalyani, the Mela Ragas) for his Kritis, Gitas, Varnas and  Svarajatis.

There is a predominance of Shudda-Madhyama Ragas and Janya Ragas; and, the Prathi-Madhyama Ragas are only four in number (Varali, Purvikalyani, Chintamani and Kalyani).

And, Chintamani (56) among the Prathi Madhyama Ragas has the distinction of creating an Eka-Raga-Kriti (Devi brova samayamide-Adi Taala); meaning a sole or the prominent representative of that Raga.

Anandabhairavi is said to a favorite of Sri Shyama Shastry; but, in terms of numbers there are more number of songs in Raga Kalyani (8 Kritis and 1 Varna) than in Anandabhairavi (6 Kritis and 1 Varna).

It is said; Sri Shyama Shastry lent a distinct character to Raga Kalyani by using Tissruti-Rshabha (a minor tone from Shadja) at the start of the four Kritis: Birana-varalichi; Himadri-sute; Talli-ninnu-nera-nammiti; and Shankari-Shankari. The resulting Raga-bhava creates a sense of calm and serenity.

Kalyani

Raga Anandabhairavi

And again, it is not the mere numbers that truly matter; but, what is of interest here the intense involvement of the composer; and, the aesthetic joy that his creations radiate, naturally.

Sri Shyama Shastry must have found the poignant and malleable flow of the soulful and emotionally charged Ragas – Anandabhairavi and Saveri more suitable for submitting his fervent appeals to the Mother Goddess. It is in these two Ragas, particularly, the radiance of his Bhakthi and the sense of absolute surrender (Prapatthi) to the will of Devi Kamakshi shine forth.

Anandabhairavi, a Bhashanga Raga of the 20th Mela Natabhairavi , is structured with Antara-Gandhara (G3), Chatusruthi-Daivatha (D2) ; and, Kakili-Nishada (N3) being the Anya Svara. This is an ancient Rakthi Raga that evokes Karuna, Srngara and Bhakti Rasas. The Gamakas ‘jāru’, ‘tiripa’, ‘rava’, ‘Kadippu’ blend well with this Raga. The Raga-Bhava is fully brought out when it is sung in Viamba Kala.

Further, Anandabhairavi has a special association with Sri Shyama Shastry. The old Raga Anandabhairavi is said to have originated from the folk-tradition. Sri Shyama Shastry provided it with a new rendition (Raga-svarupa), bringing out the varied shades and colors of Anandabhairavi.

[Dr. V V Srivatsa,  in his Note on the Raga Ananadabhairavi , included in the Raganubhava session on Raga Ananadabhairavi held on 15 November 1999, says :

Raga Anandabhairavi is of indeterminate origin and has existed from medieval periods in the folk-tradition. This Raga is not referred to in texts like Sangeeta Makaranda, Sangeeta Ratnakara, Swaramela Kalanidhi or Raga Vibhoda. There is no reference in the main text of Chaturdandi Prakasika but a reference is found in the supplementary passage, the anubandha. In “Raga Lakshana”, Shahji states that Bhairavi is the Mela for Anandabhairavi ; and not that Anandabhairavi is a derivative of Bhairavi. This, perhaps, is indicative of the fact that Anandabhairavi was very much in vogue in folklore and that the observation by Shahji was an offshoot of an attempt to classify this raga in the classical system.

Though structural variances can be discerned in the views expressed by musicologists, it is obvious that this Raga underwent manifold changes in course of time. There was no uniformity, in conceptual terms, even among the members of the Carnatic music Trinity. Originally, the Tyagaraja tradition avoided the Antara-Gandhara Svara, though nowadays this Svara is used in his kritis. The Dikshitar school strictly avoids the swara.

The presence of Antara Gandhara in Syama Sastri’s compositions is profound in most schools.

Anandabhairavi is well known and accepted to such an extent that some call this raga as “Kuttagai” or exclusive to Syama Sastri. “Marivere”, “O Jagadamba” and “Himachala-Tanaya” are very popular and frequently rendered; “Pahi-Srigiriraja-sute” is occasionally rendered. The Varnam in Ata tala “Saminni-rammanave”, the kritis “Mahilo-Amba” and “Aa-dinamuni” are unheard of.

Marivere Gati” by Syama Sastri is a masterpiece . in the hands of Syama Sastri, the Raga which is obviously very dear to him, shines in all its luster due to the introduction of the two Anya Svaras – Antara Ga and Kakali Ni.

In his five songs inclusive of the Varnam ‘Samini rammanave’, the several idiomatic expressions and the characteristic phrases that the Raga admits of, are profusely used. No doubt to him the Raga became the most suitable medium for expressing the surging emotions of the devout heart to the divine Mother.]

Smt. Vidya Shankar writes:

The fact that Anandabhairavi has accommodated special Prayogas with Antara-Gandhara and Kakili-Nishada indicates that it was mainly used for devotional purposes in the first instance; and, thereafter included in systematic classification of the Ragas.

In all his compositions, Sri Shyama Shastry has revealed calmness of mind, expanse of knowledge and keenness of his intellect.

Anandabhairavi was indeed his favorite Raga. He has composed Ata-Taala-Varna in praise of Kanchi Varadaraja Swami and many other Kritis.

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Further, Ānandabhairavi and Saveri, owe their characteristic form to his  master-pieces in the concert repertoire

Some of his splendid Kritis like O Jagadamba; Pahi-Sri-Giri-Raja-Sute; Mariveregati; Himachala -tanaya-Brochuta; and, the Varna Samini-rammanave, Sarasakshi ye vela (Ata Taala) are in the Raga Anandabhairavi.

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The Kiti ‘Marivēre-gati’, set to Chapu-Taaa with a Viamba-Laya, is another splendid example for Sri Shyama Shastry’s genius. It explores the Raga Anandabhairavi in depth.

The Kriti is adorned with many Jaru-Gamakas, like ‘Sa-Sa/Sa’ and ‘Sa/Ma’ for the Sahitya- phrase ‘Saranagatha’ and ‘Rakshaki’. The Svarakshara pattern ‘Pa-Dha-Pa-Ma’ for the word ‘Padayuga’ in the Chittasvara-Sahitya in Vilamba-kala provides much depth to the emotional content of the Kriti.

The phrase ‘Nammiti’ occurring twice over in succession shows the depth of trust he has in the Mother Goddess.

The repetition of certain words in different musical phrases is said to be one of the unique features of his Kritis.

And, a slow ‘Janta’ phrase ‘Ni-Ni—Sa-Sa—Ga -Ga—Ma-Ma’ for the Sahitya ‘Niratamu ninnu’ in the Chittasvara is another feature highlighting the Mano-Dharma of the Anandabhairavi Raga.

In the phrase ‘Pa-Ma-Ga3-Ga3-Ma’, the Anya-Svara Ga3 is well demonstrated.

The Gamaka for the phrase ‘Ma—Ma-Ga-Pa-Ma—Ga-Ri’ blending very well with the words Shyamala’ is another instance of a good coordination between Svara and Sahitya.

The phrase ‘ R—Sa-Ni-Dha-Pa—Dha-Pa-Ma-Ga-Ri—Ga—Ma’ in the Chittasvara is graced by the flavour of the Raga Anandabhairavi.

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The Kriti ‘O Jagadamba’ (Anandabhairavi -Adi Taala) is another of Sri Shyama Shastry’s great creations.  Here, he calls out to the Mother of all this existence ‘Jagadamba’ to come to his rescue and protect him. His intense feeling is expressed through the elongated phrase ‘O—‘ . The Jaru -Gamaka in the Anupallavi and the Chittasvara again intensify  the depth of his emotions. The Svaras ‘Pa-Dha-Dha-Pa—Ma-Pa—Pa-Ma-Ga’ for the Sahitya ‘Rajamukhi’ brings out the majesty of the Goddess.  The Carana phrase ‘Ga-Ma-Pa—Pa-Dha-Pa —Ma-Pa-ma—Ga-Ri-Sa..’  for the word ‘Brochutaka’ with the Gamakas ‘Vali’ and ‘Rava’ highlight the essence of the raga Anandabhairavi.

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The Kitis ‘Mahilo-amba’; ‘Pahi-Sri-Girirājasute’; and, ‘Aa dinamuichi’ show different types of Alamkaras provided by the Raga Anandabhairavi. The Kiti ‘Himāchala-tanaya’ is a reflection of his genius. The Svara patterns set to the descriptive Prasa -phrases like ‘Uma-hamsa-gāmana-taamasama’ blend with the flow of  the Raga.

Anandabhairavi

Raga Saveri

As regards Raga Saveri (15th Melakarta Mayamalavagaula Janya); it is a Rakthi Raga;and, was once a Bhashanga-Raga, having Anya Svaras like Triśruthi -Gadhāra and Nihāda; but, presently it is classified as a Upanga Raga.

[ Dr V V Srivatsa in his note on the Raganubhava session on Raga Saveri , held on 20 October 1999 says:

Saveri is an ancient raga with many textual references. This raga is classified as a Bhashanga raga in Sangeeta Ratnakara, albeit with the name Savari. This raga has a place of pride in Carnatic music, as can be also seen in the proverb, “Kaveri snaanam, Saveri Gaanam”

Each Svara has a significant role. Gandhara and Nishada, at Trisruti levels, render this raga as Bhashanga. Rishabha, Madhyama and Nishada are Raga-chhayya Svaras, which bring out the nuances of this raga. Madhyama is unique, often called Saveri-Madhyama.

It is one of the select Ragas with compositions by all members of the Carnatic Trinity. There is a marked conceptual similarity between Dikshitar and Syama Sastri. Some rare sancharas can be found in “Karmame Balavanta”, a Tyagaraja kriti. There is considerable esoteric significance in some passages of the kriti “Sri Rajagopala” by Dikshitar. Syama Sastri’s first composition was in this Raga. Many post-Trinity composers have used this raga, unto recent times. A great legacy.

“Durusuga” by Syama Sastri has structural and rendition elegance, “Sankari Sankuru” is also a popular composition]

This Raga evokes Karuna, Shatha and Bhakti Rasas. As its name suggests, the Ri almost lies in the Sa  ; in other words it is the lowest frequency of Ri  that we can have. The ‘jāru’     from a higher note on Ri and Da ; ‘līna’ on Ri; ‘Vali’ on the note Ma and Kurua are the Gamakas that are suitable to  this Raga.

Sri Shyama Shastry’s first composition  (Janani-natajana-paripalini-pahi-mam-Bhavani) was in this Raga Saveri . There are, in all, four Kritis and one Gita composed by Sri Shyama Shastry in the Raga Saveri.

Saveri

The Kriti ‘Durusuga krpa juci santatam’ has a Pallavi; Anu-Pallavi; Three Caranas; followed by a Svarashitya passage (a combination of sol-fa passage with appropriate Sahitya passages for the Svaras).  

In this Kriti, Sri Shyama Shastry prays to the Mother to quickly (Durusuga) grant him good health (Arogya) ; and, make him  strong (Druda).O Devi Dharmasamvardhini, O  Queen of Pranatharthihara, O  Tripurasundari , please pay more (bahu) attention (paraku) to me.

Please listen, I do not know what my fate is (Niyati). O Kamakshi, I am mentally (manasuna) agitated (kalata jendi). I have heard much about your greatness. I am convinced that you alone are the great (baha) expert (nipuna); and, there is none else (verevaru-kadu) in this Universe (jagambulanu). Please listen (vinu) to my (na) appeal (manavini).Do not remain unconcerned.

Again, in the Svarasahitya that follows the Third Carana, Sri Shyama Shastry appeals to the kindness of the lotus-eyed (Saroja-nayana) Mother saying that even the Vedas proclaim that you indeed are the only one who protects (palini) those who submit to you and seek protection. Please show mercy (Krupa) quickly and make me always healthy and strong.

During the course of his submission, Sri Shyama Shastry, tries to please his Mother praising by a string of names, describing her beauty, virtues and power.

ParamaPavani;Krupa-vani; Amala-guna-Tripurasundari; Sakala-papa-shamani; Omkari; Kamakshi; Dhara-dharavi-Neela-kesha-lasita; Saras-Kavita-nichita; Sara –ghana; Sara-sita; Dhara-hasita; Vari-ruha-vari vadana-ruchita; Narayani; Saroja-nayana; and, Nata-jana-palini.

*

The Kriti ‘Durusuga’ in Adi-Taala is regarded as a classic composition. Its Pallavi starts with a Svarakshara pattern of ‘Dha, Ri, Sa’. In one of the Sangathis, while returning to the Pallavi, there is a Svara phrase ‘’Dha-Dha-Pa-Ma’ in a higher Gati (tempo), indicating his restlessness and urge (Durusu). There is a repetition of the word ‘salupu nanu’ indicating the intensity of his emotions.  And, the Dhatu for this features the classic Saveri Svara patterns like ‘Sa-Ri-Ga-Sa-Ri,’. A Similar repetition occurs in the Carana for the describing word ’dhara-hasitha’ (smiling on the lips), which is characterized by beautiful Gamakas. Also with the usage of certain inherent phrases of Saveri like, ‘Ṡa-Ṙi-Ṗa-Ṁa-a’; ‘’Ma-Pa-Dha-Dha-Pa-Ma-Ga ’ etc. this Kriti brings out  the essence of  the Raga Saveri.

*

The Svarasahitya, which follows the Third Carana, is in the same tempo as the Pallavi, Anupallavi and the Caranas that precede it.

Saroja-nayana; Nata-jana palini-Vani / Vedamulu -moralida / itarulevaru –manavi -vinu -krpa salupa- paraku salupa-radika; nIvipudu (duru)

It continues to be in the Vilamba-kala, without increase in the number of syllables per beat; and, Sri Shyama Shastry has not introduced Madhyama kala through this element (Anga).

*

This Kriti (Durusuga) is much discussed citing its treatment of the Laya , Svarasahitya and for maintaining the same tempo in the Svarashitya without  much increasing the number of syllables (Akshara)  per beat (Matra): Pallavi – Durusugakrpajuci santatam -(15 letters in the Laghu); Svarasahitya – Saroja nayana nata Jana paliniva | ni . (16 letters in the Laghu)

Smt. Sharadambal explains :

In the Svarasahityas of the two Kritis ‘Durusuga’ and ‘Marivere’ of Sri Shyama Shastri, we also find patterns in the organisation of the Svaras.

In the Svarasahitya of  Saveri Raga Durusuga , the Svaras are formed in Tisra (npd- srs) and Khaòda patterns (mpmdp- sndrs).

 In the Ânandabhairavi Kriti ‘Marivere’, the Janta-svaras and the Dhatu-svaras figure (nnssggmm – janta) (psnd, pndp, dpd – datu).

 In both these Svarasahityas, we find a pattern of Svaras at the end.

Durusugag R s n d – r S n d P – g r n; para kusalu – parâdiyani – vipudu

Mariveren s n r S – n d p P – m g r G m; dharalonata – vanakutu – htaïa…..ni vega

**

The Sangathi, the melodic variations that are improvised while rendering the Pallavi or Anupallavi (rarely in Carana), without, however, altering the Sahitya is a much used Anga in the Kritis of Sri Thyagaraja. But, Sangathi is not a major issue in the Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry.

But, now while singing the Kriti Durusuga (Saveri) the Sangathis are developed by the performers to fill in the gaps that are without Sahitya, at the end of first Avarta of the Anupallavi. Here, the Sangathis are executed with a series of ’Aaa-karas’ (or non-verbal sounds); and, no words are added even after the ‘Aaa-karas’.

The second and Third Sangathis are developed to fill in the gaps, by breaking up the Sahitya phrase and elaborating its component-words in a variety of ways. And, by the gradual increase of the Svaras in two speeds (Druta), the Sangathis are progressed.  

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And, the Kriti dedicated to Devi Akhilandeshvari– ‘Shankari Shamkuru-Chandra mukhi- Akhilandeshvar-Shambhavi- Sarasijabhava vandite- Gauri-Amba’(Adi-Tisra-gati)- is indeed a masterpiece, a magnificent work of Art. The Kriti composed in highly lyrical Sanskrit is adorned most delightful phrases for describing the beauty, virtues and splendor of the Devi; and, for addressing her with a range of suggestive names.  

Sri Shyama Shastry ‘s classic Kriti ‘Shankari Shamkuru’ is an example of  his proficiency in Raga and Laya. This Kiti can be sung both in Rupaka and Ādi (Trishra -Gati) Taaas. The well-known phrase of Saveri ‘Dha-Ma-Ga-Ri-Sa’ featuring the ‘Jāru’ is , here brings out the grace. Also the Prasa ‘sāmagānalōlepāle-sadārthibhajana shīle’ adds to the lyrical beauty.

*

It is a simple prayer followed by many phrases, invoking the blessings of the Goddess.  There is joy, compassion and a sense of fulfillment (Dhanyata-bhava) in the Sahitya and in the Music as well. Unlike in some other Kritis, there is here neither sadness; nor pleading to the Mother to protect and rescue him from the miseries of life. He is requesting the Devi to grant happiness and well-being to all (Shamkuru). The sentiments of Utsukata (eagerness) and Vatsalya (filial affection towards  ones mother) are main here.

It is no surprise; this Kriti is very often sung in the Musical concerts.

  • Anupallavi
  • Sankata-harini; Ripu-vidarini; kalyani / Sada-nata-phala-dayike; Hara-nayike; Jagaj-janani
  • Carana (1, 2 and 3)
  • Jambu-pati-vilasini; Jagad-avanollasini; Kambu kandhare; Bhavani; Kapala-dharini; Shulini
  • Angaja-ripu-toshini; Akhila-bhuvana-poshini; Mangala prade; Mardani; Marala-sannibha gamani
  •  Syamakrshra sodari; Syamale; Satodari; Sama-gana-lole; Bale; Sadarti- bhanjana-shile

*

The Kriti ‘Janani natajana-paripalini’ (Saveri , Adi-Taala) is graced  with many upward  Gamaka-slides (Jaru) like ‘Dha-Pa-Dha / Ga-Ri-Sa’ ; ‘Sa-Sa-Sa/Ni-Dha-Pa’ ; and, the signature phrase ‘Dha-Ma-Ga-Ri-Sa’. The smooth flowing phrase ‘Dha-Dha-Dha-DhaRi-Ri-Ri-Ri’ adds to the beauty of the Kriti. The term ‘Bhavani’ is repeated twice in the Pallavi, as in many of his Kritis.

The Kiti ‘Sripathi mukha…’ begins on the elongated Tara-Sthayi note ‘Ri’ for ‘Śri

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Familiar Ragas

Sri Shyama Shastry has created compositions in the familiar and popular Ragas (apart from Kalyani, Anandabhairavi and Saveri); and, in the rare and rather unfamiliar Ragas as well.

Some of the popular Ragas he employed are Punnagavarali (3 Kritis); Gaulipantu (3 Kritis); Pharaju (2 Kritis and 2 Gitas); Madhyamavathi (2 Kritis and 1 Gita); Kedaragaula (2 Kritis); Shankarabharanam (2 Kritis); Begada (2 Kritis and 1 Varna); and, Purvikalyani (2 Kritis).

In each of these familiar Janya Ragas there is more than one composition; and, together they almost amount to 22 (18Kritis +3 Gitas+ 1Varnam).

Punnagavarali** Gaulipanthu                 Pharaju**Madhyamavathi

Kedaragaula**Shankarabharana

Begada**Purvikalyani

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 Ragas – each having a single composition

In addition to the familiar Janya Ragas, as mentioned above, Sri Shyama Shastry used 18 other such Ragas. But, he composed only one Kriti in each of these 18 Ragas.

Ragas each having a single Kriti

Note: (1) Figures in brackets indicate Mela number; (2) * indicates the composition is in Sanskrit; the rest of the compositions’ are in Telugu; (3) As regards Bhairavi, there is a Varnam besides the single Kriti

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Rare Ragas

Apart from the Mela-ragas and the familiar Janya Ragas, Sri Shyama Shastry has attempted a few rare Ragas, such as: Kalgada; Manji; and, Chintamani.

The notable feature of these Ragas is that they are eminently suitable for elaborations in the Chowka-kala rendering of the Kriti. And, Sri Shyama Shastry, of course, loved Vilamba-laya – the spacious, leisurely and gracious movements.

The Kritis composed by Sri Shyama Shastry in the Ragas Kalgada, Manji and in Karnataka-kapi are regarded as Eka-Raga-Kritis. That is so say, these are either the sole or the only noticeable Kritis in that particular Raga.

The Raga Kalgada has a long, but an obscure history. During the time of Sri Vidyaranya (14th century- Sangita-Sudha) Hejjuji was considered a Mela. In the A-sampuna Mela-paddathi, the 13th Mela was named as Gaya-Hejjali. And, later during the 17th century, when the Mela-kartha system came into being, the Sampurna-Hejjuji was transformed into the 13 Mela -Gayakapriya, which has all the Shuddha-svaras, except Antara-Gandhara (Ga). Sri Subbarama Dikshitar mentions this Hejjuji-raga, as a Janya of the Gayakapriya.

In most of the references, the Raga Kalgada (or Kalkada) is classified as a Janya of the 13th Mela Gayakapriya, with the Arohana (ascending scale) S -R1-G3-P-D1-N1-S; and with the Avarohana (descending scale) S-N1-D1-P-G3 –R1-S. But, some prefer to treat Kalgada as a derivative of the 16th Mela– Chakravaka.

In Western mode, the Raga Kalagada is described as a Hexatone; please click here for a demonstration.

The Kriti ‘Parvathi ninnu’ in the Raga Kalgada is very rarely heard in the concerts. Here, in this Kriti, the Svarakshara Pa-Da-Sa is emphasized in the Aroha (ascent of the note). And, the Shuddha –Nishada is also extended.

And, even while it is rendered, some sing the Kriti in a very slow tempo, by treating Kalgada as a Vivadi-raga. But, some others render the Non-Vivadi version, in a lively tempo, by treating Kalgada as a Janya of 16th Mela – Chakravaka.

*

The Kriti ‘Brovavamma’ set to Misra-Chapu-Taala is often cited to illustrate the Lakshanas (characteristics) of the Raga Manji.

[Sri Thyagaraja is said to have composed a Kriti ‘Samayamu-emarake-manasa’ in Raga Kalagada; and, Sri Dikshitar a Kriti ‘Ramachandram-pahimam’ in Raga Manji.]

*

As regards the Raga Chintamani, which is deemed as a Janya of the 56th Mela Shanmukhapriya, it is an original contribution of Sri Shyama Shastry. The context in which he created this Raga is, of course, legendary; and is much cited in all his biographies.

Raga Chintamani evokes Karuna-Rasa, pleading with the Mother Goddess to come to his rescue at a testing and difficult juncture in his life. Perhaps the only well known Kriti in the Raga Chintamani’ Devi brova samayamide’, is usually rendered in slow well measured phrases with clear diction.

But, I am given to understand, presently this Kriti is sung in different styles, with different Svara-sanchara (notations) by various Vidwans.

In any case, the Raga and its Kriti need to be handled deftly; because, Dhatu-svara-prayogas and Vakra-svara-prayogas (zigzag movements) are built into its structure.

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One of the reasons adduced to explain the relatively lesser number of the Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry that are rendered during the popular music concerts is that the performer should truly be an adept in the presentation of the Sahitya with appropriate Mano-dharma and in Vilamba-kala, structured around intricate patterns of Gamakas, Laya and Taala, as also adorned with varied Angas (elements) such as Svara-sahitya, Chittasvaras and Madhyama-kala-sahitya.

Some his Ragas like Kalkada and Manji, which are very close to other Ragas, need to be handled carefully if their true personality (Raga-svarupa) is to be preserved and brought out aptly. In all these cases, the authentic shade of a Raga (Raga-chaya) can be presented only if its Svaras are sung with appropriate Gamakas.

And, the listeners in the auditorium (Sahrudaya) also need to have adequate knowledge, to be able to appreciate the Music that is being presented.

shyama shastry first day cover

In the Next Part we shall talk about the Kshetra Kritis and Nava-ratna-malika Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry

Continued

In the

Next Part

Sources and References

All images are taken from Internet

 
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Sri Shyama Shastry (1763-1827) – Part Four

Continued from Part Three

Continued in Part Five

Sri Shyama Shastry – Life

Bangaru Kamkshi

Name

The person who is celebrated as Sri Shyama Shastry was named, on his birth, as Venkatasubrahmanya; and, was fondly called Shyama Krishna by his parents Visvanatha Iyer (Visvanathayya, Viswanatha Sastry) and Venkalekshmi (Vengu-Lakshmi). The ‘Venkata’ in his name referred to his grandfather Venkatadri Iyer; and, ‘Subrahmanya’ was because he was born under Krittika Nakshatra, presided over by Lord Kartikeya (Subrahmanya). Since the baby was dark in complexion; but, lovely to look at like Krishna, he was affectionately called Shyama Krishna.

And, later in his life, after he gained fame as an Uttama Vaggeyakara, composer par excellence, he came to be recognized and addressed as Sri Shyama Shastry. And, Shyama Krishna was his Ankita-Mudra (signature) built into the concluding lines (Birudu) of the Charana of his Kritis and other compositions, either by himself or by his disciples, at a later stage, perhaps to conform to the practice that had then into vogue, as Sri S Raja, his descendant remarked.

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Birth

In most of the books and the other forms of writing, the date of birth of Sri Shyama Shastry is mentioned as 26 April 1762 C E. In terms of the Panchanga for that date, it works out to Salivahana-Shaka-Chitrabhanu-Samvathsara-1684, Vaishakha-masa, Shukla-paksha, Dwitiya/Akshaya-Tritiya, Indu-vara (Monday), with Krittika Nakshatra up to 11.06 A.M.

However, Sri Subbarama Dikshitar, in his monumental work Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, under the segment  Vaggeyakara Caritam (pages 14/15) mentions that Sri Shyama Shastry was born on in the year 1763 C E, in the Saka-Savathsara Chitrabanu, under Krittika Nakshatra, Mesha Rasi on Ravi-vara (Sunday). This almost corresponds to 20 February 1763 Saka-Savathsara-1684-Chitrabanu; Phalguna-masa, Shukla-paksha-Sapthami- Krittika Nakshatra up to 5.30 A.M. next day-Mesha Rasi – Sunday.

Prof. Sambamoorthy has also accepted and adopted 1763 as the year of birth of Sri Shyama Shastry.

shyama sastry old house 2

Shyama shastri birth place

Sri Shyama Shastry’s birth took place at the sacred town of Tiruvarur, also known as Sripuram and Kamalaalaya-khsetra (the abode of the Goddess kamalamba), in the Kaveri delta through which the Odambokki River flows.

Tiruvarur has the unique distinction and honor of being the birthplace of Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar and of Sri Shyama Shastry – the Grand Trinity – the Samgita Trimurthi of Karnataka music tradition.

Tiruvavuru 2

The forefathers

The forefathers of Sri Shyama Shastry were described as Auttara-Vada –Deshastha-Vadamal (Northern) Smartha Brahmins. They belonged to Gautama Gotra; Bodhayana-Sutra.

It is said; they originally belonged to a place called Cumbam (Kambham) in the Karnool District of Andhra Pradesh; and, were hence called Cumbattar, the priests (Bhattar) from Cumbam. Later, they migrated to Kâñchipuram, located on the Vegavathy River, in Chingleput District.  Here, they were appointed as the priests (Archakas) at the Sri Kamakshi temple; wherein was placed the most precious idol, Bangaru Kamakshi (Svarna Kamakshi), made largely out of gold.

*

Bangaru Kamakshi

This most pleasing and lovely looking Bangaru Kamakshi , the golden UtsavaVigraha of Kanchi Kamakshi, very dear to the devotees, was praised with many epithets, such as: Svarnangi, swarnambika Shukahastha, Suthlinga-vallabha and Dharma-Devi, etc.

The Devi is depicted as holding a parrot in her right hand (Shukahastha), while her left hand is slightly over her hip, is standing (Sthanaka) gracefully assuming a Tri-bhanga posture with her right leg turned slightly inward.

Bangaru Kamakshi 2

But, with the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire in 1565, Kanchipuram suffered severe unrest, political turmoil and anarchy for a period of over two decades. By about 1640, the town fell to the Muslim sultanate of Golconda; but, three years later, they lost it to the Shaws of Bijapur. The Golconda Sultanate regained Kanchipuram in 1676, mainly due to the intervention of Shivaji Maharaj. And again, with the conquest of the Mughals led by Aurangzeb in October 1687, the Golconda rulers were driven out. And, anarchy prevailed , pestering the region for a long time; causing considerable damage to the city of Kanchipuram.

Fearing rampage , damage and destruction to the temple and to the idols by the Muslim hordes, the Archakas buried the temple-treasures, concealed in the temple Drums (Udal) ; and, left Kanchipuram, in the year 1566,  along with their families , in groups, carrying with them the most valuable and sacred image of Bangaru Kamakshi and the Chaturbhuja  Utsava-vigraha..

 *

It seems the idol of Bangaru Kamakshi was virtually smuggled out of the Kanchi-temple by a set of priests. The image was wrapped in layers of cloth; and the shiny surface of the image was smeared with Punugu (Civet-oil-cream), an aromatic substance, which is black in colour. And, the image, rendered dark; made to look like a sick child affected with small pox, was placed in a covered palanquin; and, was taken out ,  as if for medical treatment.

[Even to this day, the idol is regularly smeared with Punugu paste; and made to appear dark.]

After the Bangaru Kamakshi was shifted out, a replica of her feet (Paduka) was symbolically installed at the temple.

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Migration and wandering

Over the next several decades spread over a couple of centuries, the generations after generations of the KanchiArchaka-families wandered, almost like nomads, fleeing from forest to forest, from town to town protecting, safeguarding and worshiping Bangaru Kamakshi, with great devotion and care.

*

After leaving Kanchipuram, the Archaka-families for some time stayed hidden in the forests out of sheer fear; and, wandered through several forests thereafter, over a period of twenty-eight years, before they reached and settled down at the Gingee Fort (Chenge-Kota), in 1594, at the invitation of its ruler Santana Maharajah.

After a stay of fifteen years at the Gingee fortress, the Archaka-families moved southwards (1609); and, stayed in the nearby forests for another fifteen years (1624).

Thereafter, in 1624, the Archaka-families settled in Wodeyara-palya, situated in the heart of the forest adjoining Gingee. The area was then under the rule of Thanjavur Maharaja Sri Pratapah Simha.

Here, at Wodeyara-palya (Udiyar-Pallayam), the community of the Archakas stayed for as long a period as seventy years, till 1694.  

And, after staying in Anakkudy (near Kumbakonam) for a period of 15 years (1709), they moved along with Bangaru Kamakshi to the town of Vijayapuram, where they spent another fifteen years (1724). From Vijayapuram they passed through Nagore, Madapuram and Sikkil, staying in each place for a period of five years (till about 1739).

Their primary objective was to safeguard Bangaru Kamakshi; and, ultimately, somehow, to take her back to her original abode in Kanchipuram, safely; and establish her there.

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At Tiruvarur

Thereafter, the then generation of Kanchi-Archakas moved in to Tiruvarur, where they stayed for a long period of forty-five years (till about 1784). And, at Tiruvarur, the idol of Bangaru Kamakshi was kept in a specially arranged Mantapa, within the complex of Sri Thyagaraja-swami temple.

It was here while in Tiruvarur, Sri Visvanatha Shastry, the then head of the Archaka-family, and his wife Venkalekshmi (Vengu-Lakshmi), were blessed with a son in about the year 1763. They were at that time, 25 years and 20 years of age. And, the boy born at Tiruvavur later gained great fame as Sri Shyama Shastry.  Sri Visvanatha Shastri couple later got a daughter; and, named her as Meenakshi.

By about the year 1781, the Kaveri delta again came under the threat of impending invasion; and, this time by Hyder Ali and his allies. Sensing danger that might harm Bangaru Kamakshi, Sri Visvanatha Shastry approached Tulaja Raja II Saheb Bhosle (1765-1787) the then ruler of Thanjavur, with a request to provide safety and protection to Bangaru Kamakshi within the walls of his fortress.  Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal – V (1746-1783 AD) also approved the request.

[Those were stressful times. Because of the uncertain political conditions and the impending threat of invasion by the Muslims, Kanchipuram was not deemed safe. Hence, the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham had moved out of Kancipuram. And, after prolonged camps at several places, by about 1760, it moved to Thanjavur at the invitation of its ruler Raja Pratapa Simha. But, shortly thereafter, the Acharya Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati-V decided to relocate the Peetham at Kumbhakonam , far down South, on the banks of the Kaveri.

By about 1781, Kanchipuram was again under the threat of invasion. During that time, Thanjavur under the Maratha rule was relatively a safer place. Hence, many scholars, musicians, artists and others who felt threatened by persecution migrated to Thanjavur from Mysore, Andhra, Maharashtra and other regions of South India.]

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At Thanjavur

After the King acceded to Sri Visvanatha Shastry’s request, the family shifted from Tiruvarur to Thanjavur in about the year 1783/84. By then, Shyama Shastry (born 1763) had grown into a bright young man of about twenty years; and, was on the threshold of his life. And, his Upanayanam had earlier been conducted in Tiruvarur while he was a boy of seven years of age.

At Thanjavur, the idol of Bangaru Kamakshi was initially housed in the Nataraja Mantapa of Konkanisvara-Svami Temple. And, later for about three years it was kept in the Pratapa-Veera-Hanumar temple (Moolai Hanumar Kovil).

During the time of Raja Tulaja II a new temple for Bangaru Kamakshi was built in about 1786/7. Later, a Raja-gopura was caused to be constructed by his successor Serfoji II in 1788.

Bangaru Kamakshi temple

On the occasion of the Kumbha-abhishekam of the newly built temple, the Raja honoured Sri Visvanatha Shastry; and gifted him with a Jahgir (free leasehold over a large extent of land) including an Agraharam and cultivable lands He also granted the temple an endowment of thirty-two Velis (acres) of land as Sarvamanyam.

*

Thus, Bangaru Kamakshi, the Uthsava-Vigraha of Kanchi Kamakshi,  after having moved out of Kanchipuram in the year 1566, wandered over hills, dales, forests, towns and villages for  nearly over two hundred and twenty years , before she could have a permanent temple of her own  at Thanjavur in 1786 .  But, even after a very long and hazardous journey, she could not get back to her original home in Kanchipuram.

Nevertheless, the devotion, dedication and the sacrifices made by several generations of Kanchi Archakas in safeguarding their Dearest Goddess is truly admirable and astounding. I doubt if there is a parallel anywhere and at any time in this world.

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Early Years

Sri Shyama Shastry had his initial training in Telugu and Sanskrit from his father. His Upanayana was performed at the age of seven. He got his preliminary lessons in music from his maternal uncle; and, starting from Sarali-svaras he gained familiarity with Svaras (Svara-jnana). He was a bright young lad; quick to grasp; and good at retaining what he had learnt. He was also gifted with a sonorous voice. Though he did not come a family of musicians; his parents did not discourage his study and practice of music.

Sri Shyama Shastry, even in his boyhood, was of pious nature. At home, he and his sister Meenakshi together decorated and rendered Puja to a Pancha-loha image of Krishna. It appears the siblings, who grew up together, were very close and affectionate to each other. The sister died rather early in her life. Sri Shyama Shastry often recalls her lovingly, tagging her along with his AnkitaMudra Shyama-Krishna, with expressions such as ‘Shyama-Krishna-sodari’ and ‘Shyama-Krishna-sahodari’.

*

Sri Shyama Shastry, later in his life, gained fame as an eminent musician, scholar and Sri Vidya Upasaka; but, his formal training in these fields began rather late.

It was only after his family moved to Thanjavur (in about 1783-84) that the life and career of Sri Shyama Shastry began to blossom and flower. It all started after he was about twenty years of age.

As his father was the Archaka at the Bangaru Kamakshi temple, he began to associate himself with the Devi Puja and other temple-rituals. And, he also did develop a sort of a bond with the Goddess, regarding her as his Ista-devatha and his Mother. Sometimes he used to sing to her in sheer joy with his impromptu songs of playfulness and attractive Laya patterns.

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Sangita Swamin

The momentous turning point in Sri Shyama Shastry’s life came about with the very fortunate and blessed entry of Sangita Swamin .This Swamin was an adept in Samgita-shastra and Bharatha-shastra. He was also an ardent Sri Vidya Upasaka.

Sangita Swamin, who came from the Northern regions, was said to be a Telugu speaking Brahmin itinerant (Parivrajaka) Sanyasin. During the year 1784, for the purpose of his annual Chaturmasya-Deeksha period of retreat, he had camped in Thanjavur. And, it was here that he came upon the bright looking youth – Shyama Shastry; and, was instantly impressed with his demeanour, his pious nature, guileless devotion to the Mother Goddess, and his innate musical talent of a very rare kind. He took upon himself the task of training and guiding the young Shyama Shastry.

[Sri Subbarama Dikshitar mentions that the training period lasted for three years. However, according to Prof. Sambamoorthy, Sangita Swamin was with his pupil only for four months of Chaturmasya period.]

According to Sri Subbarama Dikshitar, Sri Shyama Shastry was under the tutelage of Sangita Swamin for a period of about three years. During this intense, invigorating and highly charged phase of his life, Sri Shyama Shastry was initiated by Sangita Swamin into the mysteries of Sri Vidya and the worship of Sri Chakra.

Sangita Swamin also taught his disciple all the intricacies of the Lakshana (theoretical principles) and in-depth understanding of the elements of the Lakshya (practice) of the Samgita-shastra, such as the prastara-krama, the appropriate manners of rendering of Sahitya, Raga and Taala.

At the conclusion of the teaching-period; and, before departing for Varanasi, Sangita Swamin, highly pleased with his disciple, while gifting him some very valuable Lakshana-granthas – the texts concerning music (Gandharva-vidya) – blessed him; and, predicted that he was destined to become a very illustrious noble person, blessed by Sri Kamakshi Devi.

Pachchi-mirium Adi-Appaiah

Further, Sangita Swamin also advised his pupil saying: that you have learnt enough of the Lakshanas as per the Samgita-shastra (theoretical aspects of Music); and, it is now the right time to listen to as many of the fine musicians of the area as possible. And, the Swamin suggested that he might cultivate the friendship of the musician (Asthana-Vidwan) of the Thanjavur Royal Court (Samsthanam), Sri Pachchi-mirium Adi-Appaiah; and, carefully listen to his scholarly music as often as possible.

[Sri Pachchi Mirium Adi Appaiah (1740-1833), a Kannada MadhwaBrahmin, was a scholar and composer of great repute. He was consulted on various aspects of musicology by none other than Sri Thyagaraja himself. Sri Adi Appaiah followed the great musician Melathur Veerabhadriah; and composed several Kritis in many Rakthi-ragas. His Aknita-Mudra was ‘Sri Venkataramana’.

It is said; the Raga-alapana and Madhyama-kala-Pallavi rendering (paddhati) were standardized and gained greater importance mainly because of him. He was also well versed in Taala-prakaranam and in analyzing complicated Gamaka patterns.  His Bhairavi Ata-taala Varnam Viriboni is, of course, a classic.

Though Sri Shyama Shastry did not directly study under Sri Adi Appaiah, some point out that he analysed the compositions of Adi Appaiah; and this greatly influenced his style, as  could be seen in his famous Svarajati in the Raga Bhairavi, ‘Kamakshi-amba’.]

[It is said; Sri Shyama Shastry learnt playing on the Veena and the elements of Bharata-shastra from Mahadeva Annavi, a reputed Natyacharya in the Royal Court of King Tulaja II of Thanjavur. This Mahadeva Annavi was, in fact, none other than Subbarayan, the father of the famed Tanjore-Quartet – Chinnaya; Ponnayya; Sivanandam; and, Vadivelu. ]

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As instructed by his Guru, Sri Shyama Shastry did meet Sri Adi Appaiah. And the two became great friends, despite the difference in their age, their standing in the society; and, in the field of Music.

In the year 1784, Sri Adi Appaiah was about 45 years of age; and, Sri Shastry was a young man of about 20 years. And, at that stage, Sri Adi Appaiah was a highly acclaimed scholar and an authority on Lakshana aspects of Music; and, was also a well-known composer. While, at that time, Sri Shastry was a young person with hardly any background of music; and, who was just  then gingerly stepping into the main arena of Music. And yet, there was a great mutual respect and admiration between the two.

Sri Shyama Shastry also made friendship with Vina Krishnayya, the son of Sri Adi Appaiah. And, the two used to spend a lot of time together singing and analyzing music. Vina Krishnayya was also a famous composer and an accomplished Veena player. Sri Shyama Shastry appreciated a composition of Krishnayya, which was set in 30 Avartas of Dhruva-taala, but could be rendered in six other Taalas.

In that regard Sri Subbarama Dikshitar mentions that Vina Krishnayya had composed three Prabandhas of the type Saptalesvarm. The unique feature of this composition was that though it was set in Dhruva-taala, it was in conformity with the six other Taalas. And, when the commencing part of the Prabandha is sung, the fist beat (Matra) of all the Taalas coincide.

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As Archaka and musician

In due course, Sri Shyama Shastry succeeded his father as the principal (Pradhana) Archaka of the Bangaru Kamakshi temple; and, was quite successful in managing the temple affairs.

By then, he was fairly well settled in life; and, had a steady income from the large tracts of lands endowed to his family by the Kings of Thanjavur. He seems to have enjoyed a contented peaceful life with his family. Sri Shyama Shastry’s wife was a very caring and a devoted person. She was also a Devi-Upasaki; and observed the same discipline and principles that her husband followed.

Shyama shastry house 1 Shyama Shastri house 2

He had a house of his own. And also  had enough income to take care of his family and other needs; and, was not caught up in the mesh of financial and such other problems. That might perhaps be one of the reasons why he did not go after seeking patronage, honors and gifts etc.  He was also not in need of using his expertise in Music as a means for earning a living. He was also rather reluctant to accept many disciples, for other reasons.

Over the years, Sri Shyama Shastry became a well-known and a highly appreciated musician, scholar and a composer. He was admired and respected by the King as also by his worthy contemporaries like Sri Thyagaraja and Sri Dikshitar.  He did maintain contacts with the other two of the Trinity; and often discussed about their latest compositions.

Bangaru Kamakshi 9

Intense devotion

At the same time, with the growing association with the deity, Sri Shyama Shastry developed a uniquely profound mystical bond with his Ista-devata, the Bangaru Kamakshi, treating her like a person, a living goddess (Pratyaksha-devata) in whom he could confide as a child does with its loving Mother.  He was charged with intense devotion and a poignant longing for the Mother

It is said; he would spend much time with the deity, talking to her; pouring his heart out in guileless love through songs, spontaneously; imploring (karuna-bhava) her repeatedly to protect him – Kamakshi Bangaru Kamakshi nannu brovave, O Kamakshi Bangaru Kamakshi. At times he would, oblivious to the outside world, converse with his Divine Mother, pleading with her, and cajoling her with sweet-sounding songs.

He called out to Her in ecstasy through countless other epithets, as : Amba; Jagadamba; Talli, Katyayani; Kaumari; Kalyani; Himadrisute; Akilandeswari ; Lokasakshini ; Brihannayaki; Indumukhi;  Kunda-mukundaradana; Bangaru-bomma; Bimbadhara; Niradaveni; Saroja-dala-netri; Meenanetri;Meena-lochana; Sarasija-bhava-hari-hara-nuta; Mavani-sevita; Dharma-samvardhini; and, Ahi-bhushana-pannaga-bhushana and so on.

On Fridays and on other occasions specially associated with the Mother Goddess, he would sit in front on the Deity, immersed in Sri Vidya Upasana, meditating on her sublime and supreme Divine form, with tears rolling down his cheeks. During those intense moments of transcendental experience, he sang many melodious songs in sheer ecstasy. Thus, over a period, Sri Shyama Shastry was transformed almost into a spiritual personage.

Kanchi Kamakshi 3

Person

Sri Shyama Shastry was a dark, tall, well-built, handsome, serious looking person, rather absorbed in himself. And, he had a slight rotund around his waist. He was indeed a very impressive personality. His very presence commanded respect.

Sri Shyama Shastry was a Devi Upasaka; and was a deeply religious person who adhered to the prescriptions of the scriptures.  He always had a dash of vermilion (Devi-prasada) right between his eye brows and stripes of Vibhuthi across his broad forehead. He sported a tuft (Kudumi); and, appeared with stubble on his chin, because he shaved only once in a fortnight, just as an orthodox Brahmin would do.

He was always dressed in a gold-laced (zari) white dhoti; and, a bright red shawl as the upper garment (uttariya). He habitually wore sparkling diamond karna-kundalas on his ear lobes; gold studded Rudraksha-mala around his neck; and, wore rings on his fingers. He carried a cane with a silver handle.

He was fond of chewing betel leaf (paan); and, his lips were dark red. He, therefore, is usually shown in his portraits along with a paan petti, a small box to hold leaves and nuts, by his side

Sri Shyama Shastry’s Tambura had a yali-mukham; not usually found in other Tambura depictions.

shyama shastry 23kf4v8

The portraits of the Karnataka Samgita Trinity created by Shri S Rajam, a celebrated Musicologist and painter, are universally acclaimed archetype iconic figures; and, are even worshiped.  He studied and researched into his subjects thoroughly; and, grasped the essence of their character and achievements. His portraits therefore bring out not mere the physical resemblance of the subjects, but more importantly the essence of their very inner being.

His portrait of Sri Shyama Shastry was based upon an old sketch that had almost worn-out. Shri Rajam’s portrayal is the best among its genre. It brings out the colorful personality of Sri Shastry brilliantly.  His portrait of Sri Shyama Shastry eventually turned into an Indian postal stamp.

shyamashastri

Sri S Raja, a descendent of Sri Shyama Shastry, narrates, about the old and original portrait of Sri Shyama Shastry that was in his family.

There is the story of the portrait of Shyama Sastri. Its original portrait is in my possession; and, it is the only original from which all published portraits have been derived.

On the 7th February, 1827, seven days after his wife had dies, he knew through his knowledge of Astrology that he had reached the last day of his life. This prompted him earlier that day to send for a friend of his who was a good painter, and asked him to draw a portrait of himself.

His friend agreed and commenced the portrait. But after drawing Shyama Shastri’s face, his friend decided to complete the portrait another day.

Little did he realize that this was not to be, as Shyama Shastry would pass away later that day, and the picture would have to be completed from memory later.

The original portrait so completed is reproduced here, and has suffered fading and erasure in parts in the centuries that have since gone by.

syama-sastri-original-portrait

But what is of interest here is that the small original drawing of the face has been stuck on a larger sheet on which the rest of the detail has been added. The original drawing can be seen clearly demarcated as a rectangle on the portrait so completed.

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Association with his contemporaries

Sri Shyama Shastry maintained close contact with Sri Thyagaraja as also with Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar. 

He often used to call on Sri Thyagaraja at his home in Tiruvaruru; and, spend much time with him, discussing about Music and related issues.

Sri Thyagaraja was also familiar with the Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry. It is said; some disciples of Sri Shyama Shastry while on a visit to Tiruvarur rendered the compositions their teacher before Sri Thyagaraja.

Sri Subbaraya Shastry, the second son of Sri Shyama Shastry also used to meet Sri Thygaraja; and sang before him one of his newly composed kritis – Ninnu-vinagatigana (Kalyani). Sri Thyagaraja appreciated the young man’s talent.

Then, for some time, Sri Subbaraya Shastry was a student of Sri Thyagaraja; before he associated with Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar.

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Sri Shyama Shastry and Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar had much in common. They were both Sri-Vidya-Upaskas; and, by nature, both were rather recluse and reserved.  Most of their compositions were in praise of the Devi, the Mother Goddess.

Sri Shyama Shastry was familiar with the compositions of Sri Dikshitar; and, admired them for their structural elegance, beauty of the Sahitya and their intensely close association with Sri Vidya.

And, Sri Shyama Shastry liked the compositions of Sri Dikshitar so much, as he put his son Subbaraya Shastry under him for training in Music.

Thus, Subbaraya Shastry gained fame as a composer of superb Kritis that reflect the rhythmic beauties of Sri Shyama Shastry as also the Raga richness of Sri Dikshitar.

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Justice T L Venkatarama Aiyar mentions that Chinnaswami and Baluswami often used to visit their elder brother Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar at Thanjavur. And, and on such occasions all of them and Sri Shyama Shastry used to associate themselves in Music recitals.

He mentions that on one such occasion, all of them combined to restructure and complete a Chowka-varnamSami Ninne Kori – in Raga Sriranjani, that was earlier composed by Sri Ramaswami Dikshitar.

[The Chowka-varnams are usually set in slower tempo (Chowka-kalam); and, have longer lines and pauses, enabling  apt portrayal of the Bhava of the Varnam . All its Svaras are accompanied by Sahitya (lyrics) and Sollukattus which are made up of rhythmic syllables.]

The Carana of that Chowka-varnam had only one Svara passage as composed by Sri Ramaswami Dikshitar; while its others Caranas seemed to have been lost. Sri Shyama Shastry felt that as good piece as that should not be allowed to die   merely because it is incomplete.  And, therefore, he himself composed the second passage of Svaras; and, then called upon Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar and his brother Chinnaswami to duly complete the Varna. Thereafter, Chinnaswami composed the third passage; while Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar composed the fourth and the last passage; and, perfected the composition that was initially created by his father.

This association of Sri Shyama Shastry and Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar in Thanjavur is one of the most fascinating episodes in the history of South Indian Music.

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Anecdotes

There are numerous anecdotes associated with Sri Shyama Shastry. And, just to recount a few, in brief:

Once, Kesavayya, a famous musician from Bobbili (who had arrogated to himself the pompous   title – Bhoolaka-chapa-chutti – the one who rolled the world into a common mat) challenged the Thanjavur Court musicians in the handling intricate Taalas. He was known to be an expert in that field.

Sri Shyama Shastry was requested by the King to face Kesavayya and to defeat him; saving the prestige and honour of the Thanjavur Court.

Before facing him, on the night previous to the contest,  Sri Shyama Shastry shut himself in the temple, meditated, prayed devotedly to Bangaru Kamakshi pleading with the Mother come to his rescue; and, sang  the now-famous “Devi-brova-samayamide’  (Chintamani Raga, Adi Taala),    “Devi ! Now it is the time for you to protect me”.

The contest ended with Sri Shyama Shastry winning it handsomely, when he outclassed the challenger by displaying his virtuosity and creativity in rendering varied types of rare Tanas with great ease and delight.

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And again at Nagapattinam, Sri Shyama Shastry is said to have defeated the challenger Appukutti Nattuvanar who was proficient in Music and Dance.

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While on a Visit to Pudukottai, an unknown person suggested to Sri Shyama Shastry to have a Darshan of Devi Meenakshi of Madurai; compose and sing songs celebrating her glory and splendour.

Accordingly, Sri Shastry went to Madurai, sat in front of Meenakshi Amman and composed a garland of gem-like nine splendid Kritis – the Nava-ratna-malika, exuding Bhakthi-rasa, composed mostly in Rakthi-ragas , set to alluring  rhythmic structures and adorned with ornamental Angas like Gamaka, Chittasvara, Svara-sahitya and rhetorical beauties like Yati, Prasa etc.

These include most delightful Kritis dedicated to Devi Meenakshi, such as:

Saroja-dala-netri (Shankarabharanam), Mariveregati (Anandabhairavi), Devi-Meenanetri (Shankarabharanam), Nannu-brovu-Lalita (Lalita), Devi-ni-pada-sarasa (Kambhoji), Mayamma (Natakuranji), Mayamma (Ahiri) , Meena lochana-brova  (Dhanyasi) and Karuna-chupavamma (Sri).

*Madurai Meenakshi amman

Descendents

Sri Shyama Shastri   had two sons:  Panju Shastri and Subbaraya Shastri.  Each, in a way, continued the legacy of Sri Shyama Shastri.

After the demise his father, Panju Shastri was appointed as the Archaka of the Bangaru Kamakshi Temple; while Subbaraya Shastri pursued Musical career on the lines of his father.  

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Family Tree 10004

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Panju Shastri had two wives and six sons. By the first wife, he had three sons: Ramakrishana Shastri, Sambasiva Shastri and Annaswami Shastri.

Ramakrishna Shastri’s son Natesha Shastri succeeded his father as the Archaka of the Bangaru Kamakshi temple. Natesha Shastri is said to have safeguarded several valuable and rare manuscripts prepared by Sri Shyama Shastri on the theory and practice of Karnataka Samgita. These related particularly to Taala-prastara, illustrated with the help of diagrams, the sixteen elements (Shodasanga) of the Prastara Krama.

The second son Sambasiva Shastri was a reputed scholar, well versed in Vedanta.

The third son, Annaswami Shastri., was given in adoption to Subbaraya Shastri, since he was childless.

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As regards the sons from the second wife of Panju Shastri, they also were three in number.  The eldest Annaswami Shastry and the youngest Arunachala Shastri died rather young and childless. And, the middle-son, Subrahmanya Shastri and his son Ganapathi Shastri lived in Thanjavur.

Subbaraya shastri

Subbaraya Shastri

Shastri (1803-1862), the second son of Sri Shyama Shastri, followed the footsteps of his father; and, developed into a renowned composer and scholar.

He indeed had the great fortunate and unique distinction of having been trained in Samgita-Shastra by all three Grand Masters of the Karnataka Samgita: his father Sri Shyama Shastri, Sri Thyagaraja and Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar. His compositions are often described as the Tri-veni-sangama, the confluence of the unique features of the Kritis his three Gurus, the Trinity. ‘Kumara’ was his Ankita-Mudra.

Subbaraya Shastri has composed more than 40 Krtis. But only a few Krtis are available now. And, most of those  Krtis  are in praise of the Mother Goddess.

His krtis are also adorned with  decorative Angas like Svara-sahitya, Madhyamakala Sahitya etc,;  and with literary devices like Dvitlyakshara and Antyakshara Prasa.

[For a short life-sketch of Subbaraya Shastri, please click here. And, for a detailed analysis of his Kritis , please click here.]

It is said; in his two Kritis – Venkata-saila-vihara (Hamirkalyani) and Ninnu-sevinchina (Yadukulakambhoji) – in the long drawn out Vilamba-kala – Sri Subbaraya Shastry combined the styles of his father (Svara-sahitya and Svarakshara) and of his Guru Sri Thyagaraja (Sangathis).

And his Janani Ninnuvina  (Reethigowla) and Sankari-Neeve (Begada) are highly acclaimed for the delightful harmony of Raga-bhava and Sahitya.

He was versatile in other forms of Music as well. He learnt to play violin from a musician at the East India Company; and, is said to have become quite proficient in it.

He also gained familiarity with the Hindustani Music from the Maratha musicians Kokilakanta Meruswami and Ramadasa Swami, who were then the Vidvans at the Thanjavur Samsthanam. The traces of its influence can be seen in his Kritis Venkata-Shaila-Vihara (Hamir Kalyani) and Kamalamba (Desiya-Todi).

Since Subbaraya Shastri-couple had no children, they adopted Annaswami Shastri, the third son of Panju Shastri, as their own son.

After the demise of his father, by about 1834, Subbaraya Shastri along with his wife and son moved to Kanchipuram, where he stayed for about ten years or more. And, thereafter, they shifted to Triplicane in Madras; and, stayed there for only one year. It was while he was in Triplicane; Subbaraya Shastri composed the Kriti Ninnu-sevinchina (Yadukula-kambhoji), in praise of Sri Parthasarathy, the presiding Deity of the temple there.

He visited Madurai several times; and performed in the Meenakshi Amman temple.

Subbaraya Shastry taught violin to his son Annaswami Shastri; the two often used to gave duet performances.

It appears, Subbaraya Shastri also taught vocal music to Thanjavur Kamakshi Amma (c. 1810–90), the grandmother of Veena Dhanammal; and, Kanchi Kachiappa Sastri, the guru of Dhanakoti Ammal.

Among his other disciples were : Chandragiri Rangacharulu, also known as fiddle Rangacharulu;  and,Tachur Singarcharulu – the cousin of Fiddle Rangacharulu

Then, Subbaraya Shastry was appointed as the Samasthana Vidwan in the Udayar-palayam Zamin; where he was till his death in 1862.

Just as his grandfather Shyama Shastri did, Subbaraya Shastri could foresee his end. After performing the morning Sandhya-vandanam, he poured water on the floor saying ‘Dattam’; and, said that he would live only for two more hours. The Zamin and other pleaded with him; but, failed to persuade him to change his decision.

When asked about his last wish, Sri Subbaraya Shastri said:’ I have nothing to ask. The Ambal-anugraham has always been there on me; what more can I ask? ‘

A few minutes after that, he breathed his last at 8.00 AM on Dashami of Krishna-paksha of Chapa (Magha) masa of the Durmathi-nama-samvathsara 1783 (which nearly works out to 23 February 1862).

[ For a detailed  study  of Sri Subbaraya Shastri’s compositions, please do read An analytical study of the Kritis of  Sri Subbaraya Sastri, a Doctoral thesis by Dr. Smt. V. Veena Lakshmi]

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Annaswami Shastri (1827-1900)

Annaswami Shastri, the son of Panju Shastri was born just a couple of months after the demise of his grandfather Sri Shyama Shastry. He was initially named as Shyama Krishna, in memory of his grandfather.  But, later he came to be known as Annaswami Shastri.

He was given in adoption to his uncle Subbaraya Shastri, who educated him in Kavya, Vyakarana, Alamkara and in Samgita (Music). He was also taught to sing and also to play on violin. At times, he and Subbaraya Shastri used to perform violin duets.

Annaswami Shastri  began to compose Tana-varnas right from his youth. Among his compositions, the Daru Varna ‘Kaminchi-yunnadira’ (Kedaragaula, Rupaka-taala); and the Kriti ‘Inkevaru’ (Sahana) are well known.

The Svara-sahitya for the Kriti ‘Palinchu-Kamakshi Pavani’ (Madhyamavathi); and, ‘Pahi Girija-sute’ (Anandabhairavi) are said to be his contributions.

Annaswami Shastri used to sing the Svara-Sahitya of the Kriti in the manner of a duo, where one sings the Svaras and the other the Sahitya, in succession.

After the demise of his father, Annaswami Shastri was appointed as the Asthana Vidwan of the Udayar-palayam Zamin.

As a teacher; he taught violin and vocal to his son Shyama Shastri II, Sundârambâl, mother of Veena Dhanammâl; and Tacchur Chinna Singaracharulu.

Annaswami Shastri passed away in 1900, leaving his son Shyama Shastri II

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Disciples

Sri Shyama Shastry, comparatively, had a lesser number of disciples.

His principal disciple was his son – Subbaraya Shastri . Besides, he had three other disciples: Alasur Krishnayya; Sangita Swamy; Dasari, Tarangampadi Panchanada Iyer; and, Porambur Krishnayya.

Alasur Krishna Iyer:

Alasur Krishna Iyer was for some time the Samasthana Vidvan of Royal Court of Mysore. He was an expert in presenting intricate Pallavis. He had the privilege of being with Sri Shyama Shastry while he was at Madurai. He named his son as Subbaraya Shastri, in honour of his Guru. This boy, in turn, also grew up to become an accomplished musician.

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Sangita Swamy

Sangita Swamy was a Sanyasin and a brilliant musician.

It is said; one day while Sri Shyama Shastry was walking along the street, he came upon a Sanyasin; and, as per the custom, greeted him with respect. But, to his surprise, the Sanyasin fell at the feet of Sri Shyama Shastry ; and, burst into a song ‘ O Jagadamba’.

Then, Sri Shyama Shastry could recognize him as his earliest student (Prathama-sishya), who had vanished mysteriously. It was only to this student that Sri Shyama Shastry had taught his Kriti ‘O Jagadamba’ in Anandabhairavi. With the sudden disappearance of his first student, Sri Shyama Shastry had grown rather cautious or even reluctant to accept any student.

On accidentally meeting his long-lost student, Sri Shyama Shastry burst into tears. The Sanyasin, in turn, contributed a Svara-sahitya to that Kriti, as his Guru-dakshina.  

A little later, Sri Shyama Shastry sat before Bangaru Kamakshi and sang the Kriti ‘Adinamunci pogadi -pogadi’ in Anandabhairavi (Triputa-Taala); meaning: since that day, I have been praying to you praising you repeatedly in myriad ways; O my Mother do assure me and protect me.

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Dasari

He was an expert Nagasvaram player. It is said; on a festival occasion in the Tiruvaruru temple, Dasari rendered on his instrument a delightful Alapana of the Shudda-Saveri-Raga; and followed it up by the Pallavi, improvised with several attractive Sangathis. Sri Thyagaraja, who was raptly listening to the music from his house, which was close by, was greatly pleased with Dasri’s  elaboration of the Raga and the artistic rendering of his Kriti ’Daarini telusukonti’ rushed up to the temple and heartily congratulated Dasari on his splendid performance.

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Porambur Krishnayya was another disciple of Shri Shyama Shastri; but, not much is known about him.

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Tharangampadi Panchanada Iyer, a composer of high merit, was also said to be a student of Sri Shyama Shastri.  His Kriti ‘Birana brova idi manchi samayamu’ (Kalyani) was quite popular. His Raga-malika, composed in 16 Ragas; and, beginning with the words ‘Arabhimanam‘ is a beautiful composition, which is widely sung in concerts. (? – I need to verify again whether he was he disciple of  Shyama Shastri )

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The Last week

Sri Shyama Shastri, just as Sri Thyagaraja and Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar, could foresee the day and time of his death. When his wife, a very pious lady, came to know of this prediction, she was thoroughly shaken; and, she prayed to Devi Kamakshi to take her away before that very sad day would come to pass. The merciful Mother Goddess granted her request; and, she peacefully passed away on February 1st 1827.

On the passing away of his wife, Sri Shyama Shastry is said to have remarked: “sAga anjunAL, seththu ArunAL”, which perhaps was meant to say: “five days to go (for me) to die; six days would have passed (since her death)’.

Just six days after his wife’s death, on February 7th, 1827,  Sri Shyama Shastri decided to give up his earthly coils. He was at that time about sixty-four years of age.  It was at Thanjavur, the Dashami, Tuesday (Cevvai), Shukla-paksha Makara (Magha) Masa, Shishira Ritu, Uttarayana, Vyaya-Samvatsara 1748. Kaliyugam 4927.

On that auspicious morning, Sri Shyama Shastri meditated upon his Ista-devata, the Mother Goddess Kamakshi for one last time. He laid his head on the laps of his son Subbaraya Shastri; and, asked him to softly recite the Karna-mantra into his ears. He was fully conscious till the very last moment. He peacefully, serenely journeyed to Sripuram, the heavenly abode, to join his Mother Devi Kamakshi.

Thus, passed away an immortal composer of the Karnataka Samgita.

Kamakshiamman

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In the Next part we shall take a brief at the structure and other details of the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry.

 

Continued in Part Five

Sources and References

All images are taken from Internet

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2020 in Music, Sangita, Shyama Shastri

 

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Sri Shyama Shastry (1763-1827) – Part Three

Continued from Part Two

THE GOLDEN AGE – CONTINUED

Trinity

The Trinity – Samgita Trimurthi

It is remarkable that all the three Grand Masters of Karnataka Samgita Sri Shyama Shastry (1762-1827), Sri Thyagaraja (1767-1847) and Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar (1776-1835) – were born within a short span of about fourteen years, in the Smartha Bramhin community, in the temple town of Tiruvavur in the Kaveri delta, which had emerged as a religious and cultural haven.

All the three composers lived and flourished at a time when the South Indian classical music, prospered under royal patronage of the Maratha Kings in the Thanjavur.

All the three were initiated into Sang1ta Shastra by an extra ordinary Guru, a spiritual Master.

They all were proficient in more than one language; and, had their initial training in Telugu and Sanskrit.

Each one was a highly devoted and inspired spiritual seeker; and, regarded Music as a means (Upaya) to worship the divinity (Nadopasana) and to attain liberation (Moksha-sadhana). While Sri Thyagaraja was immersed in Rama-bhakthi; Sri Dikshitar was an adept in Sri Vidya; and, Sri Shyama Shastry was a Devi-Upasaka.

All the three shunned Nara-sthuti, praising the mortals; and, refused to be bound or supported by royal patronage; as also by the honours and favours offered by others.

Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Dikshitar and Sri Shyama Shastry were not performing musicians. There is no record that they performed publicly. They sang, practiced and taught music in their home. They perhaps sang while on a visit to a temple or a Kshetra, in honour of the presiding deity, in accordance with the then prevailing practice.

They were men of great learning, intense devotion and prodigious skill; and, each of them developed a particular technique and style in the structure and presentation of his creations.

Even though each had a distinct style of his own, the Musical Trinity accepted and adopted the kriti, the most important musical form in Karnataka music, as his principal medium for conveying the musical ideas and his varied emotions.

Though they were essentially rooted in the tradition; they did improvise, innovate and introduce fresh and sparkling ideas and modes of expression in their musical compositions, to heighten their aesthetic beauty.

Amazingly, all the three could intuitionally foresee the time of their death; and accepted it willingly, calmly, fully conscious as if they were merging into their chosen deity (Ista Devatha).

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They were also different in many other ways

And, each was a virtuoso, having a unique virtue of his own. If Sri Thyagaraja might be said to have emphasized on the happy blending of Raga (melody) and Bhava (emotional content); and Sri Dikshitar on portrayal of Raga; Sri Shastry displayed a fascination for the charm of intricate rhythmic phases combining Taala, Laya and Gamaka.

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Sri Thyagaraja

Sri Thyagaraja was a prolific composer ; believed to have created a thousand or more compositions (of which about 700 have survived)  of varied structures and formats such as Kritis; Utsava-sampradaya-kirtanas and Divya-nama-samkirtanas meant for Bhajans and Utsavas; Namavaliis; Stotras; musical-plays  and so on . His contribution to the repertoire of Karnataka Samgita is indeed immense. Most of his songs, permeated with spiritual awareness, are devotedly submitted in praise of his chosen deity Lord Sri Rama. He was revered as a saint (Santa).

Sri Thyagaraja adopted the Sampurna-Mela-Paddathi of Govindacharya-(Kanakangi-Rantnangi).   

Sri Thyagaraja’s compositions were often the spontaneous outpouring of his emotions and spiritual ecstasy. He would burst into a song to express his joy, devotion or sorrow; and, even his frustrations in his daily life.

The compositions of Sri Thyagaraja reveal, as in a mirror, his personality; his family circumstances; his problems in life; his varying moods; his pains and pleasures; his spiritual yearning; and, his intimate mystic experiences.

Many of his compositions set in commonly spoken Telugu, are virtual conversations with his Lord Rama. And, often he would take Rama to task (Ninda-sthuti); for not taking adequate care to protect and guard him against the jibes from his fellow beings.

Mutthuswamy Dishitar

Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar

Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar was also prolific; about 479 of his compositions have now been identified, spread over 193 ragas. These include four Raga-malikas; and about forty Nottuswara sahithya verses, based on Western tunes.

Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar followed Venkatamahin’s scheme – A-sampurna Mela Paddathi- (Kanakambari-Phenadyuti)

He achieved what Venkatamakhin, at one time, thought was not possible; he gave form and substance to all the 72 Melakarta-ragas.

As many as 157 of his creations are Samasti-charanams; carrying no Anupallavi or the Anupallavi itself acting as Charanam.

Except for one Kriti in Telugu and three Mani-pravala-kritis (Sanskrit + Telugu + Tamil), all his other compositions are in delightfully captivating Sanskrit. The technical sophistication, intellectual brilliance is the hallmark of his music.

Sri Dikshitar, all his life, was virtually a pilgrim, visiting a number of temples; and composing kritis in honour of the deities he visited.

Although he was essentially a Sri Vidya Upasaka, Sri Dikshitar composed songs praising numerous gods and goddesses.

Each of his compositions is unique, brilliantly crafted and well chiselled work of intricate art. He builds into his tight-knit kritis a wealth of information about the temple he visited (Sthala-Mahatmya), its deity, its architecture and its rituals; and about Jyothisha, Tantra, Mantra, Sri Vidya, Vedanta etc. He also skilfully builds into the lyrics, the name of the Raga (Raga-mudra) and his own Mudra, signature.

Unlike in the Kritis of Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Dikshitar’s compositions are remarkably free from personal elements. We may admire the beauty and excellence of his superbly artistic creations; but, we do not get to peep into his family circumstances, his personal likes, dislikes, pains and pleasures in his life. He hardly brings into his works, the personal elements or factors; or, his reactions or views on the life around him. There is a sense of detachment; a tranquil joy; and, Yogic poise that permeates his compositions.

Sri Dikshitar’s Kritis generally commence in Vilamba Kaala, as in the Vainika-paddathi. giving enough scope for the expression of Gamakas in their pristine purity and clarity; but, brisk and enlivening passages are built into the Kriti towards the end.

The influence of the Dhrupad form of Music can be seen in his portrayal of the Ragas in general; and, in transforming the Hindustani Ragas into their Carnatic form, in particular.

sastry

Sri Shyama Shastry

Sri Shyama Shastry, the eldest of the three, is renowned for the peaceful delight, devotion and the yearning for Love of the Divine Mother that permeate his compositions set in Vilamba Kala.

[It is not as if all his Kritis are in Vilamba-kala. He has used Madhyama-kala Sahitya in some of his Kritis; for instance, the entire Anu-pallavi and Carana of the Kriti ‘O Jagadamba’ (Anandabhairavi) is in Madhyama-kala

In some of his Kritis the repetition of Anu-pallavi’s musical structure in the second half of the Charana can be seen. Graded Sangatis have also been introduced to some Kritis.]

The structure as also the Sahitya of his compositions is simpler, direct and filled with intense emotional appeal to the Goddess Kamakshi of Kanchi, to whom most of his compositions are addressed. He repeatedly calls out, as a child,  to his Mother Goddess, in whom he has absolute faith, as Janani, Talli, Amma, and Jagadamba; and, pleads with her to come to his rescue and protect him  –  Shyama Krishna -paripalini , Ninnuvina Gati evaru, Namminanu and so on.

Though Sri Shyama Shastry was  a devoted Sri-Vidya-Upasaka , he did not  bring in to his compositions the elements and other details of Sri Vidya or Sri Chakra (as Sri Dikshitar did). What characterize the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry are the virtues of their ‘absolute-music’, the spontaneity, effortless-ease and the intensity of the yearning for the Love of his Mother.

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Except for two compositions: A Varna (Samini rammanave – Anandabhairavi – Ata Taala) in praise of Lord Varadaraja of Kanchipuram; and a Kriti (Sami nine nammitira-Begada-Adi-Taala) in praise of Lord Mutthu-kumara-swami of Vaitheeswaran Koil, all the other compositions are addressed to the Mother Goddesses in her various forms  with varied epithets as:

Kanchi-Kamakshi;Bangaru-Kamakshi;Kamakshi-Karunakatakshi;Brihan-nayaki; Rajarjeshvari; Akhilandeshwari; Amba; Jagadamba; Trilokamata; Brihadamba; Dharmasamvardhini; Nilayatakshi; and, Meenakshi   enshrined in  various Kshetras (temple-towns).

And, also as Himadrisute; Himagirikumari; Himacalatanaya; Girirajasute; Parvata-raja-kumari; Parvathi; Mınanetrı, Saroja-dalanetri, Sarasakshi; and, Natajanapalini,  

Kamakshi was his Ista-Devatha. And, Kanchipuram, of course, was of special significance to Sri Shyama Shastry. It was the holy town of the Mother Goddess; and, it was also the original abode of Bangaru Lakshmi.

Most of his Kritis are addressed to Kamakshi – either as Kanchi-Kamakshi (16 Kritis); Kamakshi (8 Kritis); Kamakoti (6 Kritis); or as Bangaru Kamakshi (5 Kritis).

There are  also Kritis addressed to the other forms of the Mother Goddess  as : Madura-Meenakshi (8 Kritis); Akhilandeshvari (5 Kritis); Dharma-samvardhini (3 Kritis); and, Nilayathakshi ( 2 Kritis).

His Nava-ratna-malika (garland of nine gems), a group of nine Kritis, singing the glory and splendor of Devi Meenakshi of Madurai is indeed a marvel. It includes some sublime Kritis, such as: Saroja-dala-netri (Shankarabharanam); Mayamma (Ahiri); Meena-lochana-brovava (Dhanyasi); Nannu-brova-lalita (Lalita) and others.

There are about Seven Kritis in praise of Devi (in general) ; and there is a Mangala Kriti on Devi – Shankari-Shankari ( 65 -Kalyani – Ata).

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Most of his Kritis came out spontaneously during the course of his daily Puja and prayers. As Sri S Raja observed, perhaps he did not intended it to be a composition. And, at a later time, his disciples perhaps to conform to the convention of affixing the mudra at the end of most of the  composition inserted his ‘Syama-Krishna’ Mudra into some of his worksExcept for about four compositions, all remaining 67 songs feature his Vaggeyakara-mudra , with the term Shyamakrishna  followed by various suffixes , such as : Sahodari; Paripalini; Pujite; Janani; Pari-palita-Janani; Vinuta; Hrudaya-nilaya and so on.

[The four compositions that do not carry the Vaggeyakara-Mudra are: (1) Janani-natajana-palini (Saveri); (2) Samini-rammanave (Anandabhairavi); (3) Palimpa-vamma (Mukhari); and, (4) Ninne-nammiti (Kedaragaula).]

With regard to the ease or comfort of rendering, Sri Shyama Shastry’s diction is classed as Kadali-paka; in between the Draksha-paka of Sri Thyagaraja; and, Narikela-paka of Sri Dikshitar; illustrating the felicity, comfort or otherwise involved in tasting a grape, a plantain and a coconut.

Even though the Sahitya of his Kritis is apparently simple, outpouring his childlike love and fervent appeals to the Mother Goddess, what makes it truly interesting is the hidden complexities of rhythm and tempo that are built into it, without in any way interfering with the melody .

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Output

In terms of the output, he was not as prolific as the other two members of The Trinity;  perhaps only about 72 compositions including about 60 Kritis  (including the 9 Kritis under the Nava-ratna-malika) ; 4 Tāna-varnams; 3 Svarajatis (hailed as Ratna-traya – three diamonds or gems) ; and , 5 Samanya Gitas are available to us.

[Depending the source, the total number of compositions that are available; and, are ascribed to Sri Shyama Shastry , vary between 65 and 75.]

He has contributed equally well to Abhyasa-gana and to Sabha-gana through his Gitas, Varnas and Svarajatis along with the Kritis of great merit.

Of the 60 Kritis, ten are in Sanskrit; four in Tamil; and, the rest in Telugu. They are veritable musical gems full of Bhakthi-rasa; adorned with decorative Angas like Gamaka, Chitta-svara, Svara-sahitya and rhetorical beauties like Yati, Prasa etc.

Sri Shyama Shastry is hailed as the composer of Kritis, Svarajatis and Tana –varnams, imbued with magical lyrical beauty, poetic felicity and Gamaka, Taala intricacy. Here again, the Artha-bhava of the Sahitya pleasantly   goes hand-in-hand with the Raga-bhava.

[The Kriti, in Sanskrit, ‘Janani-natajana-paripalini-pahi-mam-Bhavani’ (Saveri) is believed to be the first Kriti composed by Sri Shyama Shastry. He is said to have written down the words of the  song, in his own hand**, on a palm-leaf. It was an impulsive creation; perhaps not intended to be a Kriti per se. It does not carry his usual Ankita-mudra ‘Shyama Krishna’.

Shyama sastry first Kriti -Janani

A descendant of Sri Shyama Shastry, Sri S Raja, fortunately, has preserved that palm-leaf-manuscript; and, has published it.   The above is its scanned copy of the MSS.  

 Please click here for a rendering of the Kriti.]

[** There is also a view that Sri Shyama Shastry might not have himself written down those songs. And it is likely that he might have dictated the lyrics for someone else to script them on palm-leaves.]

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Commenting on the relatively lesser number of Sri Shyama Shastry’s Kritis, Dr. Raghavan  remarks : Sri Shastry was not weighed down by the concerns that Sri Thyagaraja had for elaborating on spiritual experiences or moral endeavors ; and nor was he anxious to summarize the principles of Sri Vidya or to depict the  nature and attributes of several deities as did Sri Dikshitar. Sri Shyama Shastry, on the other hand, was an absolute musician; and his songs absolute music.

His Kritis exemplify spontaneity, effortless ease and poignant expressions of guileless love and faith. He did not seem to have been weighed down by the concern to produce a large number of compositions. That is reason why Dr. V. Raghavan calls him ‘an absolute musician’; and, his songs as ‘absolute music’.

Therefore, even though the numbers might appear rather small; his creations, nonetheless, endowed with serene Raga-bhava and blissful Sahitya-bhava are among the best-known and most widely featured songs in the Karnataka Samgita concert repertoire.

In South India today, no musical performance is complete without a rendering of one of his compositions, where devotion, melody and verse combine to provide an elevating experience.

It is said; only the adept and well disciplined performers can do justice in rendering of Sri Shyama Shastry’s expressive and moving Kritis.

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Mela and Raga

Just as Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Shyama Shastry followed the Kanakangi-Ratnangi scheme of Melakartas.

The number of Ragas employed by Sri Shyama Shastry is comparatively fewer in number. He made use of just 33 Ragas in all, comprising 5 Melakartas and 28 Janya Ragas.

Though he handled lesser number of Ragas, about 33, (mostly Rakti-ragas), the portrayal of Raga-bhava to embody his· emotional upsurge; and, his soulful melodic rendering are indeed unique.  He chose common as well as rare Rāgas for his compositions, most of which portray their essence in a rather slow tempo.

He used only five Melakarts  for his Kritis. The Mela-Ragas used by Sri  Shyama Shastry are : Todi (4), Shankarabharanam (2), Nata (1), Varali (2) and Kalyani (8) – a total of 17 compositions ; including 1 Srarajati in Todi and 1 Varna in Kalyani.

The total number of Melas employed Sri Shyama Shastri for all his compositions are 13  (namely, Mela Numbers :  8, 13, 15, 17, 20, 22, 28, 29, 36, 39, 53, 56 and 65). These cover 5 Mela-Ragas and 28 Janya-Ragas

And, although he seemed to have avoided Vivadi-Melas, he did compose Kritis in the Janya-ragas of the Vivadi-Melas, such as Kalkada and Varali. The Raga Kalkada is a Janya of the 13th Mela Gāyakapriya; and, Varali is the Janya of the 39th Mela Jhālavarāli. Both these Ragas have Svaras in Vakra-gati (zigzag use of notes in the phrases of the scale) – vivadi svara .

For his five Gitas he used four Ragas that fall under three Melakartas: Pharaju and Saveri (15-MāyamālavaGowla); Bhairavi (20-Natabhairavi); Madhyamavathi (22-Kharaharapriya).

 The  Four Varnas are in : Saurastra (17); Anandabhairavi (20/22); Begada (22); and, Kalyani (65).

The three Svarajatis are in : Todi (8); Bhairavi (20) and, in Yadukulakanbhoji (28)

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The familiar type of Ragas that Sri Shyama Shastry used were  Todi, Dhanyasi, Kambhoji, Yadukulakambhoji, Shankarabharanam  and Kalyani.

Sri Shyama Shastry also tried many rare (Apurva) Ragas, like Manji, Ahiri, Kalgada Chintamani and Karnataka-Kapi. Of these, the Raga Chintamani, said to have been innovated by him, is classed with the other Rare Ragas introduced by his contemporaries.

Ānandabhairavi and Saveri, two of the soulful and emotionally charged Rāgas, owe their characteristic form to his masterpieces in the concert repertoire. The old Raga Anandabhairavi is said to have originated from the folk-tradition. Sri Shyama Shastry provided it with a new rendition (Raga-svarupa), bringing out the varied shades and colors of Anandabhairavi.

[He has composed Seven Kritis in Ananadabhairavi , said to be his favorite. But, Eight  Kritis are in Kalyani.]

Some of his splendid Kritis like O Jagadamba; Pahi-Sri-Giri-Raja-Sute; Mariveregati; Himachala-tanaya-Brochuta; and, the Varna Samini-rammanave, Sarasakshi ye vela (Ata taala) are in Anandabhairavi.

[Similarly, he had a special attraction for the Chapu-taala, which also was rooted in the folk-tradition. It is said; Sri Shyama Shastry in his childhood was fond of watching ‘Bhagavatha-mela’ performances conducted in the temple premises at Tiruvarur. The songs in these Melas were set mostly in Chapu-taala. Some say it is because of those happy memories Sri Shastry developed a fascination for Chapu-taala; and, lent varied forms.]

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Gita

The Gitas are essentially a part of the curriculum (Abhyasanga) of Music. Therefore, they need to be composed in a simpler form.  The Mathu (Sahitya , words) of the Gitas are usually in Sanskrit or in Kannada; and, are sung in Madhyama-kala (medium-tempo), without elaboration, repetition or improvisation . The segments like Pallavi, Anu-pallavi and Carana are not usually found in the Gitas; but, some are divided into two or three sections.

Sri Shyama Shastry has composed five Lakshya Gitas of the Samanya class. They are: Kamakshi (Pharaju or Paras, Triputa); Parvathi-janani (Bhairavi, Khanda-matya); Kamakshi (Madhyamavathi, Triputa), Santatam (Paraju, Adi); and, Sarasakshi (Saveri, Triputa)

Of these, four Gitas are in Sanskrit; while the Gita Santatam (Pharaju) is a rare example of a Gita in Tamil. It is divided into five sections of varying lengths and varying Ragas.

All the five Gitas are addressed to Goddess Kamakshi of Kanchi, the Sama-gana vinodini.

The four Ragas he used for his five Gitas are the Janya or derivatives of the three Melakartas: Pharaju and Saveri (15-MāyamālavaGowla); Bhairavi (20 Natabhairavi) ; Madhyamavathi (22-Kharaharapriya)

Although his Gitas are classed under Abhyasa-gana they far above the other Gitas, which are primarily meant to teach music in the initial stages. Each of the Gitas of Sri Shyama Shastry is rich in Raga-bhava, adorned with aesthetically pleasant Sabda-alankaras like Prasa, Svaraksharas and so on.

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Varna

Varnam is a short, crisp and tightly knit music-piece that aims to encapsulate the main features and requirements of a Raga. These are finely crafted exquisite works of art. The creation of a Varna calls for delicate craftsmanship, thorough knowledge of the Raga, its sanchara (movements) in various Kaala (tempos) , grasp over Taala and an overall sense of beauty and balance.

A Varnam is structured in two Angas (sections) : The Purvanga (first section) comprises  Pallavi, Anu-pallavi, Muktayi-svara; and The Uttaranga (the latter section)   comprises a Carana that acts as a refrain for the latter part of the Varnam and Carana-svaras (Chittasvara) that are alternated with the Carana.  Each section of a Varnam elaborates an aspect of the Raga (raga-svarupa).

The rendering of a Varna employs all the three tempos. The first Carana-Svara is rendered in Vilamba kaala (slow tempo) and each Jiva-Svara must be highlighted. After which, the rest is sung in Madhyama kaala (half-time). Some musicians insert their own kalpana-svara passages. In the third Carana-svara, the Svaras are short and made into groups (avartanam) of four. Thus, in Carana, there are two or three Svaras of one avartanam, one Svara of two avartanams and finally one Svara of four avartanams

Practicing Varna is much required for the student as also for the experienced performer. For students, the Varnams that are taught at the intermediary level are useful for learning the Svaras of various Ragas, singing in multiple speeds rapidly; as well as learning the appropriate Gamakas.

Advanced students are taught Varnas in multiple Ragas or Taalas. They introduce the student to the proper combinations of Svaras for each Raga and inculcate discipline that is needed for singing

Varna- rendering also helps to develop voice culture; and, in learning to maintain proper pitch and control over rhythm. The instrumentalists too can gain control over playing -techniques.

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Sri Shyama Sastri is said to have composed four Varnas: one each in Anandabhairavi (Saminiremmanave-Ata taala); Begada (Dayanidhe-Adi taala); Saurashtram (Namanavini-Chatursra-ata); and Kalyani (Nivegatiyani-Tisra Matyam).

The Begada Varna Daya-nidhe (Adi-taala) is in Sanskrit; while the rest are in Telugu.

The Varnas in Begada, Saurashtram and Kalyani are recommended for practice even for the experienced singers.

These Varnas are set in varied and difficult Taalas, like Tisra-matya and Chatushra-ata are said to be ideal for improving ones Laya-jnana. There are also certain unusual features to these Varnas; such as, the introduction of Savara-sahitya into the Mukthayi-svara (in Namanavini and in Dayanidhe) ; and extending the length of the Carana-sahitya (four Avartas in Nevegatiyeni –Kalyani)

The Kalyani Varna (Nivegatiyani), in addition to the usual Pallavi, Anu-pallavi and Carana, carries the fourth and a concluding line (Anubandham) – ‘Kama-koti peeta vasini’.

The Varna Namanavini (Saurashtram), is a Chowka-kala-Varna set in Chaturasra -atataala. It has two Avartas each in Pallavi and Anu-pallavi. Here also, a Svara-sahitya passage is appended to the Mukthayi-svara.

Samini-rammanave in Anandabhairavi is a Tana-varnam (Ata-taala), in which the heroine sends a message through her maid to her hero Kanchi Varada Raja Swami. It commences with the laghu, after a pause of eight Akshara-kala durations. The Svara-sahitya acts as a suffix to the Mukthayi-svara. There are eight ettugada Svaras in all.

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Svarajati

He also developed the Svarajati, an instructive musical form for which he provided three most impressive examples in the Rāgas Bhairavi, Tōdi, and Yadukula-kāmbhōji.

In regard to Svarajatis, Sri Shyama Shastry was the architect who converted a Dance form into an attractive musical delight by eliminating passages of Jatis (or Bols). It is said; the Svarajati was, earlier, primarily in a format suitable for dance; resembling in its structure to the Pada-varnam.

His three Svarajatis (a) Rave-Himagiri-kumari (Todi-Adi-taala); (b) Kamakshi-Anudinamu (Bhairavi-Chapu-taala; and (c) Kamakshini-Padayugame (Yadukula-kambhoji – Chapu-taala), are indeed matchless both for the delineation of the Raga-bhava as also for the richness of the musical content.

All the three, are dedicated to Goddess Kamakshi; and, resemble the Kriti in  their form. However, they differ from the Kriti in that they have a number of Svara-sahitya passages with an entirely different Dhatu. All the three Svarajatis are structured with a gradual sequence of music that ends in a climax.

The Todi Svarajati ‘Rave-himagiri-kumari-kanchi-Kamakshi‘ in Adi-taala is the smallest, with six Svara-sahitya; each of which begins with the Raga-Chaya-Svaras: Dha, Ga and Ma. The Svara-kashara syllables are dexterously woven into the texture of the Sahitya.

The Bhairavi Svarajati ‘Kamakshi-amba-anudinamu-maravakane’ is set to Chapu Taala; and, has the unique structure with eight Caranas  each beginning with a successively a higher note in the scale of   the eight Svaras ‘Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa’ in that order (krama). And, the last Carana begins with tara-sthayi shadja. And, the Pallavi starts in the Mandra-sthayi; and , has a rare Prayoga of Shudha-Dhaivata, sung as a prolonged note. This is perhaps is the most popular Svarajati of Sri Shyama Shastri.

The Yadukula-Kambodhi Svarajati ‘Kamakshi-ni-padayugame’ is set to Misra-Chapu. And, here again, the different sections commence on the Raga-Chaya- Svaras of the Raga – Sa, Ri, Pa, Dha. This Svarajati is mostly in Mandra and Madhya Sthayi; but, some lines ascend (Makuta) to the Tara-Sthayi.

[I have tried to summarize here the observations made by Dr. N. Ramanathan in his article: Shyama Shastry and Svarajati .

Shyāma Śhāstry lived at a time in history when public recital of art music meant the performance of Pallavi that included the forms, Alāpana, Tānam; and, the rendering of Neraval and Kalpana-svaram to a Pallavi theme. He is associated with the school of Paccimiriyam Ādiappayya, which specialised in Pallavi.

And, Śhyāma Śhāstry too was a Pallavi-Vidvān.

In this respect he differed from his contemporaries Tyāgarāja, Muttusvāmi Dīkitar and Gōpālakṛṣṇa Bhāratī, who are not known to have cultivated the Pallavi style.

Śhyāma Śhāstry also took to composing songs in various musical forms; and developed a style of his own, which was later adopted by his descendants and disciples

It would be more prudent to view and appreciate Shyama Shastry’s musical compositions from the point of view of what he has achieved, rather than from what he did not attempt.

For instance; the Svarajati was a form, which many of his contemporaries did not handle. And, in a similar manner, Shyama Shastry did not court Mela-based Ragas; Aroha-Avaroha based Ragas, or the contemporary Hindustani Ragas. And, he did not also try Suladi-Taalas, in which the other composers revelled. Each Master excelled in his preferred areas of interest. And, that is what makes Karnataka samgita fabulously rich with its varied delightful forms.

The transformation that Shyama Shastry provided to the Svarajati format was remarkable. And, the three Svarajatis he created were the first of their kind in the Karnataka samgita.

The earlier Svarajati had a form – not dissimilar to that of the Pada-varam -having a Pallavi-Anupallavi-Pallavi-Caraa-Pallavi structure. And the Anupallavi had appended to it a Svara-jati-sāhitya passage; and, it was because of which, it was given the name ‘Svarajati’.

Further, in the earlier Svarajati, the Carana had a number of lines (kaṇḍikā), again with a number of Svara-sāhitya passages, occurring in the beginning of Caraa, with the first kaṇḍikā serving as the refrain.

Shyama Shastry found the Svara-sahitya as the most fascinating and challenging feature of the Svarajatis. Here, the Svara-sahitya phrases present an engaging melodic-line projected by the Sargam-syllables, to which meaningful text (Sahitya) is appended. Now, the syllables of the Sahitya need to exactly match the duration of Sargam-syllables.

It is this feature that characterizes the Svara-sāhitya passages interspersed in the Kīrtanas of Śhyāma Śhāstry, like ‘Durusuga’ (Sāvērī).

It could be said that it was Śhyāma Shastry who revolutionized the music of his times introducing the innovations that stemmed from inside of the musical tradition, rather than being imposed on it from outside.]

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The techniques

As regards to the techniques, Sri Shyama Shastri’s compositions are known for their rhythmic excellence and the poetic beauty; and, for dexterous display of the twin aspects of Laya and Gamaka. He delighted in introducing into his creations the Atita-anagata complexities, intricate Taala-pramana (units of time-measure) and rhythmic beauties (Taala-prasthara)

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He is also said to have recorded, with great care, in his own hand, in the Grantha script, on a palm leaf manuscript, his workings of the different Prastaras in the Taala-system (Paddhathi).

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Another unique feature of Sri Shyama Shastri’s composition is the deft weaving in of the Svara-aksharas (Sā, Ri, Gā, Mā, Pā, Dhā, or Ni) with the Chitta-svara passages of the Sahitya (lyrics). Often, the lyrics containing five syllables (e.g., Anudinamu) articulated through rhythmic syllables (Jati), reproduce a pattern commonly employed by the Mrdangam players (Ta dhim gi na Tom), a phrase of the magnitude of five Akshara-kala.

At times, his compositions allow scope for applying two different Taalas. For instance; his Kriti Sankari-samkuru (Saveri) has the natural rhythm (Stapitha taala) of Rupaka-taala and the suggestive rhythm (Suchita-taala) of Adi-taala. The Pallavi and Anupallavi, prima facie, conform to the Rupaka-taala; while the Charana suggests the Adi-taala (Tisra Gati).

He was also the first to employ the Viloma-chapu-Taala (4+3), which is the reversed sequence of the Krama-Chapu or normal Chapu (3+4) – (for instance in Ninnuvinaga-mari in Purvikalyani).

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We have earlier, dealt with the life and works of Sri Thyagaraja and Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar, in fair detail.

In the installments to follow this post, let’s take a look at the life, events and the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry.

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Continued in Part Four

Sources and References

All images are taken from Internet

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2020 in Music, Sangita, Shyama Shastri

 

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Sri Shyama Shastry (1763-1827) – Part Two

Continued from Part One

OVERVIEW – CONTINUED

Samgita Devi

Intro

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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)]

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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.

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Lakshana-grantha

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.

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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 .

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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.]

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Uttama Vac-geyakaras

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. 

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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 (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)

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(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,

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(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)

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(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”.

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(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

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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.

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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.

composition-patterns

Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar was a skillful expert in the application of the Yati-Prasa-sabda-alamkara.

In his Sri Varalakshmi (Sri) and in MayeTwam-Yahi (Sudha-Tarangini), he used the tapering pattern of Gopuccha.

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Sarasa Pade,

Rasapade,

Sapade,

Pade.

de

Sarasa Kaye

Rasakaye

Sakaye

Aye

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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

Rajayoga Vaibhavam

Yoga Vaibhavam

Vaibhavam

Bhavam

Vam

 

 And Srotovaha Yeti (flowing or expanding like a river )

Sam

Prakasham

Svarupa Prakasham

Tatva svarupa Prakasham

Sakala Tatva svarupa Prakasham

Shivashaktyadi Sakala Tatva svarupa Prakasham

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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 

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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.

Lotouses three

Continued in Part Three

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2020 in Music, Sangita, Shyama Shastri

 

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Sri Shyama Shastry ( 1763-1827) – Part One

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OVERVIEW

Across the centuries, the long and hoary tradition of the Indian Music, at each phase of its development, was enlivened by a series of significant modifications and creative innovations.

To start with, the Sama Svaras (notes) of Nidhana prakriti (diminishing nature) or Vakragati, following Avaroha karma, a descending order (uttarottaram nicha bhavanthi) , which did not have much flexibility, were modified , re-arranged and re-structured as the seven Svaras in  an ascending and descending  order (Aaroha-Avaroha-karma) . The order of the Svaras in Sama-music was: Ma, Ga, Ri, Sa, Ni, Dha, and Pa. This order of the Svaras was revised in the later texts like Naradiya Shiksha to: Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni; as we are familiar with it today.

The evolution of the musical scales the Sapta-svaras, distributed in a Svarakshara-srenisaptaka (Octave), was indeed a very highly significant step enabling the growth and vitality of Indian Music in all its forms. And, it ultimately resulted in the identification and development of the Ragas.

Thereafter, the theoretical principles of Music (Lakshanas) were regularly and methodically rewritten, from time to time, in order to suit the changing trends in music. There was a continuous process of assimilation and adoption of new features, within the framework of tradition.

Marga

The Sama-gana or the Saman, the musical way of rendering Sama Veda, the earliest form of singing that we know was followed by Gandharva or Marga or Margi, an ancient type of sacred music making a pleasant appeal to the gods. The Marga tended to be rather intellectual; leaving little room for flexibility and imagination. These limitations had to necessarily bring in several changes. Gandharva, therefore, underwent considerable transformation. And, more importantly, it gave place to Gana, a form of art-music (laukika) that aimed to entertain the spectators at the theatre.

Gana

Gana was the Music of the songs – Dhruva Gana – sung during the course of play by the actors on the stage as also by the musicians behind the curtain, to the accompaniment of instrumental music. The Natyashastra deals elaborately with the theoretical and practical aspects of the Dhruva Gana – its various types, structures, grammar, as also the type of songs to be sung in various contexts in a play. Bharata also experimented with his Dhruva Veena and Chala Veena; and enumerated the 22 Srutis (micro tones).

Desi

The  Desi category of music that flourished from around 5th century onwards , in contrast to the devotional  Margi (Vaidika), was essentially a music springing from out of the inspiration derived  from various regional musical forms and tones;  each having a unique flavour of the sub-culture in which it was rooted. Desi, the Art music (laukika), which is enjoyed by all, is said to be the music of the people;   relatively free from strict adherence to rules. Desi Music, inspired from life, spontaneous and fluid, flowered in various ways. It initiated or refined the concept of Raga; developed it further; classified Ragas according to the system of Melas (basic Raga class / group) and its derivatives (Janya); and, it introduced new sets of instruments into musical performances.

Prabandha

For about a thousand years, which is till about the 17th century, the musical scene of India as also the dance-drama (geya-nataka) were dominated by a class of regulated (Nibaddha) Music called Prabandha, in its myriad forms.

Prabandha as a form of Music, Dance and other variety of poetical works, such as Khanda-kavya, was bound by certain specified elements (Dhatu and Anga). It is a tightly structured (Nibaddha-Samgita) song format having specific characteristics that are governed by an approved body of rules.

Sangita–shiromani (15th century) says the song (gana) which has been written by composers (Vaggeyakara), which has special musical character (lakshana), which is based in Desi Ragas and which pleases people is Nibaddha (13.3)

Such composed music (Nibaddha) which is formed with Anga (phrases) like: Pada (passage of meaningful words), Svara (tone syllables or passage of sol-fa syllables), Birudu (words of praise, extolling the subject of the song and also including the name of the singer or the patron), Taala (musical meter or time-units), Paata (vocalized drum syllables) and Tenaka (vocal syllables, meaningless and musical in sound with many repetitions) are known as Prabandha (13.5) ; and that which has in its main sections Dhatu-s (elements): Udgraha, Melapaka, Dhruva and Abogha.

Thus, the best and the most well established form of Nibaddha Samgita is Prabandha. During the 5-7th centuries they were described as a form of Desi composition of varied nature and forms (Desikara- Prabandho yam), such as : kanda, vritta, gadya, dandaka, varnaka, karshita-gatha, dvipathaka, vardhati, kaivata, dvipadi, vardhani, dhenki, ekatali, etc

However, in the context of Music, Prabandha is a comprehensive term which refers to a well-knit composition. And, within in the gamut of Music itself, the Prabandha stands for a particular, specified form of songs constructed according to a prescribed format.

The structure of a Prabandha, by its very nature, had to adhere to a prescribed format. In general, the emphasis appeared to be more on the text than on the musical content. The faithfulness to the form was, at times, carried to its limits. And, the Prabandha form, in due course, grew rather rigid; and, had to give place to improvised, easier and innovative (manodharma-samgita) forms of music’ each having distinctive features of their own.

Kirtana, Padas and other forms

With the steady decline of Prabandha and with the rise of regional languages, a range of musical compositions and rhythmic variations began to take place. Those with lighter and attractive musical content, set in simpler words, easy to understand, gained popularity as Kirtana-s or Padas.

The Kirtana form of Music that began to flourish towards the end of fourteenth century was basically devotional Music aiming to invoke Bhakthi in the hearts of common folk. Its Sahitya (lyrics), clothed in simple music, abounds in Bhakthi-bhava. It usually is a prayer or a Namavali (stringing together various names and epithets of the deity) or is a song ideally suited for group singing (Samuha-gana or Bhajana).

With the onset of Bhakthi movement, a flood of Kirtanas, Padas, Suladis, Ugabhogas etc., were composed by saint-singers such as Sri Purandara Dasa, Kshetrayya, Bhadrachala Ramadasa, Annamacharya and others. In addition, Tevarams and Divya Prabhandas gained popular appeal in the Tamil region.

Annamacharya (15th-century) classified the Sankirtanas into Adhyatma-Kirtana and Sringara Kirtana. Later, Kshetrayya (17th Century) transformed such Kirtanas into Padas expressing Madhura-bhakti, by building in verities of rhythms (Laya)  and Taala into the melody of the verse, as in Yaksha-gana.

In these songs, composed in the spoken language of the common people, set to simple rhythms and appealing tunes, the lyrics (Mathu), conveying the message of virtuous living with social values, faith in god and love towards all beings, carried greater importance than the music-element (Dathu). These songs were meant to benefit and reform the attitude and conduct of all the cross-sections of the society for a better way of living.  

The bulk of the Haridasa songs were in the format of: Pada; Suladi; and, Ugabhoga. When put together, their numbers run into thousands. In their structure, they resembled the Prabandhas in their simpler format of Pallavi, Anupallavi / Charana.

Such song-compositions were usually set to one traditional and melodious Raga in simple Taala; meant to be rendered in Madhyama-kaala.   The Music per se, here, is neither explored nor interpreted; but, it serves as a charming, delightful vehicle to convey the devotional content of the song.

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Contribution of Haridasa movement

Having said that , let me add that in terms of Music, one of the important outcomes of the Haridasa Movement was the reorganization of the Taala system from out of the numerous Desi Taalas (rhythmic patterns) that were then in use.

Sri Sripadaraja (1406-1504) who presided over the Matta at Mulbagal in Kolar District, Karnataka, is credited with categorizing the Taala system under seven categories (Suladi-sapta-taala), each with a fixed number of counts: Dhruva (14), Matya (10), Rupaka (6), Jampa (10), Triputa (7), Ata (14), and Eka (4). The counts were measured in terms of Laghu (of one matra duration – notionally to utter four short syllables) and Dhruta (half that of Laghu). He also provided scope for extending these counts (virama) by adding a quarter duration of a Laghu.

And, Chapu Taala, which originated from folk music, was brought into the main-stream-music under three classifications: Khanda Chapu Taala (5 beats); Mishra Chapu Taala (7 beats); and, Sankeerna Chapu Taala (9 beats).

And, the other important contribution of the Haridasa-movement was to standardize the methods for teaching Music (Abhyasa-gana); and blending the elements of lyrics (Mathu), Music (Dhatu) and Dance (Nrtya) delightfully.

Sri Purandaradasa (1484-1564), revered as ‘Karnataka-Sangita-Pitamaha’, is credited with introducing early-music lessons such as: Sarale (Svaravali), Janti (Varase-series), Taala-alankaras as well as the group of songs called Pillari-gitas.  These Gitas, composed in praise of Ganesha, Maheshwara and Vishnu, collectively referred to as Pillari-gitas, form the very first set of lessons – Gitas, taught to the students of Karnataka music, even today.

 [Following the Pillari-gitas (also known as Lakshya-gitas or Samanya-gitas) a set of Lakshana-gitas, illustrating the characteristic features of Janaka and Janya-ragas were composed by Sri Paidala Gurumurti Sastry, highly regarded for his technical knowledge of the Ragas – Sastrajna and Raga-bheda-dureena. He was a student of Sonti Venkatasubbayya and a younger contemporary of Ramaswamy Dikshitar (seventeenth-century). Venkatamakhin too has composed  many Lakshana-gitas.]

Sri Purandaradasa also seemed to have re-organised Ragas starting with  Malavagaula and Malahari under 32 (Battisa) Raga-groups. These efforts were perhaps based on the classification of 15 Melas made by Sri Vidyaranya (reverentially addressed as Sree Charana), in his treatise Sangita-sara (14thcentury).

This was followed by 20 Melas identified by Ramamatya (16th century), a minister in the court of Rama Raja of Vijayanagar, in his treatise Swara-mela-Kalanidhi Ca.1550).

These treatises had specified the Raga-lakshanas, with Gamaka-alankaras, decorating the particular note for each Raga.

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When you look back over the long and highly enterprising history of Raga in Karnataka Sangita stretching from Bharata, Matanga and Narada to the present-day, you find that the system has evolved through several stages. If Matanga defined the Raga and lent it a sense of identity; and Narada re-arranged the Svaras in an ascending order and defined the characteristics of each; it was Ramamatya that activated the process of binding the Ragas into structured groups (Mela). This has provided Karnataka Samgita a unique and a thorough theoretical foundation. It is not, therefore, surprising that Emmie Te Nijenhuis lauds Svara-mela-kalanidhi as a landmark in the history of Indian Music.

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Kriti

By about the seventeenth century, the churning of the Prabandhas, Kirtanas and the Padas gave rise to a music-format called Kriti, a well knit composition. The term Kriti, which is explained as that which is constructed (yat krtam tat kritih), is primarily a pre-composed music (kalpitha-Samgita), comprising the essential elements (Angas) of: Pallavi, Anu-pallavi and Charanas, set to Taala/s.

The Pallavi is rendered first. Pallavi the opening passage of two lines is followed by Anu-pallavi, with the Pallavi as refrain. Raga is introduced with the cyclical rendition and improvisation of Pallavi and Anu-pallavi. The body of the kriti is its Charanas. Each Charana usually has four lines. The final Charana, linked with the Pallavi before conclusion, contains the Mudra or the signature of the composer (Birudu).

Having said that let me also add there are varieties of Kriti-structures. There is no prescribed number of sections or a pre-determined length to define a Kriti. Some are short as in the case of some of Sri Dikshitar’s Kritis, where the Anu-pallavi and Charana are fused into one Samasti-charanam. Sri Thyagaraja, on the other hand, at times, adds extra Charanas. And at the same time, in some of his Kritis the last two lines of the Charana are rendered just like the Anu-pallavi.

Kritis can also be set in different  speeds (tempo), rhythms (Laya), Ragas, Taalas, lengths and levels of proficiency. Some Kritis allow scope for elaboration, while others are crisp. Some are scholarly, while some others just project sweet melody with simple words of devotion (Madhura-Bhakthi).

While the Kritis in Karnataka Sangita are generally rendered in Madhyama Kaala, some of Sri Dikshitar’s Kritis commence in Vilamba-Kaala; but, brisk and enlivening passages are built into the Kriti towards the end.

Similarly, in the case of Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry, a performer can do justice only if she/he capably renders the intricate play of Svara-sahitya; and, also grasps the delicacy of Gamakas of his Ragas renders in slow, contemplative tempo.

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Kriti, a highly evolved musical form, is the ultimate test of a composer. Kriti is conceived as a well chiseled work of art; an ideal harmony of Mathu (words) and Dhatu (music-element). It is a well structured (Nibaddha-Samgita) song format having specific characteristics that are governed by a well accepted set of rules. In an excellently well composed Kriti, the Raga (the melodic foundation) of the Kriti should be in harmony with its structure, its lyrics and its musical content.

Generally, a Kriti should strike a good balance between its words, its structure and its music (Mathu and Dhathu). A good Kriti should succeed in not only capturing the essence of its Raga, but also in aptly bringing out the inner meaning, the Bhava, of its lyrics (Sahitya). The Bhava of the words has to fuse with the Bhava of the Raga; and the two have to become one. 

The performer is not expected to deviate from the structure laid down by the composer. And yet; a Kriti provides ample scope to the performer to draw out her/his creative (Mano-dharma), innovative expressions in Raga and Laya. A gifted performer transforms a Kriti into one’s own inspired self-expression, investing it with her/his creative skill, well crafted Gamakas and Alamkaras.

Sangathis, a set of variations on the shades of a theme, gradually unfolding the melodic (Raga) potential of a phrase (Sahitya) in combination with Svaras; and the Neraval (Sahitya-vinyasa) are two other modes of elaboration. Here,  the Sahitya and its melody is spread out in various ways while keeping intact the original structure of the Pallavi or Charana – together with Kalpana Svaras, which provide depth and expansiveness to Karnataka Samgita.

And, Sri Thyagaraja-kritis, in particular, provide ample scope not only for elaboration on various phases and aspects of Raga (manodharma-samgita), but also for improvising fascinating sequences of Sangathi-s, Neraval and Kalpana –Svaras.

[A Kriti can also be sung with or without Neraval or Svara Kalpana. Because, it is said, a Kriti should essentially be beautiful by itself; and, should sound sweet even without elaborations and ornamentation (nirabharana-saundarya).]

The elaboration of a Kriti is complex for other reasons too. It might involve many Kaala-pramanas (tempos). And, quite often, a Kriti may be composed in rare or untested Ragas, perhaps because the composer either strives to demonstrate his technical virtuosity or to match the subject and the text of the Kriti with a Raga of an equally aesthetic quality.

Many times, a Kriti assigns the Raga greater importance than to its words. It might be trying to employ the Raga with its Gamakas to express the intent (Bhava) of its Sahitya more effectively. Further, Kritis are also often structured in complex Taala patterns. For instance; in some of the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry a Kriti employs more than one Taala; and, he also employs the unusual Viloma-Chapu-taala, where the sequence of the beats is reversed.

And, it is up to the genius of the performer to bring out the various facets of the Kriti as deftly as she/he can achieve.  Therefore, a Kriti can be more effectively rendered as a solo rather than as group-song (in contrast to the Kirtana).

For these and many other reasons, in Karnataka Samgita, creating a Kriti comprising Pallavi; Anu-pallavi; and, Charana/s, set to appropriate Taala is regarded as the most advanced form of musical composition. And, to render a Kriti competently and skillfully in all its beauty, harmony and grace is indeed the fulfillment of long years of dedicated practice of a well-trained erudite artist.

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To sum up

As you can see, the evolution of the rich and varied Musical tradition of India , in all its forms, could symbolically said to have commenced from the Riks of the Sama Veda associated with conduct of Yajnas; which then was improved upon by the Shiksha branch of the Vedas (Vedanga). And that gave place to the pure and chaste form of rather inflexible sombre Music Marga or Gandharva, submitting prayers to the gods; and which, in turn, was followed thereafter by the Gana of the Natyashastra with its several song-forms to suit various sequences that occur during the course of a Drama; and, also intended for the enjoyment of the spectators.

Marga gave place to a comparatively relaxed art-music-Desi-derived from different regions of the country, aiming to delight the hearts of men and women. The Desi in its wake established the concept of Raga, which in due time revolutionized the theories and practices of Indian Music. And, Raga became the central and predominant melodic concept in Indian music.  Over a period and with the proliferation of the Ragas, the systems of classifying the various Ragas into clusters (Mela) based on the technical traits of their scales (Svaras) came into vogue.

At the same time, there arose various theories for characterizing the Ragas according to the sentiment, emotion, mood or the season they seemed to represent, and the ideal time (day, evening or night) to sing the Ragas.

And, the Ragas even came to be personified, treating them as male or female, each endowed with its own individual traits and appearance. A large number of music-treatises were concerned primarily with the iconography of the Raga; and, were eager to connect the Raga with a deity or a season or a mood or even an environment.

Much before the theories and concepts of Raga were fully developed, one of the major forms of Desi Sangita that came to fore was the Prabandha, which in its varied forms dominated the Music scene of India for more than about thousand years till the end of the seventeenth century.

By about the Tenth Century, the Music of India had gathered almost all the basic features needed to set the Kriti format on its way to progress further; and, attain near perfection..

[In between, the Persian influence remodeled the forms and the ways of singing classical Music in North India. The ancient Dhruva-pada (Dhrupad) a Desi form of Prabandha gave place to the improvised lyrical Khyal and other popular modes of singing.]

*

The Prabandha which was getting rather rigid gave place, by about the end of seventeen century, to varieties of musical forms that were free flowing and not unduly constrained by rules of Grammar and meter. Though the form and the presentation of the songs took new shapes, they still retained, in one way or the other, the basic elements of the ancient Prabandha. This has helped to keep alive the ancient traditions.

Thereafter, in a long process of evolution spread over many centuries, several forms of Music including the Prabandhas, Kirtanas, Padas, Kritis, dance music, opera, instrumental music and other recognized forms   followed . Along with the Kriti, several other song formats with special reference to dance (Varna, Svarajit and Javali etc) also came into being. It took a long time for music to come to its present-day form. What we have today is the result of a long unbroken tradition and the fruit of accumulated heritage of centuries, stretching from the notes (Svara) of Sama-gana to the Mela-kartas of Govindacarya.

**

What is remarkable about the Music of India is its systematic way of developing musical thinking that aimed to organize and arrive at a golden mean between melody (Raga), the structure of the compositions (Sahitya) and the rhythm (Taala). These had to be in harmony with the emotional content (Bhava) of the song as well. Such carefully planned ingenious structuring has lent our music an inner-strength and an identity of its own.

Though the several forms of Music generated over the long periods differ in their form, content and intent, they do, in fact, represent a continued progression of a hoary tradition, each inspiring its next format. The Music of India, just as its philosophies and branches of art-forms, follows the path of continuity blending in the changes, without compromising its fundamentals.

sarasvathi tanjore

Continued in Part Two

Sources and References

All images are taken from Internet

 

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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Nine

Continued from Part Eight

Lakshana Granthas – continued

2. Tamil Traditions

lavanya

The ancient Tamil classics , such as  Silappadikaram (dated around the second century) attributed to Prince Ilango Adigal; and the Manimekalai  composed by the Poet Chithalai Chathanar (around the fifth century) have abundant references to Dance. The Silappadikaram also refers to another text on Dance: Jayantam, which prescribed the rules for the dance. These were said to be part of the Tamil Art traditions, the Muthamizh.

There are two existing commentaries on Silappadikaram; one of which is ancient – the Arumpadavuri; and the other is from the fifteenth century by Adiyarkunallar.

The Silappadikaram mentions many technical terms related to Dance. Some of those terms are similar to the ones that figure in the Natyashastra; such as: Natya, Ranga (Arangam, Aadukalam), Pindi, Karana and Mandala (Mandila) etc. There are also many Tamil technical terms; such as: elir kai, tolir kai, arangu, izzippu and such others.

And many concepts and techniques of the Natyashastra are adopted into the Tamil texts. For instance; Nilai, meaning stance, are the six Sthanas as in the Natyashastra; and, Padam the feet variations and the sixteen Angakriyas are also the same.

In its Third Chapter Arangetrakadai, the Silappadikaram mentions how a dancer should have mastery in ‘Pindiyum Pinayalum Ezhirkaiyum Tozhirkaiyum’. Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam explains how these are related to the terms in Bharata’s Natyashastra: ‘Pindi’ denotes group dance; ‘Pinayal’ means chain-formation, i.e., the dance where dancers form links; ‘Ezhir kai’ meant Nrtta hastas; and, ‘Tozhir kai’ meant Abhinaya hasta.

The scholars regard Silappadikaram as a Lakshya- Grantha, a text for practice of dance, based on Natyashastra, a Lakshana Grantha, a text which provides theoretical principles.

[ Shri V R Ramachandra Dikshitar in his Silappadikaram (Humpry Milford , Oxford University Press, 1939) mentions on page 65: the general descriptions of Dancing and Music, and the dance of Madhavi , in particular, before the Cola king; and the very names Madavi, Cirapati and Madari , lead us to infer that the author is influenced by Aryan ideas. ]

Silappadikaram refers to the contemporary streams of classical and folk dances. The Dance was known as Aadal or Arangetru Kadai; but more popularly as Kuttu. The folk dances were known as Archiyar Kuravai-kuttu. And Music was: Kadaladu Kadai, Konalvari and Venir Kadai. The folk- Kuttu tradition flourished under the patronage of temples. And, even today the Teukuttu dance troupes perform mythological dance dramas during festivals.

The text also explains the classification of two distinct dance types, prevalent in that era, the Aham (Ahakuttu) and Puram (Purakuttu).

Under the Ahakuttu, twin concepts are explained; such as, Aryam and Tamil; and Lyalpu and Desi.

Further Santi Kuttu, representing classical form of dance was divided into four types, namely Chokkam; Mey kuttu; Avinaya kuttu and Natakam. Of these, the Chokkam or Suddha Nrttam (pure dance, Nrtta) was having the 108 Karanas.

The other was Vinoda Kuttu or Metu Kuttu (also called Ahamargam) for entertain­ment, depicting love themes. It was of three kinds, viz., Desi, Vadagu and Singalam.

It again had three divisions – Sama Kuttu, Vanmai Kuttu (Tandava) and Menmai Kuttu (Lasya).

Under the other category, Purakuttu, three modes of dances were mentioned as: Perunatai, Charyay, and Bhramari.

*

As regards the Dancers, apart from the Devadasis-the temple dancers – the Silappadikaram mentions other classes of female dancers. It appears during the time of the Silappadikaram a three-fold classification of female dancers existed as: ganikas, kuttis and adal siladi – corresponding to the later classification tahyilar, patiyilar and devaradiyal.

The text, in that connection, names these other classes of dancers as: kaval ganika (women guards); kalattiladum kutti (dancers in the military camp); adal kuttis (dancers who performed ahakkuttu or srngara dances like padams), and so on.

Women musicians and dancers were known in the Tamil country from the Sangam Age. The daughter of the Chola King, Karikal Chola, Adi Mandi was an acclaimed dancer. She danced with bells around her waist to the sweet sound of the golden symbols, a kind of musical instrument. The Sangam literature refers to Panar and Viraliyar, the musicians and dancers. Both formed into a troupe and travelled together to perform in front of patrons.  They played on the Yal (a kind of lute); Maddala, Kudamula (drums); and, on the Amantirikai i.e., Edakkai, all of which blended in unison beautifully.

In one of the verses in Ahananuru, the dance of the girl Virali is compared to the movement of the peacock with spread out plumes.

peacock2

Madhavi, the most beautiful accomplished dancer by profession (Parathiyar), described as Vanavamakal (divine woman), is one of the three leading ladies in the Silappadikaram.

It is said; Madhavi’s training began when she was a young girl of just five years; and, it lasted rigorously for seven years

From the early age of five, for seven years, Madhavi had been put through a course of rigorous training. Every single day her teachers would arrive in Morning and evening; and, she sang scales and practiced dance movements. More masters came. She learnt to accompany herself on the Yal. She learnt the fine points of the flute and drum. Later still, came the composers, insisting that she should bring out all possible shades of meaning from every song she sang or danced to. And, till the day of her first performance she kept practicing, rehearsing strenuously and planning out every detail.

**

Madhavi was described in the ‘Ararigetru kaathai’ Chapter of Silappadikaram, as a woman (matantai), having broad shoulders (perun tol) and curly hair (puri kuzhal) adorned with pollen (taatu avizh) of flowers. Madhavi studied dancing (aatal), paatal (singing) and the art of enhancing beauty (azhaku). She was capable of singing without even one (onru) defect (kurai) in three (muunru) modes (kuur) ; and, was an authority (pataam) in her field. She studied these skills with great effort (iyatti) for seven years (eezh aantu). After twelve (eer aaru) years (antu), she wished to show (kaattal) her performance before the king (mannar) of Pukar, who has the surrounding (chuul) sea (katal) as the boundary of his kingdom.

arangetram55

And Madhavi’s Arangetram (Talai Arangerai) took place in the presence of the Chola King Karikala Peruvalathin, in his Royal court, located in the famous city of Kaveri poom-pattinam.

[Shri T. S Parthasarathy, in his article Bharathanatyam in History, writes: Arangetram was called Talai Arangeral. As soon as the dancer got on to the stage two songs were sung and they were called daiva-padal or prayer. After this, all the instruments on the stage were played together; and, this was called as Antarak-kottu. The dance started after this; and, the girl first danced desi-koothu. This would start with Matta-talam and end with Eka-talam. The next item was Margam for which a Prabandham was sung in the Pancha-talam]

arangetram3

The Chapter Arangerrukadai (on page 97)  opens with a description of Madhavi and then her troupe, consisting of a very learned Natyacharya or Nattuvan (Adal Asiriyan), a Sangitacharya or musician (Isai Asiriyan), the player on the drum (Tannumai Asiriyan), and an accompanying orchestra of a flutist and a lute-player (Kuzhalon and Yal Asiriyan). 

The Chapter on dance, Arangerrukadai, elucidates, in great detail, the proficiency of the dance teacher and his skill as a choreographer and musician, and tie principles of stage management.

This chapter also gives a detailed account of the rules and principles pertaining to the dance music i.e. vocal as well as instrumental dance musical accompaniments. The importance of the proper instrumentation i.e., tuning and playing of different instruments such as Yal, flute and drum and the manner in which the combination of these instruments should exist and be executed which ultimately facilitate in heightening the aesthetic pleasure of the dance have been mentioned in elaborate measure.

In addition to this, Silappadikaram states the qualifications of a good dance teacher, known as ‘Adal asiriyan’, vocalist and other members of the orchestral troupe.

As regards the dance teacher, it mentions that the adal asiriyan should be proficient not only in the eleven types of dances, but also should be well versed in its music ; and, must have thorough knowledge in the allied arts such as music, literature and should be capable of playing on different musical instruments too.

It is said; the Dance-Master knew the characteristics of the two Schools of Dancing  art (Kuttu) – Desi and Marga. He could effectively combine the different dancing poses with the Vilakku song, such as Venduvilakka, Pataivilakku ,Urvilakku and others. He had the clear knowledge of the eleven modes of body-movements and limb-movements (Aadal) ; of the songs (Pattu) ; of resounding instruments (Kottu) ; as also of the dance (Adal) of gestures (Padal) ; of the measured beats (Pani); and, of the time-beats (Takku). 

He knew when only one hand had to be used for gestures (Pindi) ; and , when both the hands had to be used (Pinaiyal). He knew when the hands had to be used for indicating action (Tolirkai) ; and, for expressing graceful movements (Elirkai). In the movements of the feet , he did not mix up the Kuravai-kuttu  with Vari-kuttu. He was such an expert Dance-Master.

Madhavi’s Music teacher who played , in the like manner, was an adept in his field of art; and in playing on the four varieties of Yal (string instruments – Periyal, Makarayal, Sakotayal and  Sengottiyal , of 21, 19, 14 and 7 strings , respectively);  and on   Kulul (flute). He was also well versed in the techniques of keeping time-units (Taalam) and in the production of soft notes on the MrdangamHe could  harmoniously synchronize all those sounds with the Vari and the dancing (Aadal). He had the flawless knowledge of Desikam music. 

As regards the composer of songs, he was very well learned in Tamil language. He was an acknowledged expert in Dramaturgy; and, was well versed in the two branches of dramatic compositions – Vettiyal  (relating to Aham) and Poduviyal (relating to Puram). 

The Mrdangam player knew very well how to accompany various modes of rendering of speech, songs and different situations . In maintaining the appropriate Taalam , he knew how to combine beats of varied speeds ; and, to melodiously merge with the notes of the lute, flute as also with the evenly drawn out notes of the vocal rendering. With dexterity, he could, whenever necessary, subdue the sound of his playing , so that other instruments and the singing could be properly heard.  

The flute-player was a master in the traditional rules of his art.  He knew the combinations  of  the Cittira-punarappu (hard consonants in rendering a song)  and the Vanjanaipunarappu  (soft consonants in singing) , whereby harsh syllables could be rendered soft and sweet. He knew four types of Vartanam (finger-skills) . And, with his knowledge of the Palai music (Kural and Ili) , he adjusted the sound of the flute with the sounds of the Mulavu  and to the beats of the Mrdangam . At the same time, he followed the notes voiced by the singer ; and, elaborated upon it. 

Then there was the player on the lute of fourteen strings  (Sakotayai) . In order to play the seven Palai notes, he would tune the strings of the lute , such as the Taram and the Kural; and, bring them to the central part of the lute; and then tune the Kaikkilai  part of the instrument. Similarly, he would tune the two other softer strings of the instruments on the Kural side;  bring them also to the central part of the lute; and, tune the Vilari part of the instrument. 

Thereafter , starting with the Ulai, the most slender string , and proceeding up to the Kaikkilai,  he would play on all the fourteen strings producing Samapalai notes, in a definite order. 

talaikol2

After describing the qualities of these accompaniments, the poem describes the stage on which Madhavi gave her performance.

The debut of Madhavi is said to have commenced by rendering the innovatory songs called the ‘Varam’ or ‘Tevara padal’ collectively sung by a group of songsters including the old dancers.

After the rendering of the Antarakkottu involving  two kinds of Varams, the  four parts of the auspicious Palaippan was sung with precision ; beginning with three Mandilams  and ending with a Ottu (eka-talam).

Madhavi, of long, black-flower-like eyes, adorned with rich ornaments, performed Cittira Karanam (perhaps similar to the Purvaranga or invocation, as mentioned in Natyashastra).

She performed , as explained by  Sri Santanam Swaminathan , as many as eleven types of Kuttus or dances (Mandalas – combination of 8-10 Caris), in all the tempos, in accordance with the dancing conventions; and thus, completing Antarakottu.

    1. Alliam: This is a dance about Lord Krishna’s victory over the mad elephant.
    2. Kodukotti : This is the dance Lord Shiva performed after burning the triple cities of Asuras/demons
    3. Kudai: This is about Lord Skanda’s victory over the demons
    4. Kudam : Kannan performed this after winning the release of his grandson Anirudh from the prison of Banasura.
    5. Pandarangam:  Brahma was entertained by Shiva with  this dance after Shiva’s win over the Triple Cities of demons.
    6. Mal: This describes the wrestling contest between Bana and Lord Krishna
    7. Thudi : This is Skanda’s dance after defeating the demon Suran
    8. Kadayam : This is the dance performed by Indrani at the north gate of palace of Banasura.
    9. Pedu : Manmathan’s dance dressed as a eunuch to secure the release of his son Anirudh.
    10. Marakkal: When demons sent poisonous creatures like snakes and scorpions against Goddess Durga she danced with stints (Stick dance). This is known as Marakkal literally “wooden legs”.
    11. Pavai :  Goddess Lakshmi’s dance against the warring demons.

And, then she demonstrated all the four parts of the auspicious Palai song, displayed in the Desi dance. She began with the Mandalam having three beats; and ended with ‘Eka talam‘ having one beat. In the same manner, she danced the Vaduhu dance. Madhavi, in her performance, effortlessly followed the prescriptions of the Dance-scriptures.

Her performance revealed that she knew (purintu) all the divisions (vakut) of Nrtta and Nrtya (naattiya nannuul); and, the authentic text on dancing (Natyashastra).

It is believed; unlike the present day practice, where the dancer enacts different characters by wearing same costume (Ekaharya), Madhavi is said to have adorned different costumes, suggestive of the character portrayed by her in all the eleven dances.

The fawn eyed Madhavi, strikingly beautiful with perfect features, lit with vivacity and laughter, in her quick movements dazzled like a golden creeper (pon iyal) throbbing with vitality, adorned with flowers (puun koti).

The king (ventan) awarded her with a garland of leaves and flowers (ilai puun kotai), in accordance with (vazham ait) the established custom (iyalp-p-inil).  He also rewarded her with one thousand and eight (aayirattu en) Kazhanchu (pieces of pure Gold) as per the tradition (viti murai). She was awarded the title of  Talaik-koli, in recognition of her skill and her achievement. She was also presented with the sacred-staff Talai-kol, a traditional gift given to first-time-performers (talai-arangu-eri).

Talaikol3

[As regards Talai-kol, it was a sort of staff wielded by the dance-master to regulate the dance. It was conceived as a symbol of Indra’s son.  It was crafted out of the handle (kaampu) of a white umbrella (ven kutai) that belonged to noble person (per icai) or a king (mannar) or a great sage (periyar).

Its middle (itai nilam) was decorated with the best Navalam; covered with plates of purest jambunada gold (polam} ; and, adorned with  nine kinds of gems (nava Mani), studded (ozhukki) in its joints (kan itai), forming a beautiful pattern. It had an emblem of Jayanta (cayantan}, the son (ciruvan) of Indra (Intira). The finished rod was offered worship (vantanai) in the palace (koyil) of the Chola king (mannavan), who sits under a white Umbrella (ven kutai).

Talaikol

On an auspicious day (nalam taru naal),  Madhavi washed (manni) the rod (kol) with holy waters of the Cauvery (punniya nan neer) in a golden pot (por kutam) and adorned (anintu) it with a garland (malai) . It was then publicly (paracinar) placed on the head (tatakkai) of the sixty year old royal-elephant (aracu-uvaa), along with a beautiful (puun) golden (polam) vessel (otai) containing sandal (Cantaam) and other auspicious things.]

ramya

[ After winning the very prestigious award and gaining widespread fame, Madhavi’s life takes a bizarre turn:

The large lotus-eyed Madhavi  gave  the garland , which was  presented to her by the king, to her  hunch- backed maid, instructing  her to stand out in the street where the rich citizens of the city moved about; and, to announce that  ‘this garland is worth a sum of 1008 kalanjus of very excellent gold (jambunada) . He who buys this garland becomes the husband of our  Lady, glowing like a lustrous golden creeper  ’.

The garland was purchased by Kovalan, a wealthy merchant hailing from the city of Kaveripattinam. And, thereafter, accompanied by the hunchback, he entered Madhavi’s bridal chamber; and, was so much captivated by her charms as he forgot himself and took an oath that he would never ever be away from this divine looking damsel. In sooth, he forgot his own unsullied home and wife, Kannagi.

The Love struck Kovalan married Madhavi; and, the couple thereafter lived happily for about three or more years. A lovely looking daughter Manimekhalai was born to them. During the intervening period many weird and disturbing incidents take place; following which, Kovalan, in a huff, walks away from Madhavi and returns forever to his earlier wife Kannagi.

Thereafter, Madhavi gifts away her wealth and other possessions; renounces the worldly life; and, enters into the Buddhist Sangha as a nun.

Madhavi with Kovalan

In another epic Manimekhalai, of the later Sangam age , composed by the Buddhist poet Seethalai Sattanar or Chithalai Satthanar (2nd Century CE), the lovely daughter of Madhavi and Kovalan – Manimekhalai – is the principal character. Like her mother, Manimekhalai is also an accomplished dancer and a courtesan. Later, upon hearing doctrinal expositions from the Buddhist teacher Bhikshu Aravana Adigal, she  enters the Sangha and becomes a  Bhikshuni or Buddhist nun; and, dedicates the rest of her life to Dharma.

[ please also read : Manimekalai the Dancer with Magic Bowl – The Second Century Tamil Epic Legend  by Arputharani Sengupta.]

The most beautiful, golden-hearted Manimekalai, causes to build a delightful garden  in the graceful city of Kanchi, in honour of the Buddha; places the Amuda Surabhi at  the lotus seat of the Buddha ; and,  welcomes all living beings, including the lonely, the neglected, the hungry, the defeated, and the maimed to gather and partake food offered by her and bless her.

Even though Manimekalai was a Buddhist, she went to Jain monks at Vengi, the Chera capital; and, learnt about the Jain concepts of morality (Manimekalai 27:167-201).

It is said; Manimekhalai ardently practiced the Buddha’s teachings and attained the highest stage of Buddhist spiritual attainment, an Arhant.

Manimekhalai

References and Sources

  1. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/71949/8/08_chapter%203.pdf
  2. https://joss.tcnj.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/176/2017/04/2017Ruhl.pdf
  3. https://www.scribd.com/document/234378951/Arangetram-History
  4. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/71949/8/08_chapter%203.pdf
  5. http://www.yabaluri.org/Web%20(1978%20%-202008)/theatrearchitectureinancientindiaoct98.htm

agni purana

3.Agni Purana

Agni Purana is one of the eighteen Puranas. It usually figures eighth in the list of eighteen. It is a medieval Purana that was, perhaps, compiled in stages during the Seventh and the Eleventh centuries. It is a voluminous work having as many as about 15, 000 or more verses , spread over 382 or 385 Chapters.

In its nature and content, the Agni Purana is a sort of an encyclopedia that covers ‘anything and everything’. It deals with wide-ranging subjects, such as: geography; cultural history; politics; education system; iconography; taxation theories; organization of army; theories on proper causes for war; diplomacy; local laws; building public projects; water distribution methods; trees and plants; medicine, Vastu Shastra (architecture); gemology; language; grammar; poetry; Alamkara, Chhandas; Rasa ; Riti; Yoga; food,; rituals and numerous other topics.

Just to gain a familiarity with the coverage of the Agni Purana, please click on HERE and on HERE.  

The initial Chapters of the Agni Purana describe about various incarnations of Lord, including Rama and Krishna. Other chapters describe about religious rituals especially those related to the worship of Lord Shiva. Many chapters have description about the earth, stars and constellations as well as the duties of the kings. The Agni Purana, generally,  is full of rituals

All this leads to the fact the Agni Purana was composed at a much later period , attempting to bring together , in a summary form, the stories, the rituals, and the details of various subjects that were described in the earlier Epics and the Puranas.

Therefore, none of the material in the Agni Purana is new or original. Its aim, perhaps, was to supplement the branches of traditional knowledge contained in the earlier texts; and, to collect and to preserve the core-topics of the important subjects, which were of current interest during the period of its compilation.

Thus, the Agni Purana, by its very nature is a summary. Therefore, its chapters are generally not long, they are very brief. And even when the stories, rituals and other information are given, they are in greatly summarized form.

Following that type of presentation, the Agni Purana, in its Chapters 340 and 34i , gives some information about Dance, particularly relating to Anga-karma Abhinaya (actions, gestures and movements) , largely taken from the ancient Nrttasutra and the Natyashastra.

[Please click HERE for the text of the Agni Purana; and, refer to the portion commencing with the title Ntyādāv-aga-karma-nirūpaa; and, here for  Abhinayādi-nirūpaa ]

In Chapter 340 (Aga-karma-nirūpaa) , the Agni Purana mentions the actions of the Angas and Pratyangas; thirteen actions of head (Shirobedha); which are the same as given In the Natyashastra.

Thirty-six movements of eyes (Dṛṣṭī-lakaam) are mentioned, among which, eight are the Rasa-drstis, related to the expressions of the various emotions and sentiments.

The Purana refers to nine actions of the eyeballs (Tara) (as compared to eight by the Natyashastra); but mentions by name only the twoBhramari and Calana.

Agni Purana mentions just four types of actions of the eyebrows (Bhru) – (Patana, Bhrukutimukha, Sthayi and Sanchari). However, the last two were not included among the seven types of eyebrow movements enumerated in the Natyashastra.

Agni Purana refers to six different actions of the nose (Nasika), without enumerating them by name. The Purana refers to nine actions of respiration (Nisvasa) . But, these were not mentioned In the Natyashastra.

The Purana refers to six actions of the lower lips (Adhara);  seven actions of the chin (Cibuca); six actions of the face (Mukha); and, nine actions of the neck (Griva) ; without , however ,  naming them .

The Agni Purana also refers to there are various actions of the hands (Hasthas) – single and combined (Asamykuta and Samyukta). It mentions the twenty-four Asamyukta-hasthas in the same order, with slight variation, as mentioned in the Natyashastra. As regards the Samyukta-hasthas, they are twelve in number (not thirteen as in Natyashastra). The Pushpaputa is omitted here.

[Similarly, the other Puranas, such as , the Vishnu Purana, the Bhagavata Purana and the Harivamsha  provide some general information of the Hastas.]

The Purana also refers to five actions of the chest (Urah) ;  five actions of the sides (Parsva) ; and, to  five actions of the thighs (Uru) . But, these are neither specifically named nor discussed.

Agni Purana names the three actions of the belly (Udara) as: Duratiksama, Khanda and Purna. The first one is mentioned in the Natyashastra, merely, as Ksama.

The movements of the feet (Pada-bedha) are mentioned as being various;  but without  mentioning  their specific numbers.

*

Thus, the Nrtyadi-ranga-karma, information about the bodily actions in Dance, is very brief. And, in certain cases, it slightly differs from the Natyashastra. Obviously, the Agni Purana obtained its information about Dance from another source also; perhaps from Nrtta-sutra, which is no longer extant.

*

The Agni Purana , in its Chapter 341, describes the importance of the four types of Abhinayas ; and , remarks that the four factors viz., Sattva, Vac, Anga and Aharya  play a dominant role in bringing out the best that exists in a dramatic composition and In the heart of  the dramatic personae.

Ābhimukhyan nayann arthān vijñeyo a’bhinayo budhai / caturdhā sambhava sattva vāg agā ahara rāśraya //AP_341.001//

stambhādi sāttviko vāgārambho vācika āgika / śarīrārambha āhāryo buddhyārambhapravttaya // AP_341.002//

Skanda

References and Sources

  1. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/164285/8/07_chapter%202.pdf
  2. https://www.kamakoti.org/kamakoti/agni/bookindex.php
  3. http://www.bharatadesam.com/spiritual/agni_purana.php
  4. http://www.aa.tufs.ac.jp/~tjun/data/gicas/ap3_tr_frame.html

 

natya

 

  1. Vishnudharmottara

The Visnudharmottara Purana  (Ca. fifth or sixth century) is a   text that is Encyclopedic in its nature.  Apart from painting, image-making, Dancing and dramaturgy, it also deals with varied subjects such as astronomy, astrology, politics, war strategies, treatment of diseases etc.

The author asserts that the Vishnudharmottara  is but a compilation; and, is an attempt to preserve the knowledge that was hidden in older sources. Sadly, all those older texts are lost to us. Vishnudharmottara is thus the earliest exhaustive treatise available to us on the theory and practice of temple construction, painting,  Dancing and image making in ancient India.

The text, which is divided into three khandas (parts), has in all 570  Adhyayas  (chapters).  It deals with dance, in its third segment – chapters Twenty to Thirty-four.

The author follows the Natyashastra in describing the abstract dance form, Nrtta; and, in defining its function as one of beautifying a dramatic presentation. There are, however, slight variations in the enumeration of the Karanas, Angaharas and Hastas.

The focus of the text is on Nrtta, defining its vital elements such as Karanas, Cari etc., required in dancing. In addition, the author briefly touches upon the Pindibandhas or group dances mentioned by Bharata; and, goes on to describe VrttiPravrtti and Siddhi; that is – the style, the means of application and the nature of competence.

swans

As regards its  structure and the contents of the Parts dealing with Dance:

:- In Chapter Twenty (the first chapter of the section), the author follows the Natyashastra in describing the abstract dance form, Nrtta; and, in defining its function as one of factors beautifying a dramatic presentation.

The Chapter Twenty deals with the appropriate places for the performance of Nrtta. It also discusses the aspects of the stage and the presentation of the preliminaries. The discussion includes the characteristics of actors; the four different types of Abhinayas, namely – Angika, VacikaSattvika and Aharya; and the names of all the complicated movements necessary for the composition of a dance sequence. In addition, the author briefly touches upon the Pindibandhas or group dances mentioned by Bharata; and goes on to describe  Vrtti,  Pravrtti and Siddhi, ; that is – the style, the means of application and the nature of competence.

:- The Twenty-first Chapter discusses Sthanas or postures while lying down (Shayana);,while the Twenty-second deals with the Sthanas to be assumed by persons of  different status , while sitting. The focus of these two chapters seems to be on dramatic presentation.

:- The twenty-third chapter is devoted to postures meant for both men and women.

:- The Twenty-fourth Chapter lists the movements of the major limbs, the Angas, along with the meaning attached to each of those movements. The major limbs, according to this text, are the head, the neck, the chest, the sides, the waist, the thighs, the shanks and the feet. In conclusion, the Chapter defines the Cari and the Karana, the two vital and complicated movements required in Dancing.

:- In the Twenty-fifth Chapter, the movements of the Upangas or minor limbs are discussed, including the glances of the eyes (Dristi bedha) that express the   Sthayi and Vyabhicari- bhavas; the movements of the pupils; the eyebrows; the nose (nostrils), chin and lips, as well as the application of these movements.

:- The Twenty-sixth chapter describes three types of hand-gestures (Hasthas), those made with one hand (Asamyukta), those made with both (Samyukta) – along with the meanings they can convey – and hand-gestures meant for dancing (Abhinaya), which convey no meaning (Nrtta-hastha).

:- The twenty-seventh chapter is devoted to the explanation of different kinds of Abhinaya and the costumes and decorations (Aharya) necessary for a performance.

:- The twenty-eighth chapter deals with Samanya-abhinaya, giving general directions for expressing different moods and responses to seeing, touching and smelling objects. Although the author designates this chapter as a discussion of Samanya-abhinaya, he includes Citra-abhinaya, that is, special presentations. In fact, this Chapter is a conflation of the contents of Chapters twenty-two and twenty-five of the Natyashastra; and, contains extensive quotations from it.

:- The Twenty-ninth chapter describes the Gatis, that is, gaits; while the Thirtieth discusses the nine Rasas; and the Thirty-first Chapter discusses  the Bhavas.

A new feature of the treatment of body movements that is added to the discussion of body movements appears in the Thirty-second Chapter, which deals with what is termed Rahasya-mudras, that is, hand-gestures meant for mystical and ritualistic purposes.

:- Continuing the discussion in the Thirty-third Chapter, the author lists more Mudras all meant for religious purposes, and calls them Mudra-hastas, and associates them with hymns to the gods and goddesses.

:- The Thirty-fourth and the final Chapter on dancing is devoted to the legend of the origin of dancing. Since the work is devoted to the worship of Vishnu, it is not surprising that its author should view Vishnu as the originator of the art of dancing.

vishnu

The Vishnudharmottara is Vasihnava text, affiliated to the Pancharatra Agama, which is associated with the Vyuha doctrine. Here, Adi-Vishnu or Para–Vasudeva represents the Pancharatra ideology of the transcendental form (Para) of Vishnu the Supreme principle abiding in the highest realm Paramapada. Vishnu the Absolute, the Brahman, out of loving- compassion, voluntary assumed bodily forms so that the devotees may gain access to his subtle form.

According to Vishnudharmottara, it was Lord Vishnu who created the sublime Art of Dancing, which represents the three levels of existence in all the three worlds (Trai-lokasya-anukaranam).

vishnu dancingHari Hara Bapu

The Nrtta created by Vishnu was composed of Angaharas and Karanas. The text considers Nrtta as the pure, absolute form of Dance; Natya as the depiction of the ways of the world (jagato-anukriya); and Nrtya as the factor that lends beauty to Natya- (VDP. 3.20.1)

The text declares that Dancing in the presence of the Lord is the true worship; it is the adoration of the divinity with one’s body, mind and soul. And, performing Dance as a spiritual discipline (Sadhana) is superior to offering flowers (pushpam, naivedyam) etc. It leads the way to liberation. Thus, the Art of Dancing, Nrtta, is regarded as Mangalya, auspicious and sacred devotional submission to Lord Vishnu.(VDP. 3.34 – 25,26,27 )

dancing in temple

The Vishnudharmottara emphasizes the inter relation, or rather the inter-dependence between the various art forms.  Sage Markandeya instructs : One who does not know the laws of painting (Chitra) can never understand the laws of image-making (Shilpa); and, it is difficult to understand the laws of painting (Chitra) without any knowledge of the technique of dancing (Nrtya); and, that, in turn, is difficult to understand without a thorough knowledge of the laws of instrumental music (vadya); But, the laws of instrumental music cannot be learnt without a deep knowledge of the art of vocal music (gana).

Whatever is prescribed for Nrtta is equally applicable to Chitra as both imitate the rhythm or Chhandas or the subtle aspect of the phenomenal world. Movements of eyes, lips and limbs, depiction of Bhava and Rasa (sentiments) and the various Mudra-s (postures), prescribed .for Dance are also followed in Chitra ; and, the same principles govern the practice of these two sets of Fine Arts, one performing and the other synthetic.

The main difference between the Dance and painting is that the former has Tala or Laya; because, it is related to Kaala (Time). And, the latter has Rupa (form) and Mana-Pramana (measures and proportions) ; because, it is related to Dik (Space) .

And between Dance and sculpture, , the human form is the instrument of expression; and, everything in the figure, the face, the hands, the posture of the limbs, the pose and turn of the body, each accessory has to be imbued with an inner meaning.  It manifests, on the  one hand, the basic idea;  and, on the other, suppresses anything which would mean an emphasis on the merely physical or sensuous.

lasya

The dance-posture gives each sculpture a rhythm which is its soul or spirit. Because of the fact that the rhythm arising out of dance-postures instils life into its form, the stone-mass seems to breathe and pulsate like a living organism. Dance (Nrtta) endows life to sculpture (Shilpa).  

Hence, the Sage Markandeya declared Nrtta and Chitra, to be art-forms par excellence  : ta eva chitre vijneya nrittam chitram param matam

Yatha nritte , tatha chitre  trailokya-anukritis smrita / drishtayas cha tatha bhava angopangani sarvasah / karas cha ye maya nritte purvokta nripasattama / ta eva chitre vijneya nrittam chitram param matam // 3.35.5-7//

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Angikabhinaya

As said earlier; the Vishnudharmottara generally follows the descriptions and technical details as given in the Natyashastra; but, with slight variations. For instance; it describes Tandava as a form of dance that is characterized by intense excitement and ferocious mood; and, it is to be performed by males. And, it describes Lasya as show of amorous expressions and graceful movements of limbs; and, it is performed by women. There also some other minor variations in the enumeration of movements of certain Angas, Pratyanga and Upangas.

It devotes more space to Nrtta and Angikabhinaya. It mentions that the ideal Nrtta is full of Rasa and Bhava. It follows Tala (rhythm), Kavya-rasa (meaning) and Gita (song and lyrics). It gives happiness; and increases the Dharma.

Rasena Bhavena samanvitan ca talanugam kavya rasanugam ca/ gitanugam Nrtta mukati dha Sukhapradam dharma vivardhanam (VDP. 3.20.1)

The Vishnudharmottara devotes three Chapters (24, 25 and 26) of its Third Khanda to discuss, in detail, the various aspects of the Angikabhinaya, which portrays actions; and, also reflects emotions through movement of the various parts of the body.

The Chapter Twenty four enumerates the movements of the major limbs, the Angas, along with the uses of each of those movements. The Chapter defines the Cari and the Karana, the two vital and complicated movements required in Dancing.

In the Twenty-fifth Chapter, the movements of the Upangas or minor limbs are discussed, including the glances of the eyes (Dristi bedha) that express the   Sthayi and Vyabhicari- bhavas; the movements of the pupils; the eyebrows; the nose (nostrils), chin and lips, as well as the application of these movements.

The Chapter Twenty-six  on the Hasthas (Hastha-adyaya) gives the descriptions of the three types of the arrangement of the Hasthas (Asamyukta, Samyukta and Nrtta-hastas)

As regards the Nrtta-hastas, The Vishnudharmottara emphasised that all the Nrtta hastas should be delicate, beautiful and charming. The main characteristic of Nrtya is Lalitya, delicately graceful.

The sage Markandeya remarks: The learned should make graceful movements of the Nrtta-hasthas; because, it is the grace and beauty that differentiates Nrtta from other movements (VDP. 3.26.95).

Karya lalita sancara nrttahasta para vidhau / lalityameva viterya pratibhodanam (3.26.95)

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Pindibandha

There is also a brief description of the Pindi or Pindibandha performed by groups of dancers; which is the technique of group formations, and, weaving patterns. Pindi is described in the Vishnudharmottara as having the shape of the symbol of a particular deity. In the Natyashastra, Bharata mentions several such Pindis; and, says that the Pindis of the presiding gods and goddesses will be marked with their own banners. Thus, the Īśvara piṇḍī  is for Īśvara; Sihavāhinī for Caṇḍikā; Śikhī piṇḍī for Kumar and so on.

dance costume

Aharya

The whole of  27th Chapter is devoted to Aharyabhinaya, which deals with costume, ornaments, makeup , stage props etc. The Aharya has to be particularly suited to each type of character; and, has also to be relevant to the situation. The appropriate Aharya for each character is essential for bringing out the dramatic effect; and, often, the entire production depends on it.

The Aharyabhinaya is said to be of four kinds: Pusta; Alamkara; Angarachana; and, Sanjiva.

The Pusta refers to imitative forms made of clay, wood, cloth, leather or metal. These are the masks (Pratisirsani) of gods, demons, Yakshas, elephants, horses and birds, made by use of the Pusta techniques. Pusta might also refer to the background or the props.

The Alamkara is adornment or decoration by means of costumes, garlands and ornaments etc.

The Angarachana (lit. Painting of limbs) is makeup by application of creams, colours, paints etc on the person of the actor.

And, Sanjiva is the use of living creatures, animals and birds.

For the Angarachana, the Vishnudharmottara mentions the rules that should be followed for gods, other beings and humans.  These have to be in accordance with the types of masks (Pratikira) and head gears or crests (Makuta or Kirita), beards, moustaches etc., of those characters.  

Three kinds of costumes are mentioned:  White, Variegated and according to male or female characters, as per the common practice.

The actors should wear the masks of various animals, and, similarly the symbols of various gods carrying their weapons should be represented by masks.

Bharata says that such different modes of dress, makeup and ornamentation should help the actors and actresses to enact their roles in a more credible manner, to bring out the right sentiment of the scene.

As regards colors with which the actors or dancers are to be painted, the Vishnudharmottara mentions five basic colors: white, red, yellow, black and green (blue?). It then enumerates five kinds of white and twelve kinds of black colors. And, by mixing one, two or three colors, with imagination, innumerable skin colors could be derived (VDP.3.27.8-9). It says, when the beauty of the limbs is increased with these colors, the presentation becomes more effective.

That is followed by specifying which characters among the gods, demons, serpents and humans should be painted with which colors. And it says, when no particular color is mentioned for a god, then it should be given Gaura (white) color.

Similarly, the text then specifies the colors of the costumes of different types of characters. It also mentions the various types of head gears, crests, masks, wigs and mustaches etc.

In short, it says, various accessories should be used , with intelligence, in accordance with the customs prevailing in the society.

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Samanya-abhinaya

The Chapter Twenty-eight is named Samanya-abhinaya. The Samanya-abhinaya is the harmonious use of four kinds of Abhinayas; and, Citra-abhinaya applies only to the special representation of various objects and ideas.

At first, the instructions are given about the representation of five qualities of senses viz. sound (sabda), touch (sparsa), form (rupa), taste (rasa) and smell (gandha) , through gestures according to their experiences (Anubhavas) and natural expressions. Then come the representation of particular objects. The various gestures and expressions are prescribed for the representation of Bhavas including Sthayi-bhavas occurring in different Rasas. The Abhinaya to show sky, morning, night, evening, day, deep darkness, the moon-light, the smoke, the fire and different seasons follow.

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Abhinaya

Chapters Thirty and Thirty-one give a very detailed description about the Abhinaya of the various Rasas and Bhavas by appropriate gestures. Here, the text discusses nine Rasas, including the Shanta-rasa, as compared to eight Rasas mentioned in the Natyashastra.

It also discusses forty-nine kinds of Bhavas, beginning with Hasa, the mirth; and, they should be skilfully combined with the Rasas.

The forty-nine Bhavas or psychological states, include:  the eight Sthāyi-bhavās; thirty-three Vyabhicāri-bhāvās; and, eight Sātvika-bhāvas – (excluding Vibhava   and Anubhava).

References and sources

  1. Shri Vishnudharmottara by Dr. Priyabala Shah
  2. Arts in the PuranasChapter Two- Dance by Dr. Meena Devadatta Jeste

All images are from internet

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In the next part we shall move on to other texts dealing with Dance and its several aspects

Continued

In

Part Ten

 
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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Eight

Continued from Part Seven

Lakshana-granthas

1.Natyashastra –continued

indienabb1

The Natyashastra developed a remarkable approach to the structure of the human body; and delineated the relation between its central point (Nabhi, the navel), the verticals and horizontals. It then coordinated them, first with the positions and movements of the principal joints of neck, pelvis, knees and ankles; and, then with the emotive states, the expressions. Based on these principles, Natya-shastra enumerated many standing and sitting positions.

Accordingly, the various dance-poses and postures (like Cari and Karanas) are based on a system of medians (sutras), measures (maanas), postures of symmetry (bhangas)   and asymmetry (abhanga, dvibhanga and tribhanga); and, on the sthanas (positions of standing, sitting, and reclining). The concept of perfect symmetry is present in Nrtta; and, that is indicated by the term Sama. These principles were followed in the Shilpa (sculpture) and also in the Chitra  (painting) .

[As regards the Sutras, the vertical axis or the medians passing through the human body:

The Shilpa-shastra adopts the Angula as an unit of Tala. Different texts work out the exact proportions for the human form in terms of the Angula and Tala. But, Tala could be taken to be the length of the palm (from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger).

The human form is not only divided into Tala on the basis of actual surface proportions; but, is also measured along various axes on different planes: the measures along these different sections guided the Indian sculptor in the making of images.  Five principal vertical axis (Sutra) are enumerated by the Shilpa-shastra texts.

sutras22

The Brahma-sutra is the vertical axis or the imaginary line passing through the centre of the image; and, it represents the direction of the pull of gravity.

The Madhya-sutra is the medial line drawn from the centre of the crown of the head, through the centre of the chest, the navel, the knees, down to the inner sides of the feet.

The Parsva-sutra is the vertical drawn from the side of the forehead, the cheek, the side of the arm, the centre of the thighs, the centre of the knee, and the centre of the ankle-joint.

The Kaksa-sutra is drawn from the arm-pit, by the side of the hip and the calf, and terminates on the fifth toe of the foot. The Bahu-sutra is the vertical drawn from the shoulder-joint to the ground.

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The three horizontal axes which are commonly used are the Hikka-sutra (the line passing through the base of the neck), the Bhadra-sutra (passing through the navel) and the Kati-sutra which passes through the hips and the pelvic girdle.  The sculptor is thus provided with rules both for surface dimensions and for measurements along different vertical and horizontal planes and sections for every type of image.

ballet

Based on this, Any  movement  whatsoever  can be  comprehended  into  the deflexions (bhanga) i.e., the Sama-bhanga, the Abhanga, the Tribhanga and the Atibhanga, within the complex structure of the Angula, the Tala and the Sutra measures.

nataraja onenataraja two

It is said; indeed, the Nrtta technique can be better understood if one understands the concept of the Sutras and Mana of the Shilpa. .

In Indian dancing, all its movements can be analyzed in terms of the relation of the different parts of the human body to the vertical median (the Brahma-sutra) on the one hand ; and,  the measurements along the different planes denoted by the area which would be covered by the Mana, the Pramana and the Unmana corresponding to the dimensions of height, breadth and thickness and the measurements of the inter spaces (upamana) and the periphery along the circumference (the Parimana) on the other.

The leg extensions of Mandalas and Sthanas of Indian dancing can be measured along the Pramana; the movements of different parts of the body, specially the chest etc, can be measured along the Unmana; the movements of the Recita type and the Bhramaris take into consideration the Parimana measurements. 

Just as Shilpa conceives of the deflections and poses of the human body along these different planes and areas of space, so also Nrtta conceives of movement in space along the three planes. There is no attempt to spread out, or to extend the limbs to the furthest point from the center of the body. The point of perfect balance (Sama) can be maintained if there is the minimum possible deviation from the center of gravity.

tribanga

From this moment of complete poise and perfect balance, the next step is when slight movement is suggested without covering space ; but by shift of weight: this is the Abhanga pose, the point of unrest and not of movement: here there is only a slight flexing of one knee. Although the plumb line passes from the crown of the head to a point midway between the heels, it passes through the right of the navel (Nabhi) and not through the navel as in the Sama-bhanga pose. There is thus a shift of weight, which results in either a change in the position of the hip (Kati) or the placing of the foot, or sometimes by the deviation of the torso to one side.

But the placing of the feet is by far the most important method of depicting the Abhanga pose in both dancing and sculpture: the Tryasra placing of one foot, without the knee bend or the controlled Udvahita movement of the hips results in this stance: the sides (Parsva) move but slightly. In dancing, this pose is mentioned in the context of Sthanas for women, the Ayata and Avahittha sthana are fine examples of the Abhanga pose. Both in Indian sculpture and dancing, the Abhanga pose is never shown by a Kunchita or an Anchita foot; it is always the Sama-pada frontal position of one foot and slight Tryasra placing of the other

samabhangaAbhangaAtibhanga0004

The Tribhanga indicates a complete shift of weight from one leg to the other; for, here, one leg is in contact with the ground, the other can be lifted up and drawn away and in doing so the balance has invariably to be maintained by shifting the torso to the opposite direction. There are, therefore, three distinct deviations of the head, torso, and the legs from the vertical median. The central plumb line passes through the left or right pupil, the middle of the chest, the left or right of the navel down to the heels.

The human figure is divided along the three horizontal Sutras and each unit moves in an opposite direction to the first: thus if the head and hips deflect to the right the torso deviates to the left. This is one of the significant similarities of technique between Indian sculpture and Indian dancing. The conception of the Tribhanga indicates clearly the basic laws which are followed in the depiction of human movement: the human form is broken up into the units of the head, the torso (above the navel line) and the lower limbs below the Kati sutra (hip line) and these are then manipulated in different ways.

The most striking similarity between the two arts is seen in the manipulation of the hands, termed Hastabhinaya in dancing and Hasta or Mudra in Indian sculpture. As in Indian dancing, so also in sculpture, the hand positions and movements constitute an important aspect of technique. Much of the sculpture-like quality of the dance lies in the accurate depiction of the hand movements and the arm position along with the Tribhanga posture.

All dance poses   can be classified and analyzed in terms of the Sama-bhanga, Abhanga and Tribhanga; and, conversely all examples of Indian sculpture can be analyzed in terms of the Anga and the Upanga of dancing, especially in terms of the static positions and individual movements of the different parts of the human body as described in the Natyashastra.

I acknowledge with thanks the source: Celebration of Life: A study of sculptural and mural depictions of Dance and Music in Buddhist Art of India ]

Belur temple sepia

These, demonstrate the principles of stasis, balance, repose and perfect symmetry; And, they are of fundamental importance in Indian arts; especially in, dance, painting and sculpture.

In the Bharatanatya, the principal stance of a dancer is one in which the body is segmented into a series of triangles. As, Dr. Kapila Vatsayana explains: 

The first triangle is formed with the line joining the shoulder points as the base; and, with the waist (navel, Nabhi) as the Apex. This inverted triangle is further highlighted by the outstretched arms, which make another triangle, in space, on either side of the vertical median.

Another triangle is formed with the waist as the apex; the line joining the knees, in their extended position,  as the base.

The third triangle is formed with the line joining the two knees (flexed and outstretched), as the base; and, with its apex at the heels (where the feet are outstretched).

It is said; while performing Bharatanatya, the artist visualizes her body as made up of triangles; and, conceives her movements in space as following either straight lines or triangles. The steps of the dance are based upon a balanced distribution of body weight and firm positions of the lower limbs, allowing the hands to cut into a line, to flow around the body, or to take positions that enhance the basic form.

There is an incredible relation between dance, geometry and numbers. The postures are characterized by linear formations and circular patterns. The straight line patterns, circular movements and the symmetry in formation of the postures, all these are vital aspects of dance.  Certain postures create a wonderful symmetry, as in geometry, adding neat elegance and beauty to the performance. A combination of good posture, balance, centering symmetry and the geometric correctness gives you Angasudhi.

As regards the numbers, almost every movement of a  Bharatanatya composition is related to numbers, such as: 3 (Thishram); 4 (Chaturashram); 5 (Khandam); 7 (Misram); and, 9 (Sankirnam) in various permutations and combinations .

The flexed position of the knees, known as Ardha-mandala (or, Araimandi), is an integral body posture and an essential aspect of the Bharatanatya; and, almost the entire dance is executed in this positions. (For instance; the basic dance movements the Adavus are performed in Araimandi.) It is the starting position of Bharatanatya

araimandi (1)

In the Araimandi, which basically means half sitting posture, the body is divided into two equal triangles with their apex meeting at the navel (Nabhi) inside a square (Mandala). 

This is based in the concept of Mandala, where the human body is said to symbolize the unity and harmony that exists in the universe. It other words; the human body is conceived as a schematic visual representation of the universe. And, it is characterized by a concentric configuration of geometric shapes.

Mandala, in Dance, is basically a standing posture. The Abhinaya Darpana describes ten such standing postures (Mandla-bedha) – Sthanaka (simple standing), Ayata, Alidha, Pratyalidha, Penkhana, Prewritten, Svastika, Motita, Samasuci and Parsvasuci.

Of which, the second one, the Ardha-mandala or Ayata Mandala is defined as: “Standing in Chaturasra, bending the knees slightly and obliquely and keeping a distance of Vitasati between the two feet “(A.D 263).

Vitastrya antaritau paadau  krutva tu chatursrakau . Tiryak kunchita janubhyam sthithirayath mandalam //AD.263 //

aramandi

The execution of this posture is related to two basic requirements: the Sausthava and Chaturasrya :  

(1) Sausthava (keeping different limbs in their proper position) – about which Bharata says that the whole beauty of Nrtta rests on the Sausthava , so the performer never shines unless he pays attention to this – Shobha sarvaiva nityam hi Sausthavam; and,

(2) Chaturasrya (square composition of the body, mainly in relation to the chest) – about which Abhinavagupta remarks that the very vital principle (jivitam)  of the body, in dance, is based on  its square position (Chaturasrya-mulam Nrttena  angasya jivitam), and adds that the very object of Sausthava is to attain a perfect Chaturasrya.

The Araimandi or Mandala Sthana closely resembles Ayata Mandala (placing heels together and the toes facing outside, with the knees bent at a distance of 24 inches). And, therefore, maintaining Sausthava, keeping the body erect without a hunch, is an important of Araimandi. And, the distance from the navel to the head should be equal to the distance from the navel to the ground.

In this posture, the performer must half-sit i.e. at a position which is 3/4th of her height. The height of the dancer determines the actual measures and distances in an Araimandi.

Araimandi

The body should maintain a very upright posture with a good Sausthava or a straight back without any hunching.  The spine should be erect with the hands either stretched out or lodged securely on the waist. The raised elbows should in line with the shoulders, which should neither be raised nor drooped. The hands should be always kept a span away from the chest. The knees must be bent laterally making an angle. There must be a gap between the ankles which is probably equivalent to three fingers of your hand. This will give a perfect symmetry of the body (Anga Shuddam); forming dual typical triangular shape for the body and stability to dance.  The eyes must look straight and of course with a beautiful smile!

In the Araimandi, the dancer taps the floor with foot in (half-squatting) position with the heels of both feet together, and toes of both foot pointed to the opposite direction, a diamond shape will be maintained between the thighs and legs.

The Araimandi closely resembles the demi-plié of western ballet, where there is greater emphasis on the knee turn out

demi pile

HASTAS: HAND GESTURES:

indian_aesthetic

The most striking feature of classical Indian dances is the use of hands, the Hasthas, in the Angikabhinaya. It is of vital importance both in the enactment of Abhinaya and in Nrtta pure dance gestures. The hands , in Dance, are said to be like the voice for a singer. It is the medium for giving expression to a thought, emotion or for symbolizing an object.

[Though Natyashastra is the basic text, the practitioners of today are, mostly, guided by the Abhinaya Darpana and other texts, particularly in regard to Angika Abhinaya.]

Bharata devotes Chapter Nine to Hasthas and their uses in the Natya (hastā-dīnā pravakyāmi karma Nātya-prayojakam NS.9.3)

Bharata elaborately discusses the use of hand-gestures under both the Abhinaya and the Nrtta. Then again, he classifies the Hasthas as those indicated by a single hand (Asamyukta-hastha) and those by the combination of both the hands (Samkukta-hastha).

Under the Asamyukta-hastha (single hand), twenty-four types of gestures are described. And, under the Samkukta-hastha (hands combined), thirteen types of gestures are described. Further, under the Nrtta (pure-dance movements), thirty types of Nrtta-hasthas (movements of wrist and fingers) are described.

Thus, in all, Bharata enumerates sixty-seven Hastha gestures under three broad categories. Each of these sixty-seven hand-gestures is assigned a name. And, in most cases, the object or idea denoted by that name constitutes the principle application (Viniyoga) of that Hastha.

Asamyuktahastas

Asamyuta-hastas: (Chapter 9-Verses 4 to 7) :

  • (1) Pataka (flag);
  • (2) Tripataka (flag denoted by three fingers);
  • (3) Kartarimukha (sissors-blades);
  • (4)  Ardhachandra  (crescent moon);
  • (5) Arala (bent);
  • (6) Shukatunda (parrot’s beak);
  • (7) Musti (fist);
  • (8) Shikhara (peak);
  • (9) Kapittha (elephant-apple);
  • (10) Katakamukha (crab-face);
  • (11)Sucyasya (Sucimukha-needle);
  • (12) Padmakosa (lotus-bud);
  • (13) Sarpasirsa (snake-head);
  • (14) Mrigasirsa (deer-head);
  • (15) Kangula (Langula-for denting fruits);
  • (16) Alapadma (Alapadya, Alapallava – full blown lotus);
  • (17) Chatura (four fingered);
  • (18) Bhramara (bees);
  • (19) Hamsasya (swan-beak);
  • (20) Hamsapaksa (swan-wings);
  • (21) Sandamsa (pincers) ;
  • (22) Mukula (flower-bud) ; (23) Uranabhana (spider); , and
  • (24) Tamracuda .

[For illustrations of the Asumyukta Hastas, please click here]

samyuktahastas

Samyuta-hastas: (Chapter 9-Verses 8 to 10) :

  • (1) Anjali ( putting together two Patakas ; joining the two palms together);
  • (2) Kapota (pigeon);
  • (3) Karkata (crab);
  • (4) Svastika ;
  • (5) Kataka-vardhamanaka (khataka – one kataka or half-closed hand is placed upon another);
  • (6) Utsanga ( two Arala-hands are contrarily placed);
  • (7) Nishadha (the Mukula -hand covers the Kapittah hand);
  • (8) Dola (two Pataka-hands hanging down);
  • (9) Pushpaputa (two Sarpa-sarira -hands with their fingers close to one another meeting on oneside closely);
  • (10) Makara (two Pataka-hands placed one over the other and facing downward);
  • (11) Gajadanta (elbows and shoulders in sarpasirsa-hands bent toward each other);
  • (12) Avahittha (two sukatunda-hands meet each other on the chest ; are bent; and , then slowly lowered); , and 
  • (13) Vardhamana ( two hamsapaksa -hands held in opposite direction) 

[For illustrations of the Samyukta-hastas, please click here.]

Nrttahastas1

Nrrtta-hastas : (Chapter 9 -Verses 11-17) :

The Nrtta-hastas , though suggest movement of the fingers , are invariably related to movement of the arms. Here, the position and the direction of the movement of the palms are considered important.The movement of the wrist also determines the nature the Hastha. A different meaning is suggested if the movement of the wrist and the facing of the palm are changed. Thus, the Nrtta-hasthas are related to the direction and the movement of the wrists, arms and shoulders ; and, the manipulation of the fingers and palms.

  • (1) Chaturasra;
  • (2) Udvrttha;
  • (3) Talamukha;
  • (4) Svastika;
  • (5) Viprakirna;
  • (6) Arala Katakamukha;
  • (7) Aviddhavakra ;
  • (8) Suchimukha;
  • (9) Rechita;
  • (10) Ardharechita ;
  • (11) Uttanavanchita ;
  • (12) Pallava ;
  • (13) Nitamba;
  • (14) Kesabandha;
  • (15) Lata;
  • (16) Karihasta;
  • (17) Pakshavanchitaka ;
  • (18)Pakshapradyotaka;
  •  (19)Garudapaksha
  •  (20)Dandapaksha;
  •  (21) Urdhvomandali;
  •  (22) Parshvamandali ;
  •  (23) Uromandali; 
  • (24) Urahparsvardha-mandali;
  •  (25) Mushtikasvastika;
  • (26) Nalinipadmakosa ; 
  • (27) Alapallava;
  • (28) Ulbana
  •  (29) Lalita; and
  • (30) Valita.

[For illustrations of the Nrtta-hastas, please click here]

The Vishnudharmottara (3.26.95) observes that the essential aspect of the Nrtta-hasthas is the element of grace and beauty (Lalitya). the actions should be eloquent , smooth and graceful. The movement of the arms should go with those of the other limbs (Pratyanga and Upanga); and , contribute to enhance the Bhava and the Rasa of the performance

Nrttahastas2

*

Among  all these Hasthas, there are some basic Hasthas such as: (1) the pataka-hastha , with the hand held upright, fingers fully extended  and the thumb bent so as to touch the base of the forefingers; (2) the Musti-hastha in which all the forefingers are folded, with the thumb resting on them ; or , (3) the padmakosa-hastha , which is made of hallow palms with fingers slightly apart and cupped. the remaining gestures seem to be variations of these basic Hasthas. 

[Note:

(1) In other texts, the Hasthas are often referred to as ‘Mudra-s’)

(2) In some versions of the Natyashastra, the total number of these three types of Hasthas is given as Sixty four – Catuhsasthi. Dr. ManMohan Ghosh notes on page 171, foot note 3, states that Catuhsasthi in the text should be amended to read as Saptasasthi; for, the actual numbers amounts to 67 and not 64.  I have followed Dr. Ghosh’s version.

(3) The Abhinaya Darpana also carries enumerations and descriptions of the uses of the Hasthas: 28 Asamyukta-hastas (verses 88-92, and their uses in Verses 88-171); 23 Samyukta-hastas (Verses 172-175; and their uses in verses 176-203); and 13 Nrtta-hasthas (Verses 248-249).

Thus, the numbers in each type of the Hasthas varies from those given in the Natyashastra. And, the number of the three types of Hasthas together amount to 64 (as compared to 67 in the Natyashastra).

In many cases, the names of the Hasthas and their uses differ from those given in the Natyashastra.

Natyashastra describes the thirty Nrtta-hastas – pure dance hands. It also refers to their uses in verses 184-209 of Chapter 9. There is description of three basic movements of these hastas (Hasta-pracara) viz. palms kept upwards (Uttana); downwards or oblique (Adhomuka); finger pointing sideways (Parsvaga). These movements are found both while performing pure dance (Nrtta) and for the representation of Abhinaya.

Some of the hand gestures for pure dance (Nrtta) in Abhinaya Darpana are different from those mentioned in the Natyashastra. The Abhinaya Darpana has only thirteen number of Nrtta hastas.  These Nrtta hastas are all adopted from the Asamyukta and Samyukta hastas listed in its own text (Abhinaya Darpana). In the Natyashastra, the Nrtta-hastas are all different.]

All most all the Hasthas find use in the Nritya (the dance movements with Abhinaya). But, in the Nrtta (pure dance) the commonly used Nrtta-hasthas are only the: Pataka, Tripataka, Suchi, Katakamukha, Musti and Alapadma.

The Hand-gestures constitute a very important aspect of the Abhinaya rendering to indicate or to suggest ideas, emotions, actions and objects; and, to bring out the meaning of the words sung or of the story. They also express concepts like truth, beauty, or the passage of time. The same Hasta, used with different arm movements or in a different context, can have a different meaning. It is, therefore, essential that the Hasthas should be well coordinated with the expressions of the face, of the eyes and the eye-brows to depict the apt transitory states (Sanchari-bhavas) of the dominant emotional state (Sthayi-bhava) of the Dance-item.

*

Natyashastra also provides instructions regarding the appropriateness and the mode of use of the gestures, according to popular practice lokopacarena, so that they may be understood even by the common people. The text also allows considerable degree of freedom to the artist to choose the Hasthas, keeping in view the suitability of their form, movement, significance and class.

anye cāpyarthasayuktā laukikā ye karāstviha chandataste niyoktavyā rasa bhāva viceṣṭitai NS. 9.164

It is said; almost all objects and ideas can be indicated by the gestures. Besides, one can intuitively create gestures, when inspired by the sentiments and the states of the situation.  Natyashastra gives description of varied movements where such gestures are related with the different sentiments and states (Bhavas). These are enumerated as follows: drawing upwards, dragging, drawing out, accepting, killing, becoming, urging, bringing together, separating, protecting releasing, throwing, shaking, giving away, threatening, cutting, piercing, squeezing and beating.(NS.9.161-163)

The text also specifies to the use of the Hastas, according to the social status of the character that is portrayed.  It states; in case of the superior type of characters the hand gestures should be slight and gentle; in the middling type medium sort of movement; and, ordinary acting should have exaggerated movements of hand gestures.

*

The Natyashastra also provides instructions when not to use the hand gestures. It mentions that in the following instances the Dancer should not use hand gestures; but, should employ appropriate representations ; should adopt the temperament that is most apt; and, should also resort to change of voice that is suitable to different sates and sentiments (nānā –bhava-rasānvitaḥ):

na hastābhinaya kārya kārya sattvasya sagraha tathā kākuviśeaśca nānābhavarasānvita NS.9.180

when a person is to represent himself as sad, fainting terrified, overcome with disgust or sorrow, weak, asleep, hand-less, inactive, drowsy, inert, sick, attacked with fever, seized with panic, attacked with cold, intoxicated, bewildered, mad, thoughtful, practicing austerities, residing in a cold region, prison or under arrest, running very swiftly, speaking in dream, suddenly moving away and cutting nails (NS.9.177-179)

*

But, at the same time, the Natyashastra instructs that even when there is verbal acting (Vacicabhinaya) the eyes and the look (Dristi) should be directed to points at which the hand gestures are moving (tattad dṛṣṭi vilokanaiḥ), and there should be proper punctuation  so that the meaning may be clearly expressed. The intention is to enhance the appeal and total effect so that the language and the hand gestures support each other; and, become more eloquent.

yatra vyagrāvubhau hastau tattad dṛṣṭivilokanai vācakābhinaya kuryādvirāmairtha darśakai NS.9. 181

A similar rule appears in the Abhinaya Darpana: ‘Where the hand goes, there the eyes should follow; where the eyes are, there the mind should follow; Where the mind is, there the expression should be brought out; Where there is expression, there the Rasa will manifest.’

Yato Hasta tato Drushti; Yato Drushti tato Manaha; Yato Manaha tato Bhavaha; Yato Bhava tato Rasaha AD.37

This famous dictum is followed in all the Schools of dancing, while enacting Abhinaya.

karanas_dribbble

As regards the Karanas, four categories of the Karanas of the hand are mentioned: Avestita, Udvestita, Vyavartita and Parivartita.  The Hasthas (hand-gestures), in their various movements, when applied either in Dance or Drama, should be followed by Karanas having appropriate expression of the face, the eyebrows and the eyes.

The movements of the Hasthas can be in three ways: upwards, sideways and downwards. These movements have to be in tune with the suitable expressions in the eyes, the eye-brows and the face.

In regard to their application of the Hasthas, they can again be classified into three broad types: natural; interpretative; and, symbolic.

:- The Natural gestures generate from intentions calling for natural actions, which are simpler in communication; like come, go, stop, yes and no etc.

: – The Interpretative hand gestures are executed in imitative manner to represent objects; say, like birds, animals. The hand-gestures, in such cases, take their name after the objects they represent. They are also often used to translate a poetic image e.g. comparing the eyes of a Nayika with those of a deer (Mrganayani) or comparing them with lotus (Padmakshi) or the shape of a fish (Meenakshi). This category of hand-gestures may also be used to suggest actions like holding a sword and shield; or of movement of the wheels of a chariot, riding, movement of a horse etc.

: – The Symbolic hand-gestures are used mostly to express abstract notions; and, are best appreciated contextually. Concepts like truth and beauty are exquisitely expressed through hand gestures in the right context of  the unfolding of the plot of a story or description or narration.

This technique is to be utilized along with other aspects of Angikabhinaya, facial gestures, expressions reflected in the eyes and suggesting states and sentiments.  The overall effect of the suggestion should be augmented by the participation of the body as a whole.

Adavus

SARIRA

The Sarira-abhinaya relates to the actions of the major limbs (Anga).

Under the classification of Sarira abhinaya, while describing the Anga (major limbs), Bharata refers to the movement of the arms (bahu).

Bahu-Arms

Under this classification, Bharata refers to the movement of the arms (Bahu), in verses 212 to 213 of the Chapter 9. And, with that he concludes Chapter Nine.

Here he mentions ten types of Arm-movements, which evidently relate to training methods as also to the pure-dance technique Nrtta).They are also applied in Abhinaya portion (Nrtya) of the dance.

Tiryak, Urdhvagata, Adhomukha, Aviddha, Apaviddha, Mandala, Svastika, Aneita, Kuncita and Prsthaga

Tiryak tatho urdhvasasthohya adhomukhaś cā añcito’ apaviddhastu maṇḍala gatistathā svastikaś ca pṛṣṭhānu sāri ca 221

Abhinavagupta says, with the numerous circular movements (vaichitrena Bahu paryayayena) of the arms in different speeds, combined with various wrist positions, can generate innumerable Hastha gestures:

Yetheshu karaneshu chatushra drutha-madhya-vilambita-adi vaichitrena Bahu paryayayena cha samasthani yojina yada niyujyante tada patha vartanadi shatasaharenyvam ta brthani

mandala3

Chest (Urah or Vakasthalam)

The Chapter Ten commences with the descriptions of five types of chest; and, their uses in Abhinaya: (But, in the longer version, this appears at verse 224 of Chapter Nine).

ābhugnamatha nirbhugna tathā caiva prakampitam udvāhita sama caiva ura pañcavidha smtam 224

Abhugna (slightly bent), Nirbhugna (unbent), Prakampita (shaking), Udvahita (raised) and Sama (natural).

As regards their applications (Viniyoga), which are well suited to Abhinaya in the Natyadharmi mode:

Abhugna is used to show in hurry, despair, fainting, sorrow, fear, sickness, broken heart, touching of cold objects, rains; and, being ashamed of some act.

Nirbhugna is used to show resentment, look of surprise, assertion of truth, referring to oneself haughtily and excess of pride

Prakampita occurs in laughing, weeping, weariness, panic , hiccough and misery

Udvahita is used to show deep breathing, viewing some huge object and yawning

Sama is when all the limbs are in the Chaturasa; and with Sausthava of the chest

(Abhinaya Darpana does not describe the movements of the chest)

mandala3

Sides (Parsva)

Bharata says that the sides (Parsva) are of five kinds: Nata (bent) Sammunata (raised) Prasarita (extended) Vivartita (turned around); and, Apasrta (drawn away).

 nata samunnata caiva prasārita vivartito tathā apastameva tu pārśvayo karma pañcadhā NS.9.236

 As regards their uses in the Abhinaya:

Nata is where the waist is slightly bent on one side; and one shoulder is drawn away slightly. It is used for suggesting Abhinaya of approaching someone.

Samunnata is the counterpart of Nata. Here , the waist is raised on the other side ; and along with that the arms and shoulders are also raised, in going backwards.

Prasarita is stretching of the sides; as in joy and the like.

Vivartita is turning around.

 And, the Apasrta is drawing away; and, returning to the original position after Vivartita movement.

mandala3

Stomach (Udara)

The use of the stomach (belly), the Udara, in the Abhinaya, is said to be three kinds: Ksama (thin); Khalva (depressed) and Purna (full)

Udara tridhā tanu kāma nata , khalva pūram, ādhmātam ucyate NS.9. 243

In the Abhinaya , these come into play on different occasions : Ksama  (thin belly) in laughter, weeping inhalation and yawning; Khalva (depressed) in sickness, penance, weariness and hunger; and, Purna (full) in emitting breath, fatness, disease, too much eating and the like.

mandala3

Waist (Kati)

The waist in Dance, is said to be of five kinds: Chinna (turned aside, in turning the middle of the waist); Nivrtta (turned round, in turning to the front from the reverse position); Recita (moved about, in all directions); Prakampita (shaken, obliquely moving up and down); and, Udvahita (raised, in the raising of the waist slowly).

Chinā caiva nivttā ca recitā kampitā tathā udvāhitā caiva kaī nāye ntte ca pañcadhā NS.9.246

As regards the use of the waist in Dance : Chinna in exercising the limbs in showing hurry and looking around; Nivrtta in turning round; Recita in movements of general types; Prakampita in the walking of hunchbacks and persons of the inferior type; and, Udvahita to show the movements of corpulent persons and the amorous movements of  women.

mandala3

Thighs (Uru)

The uses of the thighs (Uru) and their principal movements, followed by those of the shank (Jangha) ; and, their  inter related movements are described in detail and classified.

The movements of the thighs (Uru) are said to be of five kinds: Kampana (shaking, raising and lowering of the heels repeatedly); Valana (turning, drawing the knees inward); Stambhana (motionless); Udvartana (springing up, drawing the knees inward and moving it ); and, Vivartana (turning around, drawing the heels inward).

kampana valana caiva stambhano udvartane tathā nivartana ca pañca itāny ūru karmāi kārayet Ns.9.252

In case of thighs, the frightened movements of persons of inferior types are to be shown by Kampana (shaking); while Valana (turning) is used in the movement by women at ease; Stambhana (motionlessness) in states suggesting perturbation and despair; Udvartana (springing up) in movements of classical dance; and, Vivartana (turning round) in going round due to causes like hurry.

mandala3

Shank (Jangha)

The position of the shank (Jangha) is said to be five kinds: Avartita (turned, left foot turning to the right and the right turning to the left); Nata (knees bent); Ksipta (knees thrown out); Udvahita (raising the shank up); and, Parivrtta (turning back of a shank)

āvartita nata kiptam udvāhitam athāpi ca parivtta tathā caiva jaghā-karmāi pañcadhā NS.9. 259

As regards their uses in Drama and Dance: Avartita in the jester’s walking; Nata for assuming standing position (sthana) and sitting postures (asana) ; Ksipta in classical dance; Udvahita in movements like quick walking; and, Parivrtta in classical dance and so on.

***

Feet (Pada)

Padabhedha2

The feet and its movements are, of course, the most important aspects of Dance – both in its Nrtta and the Abhinaya formats.

The positions of the feet are said to be of five kinds: Udghattita, Sama, Agratala-sancara, Ancita and Kuncita

udghaṭṭita samaścaiva tathā agratala sañcara añcita kuñcitaś caiva pāda pañcavidha smta NS. 9. 266

Udghattita (standing on the forepart of the feet and then touching the ground with the heels); which, is applied in the execution of the Udghattita Karanas, both in the slow (vilamba) and fast (Dhruta) tempos (Kala)

Sama (feet naturally placed on an even ground); where the feet are kept still in natural positions of the various Karanas. But, in the Recakas, the feet should be moved

Agratala-sancara (the heels thrown up, the big toe put forward and the other toes bent); which is used in urging, breaking and standing postures(Sthanaka), kicking, striking the ground, walking, throwing away something; and , in various Recaka movements and in walking on the forepart  of the foot , as when the heel is injured

Ancita (the heels on the ground, the fore part of the feet raised and all the toes spread); which is to be applied in representing a movement with wound in the forepart of the foot, turning around in all ways, and in various Bhramaris

And,

 Kuncita (heels thrown up, toes all bent down and the middle of the feet too bent), which is to be used in elegant , proud (Uddata) gaits , turning around to right and left , and in the Atikranta Cari

It is mentioned; the persons practicing the Caris should take up simultaneously the movements of the feet, the shanks and the thighs; for, in the movement of feet are included all the movements of shanks and thighs. The thighs follow the way in which the feet are moved and these two limbs constitute together the cari of the feet.

These descriptions of the different actions of the feet (Pada-bheda) are particularly relevant to the various Nrtta postures and movements of the Anga and Pratyangas. It is also greatly used in the Abhinaya aspects of the Bharatanatya and Kuchipudi dance forms.

[The Abhinaya Darpana does not specifically discuss movements of the feet. It factors the whole leg, from thighs to toes, as a single Pada-bheda outlining the actions like standing, walking, roaming, and jumping. In its discussion of the jumps (utplavanas), spiral movements or turns (Bhramaris) and the different types of walking Caris and Padacari, it utilizes the various positions of the feet, as described in the Natyashastra. And, it also indicates, fairly clearly, whether the toe or the heel or both should touch the ground in any of the movements.]

***

Stanakas – Static Postures

Sthanakas

After this description of the individual limbs, Bharata takes up the postures and movements of the entire body (Chapter Ten, verses 50-71). As many as forty Sthanas are discussed under the category of static postures. They are: Vaisnava, Samapada, Vaisakha, Mandala, Alidha and Pratyalidha, which used variously.

vaiṣṇava samapāda ca vaiśākha maṇḍala tathā pratyālīha tathālīha sthānānyetāni a nṛṇā NS.10.51

The descriptions of these Sthanas and their applications on the Nrtta and Abhinaya are provided in fair detail.

:- Vaishnava: the feet are kept two and a half Talas apart from each other. One of them should be on the ground in the natural posture, the other is lifted and turned sideways with the toes stretched and turned towards the shin. The body and arms are in the Saushthava position.

In the Vaishnava posture, persons of the superior and the middling types should carry on their ordinary conversation while performing their various duties. It should he used in throwing a disc, holding a how, in patient and stately movement of the limbs and in anger. On being reversed it is to be used in anger or love. And similarly in the administration of rebuke, and in love, distress, apprehension, envy, cruelty, assurance and recollection, it is to be assumed when the erotic, the marvelous, the odious and the heroic sentiments are prominently introduced. The presiding deity of this sthana is Vishnu.

:- Samapada: the feet are kept in their natural posture at one Tala‘s distance and the body keeps the natural Saushthava position.

The Samapada posture is to he assumed while accepting blessings from the elders. The bridegroom at the marriage ceremony, persons in the sky, chariot and aerial car, and persons practicing / vows are also to assume this Sthana. The presiding deity is Brahma.

:- Vaisakha: the feet are kept three and a half Talas apart from each other, the thighs remain steady and the feet are raised and moved apart.

The Vaisakha Sthana is to he assumed while riding horses and in exercise, exit, mimicking large birds, practice of bending the bow and in the Recakas of the feet. The presiding deity of this sthana is Kartikeya.

:- Mandala:  the feet are turned sideways and are kept at four Talas apart; thighs and knees also look sideways and the waist remains in its natural position.

The Mandala-sthana should he assumed in the use of weapons like the bow and the thunderbolt, riding of elephants and mimicking large birds. The presiding deity of this Sthana is Indra.

:- Alidha: if the right foot in the Mandala position is moved sideways at 5 Talas distance from the left foot, then it is called Alidha.

Alidha should be assumed in all acts relating to the heroic and the furious sentiments (Vira and Raudra Rasas), duel of wrestlers and in the representation of enemies, an attack on them and release of missiles. The presiding deity is Rudra.

:- Pratyalidha: the right foot is bent and is in the Kunchita position; and, the left foot is stretched opposite to the Alidha position.

Pratyalidha is used in relation to Alidha-sthana. The missies made ready for throwing from the Alidha sthana are to be actually thrown from the Pratyalidha –sthana.

*

These postures are important from the point of Abhinaya, particularly in the Dance-dramas depicting battle scenes. In such cases, the shooting of an arrow and releasing missies and other actions are enacted in Alidha and Pratyalidha postures

The interesting description is found about the four Nyayas in using weapons in the fights: Bharata, Sattvata, Varsaganya and Kaisika.  These are called as Nyayas, because the fights on the stage are regulated (niyante) by the type of the Angaharas. In these Nyayas arising out of the various Caris, the actors should walk about on the stage at the time of using weapons.

bhārata sātvataścaiva vāragayo’tha kaiśika bhārate tu kaīcchedya pādacchedya tu sātvate NS.10.73

These are the ways of handling the weapons: in the Bharata, the weapon should strike at the waist; in the Sattvata at the foot; in the Varsaganya at the chest; and, in the Kaisika at the head.

mandala3

Gaits (Gati)

The various Gatis, the gates, are described in Chapter 13 in one version; and, in Chapter 12 of another version of the Natyashastra.  The descriptions (gatipracāra) of the gaits ,  here, are given with reference to their uses by different types of characters in a Drama, broadly divided into three categories: superior, middling and inferior.

But, these can also be adopted into the Abhinaya in Dance.

Natyashastra mentions that the gaits are to be executed in – slow, medium and quick – tempos (Kaalas), according to the nature of 45 different characters.

Bharta then explains the types of gaits in various Rasas (such as Srngara, Vira, Hasya, Vira etc). For instance; in love-scene, the gait of the lover should, generally, be graceful; but, when the lover meets his love secretly, his gaits should be slow, careful and silently watching around with anxiety.

Bharata also describes the walking styles (Gati) and postures (Sthana) of women, as : Ayata, Avahittha and Asvakranta

strīā sthānāni kāryāi gativābharaeu ca āyata cāvahittha ca aśvakrāntamathāpi ca NS.12.160

He mentions: Ayata-sthana of women (right foot in Sama and the other placed obliquely) is to be used in invocation, dismissal, observing carefully, and thinking; and, in concealment. As the dancer enters the stage, holding flowers in her hands (Pushpanjali); and, later scatters those flowers on the stage, she is said to assume Ayata-sthana.

The Avahittha posture (left foot in Sama and the right foot placed obliquely)  is when the dancer keeps her left foot in Sama; and the other at the side Tryasra and the left waist rose. It is said to be a natural posture for women when engaged in conversation; and, when in playfulness, amorous diligence or looking towards the way, expecting someone.

The Asvakranta-sthana (one foot in Sama and the other bent on the forepart ) is to be assumed while taking hold of the branch of a tree; plucking a cluster of flowers; or while taking rest or in repose. The Dancer maintains this Sthana till any movement (Cari) begins. Bharata adds that this is the rule of the Sthana  is common for women and men

However, Bharata says that it should be remembered that these rules regarding the Sthanas need not be strictly followed; and, different gaits and postures can  be adopted following the practice of people; and, the dancer’s imagination.

Abhinavagupta also mentions that in the Nrtta though the Gati could generally follow the Natyadharmi, one should also keep in view the context  (prasanga) of the times, the situation (desham, kalam) and the prevalent practices (vaktavya)

Cari, Mandala prasangasya chitta-vrttitvad Gati viniyoga meva pratijanite/ Gatisha prakrutim rasa-avastham desham kalam cha apekshya vakthavya prati purusha abhidanath

mandala3

Sitting postures (Asana)

The Chapter 12 of the Natyashastra gives detailed description and uses of the various sitting postures. These are stylized postures, according to the nature of the characters. Bharata also refers to the postures in bed.

Nānā bhāva samāyuktas tathā ca śayanā aśraya vikambhitā añcitau pādau trika kiñcit sam-unnatam NS.12.203

There are variety of postures to be assumed as per the occasion and context like sitting at ease, in a thinking mood, in sorrow, in fainting and intoxication, in shame and sleep, on ceremonial occasions ; pacifying a beloved woman, in worshipping a deity. These activities are covered by the plot of the Rupaka and Uparupakas. Therefore, they are found in vogue in varying degree with variations as per the context, the place and the practice.

There are rules regarding offering seats to persons of different social stations and the offices held by them. These rules are of seats  are distinguished according the context and the location in which seats are offered ; say , in royal courts, in the inner apartments , in public places etc.  But, while in one’s own house, one can take any seat according to one likes.

Lying-down postures (Shayana)

Six lying-down postures are mentioned by Bharata. They are Akuncita, Sama, Prasarita, Vivartita, Udvahita and Nata.

ākuñcita sama caiva prasāritavivartane udvāhita nata caiva śayane karma kīrtyate NS.12.228

Akuncita: limbs should be narrowed down and knees stuck to the bed; and, it is used in representing persons attacked with cold;

Sama: face should be turned up and hands dropping down freely; it is used in deep sleep;

Prasarita: one arm is used as pillow and the knees stretched; it is for representing one enjoying sleep of happiness;

Vivartita: lying down with face downward; it is used to suggest wound from any weapon, death, vomiting, intoxication and lunacy;

Udvahita: head should be resting on the hand or the shoulder and elbow pressing the ground; it  is used in sports and on entrance of the master; and,

Nata: shanks should be slightly stretched and both hands loose; it is to be used in laziness, fatigue and distress.

mandala3

In this limited space, I have tried to cover a fairly large area of Angikahhinaya and Natyadharmi mode as per the tradition of the Natyashastra. I am aware of my inadequacies.  But, I trust the articles in this series will ignite the desire to earnestly go further and to study the texts in their own contexts; and, also to devise methods and techniques to apply their principles to suit the present-day Dance scenario. That would, hopefully, help to keep alive our dance traditions, albeit with slight requisite modifications, in the context of our time.

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In the next part we shall move on to other texts dealing with Dance and its several aspects

Continued

In

Part Nine

References and Sources

The illustrations of Samabhanga, Abhanga and Atibhanga are from the Brahmiya Chitra karma Shastra by Dr. G.Gnananada

The Sutra illustration is by Shilpa Siddanthi Sri Siddalingaswamy of Mysore

ALL OTHER PICTURES AND ILLUSTRATIONS ARE FROM INTERNE

 

 
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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Five

Continued from Part Four

Dance forms of India

ashtalakshmi2 (1)

Uparupakas

Bharata, in his Natyashastra, discussed, in main, the Rupakas, the major forms of the Drama; and, the two genre of Dance formats – Tandava and Sukumara. His concern seemed to be, primarily, with the forms and styles that were dominant in the art-tradition of his time; and, particularly those that had the potential to display various modes of representations and to evoke Rasas. For him, the aspect of Rasa was central to the Drama.

Of the eleven essential elements of the Drama that he names, Rasa is of paramount importance; and deriving that Rasa is the objective of a theatrical performance. The other ten elements – from Bhava to Ranga – are the contributing factors for the production of the Rasa

rasā bhāvā hy abhinayā dharmī vtti pravttaya / siddhi svarā astathātodya gāna ragaś ca sagraha // BhN_6.10 //

Bharata, similarly, even in regard to Dance, described only those dance forms that he considered to be artistically well cultivated; leaving out the regional and popular varieties. In the process, Bharata did not deal with the many peripheral styles.

Rupaka2

The Drama, a Drshya-Kavya, was formally known as Rupaka. Abhinavagupta explains Rupam as that which is seen; and, therefore, the works containing such matter is Rupani or Rupaka. And, Dhananjaya in his Dasa-rupaka (ten forms of Drama)  explains :  it is called a Rupaka or a representation because of the acts put on by the actors (abhinaya)  by assuming (rupakam tat samaropad)  the forms of various characters  such as gods or kings  and men and women. And, it is called a show because of the fact it is seen (rupam drsyatayocyate). 

Thus, Drama is the reproduction of a situation (Avastha-anikrtir natyam), in a visible form (rupa),  in the person of the actors. Dhanika in his commentary , explains that the terms Natyam, Rupam and Rupakam can be treated as synonymous.

The Drama was classified into two types: Major (Rupaka) and Minor (Upa-Rupaka).

Under the Rupakas (major types of Drama) Bharata mentioned ten of its forms (Dasadhaiva). Of the ten, he discussed, in fair detail, only two forms –Nataka and Prakarana. Because, he considered that these two alone fulfilled all those requirements that were necessary for Rupaka (major type). According to Bharata, these two major forms alone depict varieties of situations, made up of all the four modes or styles (Vrttis) and representations. And, they alone could lend enough scope for display of Rasas (Rasapradhana or Rasabhinaya or vakya-artha-abhinaya). In contrast, the other eight forms of Rupakas deal with limited themes and rather narrow subjects; and, are also incapable of presenting a spectrum of Rasas. 

In the process, Bharata did not also discuss about the minor forms of the drama, the Uparupakas or Natyabhedas. These were a minor class of dramatic works, distinct from the major works; and, did not satisfy all the classic, dramatic requirements prescribed for a Rupaka or Nataka proper. Such minor class of plays (Uparupakas) handled only a segment of a theme or story (Vastu); and, not its full extent. It did not also, perhaps, employ all the four Abhinayas, in their entirety.

*

By the time of Abhinavagupta (Ca.11th century), the Dance had diversified into many more forms than were known during the time of Bharata. However, he mentions that even those innovative forms, indeed, continued to be rooted in the basic concepts laid down in the Natyashastra. And, in fact, he often cites idioms of dancing from such new categories, in order to illustrate Bharata’s concepts.

For instance; Abhinavagupta explains the nature of the delicate Sukumara Prayoga and of the gentle Kaisiki Vrtti, with reference to examples taken from Nrtta-kavya or Nrtya-prabandhas or Ragakavyas – musical compositions or narrative plays (classified under Uparupakas) beautified with  the elements of dance and music; and, which could be presented through expressive Abhinaya.

Abhinavagupta remarks; though the concept of minor dramas is absent in the Natyashastra, it is those minor classes of plays – Uparupakas, par excellence – in their varied forms, adorned with rich, melodious music, as also with graceful and delicate dance movements, which grew into becoming the main stay of the contemporary dance- scene.

Thus, Abhinavagupta, in his commentary, did mention the Upa-rupakas; but, he did neither define its essentials nor did he explain its features. He merely called them as Nrtta-kavya and Raga-kavya; meaning, the type of plays that are rendered through song, dance and interpreted through Abhinaya. In that context, Abhinavagupta mentions some plays of Uparupaka variety. He names them as: Dombika, Bhana, Prasthana, Sidgaka, Bhinika, Ramakrida, Hallisaka, Sattaka and Rasaka. These minor dramatic works were of the nature of dance-drama, where the elements of music and dance were dominant.  But, Abhinavagupta had not discussed about those musical varieties.

[Though the Natyashastra had not specified  the varieties of Uparupakas, in the later times their numbers varied according to the whim of each author. For instance; Abhinavagupta refers to nine types of Uparupakas; Dhanika mentions seven types as being Natya-bheda (varieties of dance forms) ; Sahityadarpana mentions eighteen types; Natyadarpana recognizes only thirteen of these eighteen types, because they were said to be the only ones that were mentioned by the Vruddhas (the elders) or Chirantanas (ancient ones) ; Raja Bhoja refers to twelve types; but, the largest number seems to have been listed in Bhavaprakasana , which mentions as many as twenty Uparupakas , including Natika, Prakaranika, Sattaka, Trotaka etc., which are almost as good as the Nataka .

The fact that there was no unanimity among various authors either in the numbers or in the definition of the Uparupakas, merely suggests that this from of Rupaka was evolving all the time; improving; and, continuously  undergoing changes and modifications in their nature and form, aiming to attain a near-perfect musical dance format. 

It is explained the prefix ‘Upa‘ should not be taken to mean ‘minor’ ; but, it should be understood as referring to the types that are ‘very near’ to the Rupakas, but, having a preponderance of dance and music.]

Uparupaka

Perhaps, the earliest reference to Uparupaka occurs in the Kama-sutras of Vatsyayana (earlier to second century BCE), which presents a guide to a virtuous and gracious living. Here, Vatsyayana mentions Uparupaka type of plays, such as Hallisaka, Natyarasaka and Preksanaka, which were watched by men and women of taste.

Rajashekara (8th-9th century) calls his Prakrit play Karpuramanjari, as a Sattaka type of Uparupaka. He explains that the play in question was not a Nataka, but resembled a Natika (a minor form of Drama). It was a single-Act play (ekankika or Javanika); and, it did not contain the usual theatrical scenes such as: the pravesakas (entry-scenes) and viskambhakas (intermediary or connecting scenes). Here, in the Sattaka type of Uparupaka, music and dance were the principal mediums of expression. It is composed in the graceful Kaisiki Vrtti; and, have an abundance of Adbhuta Rasa (wonder and amazement). Even a major part of its spoken dialogues (Vachika) was rendered in musical form. And, the story of the play was composed by stringing together series narrative songs.

Bharata had also mentioned that  in a well rendered play, the song, dance,  action and. word follow one another in an unbroken flow; presenting a seamless spectacle as if there is neither an end nor a beginning , just as wheel of fire  (Alata chakra).

eva gāna ca vādya ca nāya ca vividhā aśrayam / alāta-cakra pratima kartavyayayoktbhi // BhN_28.7 //

That, in a way, sums up the characteristic nature of the dance-drama type of Uparupakas. Here, the stylized Natya-dharmi mode of depiction is dominant. And, even when Vachikabinaya is used, the emphasis is more on the Abhinaya rendered through gestures to the accompaniment of song and music; than on speech.

Such Uparupakas, while narrating an episode or a story, did use the elements of the Nrtta (abstract dance movements) along with the Abhinaya of the Nrtya. They were, thus, a specific form of Natya–  (Natyabheda) . They also provided ample scope for display of Bhavas and for evoking Rasa.

[ As Dr. Sunil Kothari observes in his research paper :

The technical distinction which Natyashastra makes between Rupakas and Uparupakas is that while the former presents a full profile of a Rasa with other Rasas as its accessories.  Further, in the Rupaka a full story was presented through all the dramatic requirements and resources fully employed. But in the Uparupaka only a fragment was depicted. And, even when a full theme was handled all the complements of the stage were not present; the Uparupaka lacked one or  the other or more of the four Abhinayas; thus, minimizing the scope for naturalistic features Lokadharmi and resorting increasingly to the resources of Natyadharmi.

Whereas this is true of several other forms of Uparupakas, it is not true of the dance-drama forms. They used all the elements of the Abhinayas; and,also  provided scope for display of Bhavas and for evoking Rasa.]

madhubani

Coming together of the Marga and Desi traditions

By about the twelfth century, the classic Sanskrit Drama, in its major format, the Nataka, began to gradually decline. And, over a period, it almost faded away.

Though the Sanskrit theatrical tradition was tapering out, it did continue in the forms of minor or one-act plays – Uparupakas – mainly in regional languages, with a major input of dance and songs; but, with just an adequate stress on Abhinaya (acting) and Sahitya (script). These forms of dance-dramas were gaining ground.

The texts of the later period commenting on Natya and Alankara-shastra (poetics) could hardly afford to ignore the Uparupakas which were steadily gaining popularity. And, many scholars did formally recognize the Uparupaka class of dramatic works; codified their features; and assigned them a place within the framework of theory , as Nrtya-prabandhas.

By about the twelfth century, the differences as also the relationship between the Nrtta (pure dance) and Nrtya (Nrtta with Abhinaya) were clearly established. And, those dance formats, in combination with music, were suitably applied and integrated into the performance of the dance dramas.

Among the authors of the later period, Raja Bhoja ((10-11th century), Saradatanaya (12-13th century) and Vishvanatha (14-15th century) dealt at length with the Uparupakas. Raja Bhoja in his Srngaraprakasa discusses twelve types of Uparupakas; Saradatanaya in his Bhavaprakasa describes twenty-one forms of Uparupakas and also provides a gist of several definitions as given by the previous authorities ; and, Vishvanatha in his Sahityadarpana discusses in detail eighteen types of Uparupakas, with examples

For a detailed discussion on  the types of Uparupakas: please click here. And, go to pages 189 and onward for descriptions of those forms.

fine-arts1

Such staged dramatic texts (Nrtta-kavya or Raga-kavya), narrating a story, composed of songs, set to music with instrumental accompaniment; and, choreographed with dance movements, came to be known by different names such as: Natyabheda (in Avaloka of Dhanika); Geyarupaka (in Kavyanusasana of Hemacandra): Nrtyarupakas or, simply as the ‘other plays’ anyani rupakani (as by Ramacandra and Gunacandra), in which music and dance dominate.

The period between the eleventh and the fifteenth centuries was a very highly significant phase in the evolution and development of Art in its varied dimensions. It was during this period that Dance, as Nrtya, gained recognition as an independent Art-form. And, Dance was no longer treated as a mere adjunct to drama. Similarly, vocal (Gita) and instrumental (Vadya) also began to flourish on their own.

The Dancing in India evolved by assimilating new forms and techniques; and, by moving away from its early dependence on Drama. In the process, it also widened its aesthetic scope beyond decorative grace; and, enlarged its content or repertoire to encompass depiction of emotional narrative themes. Now, the beauty of form walked hand-in-hand with the richness of the lyrics and, with the depth of its emotional content; resulting in the growth of a complex art form.

During the period , which spans the eleventh to the sixteenth century, many excellent works on Dance and music were written; and, new trends in Dancing were set. Now, many texts, exclusively devoted to Dance came into being (Say, Sangitaratnakara of Sarangadeva – Chapter seven;  the Nrtya-ratna-kosa of Maharana Kumbha ; the Nrttaratnavali of Jaya Senapati; Nartananirnaya of Pundarika Vittala).

The texts of this period , though rooted in the principles of Natyashastra, did recognize and discuss Dance-forms and styles whose technique and structure differed from the Marga class described by Bharata- During this period, the emphasis of the texts shifted away from Natyashastra’s Marga tradition ; and, moved towards the styles known , generically, as Desi , regional or improvised.

It was during this period that Uparupakas developed into a common ground where the classical Natya of the Shastra (Marga) met the regional (Desi) forms of Dance of easy movements; allowing more freedom and greater degree of improvisation, within the given framework. It was here that the sophisticated fused with the folk forms.

The noted scholar Dr. Raghavan, therefore, described the Uparupaka as the golden link (svarna-setu) or common ground where the classical met the popular; and, where the sophisticated took the folk forms. It was also here that the folk forms sublimated into classical form.

This period was also marked by the efforts to codify the less acknowledged, but popular forms; and, assign them a place within the framework of theory.

In the process, the theories of Dance adopted the terms and principles that were prevalent in the Kavya, poetics. Those dance forms which adhered to the established regulations and conventions; and, which had a definite structure were termed and classified as Nibaddha. And, those free-flowing dance forms, which were spontaneous, unregulated, unstructured and not bound by any rules, were treated as Anibaddha. Such unfettered dance-forms were not restricted by the requirements of Taala and such other disciplinesand, it did not also need the support of compositions woven with meaningful words (Pada or Sahitya). Sarangadeva defines Anibaddha as that which is not bound or as that which lacks rules (bandha-hinatva).

The Anibaddha also meant allowing the dancer considerable latitude in devising body movements that best suited the aesthetic and emotional content of the theme.; And , it also  made room for enterprise to come up with fresh idioms of expressions.

At the same time, the texts, such as the Sangita-samayasara, the Sangitaratnakara and the Nartananirnaya, suggested body movements as that of  simulating the quiver of a drop of water on a lotus leaf, or the trembling of a flame etc.

Such process of reorganization  and innovation covered not only the well regulated dance forms ; but, it  also  extended even to  the individual and   the group dances like Daṇḍaras, Raslīlā and other folk dances of similar nature, some of which have survived as dramatic group presentations.

Dance_theatre_7

Dr. Mandakranta Bose in her Movement and Mimesis concludes : Our study of technique also shows that present day classical dancing in India is grounded more directly in the tradition recorded in the later dance manuals, especially the Nartananirnaya , than in the older tradition of the Natyashastra. This suggests that those styles which had marginal existence in Bharata’s time not only came to be admitted into the mainstream of dancing, but eventually became the dominant current. The evolutionary process is therefore one of dynamic growth rather than a static survival. Through the comparative analysis of the concepts and technique of dancing the present study attempts to mark the milestones of that process

As Dr. Sunil Kothari also observes in Part One of his research Paper  : the minor forms that were not specifically described by Bharata came into fore during the later periods. And, they have contributed greatly in the evolution of the dance concepts; and, in shaping and enriching the various dance forms, in their distinct regional milieu; as we see in contemporary India.

Dance-Drama

Dance-dramas

Dance and music have always formed an integral part of Sanskrit drama. But, it was the Uparupakas – minor class of drama- based in music and dance movements that eventually gave rise to the now living traditions such as KuchipudiBhagavata-Mela-Natakas, Yaksha-gana and Kuravanji    dance dramas.  Such forms of  Uparupakas  are very attractive formats, with the elements of the music and dance being predominant. And, most of them are based in dances accompanied by soulful songs, interpreting the emotional contents of the song through Abhinaya or gestures.

The Uparupakas also marked the emergence of dance-drama along with the solo exposition as a credible format of Dancing. Since then, dance-drama has come to stay and flourish side by side with the solo dance forms.

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The key element of the musical dramas was delighting in the spectacle of presentation and the emotions displayed by the characters on display. Their themes were crafted around Raga and Kavya elements, which dealt with the characters, themes, plots, emotional situations rooted mainly in Srngara (lovely and graceful) and Bhakthi (devotion) Rasas. The Uparupakas were, therefore, said to be Bhavatmaka or dependent on emotions.

The Uparupakas were broadly classified according to the dance-situations that were involved and the Rasas, the emotions, they projected. Among the Uparupakas, the Rasaka, Hallisaka, Narttanaka, Chalika and Samyalasya gave importance to Nrtta, the pure dance movements, in their performance. And, Natika, Sattaka, Prakaranika and Trotaka (Totaka) gave prominence to emotional aspects and to Abhinaya.

‘The Lovers Radha and Krishna in a Palm Grove’; miniature painting from the ‘Tehri Garhwal’ <i>Gita ­Govinda</i> (Song of the Cowherds), Punjab Hills, kingdom of Kangra or Guler, circa 1775–1780

Gita-Govinda

The most celebrated of the Raga-kavyas, Chitra-kavyas or Nrtya-prabandhas is the Gita-Govinda composed by Sri Jayadeva Goswami (about 1150 A.D), who was a court poet of the King Lakshmana of the Bengal region (12th century). It is the most renowned and the best loved among all the Raga-kavyas of the Prabandha class. Gita-Govinda occupies a preeminent position in the history of both the Indian music and dance.

The Gita-Govinda is a Khanda-Kavya, confined to description of some episodes. It comes under the Prabandha class of Kavyas. Jayadeva at the commencement of his Khanda-kavya states that he is composing a Prabandha Kavya (Etam karoti Jayadeva kavih prabandham). The Ashtapadi (eight footed) is a  Dvi-dhatu  Prabandha,  i.e. consisting two sections (Dhatu):  Udgraha and Dhruva.

from the Gita Govinda

This sublime Sringara-mahakavya, lovingly describes the emotive sports of Sri Radha, the Mahabhava – highly idealized personification Love and Beauty; and, Krishna the eternal lover (Sri Radha-Krishna-Lila).

Gita Govinda is the most enchanting collection of twelve chapters (Sarga). And, each Sarga commences with soulful a Sloka followed by one or two songs arranged in couplets. These songs are known as Giti, Prabandha or Ashtapadi, since twenty-four of such (but not all) employ eight couplets. Sri Jayadeva himself calls them as sweet and delicate Padavali-s (Madhura komala padavalim).

The Gita Govinda, permeated with intensely devotional and delicate Madhura Bhakthi, was one of the inspirations of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprbhu who was steeped in Krishna-bhakthi; and, it is now the primary text of the Gaudiya Vaishnava School of Bengal.

The popularity enjoyed by Gita Govinda is amazing. Each region and each language of India embraced it to its heart, with love and devotion; adopted it as its own; sang in its own chosen Raga; and, interpreted it in its own dance form.

The Gita Govinda also served as an inspiration or as a model for creation of dance-dramas, elaborating on parallel themes, in different parts of the country, in different languages. For instance; the dance sequences composed in the traditions of Kuchipudi of Andhra; the compositions of Sri Sankaradeva of Assam; Umapati of Bihar; Bhagavata Mela Natakas of the South; Yaksaganas of Karnataka ; and, Krsnattam and Kathakali of the Malayalam areas – were all inspired by the Gita-Govinda.

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Nauka Charitam

And, Sri Thyagaraja (1767- 1847) is said to have composed three musical dramas  (Geya-Nataka). Of these, only two namely: Prahlada-Bhakti-Vijayam and Nauka Charitam are available. But, the third – Sita Rama Vijayam – is sadly lost.

Nauka Charitam, mostly a product of Sri Thyagaraja’s imagination, improvising on an incident briefly mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam, comprises twenty-one Daru songs set in thirteen Ragas (some of which follow folk tunes) . Its theme extols the virtue of absolute surrender to the Lord with Love and devotion. Nauka Charitam lends itself beautifully well for production of a Dance-drama.

Dances

Regional Dance forms

By about the sixteenth century, the Nrtya-prabandhas, set free from the confines of the Drama, began to flourish and to evolve further, by assimilating new forms, more creative modes of expression and techniques. In the process, their aesthetic scope grew beyond mere decorative postures. They refined their skills to communicate the emotive content of the lyrics, more effectively. Beauty of form was blended with meaningful expressions (Abhinaya). The Uparupakas having developed into a complex Dance-form came to occupy a central position within the contemporary world of Art.

Even in this format, the dance element continued to be divided into Nrtta and Natya on the one hand; and, into Tandava and Lasya on the other. Another significant factor was that even though the Dance was mainly based in the theoretical principles of the Natyashastra; yet, in practice, it inculcated styles and techniques that were peculiar to each region. In each of those regions, the Dance practitioners also developed their own local vocabulary. These gave rise to distinctive dance forms and technical terms.

Each of such derivative forms formulated a tradition of its own; such as Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, and Kuchipudi and so on. And, each of those eminent dance forms rooted in its own regional and cultural background; anchored in its own philosophy and outlook, developed its own idioms of expressions.

There are also certain factors that are common to all those diverse types of dance forms. These, in brief, are :

:- the prominence accorded to the narration of the theme; 

:- the dominance of Natya-dharmi;

:- performing to  the appropriate music, Laya (tempo) and Taala (time-units, beats) ;

:- employment of all the four Abhinayas in varying degrees, in an appropriate manner ;

:- in making a distinction between the  Nrtta and the Nrtya, and maintaining their distinctive features while executing  the respective elements in the performance;

:- taking care to see that the Nrtta aspect, particularly the individual dance movements and postures, are  governed by the special techniques developed by each school of Dance; and,

:- recognition of both the  Ekaharya (solo – where a single dancer enacts the role of several characters) and Anekaharya (where several actors participate  to enact their respective role)  modes of presentation.

Yet, these Dance-forms have successfully retained their identity; and, have carried it forward to the present time.

kathak4

Kathak

As regards Kathak, its history as a performing art has to be viewed in the larger context of the history of the Dance forms of the North India. Kathak, in its earlier form had a long association with temple-dance. But, with the advent of Mughal rule; and with the influence it exerted on Indian life and culture, Kathak dance was remodeled into a different form.

For instance; it is said, by the time of Akbar (16th century), the Persian art and music had vastly influenced the cultural life of India, particularly the milieu surrounding the Mughal court. According to Pundarika Vitthala (Nartana-nirnaya), who had the opportunity to watch, appreciate and enjoy excellent presentations of the Persian oriented dance and music, the restructured Dance form of Kathak, was born out of the fusion of classical Natya with the dance of the Yavanas, (meaning, the Persians), which took place in the context of the cultural life of the Mughal inner court, during the time of Akbar.

Kathak, in its early period, had not only a special, unique manner of dancing, with its own phrases of Nrtta and Abhinaya; but it also had its own distinct structure of performance and philosophy. But, During the Mughal period, it became a source of recreation for those seeking escape from the day-to-day annoyances. Its purpose, then, was to provide sheer pleasure, entertainment and amusement. Thus with the advent of the Mughal rule there was a definite shift in its content as also in its emphasis. And, the elements of devotion, worship etc., that were there in its traditional form went into background. It acquired the epithet of Nautch.

Thereafter, with the fall of the Mughals, Kathak, somehow, managed to survive by shaping itself into a fine expression of a dance form aiming to please its newly acquired patrons, the rulers of small native states. It then branched into Gharanas named after the court that supported it ; like Lucknow Gharana , Jaipur GharanaRampur Gharana etc. (For more, please do refer to Kathak, Indian Classical Dance Art by Sunil Kothari )

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Kathak , which follows Nartanasarvasva , has a unique feature of taal-prastuti (a systematic elaboration of a time-cycle of a chosen number of beats) that is not found in any other classical Indian dance-forms. It has also a distinct way of presenting the syllables and Bols used in the text of the songs. The variations of these Dance-forms are also recognized by their nature, even in case their style is classical, folk, or modern.

And since the post-Independence days, happily, the classical Kathak is rediscovering itself. It is liberated from the confines of the past feudalistic court associations. The framework and outlook of the present-day classical Kathak is chaste – aesthetically and spiritually.

Odissi

Odissi

In contrast; the classic Odissi was, essentially, a temple-dance, enacting a devotional poem. It is steeped in devotion; and, in the concepts of spirituality of the Vaishnava tradition. It is performed as a way of submitting ones service (seva) to Lord Jagannath. Odissi is a lyrical form of dance with subtlety as its keynote. It is known for its fluidity and grace. Its sculpture-like poses are executed with harmony of line and movement. Odissi has developed its own vocabulary of foot positions, head movements, eye movements, body positions, hand gestures, rhythmic footwork, turns and spins.

Odissi, again, is based in the principles of the Natyashastra. It also follows other texts such as Abhinaya Chandrika of Mahesvara Mahapatra and Abhinaya Darpana of Nandlkesvara. Dr. Mandakranta Bose opines that the techniques of Odissi are also derived from the Nartananirnaya of Pundarika Vittala.

The Odissi also observes the traditional formats of Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya, in their distinct forms.

The initial items, following soon after the invocation , the Mangalacharana, and Pushpanjali, are in the fast-paced, rhythmic pure dance movements of Nrtta class, known as Battu or Battu Nrtta. That is followed by Pallavi rendering in varied tempos.

The Nrtya segment of the Odissi is more elaborate. It consists narration of a theme; the interpretation of the words and sentences of the lyrics of the song; illustrating with grace Abhinaya articulated through elegant Bhavas, gestures and facial and eye expressions. Odissi is renowned for fluid, eloquent and gracefully charming movements and postures. The songs of Nrtya are, generally, in adoration of Vishnu, as Lord Jagannath. Apart from that, the Astapadis selected from Jayadeva Kavi’s Gita Govinda are the most popular numbers in it’s Nrtya repertoire. These soulful dance recitals celebrate the divine Love of Sri Radha and the eternal Lover Sri Krishna.

The Natya segment of a Odissi performance relates narration of a theme selected from the mythology, epic or a celebrated Kavya.

Kuchipudi

Kuchipudi

Similarly, Kuchipudi, the dance-drama  of the coastal Andhra Pradesh, is regarded as a religious art of the Vaishnava tradition, devoted to Lord Krishna (Bhama kalapam), where the dancer-actor narrates a story, conveying a spiritual message through expressive gestures, graceful body-movements and rhythmic footwork. In fact, a Kuchipudi performance commences with the recitation of the auspicious slokas extracted from Vedic texts; consecration of the stage with sprinkling of holy water (punyavachana); and , offering Puja to the Ranga Adidevata , the chief deity on the stage. That is followed by dance-offering to Ganapathi; prayers submitted to Goddess Tripurasundari, and to the Guru; and Naandi-stotra by the Sutradhara, the stage manager. The Kuchipudi Natyam is usually performed by a group or in some cases by a solo dancer who enacts, through dance movements, the roles of several characters.  The performance concludes with Mangalam, the benedictory verses; and, offering Aarati to gods.

The repertoire of Kuchipudi also follows three performance categories of dance forms; namely, Nrtta (Nrutham), Nrtya (Nruthiyam) and Natya (Natyam).  Here, ‘Nrtta’ is a technical performance where the dancer presents pure dance movements with stress on speed, form, pattern, range and rhythmic aspects without interpretive aspects. In ‘Nrtya’ the dancer-actor communicates a story, spiritual themes particularly on Lord Krishna through expressive gestures and slower body movements harmonized with musical notes thus engrossing the audience with the emotions and themes of the act. ‘Natyam’ is usually performed by a group or in some cases by a solo dancer who maintains certain body movements for specific characters of the play which is communicated through dance-acting.

(For more, please check Indian Classical Dances : Kuchipudi Dance )

manipuri4

Manipuri

Manipuri , of Eastern India, is a classical dance form narrating themes rooted in the Vaishnava Bhakthi tradition, depicting the Love between Sri Radha and Lord Krishna  , mainly through the re-enactment of the sublime  ‘Raas Lila’. It is also fused with the pre-Vaishnava tradition of Lai Haraoba and Thang-ta, which add variety and vibrancy to its repertoire of movements. Here, again, dance and music are interwoven with rituals and religious practices.

It is said; the repertoire and basic play of this dance form revolves around different seasons. The traditional style of this art form incorporates graceful, gentle and lyrical movements. The fundamental dance movement of Raas dances of Manipur is Chari or Chali.

Manipuri dances are performed thrice in autumn from August to November; and, once in spring sometime around March-April, all on full moon nights. While Vasanta Raas is scheduled in spring when Holi, the festival of colours is celebrated, the other dances are scheduled around post-harvest festivals like Diwali.

The themes of the songs and plays comprise of Love and association of Radha and Krishna in company of the Gopis namely, Sudevi, Rangadevi, Lalita, Indurekha, Tungavidya, Vishakha, Champaklata and Chitra. One composition and dance sequence is dedicated for each of the Gopis; while the longest sequence is devoted to Radha and Krishna.

The dance drama is performed through excellent display of expressions, hand gestures and body language. Acrobatic and vigorous dance movements are also displayed by Manipuri dancers in certain plays.

Mohiniattam2

Mohiniattam

The Mohiniattam, a classical dance form that evolved in Kerala, is said to have been derived from the dance performed by Mohini, a female Avatar of Vishnu. It, again, is a temple-dance; but, with a predominance of graceful and gentle Lasya movements. The Mohiniattam dancers follow- among other manuals – the Balarama -bharatam as their guidebook.

Mohiniattam also comprises all the three elements of Nrtta (pure dance movements); Nrtya (narrating a theme with Abhinaya); and, Natya (enacting a play, usually by a group).

A performance of a Mohiniattam includes sequences commencing with invocation or Cholkettu; and then on to Jatisvaram, Varnam, Padam, Tillana, Shlokam and Saptam. Thus, Mohiniattam is aligned to what came to be known as Bharatanatya.

Its songs are composed with mixture (Manipravala) of Sanskrit and Malayalam words.

Traditionally, Mohiniattam is performed by a single dancer who enacts the roles of the other characters that feature in the lyrics of the song (Ekaharya Abhinaya). Of late, Mohiniattam is also performed as group dance.

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Dance forms

All these dance-forms, including Kathak, though they are basically individual performances, they are also enacted as group dances.

What is common to all these classical dances is that their roots are in religion, mythology and devotional stories. Central to these dances is the Nayika, the gentle heroine, who symbolizes the soul of the devotee. The spirit of Bhakthi permeates these dance forms. And, their traditions have been carried forward under the Guru-shishya –parampara, with each generation passing on to the next, with earnestness,  the knowledge, skill and the philosophy of its School.

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The Dance forms, such as, Kathak, Odissi or Kuchipudi narrate a story or an episode  chosen from an Epic or mythology. Etymologically, the term Kathak is related to Katha, the art of storytelling. The Western ballet also tells a story. But there are some significant differences between these Dance forms, with regard to their nature and the manners in which they are danced. For example; classical Ballet is performed as a group dance , where different dancers play different roles or characters to build a story. This story is performed as a dance-drama, where various scenes unfold one after the other.

And, another is that unlike in the western dance, the Indian Dances are not set to leaps and gliding movements in the air. It strives to achieve a perfect pose that can be frozen in time. Its technique depends on the skillful management of time (Taala), in order to achieve a series of perfect poses.

In contrast to ballet; the Kathak and other classical dance forms are, traditionally, solo dance-performances. Its dancer enacts all the roles or characters involved in the story (Ekaharya). Here, the story is presented mainly with the help of Abhinaya that involves facial expressions and meaningful hand-gestures. Apart from telling a story, the dancer will have to meticulously follow the rhythmic patterns (Taal) as required by the lyrics and also the sol-fa and other dance syllables rendered in varying speeds (Laya).

Similarly, the Varnams and Padams in the Bharata Natyam are, usually, presented as solo performances.  While presenting the theme of the song that is to be interpreted, the dancer skillfully assumes (Natyadharmi) the role of  several characters (ekaharya) that figure in the lyrics, with appropriate Sancari- bhavas; say, the roles of the Nayika (heroine), her friend/assistant (Sakhi) or of the Nayaka (hero)’. This is achieved through a series of  variations of Angikabhinaya, in which each word of the poetry is interpreted in as many different innovative ways as possible.

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Another significant point is that the present-day dance forms like Kathak, Odissi etc., are more related to medieval texts like Nartananirnaya than to the ancient manuals. This, in another way, could be taken to mean that certain dance-forms, which were marginalized in the Natyashastra, found a new life and due recognition as one among classical Dances of India. This again emphasizes the dynamic nature of Art, which rejuvenates and re-invents itself all the time.

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Influence of Nartana-nirnaya

Now, as regards the historical significance of Nartana-nirnaya; many scholars, after a deep study of the text, have observed that there is enough evidence to conclude that the text marks the origin of two major styles of India today, namely, Kathak and Odissi. Dr.   Mandakranta Bose, the much respected scholar and authority on the principles and practices of the performing arts of India, also concurs that such connection seems highly plausible. The text was part of the same cultural world of the Mughal court that nurtured Kathak.

Dr. Bose, in her work, Movement and Mimesis: the Idea of Dance in the Sanskritic Tradition , points out that several technical terms used in Nartana-nirnaya match those used in Kathak today. And she goes on to say:

When we look closely at the technique of the dance described under the Anibandha category, we begin to see certain striking similarities with the technique of Kathak. One cannot say that the style described in the Nartana-nirnaya matches Kathak in every detail.  But one may certainly view that style as the precursor to Kathak; but the descriptions and the similarities in their techniques clearly show it to be the same as what we know today as Kathak.

The Nartana-nirnaya seems, thus, to be the proper textual source for Kathak. This claim becomes stronger still on examining points of technique.

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As regards Odissi, Dr. Bose observes that the Bandha-nrtta as practiced in the Odissi style is very similar to the descriptions given in the Nartana-nirnaya.  And, the basic standing postures prescribed in the Odissi style: Chauka and Tribhangi are the two main basic stances in Odissi. Chahka is a stable-wide stance, with weight of the body distributed equally on both the sides; and, the heels facing the centre. It is said to be a masculine posture.  Tribanghi, is a graceful feminine posture, with the body bent in three-ways). These are comparable to vaisakha-sthana and Agra-tala-sanchara-pada of the Nartana-nirnaya.  Further, some acrobatic postures still in use are: danda-paksam, lalata-tilakam and nisumbhitam (the foot raised up to the level of forehead), and several others are found both in Odissi and in Chau dance of Mayurbhanj region of OrissaFurther, there is in the Nartana-nirnaya, the description of a dance called Batu involving difficult poses; and it is very similar to the Batunrtta, a particularly difficult dance in the repertory of Odissi.

Nayana dutta

Bharatanatya

The School of Nrtya that is prevalent in South India is Bharata-natya. It has gained ground through the efforts of some dedicated stalwarts.

During the period of national movement for attaining India’s independence, there was a revival and resurgence of Dance forms; and re-assertion of its values.

With the advent of the Maestro Uday Shankar; and with the efforts of the aesthetes like Rabindranath Tagore, Poet Vallathol of Kerala and Rukmini Devi and E. Krishna lyer of Kalakshetra at Adyar, the ancient form of dance (Marga), as in Bharata’s  Natyashastra, was re-established, by renaming it as Bharata-Natyam.

Along with that, the other classical dance forms like, Kathak, Odissi, Mohiniattam and Manipuri were also revived.

fine-arts3

Dance – Today and Tomorrow

Moving from temple to theater was a huge, a gigantic leap. During the last seventy-five years there have been tremendous changes in the arena of Dance, in terms of structure, content, theme, presentation techniques, teaching methods and so on. As it stepped into the open society and reached out to larger numbers of spectators, the well equipped huge auditoriums and theaters having excellent lighting and sound facilities and other means of technical support etc., also came up. With this, the reach of the Art expanded significantly. Now, not merely the well informed connoisseurs, but also the uninitiated audience began to have access to witness and enjoy Art performances. This has  been a very healthy and a robust development.

Up to the early 20th century, the songs to which dances were composed were exclusively those rich in Srngara bhava. In the post-independence India, the dance themes were diversified to depict subjects other than the usual mythological and religious themes and of a heroine pining for her hero.

This shift played an important role in prompting the dancers to re-think and seek new directions in Indian dance and its thematic content. The Dancers with imagination and with the ability to reflect upon the present-day issues, began to experiment; to innovate dance-expressions; to create new movements using space, different levels; and, to develop an impressive array of dance vocabulary.

In India, Dance has always been an activity associated with socially, culturally and ritually sanctioned practices. And, the present period is the age resurgence of Indian classical dancing, freed from its past associations. The youth who pursue classical dance are the educated middle class, both in India and elsewhere. Today Indian dances have crossed national borders; and, the exponents of Dancing in the Indian Diaspora have been  extending their dance horizons,  wherever they are.

In today’s world, the classical dance is an icon of high-art. It is also the representation of India’s preserved history, tradition and culture. It is a part of understanding our cultural heritage. The classical Dance as a specialized performing art draws fewer males than females. It, somehow, is essentially the domain of the females . It is, therefore, the women who, mostly, have carried forward this form of traditional art.

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There is a dichotomy here. Fueled by the cross-currents of theory , practice and the ongoing innovations  in the other  contemporary  fields of art ,  the artist in a zeal  to create one’s  own meaning, restructures and extends her/his little world , in order  to evoke, to fathom, and to effectively represent varied human emotions and experiences.   So long as the power of  such created-language of art is rooted in the basic principles and is within the structure of the classic-tradition, the Indian dance forms such as, the Bharatanatya etc., retain their identity and authenticity.  What is important in such shared aesthetic sensibilities, is retaining a sense of balance between the old and the new, which is continuity while still being rooted in one’s own tradition.

These are interesting and vibrant days for Indian classical Dance in its varied forms. With that, it has to face new challenges; and, has to address itself to new questions. It has to look within to review the techniques, the structural principles and to reassess the internal strength of its traditional forms. And, it has also to look forward and project its future path; to explore new horizons. It has to gain power and strength to carry forward the various Dance forms; and, at the same time have the tenacity to preserve the purity of the essential principles of the classical Dance. It has to find resilient ways to reflect the contemporary progressive values; and, continue to be relevant to the society and the world we live in. And, at the same time, it has to devise safeguards to protect the Art against the dangers of the rampant commercialization, which might affect the standards and the quality of the classical dance forms. It is the shared responsibility of the Gurus, the learners and the art connoisseurs.

And, that , indeed, is a very tall order.

Dance poses

Commencing from the next part, we shall briefly discuss each of the significant texts that defined the nature and practice of Dancing in India. We may, as always, start with Natyashastra; and, thereafter go to other texts, following their chronological order.

Nataraja big

Continued

In

Part Six

References and sources

All images are from the Internet

 
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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Four

Continued from Part Three

 Nrtta, Natya and Nrtya

B. During the Post- Bharata period

Bharata Natyam

Intro…

The commentators of the middle period (say, around the tenth century and thereafter) interpreted some of the fundamental terms of the Natyashastra in a manner that was considerably different from perhaps what Bharata meant. They also brought in many concepts that were not envisaged by Bharata.

Just to recapitulate:

As per Natyashastra,

: – the Nrtta was pure dance. It was not a subsidiary or an auxiliary to Natya. It was an independent Art-form, which was performed mainly in the Purvaranga, before the commencement of the play proper, as praise offering to gods (Deva-stuti).

: – The Tandava was described as Nrtta (pure dance); and, it was not necessarily aggressive; nor was it performed only by men.

[The Tandava in the Natyashastra did not convey the sense of Uddhata (Vigorous). Further, the Tandava or Nrtta of the Natyashastra was in no way related to what later came to be known as Tandava-nrtta.]

: – The graceful dance (Sukumara-prayoga) with delicate, graceful (Madhura) movements (Angaharas) performed by Devi Parvathi (which Abhinavagupta named as Lasya) was not in contrast to Shiva’s Tandava. It was her own Dance.

[Sukumara-prayoga (or Lasya) did not mean a feminine style of dancing, as was interpreted later. Such distinctions, as between masculine and feminine dances, were not made in the Natyashastra.]

: – During the time of Bharata, there was no clear theoretical division of Dance into Tandava and what, later, came to be known as Lasya. They merely referred to the nature of the physical movements. And, the term Lasya, per se , does not also appear in Natyashastra, though the concept of the element of grace and beauty did exist; and, was named as Sukumara or Madhura.

Shiva performing celestial dance

But, during the Post-Bharata period, especially in the medieval times:

: – Nrtta was classified into Tandava and Lasya types. And, here, Tandava was described as forceful (Uddhata Angaharas), the fast paced furious Tandava Nrtta.

And Tandava Nrtta came to be idealized as an extremely angry and destructive type of dance.

: – Sukumara Prayoga was renamed as Lasya, the soft or delicate (Lalita) form of dance.

: – And, the two, were said to be related to masculine and feminine dancers; saying that Tandava is for men, while Lasya is for women.

[But, the Natyashastra had not made such distinctions. There, the dance movements were guided by mental and emotional states of the character. The principle for classification of dance movements was Guna, the quality and the nature of the feeling of the character (not gender).]

: – Although Bharata created a new and more expressive form of Dance form by combining the dance elements of the Nrtta with the Abhinayas, he had not assigned it a name. He did not also define the newly crafted Art-form.

But, in the later periods, it came to be known and celebrated as Nrtya. (The term Nrtya, as such, does not appear in the Natyashastra, though its conceptual essence was very much there.)

: – Further, certain new concepts which, of course could not have been there during the time of Bharata, also came into the vocabulary of Dance. Now the Dance and its forms came to be classified into categories, such as: Marga (pure or classical) and Desi (regional or improvised); and, as Nibaddha (structured) and Anibaddha (unstructured or free-flowing).

: – Another significant development was the steady drift away from the dance that Bharata talked about. Number of regional elements and techniques entered into the stream. And, that gave rise to many Dance –forms, in different regions of the country; each with its own ethos and techniques of presentation.

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With this background, let’s take a look the statements made by some authors and commentators of the Post –Bharata period.

dance poses

Nrtta in the medieval period

Abhinavagupta

Abhinavagupta (11th century) in his Abhinavabharati, a detailed commentary on the Natyashastra, brought in many concepts and practices that were not present during the time of Bharata.  He also discussed matters related to the Art of Dancing, keeping in view the practices prevailing during his time.  He also tried to interpret the Natyashastra in the light of his own experience and knowledge; as also according to the principles of his philosophical School.

And, many times, he differed from Bharata. And, in addition, he introduced many new factors. Abhinavagupta provided the details of dance forms that were not mentioned in the Natyasastra. For instance, Abhinavagupta speaks of minor categories of drama (uparupakas), such as nrtta-kavya and raga-kavya – the plays based mainly in dance or in music. The nature of such minor dramas was not specifically  discussed in the  Natyashastra

Abhinavagupta provided his own interpretations to such fundamental terms as Nrtta, Abhinaya etc.

Though Nrtta was later described by Dhananjaya and Dhanika, as one that is bereft of meaning or emotion (Bhava and Rasa) or even of Abhinaya; and, that it can only be a decorative Angikabhinaya element that beautifies the dance presentation (Shobahetu), Abhinavagupta asserted that Nrtta is capable of expressing meaning (Artha). His view prevailed in the subsequent periods.

Further, Abhinavagupta asserted that Nrtta is an integral part of the Drama (Natya). The Nrtta elements can be used both in the Purvaranga (preliminaries before the commencement of the play) and in the sequences within the Drama. He cites some instances where Karanas (the basic units of the Nrtta) are employed.

He mentions: In Bhaṭṭa Nārāyaa’s Veī Samhāra, the actor playing the role of Aśvatthāman enters with the Sūci Viddha (needle-pierced) and Ūrdhvajānu (uplifted foot) Karaas. In Kalidāsa’s Vikramorvaśīyam, the hero Purūravas enters with the Alapallava and Sūci Karaas. Garua enters with Garua-plutam; Rāvaa’s entry is with Vaiśākha Recitam. In Svapna Vāsavadatta, Vatsarāja enters with Sambhrānta karana.

And, certain situations (say, those involving Srngara or Raudra) do need appropriate postures (Karanas) to illustrate the emotional states of the character.

Abhinavagupta’s influence has been profound and pervasive. Succeeding generations of writers on Natya were guided by his concepts and theories of Rasa, Bhava, aesthetics and dramaturgy.

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Abhinavagupta, in a very elaborate manner, classifies Nrtta into two groups. The First group has three varieties; and, the Second has four. Thus, there are, in all, seven classifications.

In his rather complicated classifications and their protracted explanations of the Nrtta, Abhinavagupta brings in the elements Abhinayas, in its varying degrees.

The Nrtta types in his First Group have no Abhinaya. The Nrttas in the Second Group involve some element of Abhinaya (therefore, are aligned to what could be called as Nrtya). Here, the Abhinaya is classified into two types.

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Dr. KM Varma in his highly scholarly and very  well researched work ‘Natya, Nrtta and Nrtya: their meaning and relation (pages 17-19) analyzes these seven classifications of Nrtta, in the light of Abhinavagupta’s hypothesis of two types of Abhinaya. And, he builds up the relationships among Nrtta (dance), Gana (song) and Vadya (musical instruments).

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Abhinavagupta explains Abhinaya , broadly, as a process where the performer brings into his mind the meaning and the sentiment of the words of the song; and, puts it forth through facial expressions, movement of the limbs and such other means.

And, he classifies the Abhinaya into two distinct types.

Of the two types of Abhinayas; in the First one, the performer follows the general trend, without going into details; and, in the Second type, the performer interprets every word and every sentence of the song.

Here, in his classifications of the Nrtta, Abhinavagupta introduces into Nrtta many new factors that were not there earlier. For instance; he brings into the definition of Nrtta the elements of  Artha and Abhinaya (in varying degrees); the variations of Tandava (vigorous) and Lasya (soft) ; the concept of male and female forms of Nrtta ; and Rasas , the sentiments or emotions they express.

Thus, the concept and the content of the Nrtta, as in the Natyashastra, is almost entirely abandoned; thoroughly overhauled; and, given a totally new perspective and disposition.  In short; the Nrtta, here, is far faraway from its ancestor in the Natyashastra.  It is not the same.

[The First Group belongs to the pure Nrtta type ; whereas, the Second Group relates to of what came to be known as Nrtya. Abhinavagupta, in his explanations, did not, however, use the term Nrtya.]

The First Group of Nrtta that Abhinavagupta formulated has the three types: (1) Shudda-Nrtta; (2) Gitakad-abhinayaonmukha –Nrtta; and, (3) Gana-Vadya –Talanusaii Nrtta.

Of these, the First one, Shuddha Nrtta, which consists Angaharas and Recakas, is the sort of Nrtta that is related to the Purvaranga, as in the Natyashastra.

The Second in this Group is Gitakad-abhinayaonmukha- Nrtta. Here, the performer’s physical movements are guided by the general trend or the broad sense of the song. But, she/he does not pay attention to the specific details of the song; such as, the meaning of each words and sentence of the song.

The Third in this Group; the Gana-Vadya –Talanusari Nrtta is similar to the earlier one; but, here the instruments (Vadya), songs (Gitam) and rhythm (Taala) are the leading factors. Here also, the performer follows the general trend of the song without going into its details.

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The Second Group has four types: (1) Uddhata Nrtta ;(2) Masrana-Nrtta; (3) Misra Uddhata Nrtta; and,(4)  Misar-Masarna Nrtta.

All these four types do require Abhinaya (as in the Nrtya). Here in the Second Group, the Abhinaya, according to Abhinavagupta, is the action of the performer in sending forth (abhi) or  bringing the meaning of the song into his own mind and expressing it through the movement of  limbs , conveying  the sense of every word and every detail of the song or the  composition.

The First type in this Second Group, the Uddhata Nrtta is a furious dance with display of vigorous movements (Tandava) ; it is associated with Veera and Roudra Rasas. This is a masculine type of dance.

The Second type in this Group, Masrana-Nrtta is the softer type of dance (Lasya) aligned with Srngara, Karuna and so on. This is the feminine type of dance

The Third type Misra Uddhata Nrtta, in the main, is same as Uddhata; but, is mixed with the movements of the Masrana (Lasya) variety

And, the Fourth type in the Second Group, Misar- Masarna Nrtta is again a Masarna Nrtta, with emphasis on lighter; but, mixed with some elements of Uddhata

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Dhananjaya

Dhananjaya perhaps belonged to the same region and to the same period in which Abhinavagupta lived.  By the time of Dhananjaya (Ca. eleventh Century), the meaning and the application of the terms Nrtta, Tandava and Lasya had all changed a great deal. Further, by then, the Natya and Nrtya had taken the center stage.

Dhananjaya, in his Dasarupaka, treats Nrtta, mainly, in its comparison with Nrtya.

Dhananjaya explains Nrtta, as dance, with emphasis on smart looking (shobhahetu) limb-movements, in tune with rhythm and tempo (nrttam tala-laya-asrayam). But, in itself, it is devoid of meaningful content; and, is valued for its mere visual beauty of body movements (gatrasya viksepaha). Nrtta is not an interpretive or expressive dance (though the dancer might perhaps wear pleasant smile on her face).

The Nrtta, according to Dhananjaya, does not also involve the elements of meaning or emotion (Bhava and Rasa) or Abhinaya (Abhinaya-sunya); nor does it evoke a mood or a sentiment (Rasa). It is one of the specific technical elements (Angikabhinaya) that beautify the dance presentation.

[Bharata had used the term Nrtta to denote dancing, in general. But, in the medieval period, the meaning of Nrtta was narrowed down to mean a mere decorative aid. It was just an aspect of the whole body of Dancing.]

As compared to Nrtta, Dhananjaya says, the Nrtya, principally, is the display of various aesthetic moods (Bhava) or emotional states (Bhava-asrayam nrtyam). The Angavikshepa, the throwing of limbs is, however, common to both Nrtta and Nrtya.

But, Nrtya, through its appropriate gestures, facial expressions and limb-movements, gives life and form to the meaning and the sensitivity of the individual words and the sentences of the song (Abhinaya-pada-artha-abhinayatmaka).

[Nandikeshvara (Abhinayadarpana.1-56) similarly distinguished Nrtya from Nrtta, thus: Bhava-abhinaya-hinam tu nrittamitya-abhidhyate;| Rasabhava-vyanjana adi yuktam nrityam ity uchyate]

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Of these two, the Nrtya having emotional content is classified by Dhananjaya under Marga (the classic or pristine form of dance), a representation of the classic form of dance; while, Nrtta, with its stress, mainly, on rhythm and tempo, is classified under Desi, perhaps representing the popular regional or improvised dance form – (Adyam padartha-abhinayo Margo Desi tatha param).

Under each of these (Nrtya and Nrtta), Dhananjaya, again makes a two-fold division, as: Lasya, the graceful, gentle fluid and pleasing dance; and, Tandava, the vigorous, energetic, brisk and invigorating movements (lasya-tandava-rupena natakad-dyupa-karakam).

These are the dance-types that are performed during the course of the play, depending upon the nature/need of a sequence in the play.

Thus, Tandava, unlike in Natyashastra, is not necessarily a dance performed as a praise-offering to gods, in the Purvaranga, the preliminaries, before the commencement of the play. On the other hand, it is used in the play to depict aggressive tendencies (Uddhata) and their manifestations. Similar is the case with Lasya, the gentle dance (Lalita).

The distinction between Uddhata and Lalita also suggests a difference  between the masculine and feminine modes of expression; because of their physical characteristics, and also because of their association with a male and a female deity. In due course, the term Lasya came to mean a feminine style of dancing, which lends grace to stage actions.

[Following Dhananjaya, Sarangadeva also mentions that Nrtta and Nrtya can both be of two kinds: Tandava and Lasya (SR.7.28). Tandava requires Uddhata (forceful); and, Lasya requires  Lalita (delicate) movements (SR. 7. 29-30). He identifies Tandava as Shiva’s dance; and, Lasya as Parvati’s.]

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According to Dhananjaya, Natya comprises both Nrtta and Nrtya. It is mentioned; that in Natya, the Nrtya is sometimes useful in expressing the Bhava introduced through the topic (Avantara-padartha), while Nrtta is useful as a beautifying factor that pleases the eye (Shobha-hetuvena)

Dhananjaya explains Natya as an Art-form that is based in Rasa- Natyam rasam-ashrayam (DR.I. 9). It gives expressions to the inner or true meaning of the lyrics through dance gestures – vakyartha-abhinayatmaka.

Thus, Natya delightfully brings together and presents in a very highly expressive, attractive visual and auditory form, the import of the lyrics (sahitya), the nuances of its emotional content to the accompaniment of soulful music and rhythmic patterns (tala-laya), along with attractive postures and stances.

[Later, Pundarika Vittala (sixteenth century), in his work (Nartana-nirnaya), following Sarangadeva, uses the term Nartana, generally, to mean ‘Dance’, Pundarika said that by Nartana he meant it to be a general class-name for Dance. And, the term Nartana would cover the three forms of Dance: NatyaNrtya and Nrtta. The last (Nrtta) would again be subdivided into three other types: visama (acrobatic); vikata (absurd); and, Laghu (light), identified respectively as rope-dancing, a comic dance, and a dance based on easy Karanas.]

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Dhanika says that Nrtya is Pada-artha-abhinayatmaka; and, Natya is Vakya-artha-abhinayatmaka

It is explained that the terms Pada (word) and Vakya (sentence) should not be taken in their ordinary sense. These have to be seen in relation that the words have with the sentence, of which they are a part.

Here, Pada-artha, word-meanings, is to be taken as Bhavas. And, Vakya-artha is to be understood as Rasa, which is produced by the combination of the Bhavas; just as a sentence is made up of several words.

In other words; the relation between Bhava and Rasa was said to be similar to that which exists between the word and the sentence.   It was said; Vakyartha stands for Rasa, which is similar to the sentence; and, Padartha stands for Bhava, which is similar to the word.

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Following that, attempts were made to differentiate Nrtya and Natya on the basis of Bhava and Rasa.

In the process, Nrtya was equated with Padartha-abhinaya; and, Natya with Vakhyartha-abhinaya. And, in effect, according to Dhananjaya, it meant that Nrtya is rooted in Bhava (Nrtyam bhavashrayam); and, Natya in the Rasa (Rasashrayam Natyam). Thus, Nrtya is related to Bhava alone; and, Natya is related to Rasa alone.

Even in the later times, the authorities like Vipradasa (Ca. fourteenth century).  Rana Kumbha (fifteenth century) continued to go by the definitions provided by Dhananjaya/Dhanika; but, with slight modifications.

For instance; Rana Kumbha in his Nrtya-ratna-kosa explains Nrtta as made up of combination of Karanas and Angaharas (Karanam angaharani caiva Nrttam); Nrtya as Rasa (Nrtya sabdena ca Rasam punaha); and, Natya as Abhinaya (Natyena abhinayam). The Nrtya is classified as Marga; and, Nrtta as Desi.

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Thus, according the medieval theories, Nrtta is all about beauty of form perceived by the eye; Nrtya expresses Bhava; and, Natya expresses Rasa.

But, such definitions and their import do not seem to be quite correct, at least in certain vital aspects.

Bhava and Rasa, even according to Bharata are intimately related. As Bharata had said; there cannot be Rasa without Bhavas; and vice versa – Na Bhavahino iti Raso; Na Bhavao Rasavargitah.

Na bhāvahīno’sti Raso; Na Bhāvo rasavarjita parasparaktā siddhi-stayor abhinaye bhavet NS.6.36

Apart from textual references, it is common experience that Rasa, the aesthetic pleasure, is evoked by both the Nrtya and the Natya. And, Bhava and Rasa are essential to both the Nrtya and the Natya.

And, therefore, to say that Nrtya is only about Bhava; and Natya is only about Rasa would be incorrect. The aim of both Nrtya and Natya is to provide Rasa; and, for which Bahavas are essential.  The expressions of Bhava are crucial to all the Art forms; as they contribute to the creation of Rasa enjoyed by the viewers, both in a general and auxiliary way (Samanya-guna-yogena).  Abhinavagupta argued on similar lines (though he did not use the term Nrtya, in particular).

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And, similarly, Dhananjaya’s views on Nrtta and other issues were criticized by the later scholars.

To start with, it was mentioned that the concepts of the Natyashastra have to be understood in the light of the theoretical principles in which they are based. And, Dhananjaya’s view of Nrtta was restrictive, since it did not take many of its aspects into consideration.

Dismissing Dhananjaya’s classification of Nrtta as Desi, it was argued: the Nrtta as defined by Bharata is a proper art; a pure dance form, where the dancers need to be trained under competent Masters. Nrtta was meant to be performed during the Purvaranga as a prayer offering (Deva stuti). It was dear to gods (atyartham iṣṭa devānā).

Further, it was pointed out that Bharata’s phrase sobham janayati merely suggests that Nrtta is a beautifying factor; and, that does not mean Nrtta is auxiliary to Natya. The Nrtta is  independent, chaste and classical.

Marga, by Dhananjaya’s own definition, is an Art that is created by the Masters; while, Desi is that which is practiced by people of different regions, according to their taste.  And, therefore, to designate Nrtta as Desi is illogical; because, Nrtta  created by Shiva himself; and,  taught by Tandu to  Bharata was in indeed of the Marga class.

It was argued by the  scholars of the later period  that Dhananjaya’s statements do not project a fair view; because: Nrtta, which precedes Natya, in reality, is an art par excellence, which  can suggest meaning and evoke Rasa.

It was, therefore, indicated that it makes more sense to go by the concepts themselves, than be led only by the etymological explanations of the terms.

It was also said that Dhananjaya could have made a distinction between the Nrtta of the Purvaranga; and, the Nrtta type of group dances performed on happy cultural and social occasions. The dancers, here, do not need much training. And, there are also no restrictions with regard either to the mode of its dance or to the place of its performance. Only, such latter type of regional dances could have been classified as the popular Desi; and, not the entire Nrtta, as a class.

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It was pointed out that Dhananjaya’s interpretation of Tandava as made of vigorous (Uddhata) Angaharas ; and Lasya as made of soft (Sukumara or Madhura) Angaharas , was not in accordance with the tenets of the Natyashastra.

Further, under, the interpretation provided by Dhananjaya, Nrtta was classified depending on the nature of the physical movements. It seemed that vigorous Tandava and soft Lasya were related to masculine and feminine dancers, respectively; suggesting that Tandava is for men, while Lasya is for women. But, the Nrtta in the Natyashastra did not envisage such discrimination.

Again, such an interpretation also suggests a distinction and between masculine and feminine modes of expression. And, that led to mistaking the term Lasya to mean a feminine style of dancing, which lends grace to stage actions.

It was argued that the dissimilarity of vigorous or soft is purely relative.  And, they are mere assumptions. It doesn’t make much sense to insist that women should be soft and gentle, even when they are angry or furious; and, men should be aggressive even when they are in grief or in love. It is also wrong to state that Lasya should be performed only by women; and Tandava is exclusively for men. The real principle for classification should be Guna, the quality and the nature of the feeling (but, not gender).

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Next;   Dhananjaya’s  statements asserting that Nrtta is devoid of Bhava and Rasa (Rasa Bhava vihinam tu Nrttam itya abhijayate); and, Nrtta is only a technical element (Angikabhinaya) that helps to smarten the dance presentation; and it lacks the element of Abhinaya (laya tala matrapekso angaviksepo abhinaya sunyayh), were also refuted. And, downgrading Nrtta to an inferior (Adhama) position was also rejected.

Saradatanaya (1175 -1250 AD) in his Bhavaprakasana, disagreed with the views of Dhananjaya; and asserted that   Nrtta, the pure dance, is rooted in Rasa (Nrttam rasa-ahrayam). Saradatanaya’s definition meant that Nrtta not only beautifies a presentation, but is also capable of generating Rasa.

Further, Abhinavagupta, while dealing with Karanas, which are the basic units of Dance and classified under the Nrtta, emphasized that Karanas are capable of suggesting meanings.

Abhinavagupta opined that Kaisiki-vrtti, which is the medium or the style to depict Srngara, essentially requires Nrtta. Because, he says, Nrtta is the source that provides Valana, Vartana and other movements or stances. Further, he says that Nrtta as a beautifying factor helps to fill or cover up the gaps in the physical movements (chidra-chadana); and, to maintain continuity in action (alata-chakra-pratimata). And, therefore, Nrtta, like Nrtya and Natya, is capable of giving forth Rasa, although it is non representational.

Further, the statements such as ‘Nrtta is devoid of Bhava and Rasa’ (rasabhava-vihinam tu Nrttam itya abhijayate) were dismissed as being   rather harsh and unimaginative. That is because; Nrtta is an Art-form that provides the idioms and metaphors of beauty to  Nrtya , Natya and Shilpa.

And, over the centuries, the Karanas of the Nrtta have inspired creation of wondrous sculptures with their visual beauty (Shobha), their distinctive poses and geometrical constructions. And, they do invoke certain admiration and pleasure (Rasa) in the hearts of the viewers. Same thing can be said about the basic dance poses and dynamic postures.

Dancing (Nrtta) and sculpture (Shilpa)   have much in common. They both share same system of measures and proportions in presenting human forms, as symbols capable of evoking states of being (Bhava).

Thus every figure of Indian sculpture is, like every pose and gesture in Indian dancing, highly symbolic; and, each figure has a particular evocative quality. The technique by which the artist can present the soul or the spirit of subject in a visible form, are guided by the same set of principles.

Just as the Indian dancer aims at attaining the perfect pose, the moment of perfect balance(Sama), after a series of movement in time, so too, does the Indian sculptor try to capture the movement of the figure through the perfection of rhythm and line.

The fundamental principles of Tala (measure) and Bhanga (posture) based on the concept of the Sutra (median) and (proportions) in Dance are similar to the ones in sculpture.

Further, the division of the human form into the various Anga and the Upanga in both the arts is made on the basis of the bone structure, the joints of the body rather than on the muscles of the human body:

It is said; indeed, the Nrtta technique can be better understood if one understands the concept of the Sutras and Mana of the Shilpa. .

[As compared to the restricted understanding of Nrtta by the medieval authors, the present-day acceptance and application of Nrtta is more comprehensive and highly useful. In the Bharatanatya and other classical dances of India, Nrtta forms an essential part of the dance performance, its structure; as also, in its training methods. That is because; Nrtta as per Bharata and also Nandikeshvara, is built of wide-ranging varieties of Karanas (Angavikshepa), which are the basic units. These are rooted in well thought out logical principles and geometric forms. And, they do invoke aesthetic pleasure (Rasa). Therefore, Karanas are ingrained into Nrtya.

Karanas are, thus, essential to the Grammar and structure of Nrtya in Bharatanatya and in other forms.  Going further back; Caris , which could be called as well knit ‘steps’ , is an alphabet of the Nrtta as also of  Natya. And, therefore, Nrtta is more relevant today, than it was in the days of Bharata. It has  received a special treatment from the point of view of choreography.]

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Natya

The Natyashastra employs Natya as a generic term, which broadly covers drama, dance and music. Bharata’s Natya could also be understood as drama. And Ntta and other dance elements was one of the constituents that provided elegance to the theatrical presentations. It does not treat dance as a separate category of Art-form.

The Natyashastra (6.10) provides a comprehensive framework of the Natya, in a pellet form, as the harmonious combination (sagraha) of the various essential components that contribute towards the successful production of a play.

He mentions the eleven elements that constitute the Natya (Drama). These are: Rasa (sentiment); Bhava (states); Abhinaya (representation or acting); Dharmi (styles of presentation);Vrtti (styles of depiction); Siddhi (attainment of the purpose); Svara (musical notes); Atodya (orchestra or instrumental music); Gana (songs); and Ranga ( stage) .

Bharata later explains, of the eleven, Rasa is of paramount importance; and deriving that Rasa is the objective of a theatrical performance. The other ten elements – from Bhava to Ranga – are the contributing factors for the production of the Rasa,.

Rasā bhāvā hya abhinayā dharmī vtti pravttaya  siddhi svarās tathā atodyaṃ gāna ragaś ca sagraha  6.10

At another place, Bharata, in a nutshell, provides a sort of definition of Natya, which could be understood as Drama (Rupaka).

Bharata explains: when the experiences of the everyday world, mingled with pleasure and pain both, are conveyed through different Abhinayas such as, speech, gestures, costume, makeup, ornaments etc – (Angika, Sattvika, Vachika, and Aharya Abhinayas) –   it is called Natya. (NS 1.119)

yo’ya  svabhāvo lokasya sukha dukha samanvita  som gādya abhinaya ityopeto nātyam ity abhidhīyate  NS.4. 119

Bharata explained that object of the Natya  was to show men and women the proper way to live, a way in which one could live and behave, so that one might become a still better person.

“A play shows your actions and emotions. Neither gods nor demons are depicted as always good or always evil. Actually, the ways of the world as represented here are not only of the gods but also of yours. It teaches you good advice (upadisati); it gives you enlightenment and also entertainment. It provides peace of mind to those who afflicted with miseries, sorrow, grief or fatigue. There is no art, no knowledge, no yoga, and no action that is not found in Natya.”  (Natya-Shastra 1: 106-07; 112-16)

na tajjñāna na tacchilpa na sā vidyā na sā kalā  nāsau yogo na tatkarma nāye’smin yanna dśyate Ns.1. 116

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Generally speaking, Bharata not only takes the experience of the individual human beings, but that of the world as a whole; and, considers Natya as the effective means of communicating those experiences. Included in this, are the elements of speech, poetry, music, dance and all those factors that lend beauty and grace to a theatrical performance. For Bharata, Natya is the very epitome of life.

According to Bharata, Natya is the experiences of the world when it is represented on the stage, in order to provide enjoyment and instruction, by means of acts of communication, which a person does not normally employ in the everyday life. The presentation of the play is dominated by the stylized modes of presentation (NatyaDharmi).

In other words, just the fact of one’s experiences in the world, as ordinarily noted or observed during the course of life, is not Natya.  It becomes Natya only when it is communicated through the means of Abhinayas and representation; and, presented on the stage.

The Abhinaya, on the stage, is expressed through Mano-vak-kaya (mind, voice and body), in terms of Sattvika, Vachika and Angika abhinaya-s. These are supported by Aharya (the costumes and stage props), the fourth element. Thus Abhinaya covers not only the movements of face and limbs; but, it also encompasses all the other elements and modes of supportive expressions.

The successful production (Siddhi) of a play  (Natya) enacted on the stage (Ranga) involves various  elements of the components of  the actors’ gestures, actions (bhava) and speech ; bringing forth (abhinaya) their intent (Artha), through the medium of theatrical (Natya-dharmi) and common (Loka-dharmi) practices; in four styles of representations (Vritti-s) in their four regional variations (pravrttis) ; with the aid of  captivating dances and melodious songs  accompanied by instrumental music (svara-gana-adyota).

Such well enacted Abhinayas induce in the minds and hearts of the Sahrudaya the sense (Artha) that is conducive for evoking proper Rasa. Without Abhinaya there is no drama; and, no Natya without representation

Bharata’s definition of Natya covers all these factors; and holds good even in the present day.

[Abhinavagupta also makes a distinction between the world of drama (Nātyadharmī) and the real but ordinary life (Lokadharmī). In the artistic process, where presentations are made with the aid of various kinds of dramatic features such as Abhinayas and synthetic creationswe are moving from the gross  and un-stylized movements of  daily life to more subtle forms of expressions and experiences; we move from individualized experiences to general representations (sadharanikarana) ; and, from multiplicity to unity.]

Abhinavagupta , in the context of Dance, explains Abhinaya as a process , where the performer brings into his mind the meaning and the sentiment of the words of the song; and, puts it forth through facial expressions, movement of the limbs and such other means. And, Abhinaya is the act of communication of an idea, a thought or the phase of an emotion or sentiment that one is experiencing.

 [It is explained that acting, in a sense, means to behave like someone else. And, it is not reality; because, it is not related to the actual life of the person who is acting. But, at the same time, it is not mimicry or imitation. Abhinaya should be understood as the actor’s effort to communicate and to convey the mental and emotional states of the character; and, its experiences. Abhinaya is bringing forth the Artha, the sense of the things, into the minds of the Sahrudayas. ]

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Nrtya

Bharata used the term Nrtta to denote dance; and, the term Nrtya does not appear in the Natyashastra. Abhinavagupta also, adhering to the terminologies of the Natyashastra, avoids using the term Nrtya , as such.  He consistently uses the term Nrtta, while referring to Dance. Similar was the case with the authors earlier to his period. They also had not used the term Nrtya.

Further, in some editions of Natyashastra where the word Nrtya crept in, it is taken as a later insertion (unintended or otherwise) by the manuscript-copier (scribes).

That does not mean that the essence of Dance (with which we are now familiar as Nrtya) did not exist; or, was not yet created in the epoch of Natyashastra.

It only means that the specific term Nrtya was not then in currency.  According to some scholars, the term Nrtta along with Abhinaya covered what we now call Nrtya, as evidenced from some verses of the Abhinavabharati.

According to Abhinavagupta, it was Bharata who designed and created an Art form, which would adorn the Natya, by combining the dance element of the Nrtta and the Abhinayas. But, for some reason, Bharata did not see a need to assign a name to the resultant art form.

And, Bharata, in his characteristic way, puts it as if the suggestion came to him from Shiva, who had advised Brahma the ways to utilize the Nrtta in the Natya. Here, Shiva had said : you can very well communicate (Abhinayasi), by use of Nrtta (made beautiful by Angaharas consisting different Karanas), the things (Artha) out of which the songs are composed; the songs that are sung in the Purvaranga.

mayāpīda smta ntya sandhyākāleu ntyatā nānā karaa sayuktair agahārair vibhūitam4.13 pūrvaraga vidhā vasmistvayā samyak prayojyatām vardhamāna akayogeu gītevāsāriteu ca 4.14 mahāgīteu caivā arthān samyagevā abhineyasi yaścāya pūrvaragastu tvayā śuddha prayojita NS. 4. 15

That is to say; on taking the hint from Shiva’s statement, Bharata worked out the details of combining Nrtta with Abhinaya; and, that led to the birth of a new Art form – the Nrtya. The term Abhinaya, here, stands for the act of communication.

Sarangadeva in his Sangitaratnakara, says that by combining the Angikabhinaya of Nrtta with the Abhinayas (Satttvica, Angika, Vachika and Aharya abhinayas) the Nrtya was created – Angikabhinayai reva Bhavaneva vyanakti, yat, tan Nrtyam.

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The statement that the combination of Nrtta and Abhinaya resulted in Nrtya, at the suggestion of Shiva, was supported by Abhinavagupta through two verses, which he ascribes to Kohala.

The quoted verses say:  In the past, on one evening (Sandhya), Narada was dancing in front of Shiva. And Narada then sang a song celebrating the victory of Shiva over the demon Tripura. And, Shiva, having been pleased with the song, began to dance; enacting (Abhinaya) the theme of the song. Later, Shiva asked Tandu to combine (yojana) the Tandava (meaning, Nrtta) with Abhinaya used in that dance.

Sandhyayam nrtyaha Shamboh bhakty-agre, Naradah pura gaavan Triporonmatham taccita stavata gitake cakra abhinayam pritas tatas Tandum ca so abravit natyokta abhinayenedam vats yojya Tandavam

Shiva’s Nrtta included Karanas and Angaharas. Yet; Shiva said that one can communicate through Nrtta when used in Natya.

Now, what does that mean?   It might perhaps mean that if Nrtta is performed with a given intention, following a method, then it might convey a meaning.

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Dr. KM Varma in his scholarly and highly analytical work Natya, Nrtta and Nrtya: their meaning and relation’, argues (page 32) that Nrtta came first; then Natya. And later, when Abhinaya was added to Nrtta, the idea of Nrtya emerged.

Thus, he says, Nrtta and Nrtya came into being at the suggestion of Shiva. But, both these forms were propagated by Tandu.

Though Bharata is responsible for the emergence of Nrtya, it did not receive special nomenclature or individual treatment in the Natyashastra. Bharata continued to treat it as Nrtta.

Although it developed to full extent soon after the time of Bharata,  the theoreticians and commentators until about the tenth century continued to follow Bharata; and, avoided using the term Nrtya, though they did describe its essential features, nature and techniques by use of other terms.

But, when the combination of Nrtta and Abhinaya, evolved, developed and prospered as an independent, well recognized, dance form; and, became so popular (prasiddha) , the latter authors could not afford to avoid the term Nrtya. And, Nrtya, eventually, became a part of the Grammar of the Dance.

The hypothetical question since when the term came into popular use is much debated. Many point out that though the term Nrtya was not employed by the commentators of the medieval period, it somehow, was in popular usage as early as in the fifth century.

That argument is supported by the fact that Amarasimha (fifth century), in his lexicon Amarakosa, while defining Nartana, included within its meaning, Nrtya as a synonym: ṇḍava naanaya lāsya ntya ca nartane (1.7.427).  That suggests; as early as in the fifth century Nrtya was well known; and, was in common use. And, the lexicographer could not avoid including the term Nrtya in his work. But, it is not clear when it actually acquired its name.

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Sarangadeva explains Nrtya as a means of putting forth different aesthetic moods or bhava (bhavahetu orbhavashraya) or giving expression to individual words of the song through appropriate gestures and/or facial expressions – pada-artha-abhinayatmaka.

The key ingredient in the Nrtya is the elaborate gesture-language, Abhinaya (lit., to bring near; that is, to present before the eyes), the meaning (Artha) and the emotion (Bhava) of the lyrics. It is the harmonious combination of striking poses, eloquent gestures, lucid facial expressions, various glances, and meaningful movements of the hands, fingers and feet.

Though the performance of an Nrtya is tied with the interpretation of a lyric (sahitya) depicting a theme (prasanga), it combines in itself the expressive Abhinaya; and the stances, poses, postures and movements, of the pure Dance (Nrtta).  The Nrtya is regarded as the soul of any Dance-style. The Abhinaya and Nrtta elements it portrays demand the skill, grace and ingenuity of a well trained talented Dancer.

[The Abhinaya Darpana describing the qualities of a good dancer says: A dancer must have the inherent sensibility which can be enhanced by training. Agility, steadiness, sense of line, practice in circular movement, a sharp and steady eye, effortlessness, memory, devotion, clarity of speech, sense of music – these ten are the essential qualities of a dancer.

Javaha Sthiratwam Rekha cha /27/ Bhramari Drishti Shramaha; Medha Shraddha Vacho Geetham; Paatra pranaa Dasa Smruthaha/Ab. Da.28/ ]

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Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya – their mutual relations

Sarangadeva remarks, when you take a broader view, Ntta is not distant from Nrtya; and, both of these are essential to Natya.  Thus, Dance, in both of its aspects (Nrtya and Natya), was a vital presence of Nrtta. All the three are interrelated.

The Āgika abhinaya or physical expressions, in both Nrtya and Natya, includes the  Ntta elements. But, Āgika abhinaya is of greater importance in the Nrtya.

The Nrtta is an integral part of the Nrtya; but, it also has its presence in the Natya. Thus, Nrtta has constructive relations with Nrtya as also with Natya. The three, in some measures, are bound together.

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Nrtta and Natya

Bharata defines Nrtta and Natya on the basis of their techniques; and, their relevance. And, the two Art-forms were discussed independent of each other.

As between Nrtta and Natya, the former was said to be older. And Nrtta, which earlier was a pure dance performed in the Purvaranga as Deva stuti, later became a part of the Natya. The influence of Nrtta on Natya is more delicate.

Nrtta and Nrtya

And, when the dance elements of the Nrtta were combined with the Abhinayas – with its dance movements interpreting the meaning and sentiments of the words in the lyrics – it was transformed into a most delightful art form – the Nrtya. With this, the dance, in general, came to be known as Nrtya.

Though some texts continued to carry on theoretical discussions on Nrtta (pure dance-like movements) and Nrtya (the dance proper) as if they were two totally distinct dance-idioms; the two, in fact, are very intimately related. And, the defining characteristics (lakhaa) of Nrtta and Nrtya are the same.

But, Pundarika Vitthala, in his Nartana-nirnaya, throughout, uses the terms  Nrtta  and Nrtya  interchangeably, perhaps, because, both those dance forms involved, in some measure, the elements of Abhinaya or interpretative movements conveying a meaning (Artha). He was following the explanations put forth by Abhinavagupta. 

As Dr Kapila Vatsyayan observes, in the contemporary Indian dance scene, with the exploration of geometrical space at floor level and choreographic patterns, the elements of Nrtta, pure dance and Abhinaya, expression-full dance (Nrtya) are close-knit, cohesive.

The Indian classical dance of today, has, over a period, evolved its own Grammar and constructed its own devices. The Nrtta element too has changed greatly from what it meant during the days of Bharata. Its structure and style which are based in different units of Nrtta movements are well adopted into Bharatanatya in the form of Adavus etc.

Thus, in the later periods, particularly in the modern period, Nrtta became an essential ingredient of the Nrtya, in displaying its various stances, postures and movements.

*

Natya and Nrtya

As regards, Natya and Nrtya; the Natya is a deliberate art; and, Nrtya is representational art. The object of both the forms is to provide Rasa.  

The principles which govern the techniques of both the Natya (Sanskrit Drama) and the classical Nrtya are the same. Their ways of stylized modes of presentation (NatyaDharmi); and, the manners of depiction (Vrtti); the techniques of acting (Abhinaya); and, appearances in costumes and make-up (Aharya) are regulated by the same set of principles of the dramaturgy and its stage –presentation.

Even after Nrtya emerged as an independent Art-form, the later writers on the treatise dealing with the Nrtya and its varied forms, (either exclusively or otherwise), adopted the same set of norms and principles that once governed the Natya of the Natyashastra. The techniques of Dance continued to be discussed in terms of the various elements of Dharmis, the Vrittis and Abhinaya as prescribed by Bharata.

The tya-dharmi mode of dance was woven into the play-presentation. The sequences in the Drama were staged through the actors singing, speaking and dancing in their roles. The static and dynamic Ntta karaas were utilized as idioms to portray various emotional states. The Natya , in its production, made use of the  four-fold Dance phrases of body-movements (āgika); speech delivery (vācika); studied involuntary reaction (sāttvika); as also of costumes, make-up and scenery (āhārya).

Thus, in a way of speaking, the two – the Nrtya (Dance proper along with its Nrtta element) and Natya (Sanskrit Drama) – continue to be bound together, in one way or the other.

*

Both Nrtya and Natya make use of all the four kinds of Abhinayas. And, difference between Natya and Nrtya, is in their modes of using the different degrees of the elements of the Abhinayas.

The entire sphere of presentation in an Nrtya is predominated by Natya-dharmi, graceful gesticulations, stylized aesthetic suggestive expressions. There is no attempt to present things as they actually are. And, in the Nrtya that we know, those principles and conventions are being followed, even to this day, in their pristine form.

In Nrtya, its every movement should follow the Laya and Tala. It is said; the Nrtya inherits this quality from the Angika-abhinaya of the Nrtta. The Nrtya involves Gatra-vikshepa ‘throwing’ or movement of the limbs, to dance. And, almost throughout its performance, Nrtya is accompanied by music, the most enchanting of the art forms.

Nrtya is basically Drshya or Prekshya, a spectacle mainly having visual appeal. Though the performer follows the lyrics of the song, she does not actually sing; but, only provides the lip-movement while interpreting its words and sentences.

Many elements of Nrtta and Natya were absorbed into Natya. And, Nrtya, for a period, became a parallel form of Drama. But, in the Natya, the elements of Nrtya are incidental to its dance sequences. Dance as a part of dramaturgy was employed as an ornamental overlay upon a theatrical presentation.

In contrast to the Nrtya, the facial and body movements in Natya are slight or subtle – Kincit-chalana. Here, the speech (Vachika) is dominant; and, therefore, the need for Sattvikabhinaya  and the vrttis (styles of dialouge delivery) is greater, for communicating the mental and emotional states of the characters in the play. Further, unlike in Nrtya, the actors on the stage do actually sing.  Thus, in the Natya, both the visual and the audio are highly essential.

Thus, the Natya or Drama has an advantage over poetry, music and dance. Apart from bringing in the embellishment of spectacular the visual effects (Rupaka or Drishya-kavya), it has the power of music and speech.

*

In the later periods, Natya became rather stagnant; but, the Nrtya made rapid strides. While Natya was fading ; and, losing its universal appeal,  the Nrtya and its forms were evolving and developing swiftly as the most delightful and most engaging Art forms, popular among  all sections of the society.

In the process of its growth, Nrtya widened its scope and content by innovating and assimilating a range of stylistic variations; and, by moving away from its early dependence on Drama. Now, Nrtya is no longer an adjunct or accessory to Natya. It has also widened its aesthetic scope, beyond decorative grace to encompass emotive communication (Rasa) and narrative variations. It has evolved into a full-fledged system, a self-governing complex Art form; and, has established its identity. And, it has continued as highly popular classical dance form.

lasya (1)

Bharatanatya

The School of Nrtya that is prevalent in South India is the Bharata-natya.

In the initial years, there were debates raising questions concerning the name assigned to this Dance form, which, basically, is Nrtya. Many asked, why should it be called Bharata-natya; and, why not Bharata-nrtya.

In reply; explanations were offered to clarify that the suffix ‘Natya’ also stands for ‘Nrtya’, in its technical sense.  The arguments made out said  that as per the past authorities like Kumbha Rana and Vipradasa (fifteenth century), the term ‘Natya’ could also be used to denote ‘Nrtya’. Later, Pundarika Vittala (sixteenth century), in his work (Nartana-nirnaya), following the lead given by Sarangadeva, said that Nartana, a general class-name for Dance, covered the three forms of Dance: NatyaNrtya and Nrtta. And, much before that Amarasimha, as early as in the fifth century, had equated ‘Natya’, among other terms, with ‘Nrtya’.

But, there are no explanations anywhere as to when and why that equation was arrived at. The only other plausible explanation is that it might have come about by way of popular usage. But, in any case, since this form of dancing was created by Bharata, to name it as Bharatanatya, is truly justifiable.  As per Dr. Ananada Coomaraswamy,’ Indian acting and dancing, is a deliberate art; and, the same word, Natya, covers both those ideas. ‘

Thus, the Nrtya, known now as Bharatanatya is surely a continuation of the form and tradition of the Marga class of dance that was promoted by Bharata; although over the period, some elements have entered into it. Yet; no other School of Nrtya has a closer relationship with Natyashastra than Bharatanatya.

Nataraja 005

The Bharatanatya of today is such a refined form of Dance which has brought within its ambit the formats of Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya. This School of Art can be explained in almost every respect by Bharata’s theories. And, it follows Bharata’s techniques to a large extent.  It also contains the beauty of form as in the Nrtta. It excels in the aesthetic presentation of form and geometrical beauty; and in the richness of in variety of movements as no other dance form does. It has the gentle power of expression to communicate ideas and emotions through Abhinaya, as in Nrtya. It can also present a narrative theme as in Natya, where the dancer enacts the roles of varieties of characters (Ekaharya Abhinaya or Ekaharya Lasyanga)

Depending upon the nature of the dance item that is being presented, its balance in terms of Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya varies. But, in general, the dominant aspect of Bharatanatya is Nrtya.

As regards its practice, Bharatanatya draws upon its tradition persevered and passed on from generation to generation in orally transmitted and highly codified manuals (Shastra). Though it is, essentially, rooted in the principles of Natyashastra, it has also adopted many features and techniques from the regional dance traditions; and, has thus enlarged its repertoire and acquired many dimensions.

Though the emphasis is on the adherence to and to preserving the purity of the tradition; and, its continuation, it also has brought in some innovative techniques and refreshing modes of expression, in tune with the advancing times. These could be called as ‘context-sensitive interactions’

The difference between Bharatanatya and other Dance forms like Kathakali, Manipuri and others is mainly in the use of their Abhinayas and techniques. They all belong to the Nrtya class. Each has its own stylized manner of bringing out the essential meaning of the song. Each is delightful in its own way. The coexistence of multiple streams of Dance forms has surely enriched the Indian Art scene.

[Smt. Tanjore Balasaraswati, also known as T. Balasaraswati (1918-1984), the celebrated exponent of Bharata-natyam, who expanded the performance of this dance form beyond the precincts of the temples where it was traditionally performed; re-established it; and, made it famous in different parts of India and many parts of the world, writes:

The greatest blessing of Bharata-natyam is its ability to control the mind. Most of us are incapable of single-minded contemplation even when actions are abandoned. On the other hand, in Bharata-natyam , actions are not avoided; there is much to do but it is the harmony of various actions that results in the concentration we seek.

The burden of action is forgotten in the pleasant charm of the art. The feet keeping to time, hands expressing gesture, the eye following the hand with expression, the ear listening to the dance master’s music, and the dancer’s own singing-by harmonizing these five elements the mind achieves concentration and attains clarity in the very richness of participation.

The inner feeling of the dancer is the sixth sense which harnesses these five mental and mechanical elements to create the experience and enjoyment of beauty.

It is the spark which gives the dancer her sense of spiritual freedom in the midst of the constraints and discipline of the dance. The yogi achieves serenity through concentration that comes from discipline. The dancer brings together her feet, hands, eyes, ears and singing into a fusion which transforms the serenity of the yogi into a torrent of beauty.

The spectator, who is absorbed in intently watching this, has his mind freed of distractions and feels a great sense of clarity. In their shared involvement, the dancer and the spectator are both released from the weight of worldly life, and experience the divine joy of the art with a sense of total freedom.

To experience this rare rapture, a dancer has only to submit herself willingly to discipline. It will be difficult in the beginning to conform to the demands and discipline of rhythm and melody and to the norms and codes of the tradition. But if she humbly submits to the greatness of this art, soon enough she will find joy in that discipline; and she will realize that discipline makes her free in the joyful realm of the art.]

abhinaya

The way ahead…

Having said that; let me add that Bharatanatya, as an art, is a dynamic process. It needs to be rejuvenating and reinventing itself all the time. And, it should not stagnate. Though its theories are rooted in the Natyashastra of Bharata, in its practice, it derives its curriculum from several other texts. Most of those texts were written before the seventeenth century.  And, that makes it essential for Bharatanatya to innovate and look for newer modes and idioms of expressions; and, also try to move away, at least for a limited extent, from the traditional mythological themes.

All the Art forms that are practiced today cannot be explained only on the basis of Natyashastra; nor is it necessary to do so. Art need not always be confined to Bharata’s techniques. Even in the case of Bharatanatya, the theory as detailed in Natyashastra needs to be studied in the light of the current practices. And, that might, hopefully provide us an insight; and, suggest improved techniques, in order to rationalize and bring it closer to today’s environment.

If the dance forms that are practiced today have to come into their own, these should be explained on a rational basis.  It seems much attention is paid to the literal interpretation of the old texts. And, too much philosophizing is another factor. But, Art has its own philosophy, outlook and appeal; although many try to inject their own pet philosophy into the Arts.

If the Art has to be alive it has to be relevant to the times we live in; and, has to reach further levels of the society.

We are in the age of reconstruction. There many problems and issues – old and new-,  including commercialization, that need to be resolved. The ancient theories would not do for all our present needs and problems. A detailed study of present practices without always being tied down to the ancient theoretical works seems advisable.  What is needed is continuity with change. Both the ancient and the modern Art-forms and techniques need to be studied with equal earnestness.

kadagola

In the next part, we shall briefly talk about various classical Dance forms of India, such as Kathak, Odissi, kathakali and Manipuri.

dance forms

Continued

 In

Part Five

 

References and sources

All images are from the Internet

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2018 in Art, Natya

 

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