Tag Archives: Dr. V. Raghavan

The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Thirteen

Continued From Part Twelve

 Lakshana Granthas – continued

8. Srngaraprakasa of Raja Bhoja


The Srngaraprakasa of Raja Bhoja (10-11th century) is a work; spread over thirty-six chapters, which deals, principally, with poetics (Alamkara shastra) and dramaturgy. Insofar as Dance is concerned, it is relevant for the discussions carried out in its Eleventh Chapter,  dealing with various types of minor plays (Uparupakas) or musical Dance-dramas.

Raja Bhoja or Raja Bhoja-deva Paramara was a king from the Paramara dynasty, who ruled between 1010–1055 CE. His kingdom comprised the Malwa region in Central India and parts of Gujarat. His capital was located at Dhara-nagara (modern Dhar, in the Malwa region of western MadhyaPradesh). It is said; the city of Bhopal is named after Raja Bhoja.

Bhoja was a warrior, a capable military commander; and, was also politically very active. He had a vast kingdom in the Central/ Western India. He had a strong alliance with the powerful King of South – Rajendra Chola; and, had even helped the Shahi Kings to resist the attacks of Mohammad of Ghazni. Bhoja fought many battles, with varying degrees of success.

Though Raja Bhoja reigned gloriously for more than forty years; the battles he fought are mostly forgotten. But, his fame as the greatest scholar-king of medieval India; an enlightened patron of learning; and, an accomplished erudite author remains undimmed.

As a ruler, he is said to have emphasised the importance of education in ones’ life; and, in his capital city Dhara-nagari, he set up a center for learning Sanskrit at Sarasvatisadana or Bhartibhavana, over which he presided.

Raja Bhoja is credited with the authorship of numerous books, covering an enormous range of topics. But, literary criticism, poetics, aesthetics; and particularly the Rasa doctrine in its various forms seemed to be his favourite subjects. And his fame as an author with refined tastes rests mainly on his two major works: Sriranga-prakasa and Sarasvathi-kanta-abharana.

The Sarasvathi-kanta-abharana (ornament in the neck of goddess Sarasvathi), is a treatise on Sanskrit grammar and Alankara-shastra (Poetics); an elaborate text of 643 verses, enriched by as many as 1,563 examples (or illustrations), spread over five chapters.

[The Sarasvathi-kanta-abharana edited by KN Sharma and VL Pansikar (1934); and Sarasvatikanthabharana of Bhojadeva: With the commentary Hrdayaharini of Narayana Dandanatha; edited by V.A. Ramaswami Śastri; Trivandrum Government Press 1948.]

Sarasvathi 6th century Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Sarasvathi-6th century-Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

And, Raja Bhoja’s other work Sriranga-prakasa, a treatise in 36 chapters dealing with both poetics and dramaturgy, is more widely known. The noted scholar Dr. V. Raghavan, who edited Raja Bhoja’s monumental work ‘ भोज गश्रांगार प्रकाश (1962)’, described it as the largest known work in the field of literary criticism and aesthetics  in the whole range of classical Sanskrit literature. While illustrating the encyclopedic nature of the text, Dr. Raghavan called it as the richest Indian text in Sanskrit poetics; and remarked; ‘Whatever is found in Srngara Prakasa is found elsewhere; and, that which is not found in this work cannot be found elsewhere.’ 

Dr. Raghavan points out, “Bhoja seems to be the first writer, whose work is available to us now, who embraced both branches  (poetics and dramaturgy); and , wrote in the same work on both. .. It seems from the treatment of the subject that Bhoja wanted to write a work similar to the Natyasastra. Like Bharata, Bhoja discusses the characteristics of the Sanskrit language; but, does so even more elaborately than Bharata, although-surprisingly-Bhoja omits prosody, which is closely related to poetics. However, he discusses dramaturgy in detail and his analysis of Srngara is unique, covering as it does the types of Srngara and its expression in dramatic presentation. The range and depth of the work is quite appreciable.

[Despite all its stated virtues, Bhoja’s Srngara Prakasa did not , for a long-time, receive  the attention it deserved ; mainly because of its inordinate length (more than twice that of Bharata’s Natyashastra); and, its manuscript was  recovered late and published only  in 1955  by Sri C. R. Josyer  of  Mysore. It was brought to the attention of the scholars worldwide in 1963 , by Dr. V. Raghavan; and, later published by Harvard University, under its Oriental Series.

The renowned scholar Sheldon Pollock observes:

History has been unfair to Srngara Prakasa.. Despite the fact that it is the most comprehensive and sustained body of literary analysis in pre-modern India, in some ways the most germane – in view of the range of issues treated that are pertinent to reading actually existing Sanskrit literature – and, in its organization, style and plethora of citations and analysis perhaps the most fascinating.

Bhoja’s discourse on Rasa is the most detailed and provocative we have; and the most unusual, often differing from Bharata and those who follow him]

radha_krishnakrishna radha

The main topic of the Srngara Prakasa is Rasa, the aesthetic delight, a pleasurable sensation; and, its manifestation (Rasanispatti) in varied forms. And, the text is, therefore, regarded as an important watershed in the evolution of Rasa-theory (Rasa-siddantha). Bhoja Deva’s work is particularly focused on Srngara-rasa. He accorded a very elaborate and exhaustive treatment to the subject of Srngara-rasa; devoting as many as twenty-two Chapters, discussing sixty-four stages of Srngara, each divided into eight categories; and, each of that again subdivided into eight types. He also quoted hundreds of verses and passages from literary works in Sanskrit as also in Prakrit languages.

The Srngara, one of the eight Rasas categorized by Bharata, is ordinarily taken to mean a state of erotic or love. But, Raja Bhoja elevated Srngara to a sublime level, as the King of all Rasas (Rasa-raja); the Rasa of all Rasas; the Rasa in which myriads of other Rasas reside ;and the mother of all Rasas , giving scope for a countless other emotions including jealousy, fear, anger, compassion, and of course for the expression of physical intimacy.

‘Krishna and the Gopis on the Bank of the Yamuna River’; miniature painting from the ‘Tehri Garwhal’ <i>Gita Govinda</i>, circa 1775–1780

No other Rasa has such a vast scope; and, Srngara, he said, towers over all the other feelings and sensations, as it is the most important emotion in human beings. It is very endearing; and, it appeals to human mind; present in every segment of life, since life is a never ending quest for love and affection. It is the sweetest of all (Madhu-rati madhura). The enchanting Srngara is portrayed through rich imagery and there are different aspects (Bhavas) of Srngara e.g. love between a mother and a child; love between siblings; love between friends; love between a man and a woman; love between the Almighty and devotee; and, so on.

In regards to Poetics (Alankara Shastra), Raja Bhoja assigned highest importance to Srngara-rasa, placing it on the throne as the king of Rasas. Srngara, according to him, denotes the supreme phase of bliss; and, it is the highest aesthetic principle. He said, the Srngara assumes the form of Rasa when it is enjoyed by the Sahrudaya the cultured, well-informed spectator/ reader, gifted with empathy. Such a Sahrudaya, who is blessed with a refined sense of Srngara, is indeed the Rasika (the connoisseur); and, one lacking that virtue is Nirasa. According to Bhoja, the Kavya-rasa is universal, enjoyed by all in the world; and, it makes is no sense in calling at Alaukika (otherworldly).

krishna dance

Srngara Prakasa and Dance

The Srngara Prakasa is of relevance to Dance, because of the discussions it carries out regarding the minor types of plays, the Upa-rupakas.

The types of Uparupakas that Raja Bhoja was particularly interested were the Dance-dramas, which are adorned with rich music, melodious songs, as also with graceful and delicate dance movements. These, technically, could be called Nrtya-bhedas, the minor dramatic presentations. But, such musical plays were fondly addressed by varieties of names.

Abhinavagupta, in his commentary, had called such Uparupakas as Nrtta-kavya (dance-drama); Raga-kavya (musical-play); Raga-darshaniya (musical presentation to be viewed with delight); Geyam-anurupakam (a sort of play that is sung); and; Nrtta-prabandha-raga-kavya (musical play presented mainly through dance). And, Raja Bhoja gave these musical plays a rather grandiose name: Pada-artha-abhinaya-atmaka preksya-prabandhas (the visual presentation of literary works, where the meanings of the words are illustrated with expressive gestures).

In short; such type of Uparupakas could be said to be minor dramatic works that were of the nature of Dance-drama, which are rendered through song, dance; and, interpreted through Abhinaya. And, in such presentations, the elements of song, music and dance (Gita-Geya-Nrtya) are dominant.  

[Dr .Bose relates Bhoja’s discussion on Padarta-abhinaya to  Nrtya ( pure Dance) and to the  minor types of plays (Uparupakas); and,  says : If we equate Padartha-abhinaya with Nrtya, which seems plausible, then we can say that Bhoja viewed it as varieties of Nrtya , the dramatic types that require Padartha-abhinaya. Dhanika in his Avaloka on the Dasarupaka and Saradatanaya in his Bhavaprakasana view these minor dramas as Nrtyabhedas, that is, as various types of Nrtya. Later, Subhankara refers to these varieties as “nrtye ratna-naksatra-maala.” All these references show, these minor dramatic types were known under many names. Later, however, they were categorized as Uparupakas by Visvanatha in the  Sahityadarpana  (fourteenth century A.D.)]


It may be mentioned here; Bharata, in his Natyashastra, had discussed, in main, the Rupakas, the major forms of the Drama. His concern seemed to be, primarily, with those types of plays that had the potential to display various modes of representations; and, to evoke verity of Rasas. For him, the aspect of Rasa was central to the Drama. He had remarked: no sense proceeds without Rasa – Na hi rasadrte kascid-arthah pravartate.

In the process, Bharata had not discussed the minor forms of the drama, the Uparupakas or Natyabhedas, a minor class of dramatic works, distinct from the major works; and, which did not satisfy all the classic, dramatic requirements prescribed for a Rupaka or Nataka proper. Such minor class of plays (Uparupakas) handled only a segment of a theme or an event in a story (Vastu); and, not its full extent. It did not also, perhaps, employ all the eight Rasas and all the four Abhinayas, in their entirety.

By the time of Abhinavagupta (Ca.11th century), the Dance had diversified into many more forms than were known during the time of Bharata. Commencing with the 11th -12th century, the minor or one-act plays, Uparupakas, the forms of dance-dramas, with a major input of dance and songs; but, with just an adequate stress on Abhinaya (acting) and Sahitya (script) became increasingly popular.  During the time of Abhinavagupta, those minor classes of plays – Uparupakas, par excellence, had grown into becoming the main stay of the contemporary dance- scene.

Nayaka ko prakasa biyoga sringara

Raja Bhoja in the Eleventh Chapter of his Srngara Prakasa discusses twenty-four types of drama and their structure. He terms these as Preksya-prabandhas, visual or the poetic compositions to be seen; and, divides them into two categories: one, requiring Vakya-artha-abhinaya and the other Pada-artha-abhinaya.

These terms relate to the acting techniques employed by the performer  in a play or in a dance,  for portraying  various states of emotion (Bhavas) with the help of speech (Vachika); gestures (Hastha-abhinaya)  and actions (Angika), and costumes (Aharya) etc.

The Āngika-abhinaya (facial expressions, gestures / movement of the limbs) is of great importance, particularly in the dance and drama.  There are two types of basic Abhinayas:  Padārtha-abhinaya (when the artist delineates each word of the lyrics with gestures and expressions); and, the Vākyārtha-abhinaya (where the dancer acts out an entire stanza or sentence). Bhoja does not name the class of drama that requires Padartha-abhinaya; however, he names and describes the twelve varieties within that class. These descriptions show that these varieties are full of delicate and expressive movements .

In either case, though the hands (hastha) play an important part, the Āngika-abhinaya involves other body-parts, as well, to express meaning of the lyrics, in full.

Dhananjaya in his Dasarupa had earlier mentioned two broad categories of Dance-forms as: the Marga (the pure or pristine); and, the Desi (the regional or improvised) – ādya padārthā-abhinayo Margo Deśo tathā param // DhDaś_1.9 //

According to Dhananjaya, the Nrtya, which principally, is the display of various emotional states (bhava-asrayam Nrtyam), is a representation of the traditional Marga class.  While, the Nrtta, with emphasis on limb-movements, in tune with rhythm and timing (nrttam tala-laya-asrayam), belongs to the popular Desi style (Desi-nrtta).

According to Abhinavagupta, the depiction of Srngara essentially requires Nrtta; as it provides ValanaVartana and other movements or stances.

Raja Bhoja does not name the class of drama that requires Padartha-abhinaya; however, he lists and describes the twelve varieties within that class. These, it is said, belong to the Nrtya class which require delicate and meaningful expressions, along with limb movements. Bhoja called them Padartha-abhinayatmaka Preksya-prabandhas.

design rangoli

As mentioned earlier; the types of such minor dramas, Nrtya-bhedas which provide visual delight (Preksya-prabandhas) with the use of Padartha-abhinaya were categorized as Uparupakas.

Such a Uparupaka is more concerned with Angika Abhinaya, with larger elements of dance, song and music; and, is more connected with the performing and stage arts; whereas the Rupaka makes use of all four kinds of Abhinaya, with a greater emphasis on dialogues.

And between Nrtta, Nrtya and Uparupaka: the Nrtta is abstract, beautiful and attractive body movements; the Nrtya, in addition to that, has elements of Abhinaya, but no speech. And the Uparupaka (also named as Nrtya-bheda) uses the body movements of Nrtta, the Abhinaya of the Nrtya; and, speech as in drama proper (Natya), but to a limited extent.

An Uparupaka, thus, was a happy invention, structured as a narrative dance-drama, depicting a theme or a segment of a theme, with abundant use of music, songs and dance (Nrtta and Nrtya); but, with just the required quantity of speech.


Many scholars have written in detail about the Uparupakas. The more prominent ones among these are : Abhinavagupta (Abhinavabharati); Dhananjaya (Dasrupaka);  Saradatanaya (Bhavaprakasana); Raja Bhoja (Srngara Prakasa);  Hemachandra (Kavyanusasana); Sagaranandin (Nataka-laksana-ratna-kosa);  Bhavamisra (Bhavaprakasa); and Vishwanatha (Sahitya Darpana). Here, in this post, for a limited purpose, we shall discuss mainly about Raja Bhoja’s treatment of the Uparupakas.

Among the authors who succeeded Abhinavagupta, Raja Bhoja in his Srngara Prakasa was one of the few who dealt with the subject of Uparupakas, at length. Bhoja was also the first to include and describe twelve varieties of such Uparupaka, the minor dramas, giving details; and, later he was followed by Ramacandra and Gunacandra in their Natyadarpana.

Krishna Adorns Radha with a Tilak

Since these types of Uparupakas predominantly portray various phases of Srngara Rasa, the Kaisiki Vrtti, which is the graceful style of depiction, is considered most appropriate for the enactment of such Uparupakas. The Kaisiki-Vrtti, the gentle, graceful style, which characterizes the tender Lasyanga associated with expressions of love, dance, and song as also with charming costumes and delicate actions portrayed with care, mostly by women,   is most suited to Srngara-rasa (tatra kaisiki gita-nrtya-vilasadyair mrduh srngara- cestitaih). And, as said, the Srngara Rasa permeates the theme of the Uparupakas, Dance-dramas, which are largely composed of dance (Nrtta and the Nrtya) and songs. It increasingly resorts to the stylized Natyadharmi mode of presentation.

Kaisiki has four varieties (Bhedas): Narma (good-natured-small-talk); Narma-spinja (the pleasure blooms at the first meeting of lovers); Narma-sphota (the lovers delighting in each other company); and, Narma-garbha (covert pleasure; incognito). The prefix Narma indicates cheer or laughter.  Kaisiki is the most charming and delightful combination of Srngara and Hasya, playful expressions, one’s affection or longing for union with the lover.


The twelve varieties of Uparupakas that Raja Bhoja discussed in his Srngara Prakasa were:

    1. Srigadita;
    2. Durmalika (or Burmilita);
    3. Prasthana;
    4. Kavya (Chitrakavya),
    5. Bhana (Suddha, Citra and Samkirna);
    6. Bhanika;
    7. Gosthi;
    8. Hallisaka;
    9. Martanaka;
    10. Preksanaka;
    11. Rasaka; and,
    12. Natyarasaka (also called Carcari).

Many scholars have written extensively describing as many as thirty forms Uparupakas, their themes and the modes of depiction. But, here, we shall just take a glimpse of those twelve Uparupakas that were listed by Raja Bhoja in his text

vishnu lakshmi

  1. Srigadita

The Srigadita depicts Vipralambha type Srngara. It is the Geya (song) rendered by a virtuous woman (Kulangana), describing to her friend, the virtues of her Lover. It is a one-Act play , rendered in Bharati Vrtti (eloquent verbal form) . Bhoja explains that it is called Srigadita; because the heroine here describes (gadita) her Lord’s qualities, just as the Goddess Sri describes her Lord Narayana. Bhoja states that it is through such songs and recitations, the state of separation (viraha) in love is depicted in this form.

[There is a variation of this mode; and, is called Vipralabdha, where the Lady Love feels deceived and is deeply hurt (vipralabdha) when her lover fails to show up on-time at the rendezvous agreed upon; and, finds fault with him.]


  1. Durmallika (Durmilita)

In contrast to Srigadita, the Durmallika  (also known as Matallika) involves a ‘stolen love’ or a love-intrigue, where a deceitful female messenger (Ceti) , in an aside, takes the audience into her confidence; narrates rustic ribald stories; and, reveals  all the details of secret love between the two Lovers . The Ceti then sets forth, in mock villainy, her plans to make demands, bordering on extortion. Durmallika, according to Dr. Raghavan is a sort of blackmail. This is depicted in Kaisiki-Vrtti, laced with humor (Hasya). According to Raghavan this is a vulgar performance (Kshudra-katha). No author has cited any example. The reason, he says, might be that this kind of performance did not attract scholarly attention.

  1. Prasthanaka

This type is characterized by descriptive gestures. Prasthana depicts all the phases of love in separation, including occasions when the Lover is away journeying to distant places (Pravasa Vipralambha).

It also, at times, includes other aspects of Srngara; such as: the first meeting in the earlier stages of love (prathama-anuraga); misunderstanding (Anumana); and, the course of development of love through spring and winter. The descriptions of these seasons also form the theme of Prasthana.

The performance enlivens itself towards the end through the introduction of the heroic sentiment (Vira- rasa), on the triumphant return of the hero and the description of his exploits.

Thus, the Prasthanaka has two Acts, divided into four scenes. It mainly uses delicate movements, with occasional vigorous passages, such as the gait of an elephant, which stands for the idea of journeying abroad.

The exit after each scene is named as an Apasara. Raja Bhoja explanation is marked by four Apasaras.

*Ragini Patamanjari

  1. Kavya

The Uparupakas are also described as Raga-kavya or Kavya, the narrative depictions with predominance of Music; and, are thus, distinguished from other minor plays. Apart from that, it should also have a well constructed plot, which exemplifies a brilliant hero and a young heroine, employing joyful speeches.

Raja Bhoja refers to an Uparupaka set to a single Raga as Kavya; and, the one which is set to several Ragas as Chitra-kavya, employing varieties of Tala and Laya. He also provides the technical details regarding Matra (notes) of the Ragas that are involved, as also of the Tala and Laya (time units, rhythm). The Raga-Kavyas, which essentially depict various modes and phases of Srngara, Hasya and Lasya, adopt the Kaisiki Vrtti in their presentation.

Raga Deepak

  1. Bhana (Suddha, Citra and Samkirna)

There is much confusion about the term Bhana. It might mean a major type of Drama (Rupaka), which is a sort of satirical monologue; else, it might be a minor type of drama (Uparupaka) that employs bold, vigorous body movements and loud instrumental music, with irregular beats.

The Uparupaka Bhana is not a purely musical composition; and, not a pure Nrtya-prabandha (dance sequence), either. Raja Bhoja observes that it is chiefly characterized by a feature borrowed from the Bhana of the Dasarupaka class viz. Akasa-bhasita, where the sole actor on the stage assumes the roles of many characters; and, carries on conversation with himself, as if he is talking to the air.  It is a type of monologue; an imaginary conversation. It has also elements of song and music; but the person who sings mixes the songs with speech (gayana-saha-uktika). And, he also dances.

Thus, the Uparupaka Bhana is a mixture dance and speech. Raja Bhoja regards the Bhana- Uparupaka as a difficult type of Dance; and, classifies it into three categories: Shuddha (pure); Sankirna (mixed); and, Chitra.

 It is Shuddha when the language used in the Bhana is Sanskrit; it is Sankirna when Sanskrit is mixed with Prakrit; and, it is Chitra when many languages are used.

A Shuddha Bhana is interspersed by seven Visramas, interludes; and, each Visrama has a distinct type of music.

There are other three varieties of Bhana: It is Uddhata when the plot deals with violence and the depiction is noisy, and dance is vigorous (uddhata-karana-prayah). It is Lalita when the plot is charming; and, Lalito-ddhata when the plot shows action mixed with elements of Srngara.

  1. Bhanika

After the time of Bharata, there developed two minor dramatic types, Bhana and Bhanika. The latter was distinguished with style of rendering in Kaisiki Vrtti, associated with Srngara Rasa.

Raja Bhoja also says that the Uparupaka Bhanika is similar to Bhana; but, its movements are delicate, with Lasyanga, rendered in eloquent Bharati Vrtti and in graceful Kaisiki Vrtti. Here the swift movements like jumps, twists and swaying of limbs above the knee level (Divya-caris) are not to be used. Only the Lalita-Karanas, the gentle, delicate and graceful movements are to be used. Unlike in the Bhana, the women can participate, sing and dance in the Bhanika. And, sometimes, the musicians speak and sing alternatively (gayana-saha-vacana).

Regarding the plot of the Bhanika, it is concerned mostly with the pious Hari-charitra (the Krishna lore), set to traditional meters (Varna, Matra etc). Its heroine is noble; and, the hero is calm and collected (Manda). The plot is structured as having an introductory part (Mukha), interludes (Sandhi) and conclusion (Nirvaha). And, its rendering style is Bharati and Kaisiki Vrttis.


  1. Gosthi

Raja Bhoja was the first writer to include Gosthi in his list of Uparupakas. According to him, the purpose of Gosthi is to show the young Krishna sporting with cowherds and milkmaids. The Gosthi, therefore, involves a number of performers, both male and female; and, is full of songs and dances. It is performed in the Kaisiki Vrtti, with a predominance of Srngara.

The theme or story is imaginatively conceived and developed. It is a small story, structured in three segments: Mukha (opening); Pratimukha (follow up); and Nirvaha (conclusion).


  1. Hallisaka


The Uparupakas were broadly classified according to the dance-situations that were involved; and, the Rasas, the emotions, they projected. Among the Uparupakas, the RasakaHallisakaNarttanaka, Chalika and Samyalasya gave importance to Nrtta, the pure dance movements, in their performance. And, Natika, Sattaka, Prakaranika and Trotaka (Totaka) gave prominence to emotional aspects and to Abhinaya.

Accordingly, the Hallisaka is a type of group dance with rhythmic movements; and, it seems to be the earlier form of the Maharas or Rasa-Lila, which the Srimamad Bhagavatha celebrates with love and divine ecstasy, in five Chapters from 29 to 33 of its Tenth Canto (Dashama-skanda) titled as ‘Rasa-panca-adhyayi’. The Natyashastra classifies such group dances under the Pindibandhas,

Hallisaka is basically, a Nrtta, in which eight or sixteen dancers participate. There is rhythmic movement with Dance-like steps, performed to the tune and beats of a song. There is not much scope for Abhinaya in such type of dances.

Vatsyayana (earlier to second century BCE), motions Hallisaka as one of the Uparupakas which, which were watched by men and women of taste.

Abhinavagupta describes Hallisaka as a dance; and, places it under the category of minor musical or dance dramas, characterized by Vachica-bhinaya (verbal acting) that mainly employs singing and dancing.

During the later times, the Hallisaka came to be regarded not merely as a dance-form, but also as a Uparupaka, a minor type of dance Drama, with emphasis on rhythm and music.

Bhavaprakasana treats Hallisaka as a play of one or two acts, which employs Geya-Lasya (charming songs) in Kaisiki Vrtti rhythm; and, also using some of the technical features of drama.

Hallisaka is said to be similar to Rasaka. And, Raja Bhoja mentions that Hallisaka becomes Rasaka, when danced to a definite Tala, which implies that Rasaka was primarily a type of pure Dance (Nrtta).   The Nataka-lakshana-kosa of Sagaranandin also describes Rasaka as a one-act play, using a variety of languages and five characters. It calls for delicate movements and forceful emotions (masrno-udatta-bhava-bhusitam).

Raja Bhoja equates Hallisaka with Rasa-Lila dance performed by Gopis to different Talas – the Krida-rasaka of the Gopis. He mentions Pindibandhas or group dances as a necessary feature of this type.

Bhoja seems to take Hallisaka primarily as a dance; although he places it under Padartha-abhinaya-atmaka-preksya-prabandhas, the Uparupaka as dance presentations, where the meanings of the words are illustrated with expressive gestures.

Maidens Performing The Ecstatic Dance

  1. Nartananka

Nartananka is an Uparupaka which uses delicate and graceful movements to express Bhava (emotions); and, in which the dancer articulates the meaning of the words of the lyrics of the song through expressive gestures. The Nartananka is said to have four varieties: Samya, Lasya, Chalika and Dvipadi.

Raja Bhoja mentions: where in an assembly, a female dancer performs in a relaxed graceful tempo to act out the meaning of the word, it is Nartananka , which comprises Samya, Lasya, Chalika and Dvipadi .

Samya is understood as Lasya-Nrtta, a delightful dance; and also as Tala (time-unit)- Sangita-samya, that is central to dance of the semi-divine beings, the Kinnaras and Gandharvas.

Lasya is the gentle and lovely graceful aspect. And, as per Bhoja, the graceful quality of Lasya is inherent in Srngara Rasa.

Chalika or Chalita is described as a dance form, which creates Vira (Heroic) and Srngara Rasas, through the use of Tandava and Lasya movements

Dvipadi is taken as a musical composition; and, also as metre or tempo (Laya) of a character’s gait (Gati).  


  1. Preksanaka, Prenkhanaka:

Preksanaka, literally ‘a play to be seen’, refers to an Uparupaka or a one-act play. Preksanaka is mainly of the Padartha-abhinaya variety, with predominance of vigorous display through gestures and movements Angika-abhinaya (Nrtta).

Raja Bhoja says that spectacles such as the Kama-dahana (immolation of Kama, the Eros) are characteristic of the Preksanaka presentations. And, he illustrates the Preksanaka by giving example of Kama-dahana. The language used in this variety of Uparupaka would usually be Prakrit, preferably the Suraseni.


  1. Rasaka

Rasaka is mentioned in almost every early text. It is treated both as a Dance- drama; and, also as a mere Dance. Raja Bhoja treats it, primarily, as a form of Dance of the Nrtta type, presenting attractive brisk rhythmic limb movements (Padartha-abhinayatmaka-Preksya-prabandha).

The Pindibandhas, or group dances performed by eight or more pairs of men women, playing with colored sticks (Danda-rasaka) are said a feature of this type of Uparupakas. There is much sing and dancing in rhythmic steps; but not much speech and Abhinaya. This type is also known as the Krida-rasaka of the Gopis, where the Gopis play the Rasa with Sri Krishna.

Technically, Rasaka is treated as a Pindibandha of the Latha variety of Lasya, which is related to Srngara-rasa, portraying love and other softer, graceful aspects; and, is divided into three classes: Danda-rasaka; Mandala-rasaka; and, Natya-rasaka. It is predominated by rhythmic limb movements to the beat of drums (Tala-vadya) and songs. Here, Danda-rasaka is said to a type of group dance performed with coloured sticks (as in the Dandiaras of the present-day); the Mandala-rasaka, involves formation of clusters or patterns; and, the Natya-rasaka is pure dance performed to a song.

[The term Pindibandha is no longer in use either in dance literature or in dance performances. And, Sukumara-prayoga (for Lasya) is not a category of dance but merely a mode of presentation]

 All the three are described as Desi Nrttas, the dances of regional type, that are free flowing and spontaneous; not regulated by strict set of rules (Anibaddha) .

*rasa mandal

  1. Natya-rasaka

Natya-rasaka, to which Raja Bhoja gives Carcari as its alternative name, is described as a springtime-dance performed by a group of female dancers, singing sweet songs in Raga Vasantha, weaving various patterns and designs, clapping hands,  while they dance around in circles, as in the Pindibandhas.  It is a kind of ensemble dance, resembling the Rasa-Lila of the Gopis. 

[The Sanskrit dictionary describes the term Carcari as festive sports, merriment with singing.]

Natya-rasaka employs number of graceful, fluid and charming movements, the Lasyanga (according to some as many as ten), and a variety of rhythms and tempo (Laya).

The term Natyarasaka suggests some kind of dramatic content; but, the description shows it as a dance form. In a similar manner, Rasaka and Hallisaka, which are actually dance types of the Nrtta class, are described as dramas.

Vasant raga

 In the Next Part , we shall move on to another text.

vishnu with lakshmi



The Next Part

References and Sources


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Music of India – a brief outline – Part Twenty

Continued from Part Nineteen – Lakshana Granthas– Continued

Part Twenty (of 22 ) – Lakshana Granthas – Continued

15 . Sri Subbarama Dikshitar and Sangita –Sampradaya-Pradarshini


 subbarama Dikshitar

Sri Subbarama Dikshitar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[ Please also see : ]

Dikshitar Family tree

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Please also check :


dist23 crop

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

Ettiyapuram emblem

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

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

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


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

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

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

EttayapuramPalace remains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His writings and compositions were generally in Telugu language.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please check ; and go to page xix.

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

Raganga raga Chakram0001


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Ambi Dikshitar

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

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

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

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

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

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


The making of Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini

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

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

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


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

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


[ Sri Subbarama Dikshitar , explaining the context, writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini

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

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

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

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


Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

You may start with the link:

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



Continued in

Next Part

Sources and References

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

7. Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini (English Web Edition)

The pictures are taken from Internet.


Posted by on June 14, 2015 in Music, Sangita


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