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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.

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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..

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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 was 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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

*

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).

***

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.

*

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.

*

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

*

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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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 or Shyama Shastry was 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.

thyagaraja

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.

kamatchi3

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.]

*

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)

Talaprastara 1Talaprastara 2

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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Sri Shyama Shastry (1763-1827) – Part Two

Continued from Part One

OVERVIEW – CONTINUED

Samgita Devi

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.

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.]

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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.

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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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