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Sri Shyama Shastry (1763-1827) – Part Six

Continued from Part Five

Sri Shyama Shastry – Music-Continued

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Kshetra Kritis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

various deities

Brihannayaki shrine

Thanjavur

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

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

Brhannayaki

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Thiruvarur

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

Dharmasamvardhini

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

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Kanchipuram

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

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

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Other Kshetras

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

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Thiruvanaikal / Jambukeswaram

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

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

Akhilandeshvari

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

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

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

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

Anupallavi

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

Carana (1, 2 and 3)

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

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

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

(Please check here for a rendering of the Kriti)

akhilandeswari

Pudukottai

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

Brhadamba

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Nagapattinam

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

Nilayatakshi

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

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

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

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

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Nava-ratna-malika

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

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

Navaratna malika

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

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

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

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

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

Madurai Meenakshi

  1. Mayamma Yani (8-Ahiri, Adi)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  1. Mariveregati (20- Anandabhairavi, Misra Chapu)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smt. Sharadambal writes :

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

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

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

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

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

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The Kriti is set in Misra Chapu Taala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Taala is Adi Taala.

*

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

Chittasvara  here is  very attractive .

The Kriti is set to Adi Taala.

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

*

The Kriti is set to Adi Taala.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Kriti is set to Adi Taala

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kanchikamakshi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 MangalamJaya MangalamShubha Mangalam

Kamakshi Thanjavur

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

Continued

In the

Next Part

Sources and References

All images are taken from Internet

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

 

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Sri Shyama Shastry (1763-1827) – Part Five

Continued from Part Four

Sri Shyama Shastry – Music

shyama shastry

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vajra

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 MangalamJaya MangalamShubha Mangalam

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

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

deepavali lamps

Outline

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

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

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

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Most of the compositions are in the Telugu language.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vivadi Ragars of Sri Shyama Shastry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gamakas are the ornamental flourishes that help to bring out unique nature of the Raga (Raga-svarupa) in diverse modes of Raga-sanchara by altering the plain character of the Svaras into delightful sound patterns.

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

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

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

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

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The numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Melas and Ragas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Four Varnas are in: 

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

The Three Svarajatis are in

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

Mela Ragas

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Janya Ragas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kalyani

Raga Anandabhairavi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smt. Vidya Shankar writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anandabhairavi

Raga Saveri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saveri

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

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

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

*

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

Smt. Sharadambal explains :

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

*

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

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

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Familiar Ragas

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

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

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

Punnagavarali** Gaulipanthu                 Pharaju**Madhyamavathi

Kedaragaula**Shankarabharana

Begada**Purvikalyani

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 Ragas – each having a single composition

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

Ragas each having a single Kriti

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

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Rare Ragas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

shyama shastry first day cover

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

Continued

In the

Next Part

Sources and References

All images are taken from Internet

 
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Sri Shyama Shastry (1763-1827) – Part Four

Continued from Part Three

Continued in Part Five

Sri Shyama Shastry – Life

Bangaru Kamkshi

Name

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

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

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Birth

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

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

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

shyama sastry old house 2

Shyama shastri birth place

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

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

Tiruvavuru 2

The forefathers

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

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

*

Bangaru Kamakshi

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

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

Bangaru Kamakshi 2

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

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

 *

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

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

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

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Migration and wandering

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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At Tiruvarur

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

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

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

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

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

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At Thanjavur

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

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

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

Bangaru Kamakshi temple

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

*

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

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

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Early Years

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

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

*

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

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

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

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Sangita Swamin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pachchi-mirium Adi-Appaiah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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As Archaka and musician

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

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

Shyama shastry house 1 Shyama Shastri house 2

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

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

Bangaru Kamakshi 9

Intense devotion

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

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

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

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

Kanchi Kamakshi 3

Person

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

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

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

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

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

shyama shastry 23kf4v8

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

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

shyamashastri

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

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

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

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

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

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

syama-sastri-original-portrait

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

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Association with his contemporaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Anecdotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Madurai Meenakshi amman

Descendents

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

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

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Family Tree 10004

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

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

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

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

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

Subbaraya shastri

Subbaraya Shastri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Annaswami Shastri (1827-1900)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Disciples

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

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

Alasur Krishna Iyer:

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

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Sangita Swamy

Sangita Swamy was a Sanyasin and a brilliant musician.

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

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

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

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

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Dasari

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

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

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

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The Last week

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

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

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

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

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

Kamakshiamman

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

 

Continued in Part Five

Sources and References

All images are taken from Internet

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

 

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Sri Shyama Shastry (1763-1827) – Part Three

Continued from Part Two

THE GOLDEN AGE – CONTINUED

Trinity

The Trinity – Samgita Trimurthi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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They were also different in many other ways

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

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Sri Thyagaraja

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

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

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

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

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

Mutthuswamy Dishitar

Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sri Shyama Shastry

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Kanchi-Kamakshi;
  • Bangaru-Kamakshi;
  • Kamakshi-Karunakatakshi
  • Brihan-nayaki;
  • Rajarjeshvari;
  • Akhilandeshwari;
  • Amba;
  • Jagadamba;
  • Trilokamata;
  • Brihadamba;
  • Dharmasamvardhini;
  • Nilayatakshi; and,
  • Meenakshi
  • And, also as
  • Himadrisute;
  • Himagirikumari;
  • Himacalatanaya;
  • Girirajasute;
  • Parvata-raja-kumari;
  • Parvathi;
  • Mınanetrı;
  • Saroja-dalanetri;
  • Sarasakshi; and
  • Natajanapalini,  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Output

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shyama sastry first Kriti -Janani

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

 Please click here for a rendering of the Kriti.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mela and Raga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gita

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Varna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Svarajati

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, Śhyāma Śhāstry too was a Pallavi-Vidvān.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The techniques

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Continued in Part Four

Sources and References

All images are taken from Internet

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

 

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Sri Shyama Shastry (1763-1827) – Part Two

Continued from Part One

OVERVIEW – CONTINUED

Samgita Devi

Intro

Before we get to the specifics of the ‘Golden Age’, let us digress for a while; and, talk about Karnataka Samgita, in general, till date.

Karnataka-Samgita, One of the world’s greatest musical traditions, enjoys a long and a hoary textual tradition going back to Matanga (Brhaddeshi, Ca.5th century), Sarangadeva  (Sangita-ratnakara , 13th century) and Rama-amatya  (Svara-mela-kalanidhi, 16th century)  followed by Govinda Dikshitar (Sangita-sudha, mid 16th century).

Govinda Dikshtar’s son Venkatamakhin’s work Chatur-Dandi-Prakashika (Ca.1660) is relevant today mainly because of its Anubandha (Appendix), which suggested a system for classifying the then known Ragas. However, the descriptions of the features (Lakshana) of those Ragas are not of much importance today; because, much of it has undergone revisions.

Venkatamakhin also experienced a similar difficulty with regard to the Lakshanas of the Ragas mentioned in Sarangadeva’s text, written about three hundred years prior to his time.

Venkatamakhin remarks: Sarangadeva claims to have described the Lakshanas of about two hundred and sixty-four Ragas.  But, all those Ragas have disappeared today. My venerable Guru could lay down the Lakshanas for only fifty Ragas.

Strangely, many of the Ragas described by Venkatamakin also suffered a similar fate. Therefore, what has tangibly come down to us from the Chatur-Dandi-Prakashika is only the initial scheme of 72 Melakartas.

It is here, the Golden age of Karnataka-Samgita of the early and the middle of the Eighteenth Century enters as a life-saver. The traditions of Karnataka Samgita found a new lease of life during this period, when the Lakshana and Lakshya of the Ragas were clearly defined, preserved and passed on to the succeeding generations.

The Karnataka-Samgita of today, I reckon, can be said to be primarily rooted in the practices that were prevalent and developed during the Golden Age of the early and mid Eighteenth Century.

The scholars opine that  the main reason  for such a successful phenomenon  is the unbroken lines of Guru-Shishya-Paramapara that has come down to us till this day, preserving and bringing along the Ragas, the compositions and the distinct practices of each School or tradition of Music.

Here, one has to necessarily appreciate the value of the Oral Traditions, which has enabled and ensured to pass on the Lakshana and Lakshya of the Karnataka-Samgita from generation to generation over the past two and a half centuries, without incurring much damage.

It was perhaps the lack or the absence of such a chain of Guru-Shishya oral tradition that led to the loss of Music compositions and the Raga-Lakshanas during the long and hazy period of three centuries that separated Sarangadeva and Venkatamakhin.

As compared to that, the Music traditions-of Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Shyama Shastry – in the following three centuries have survived and propagated remarkably well, principally due to the continuing Oral Tradition through the unbroken lines of the Gurus and the Shihyas.

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Another factor that truly has served to proliferate the Karnataka Samgita, over the couple of centuries, among the various sectors of the community is its ’openness’.

Unlike in the medieval times or in the earlier phase of the Hindustani Samgita, the Karnataka-Samgita was never treated as a family-heirloom or as a well guarded preserve of a particular School (Gharana). It was open to the community as a whole. Here, the Bhajana-Sampradaya, Divyanama and Utsava -Sampradaya -Kirtanas played a very significant part. The Bhaktas at the Bhajana Mandalis sang the devotional Kirtanas, which, in fact, were not mere simple songs.

Take for instance; the Divya-nama-Kirtanas of Sri Thyagaraja such as Hariyanuvaari (Todi); Sri Rama-dasa (Dhanyasi); Nammakane (Asaveri); Naatha-Brovavve (Bhairavi) ; Rama –Rama (Huseni) and Sita-Nayaka (Ritigaula) and so on,  do have a certain degree of sophistication in their structure, in the spread of their Ragas and in the choice of their Taalas.  Such Kirtanas of great merit were practiced and sung in a group even by the ‘un-initiated’ lay singers. These did help in spreading a ‘Music-culture’ among the members of the community.

Even prior to the Golden Age, the Padas of Sri Purandara Dasa who had adopted Unch-vrtti  (walking along the village streets, going from house to house singing and collecting grains etc., needed for the day) meant that the community in which he lived was exposed to and gained familiarity with chaste Music, almost every day of their lives. Sri Thyagaraja also followed such Uncha-Vrtti. And, when he went around the village, from house to house singing his Divyanama and Utsava-Sampradaya-Kirtanas, perhaps many would have joined him and sung along with him.

These practices, to a large extent, helped to build up and maintain a widespread, healthy music fraternity. It also ensured that the Karnataka-Samgita is not restricted to being a mere ‘chamber-music’ confined within a limited space for the pleasure of a few. Thus, Karnataka-Samgita is more than a mere performing Art. It is indeed a cognitive Art that is appreciated and enjoyed by the varied sections of the Society. That has also helped in bringing about a greater degree of interaction between the performers and listeners; and, perhaps, between the performers too, particularly of those living within a small distance of one another.

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Apart from such interaction between the performer and the listener, another significant feature of the Golden Age was the remarkable variety in the musical content of the vast output.

Till about the mid-eighteenth century, the Sahitya was the dominant factor. Generally, a renowned great poetry, the Namavalis or the Stotras etc., extolling the virtues and powers of the gods and goddesses were set to music, largely as an offering to the deities, as also to benefit the devotees.  Music here was a vehicle to convey pious ideas and sentiments.

With advent of the Golden Age and of the Celebrated Trinity, the Music did gain some ascendancy, although the Sahitya continued to be very important. The body of the Musical compositions of this period is distinguished by  the sheer variety, modes of structure, the prolific  and large  output of classic Kritis, Varnas,  Svarajatis  and the Gitas etc. Here the Music came into its own exuberant form, in its multiplicity and glory. And, the Dhathu took over the Mathu. The range of musical rhythmic phrases was improvised in varied patterns with great ingenuity, and creative imagination.

The salient features of the Kritis of the Golden Age coul said to be :  the well structured Kritis , having a judicious balance of Raga and Sahitya; of Kalpita and Manodharma Samgita ; of carrying forward the Music tradition in its essential purity.

The rendering of the Kritis and other types of compositions gained boundless array and depth with the introduction of the Manodharma Samgita, the rhythmic variations in the Kalpana-Svaras, Neravals and Sangathis. The other Mathu-Dhatu-Samkykta- Alamkaras like Svarashitya, verities of Gamakas, Prasas and Yatis came in to adore the Kritis.

These decorative features also facilitated greater freedom to a gifted performer to display her/his musical genius, virtuosity and originality in giving musical expressions to a wide range of ideas and emotions.  Thus, Karnataka-Samgita, emerging from the shadows, was no longer confined to or bound to a fixed uninspired regimen.  It gained more range, depth and immense reach.

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And, for an ardent student of Music, the best way to learn the idioms and phrases that define Grammar (Lakshana) of a Raga is through diligent repetitive practice of the Varnas and Kritis composed in that Raga.

 In the early stages of her/his learning, the student tries to faithfully reproduce what he is taught.

And, once she/he attains a certain level of proficiency, an amazing thing happens. She/ he will try to improvise upon her/his earlier experience; the initially internalized compositions that she/he was taught to sing are now turned into well formed segments of varying Gatis and Layas. She/he will strive to gain freedom to communicate her/ his musical ideas, through the set composition. One will try to innovate, search for more enterprising,   venturous, expressions; and, assert ones individuality.

The student progresses from simple regimented replications to complex creative musical forms within the ambit of the finite fundamental rules of Karnataka-Samgita. That facility is aided by the fact Karnataka-Samgita is an open ended system; it provides scope for creating new Ragas by permutations of the Svaras. And, a Raga could be rendered in more than one ways.

 Creativity is at the core of any Art-form. And, there are several layers of creativity.

Karnataka-Samgita is such a Symbolic System as it ties together the Classic and the free flowing music with natural grace and felicity; and, at the same time recognizing each one’s potential, its ability as also its context-sensitive limitations.

This is similar to learning a language. Once the student grasps the vocabulary of Raga, she/he will try to extract the finer and the more appealing aspects of the Raga; and, present it as a fluent, delightfully enterprising rendering. It is the aesthetic beauty of such creative Music that truly matters. It is perhaps such creativity and diversity that has kept the Karnataka Samgita alive and thriving.

A kriti-rendering, indeed, is quite flexible. It can be elaborated, expanded, and stretched out exploring its full potential through innovative strings of Sangathis, Neravals and Kalpana-Svaras. On the other hand, it can also be rendered without much elaboration. But, what is of essence is that the rendering should be pure and aesthetically pleasing.

Apart from the performer, the followers and admirers of Music also have enjoyed greater freedom. Once a Kriti was composed and was sung, it no longer remained the sole property of the composer. There are numerous instances where Svarashitya and Svarakshara were inserted in to the compositions at a later time either by the disciples or the admirers of the Composer. The performers also gained the liberty to offer varied interpretations to the musical phrases of the Kriti; sometimes slightly altering the lines of the Kriti (Patantara); adding adornments such as Sangathis and Chitta-Svaras and so on.

[ The Kritis of Sri Thyagaraja have come down to us through the lines of his major disciples: Tillaisthanam Rama Iyengar, Walajapet Venkataramana Iyer and Umayalpuram brothers.  Each of those traditions has its own version (Patantara) of the Kritis composed by Sri Thyagaraja. 

Each  performer, in turn, opts for the version, which according to her/him,  is aesthetically pleasing . And, there is no ostensible finality in these matters.]

There are also instances where the Raga of a Kriti , as set by the composer, was at a later time altered by  knowledgeable musicologists for certain valid reasons. For instance; Kumbakonam Sri Rajamanickam Pillai re-set Sri Thyagaraja’s Kriti Jnana-mosaga-raada in Raga Purvi Kalyani, since the Raga originally suggested in the text – Shadvidha Margini– was virtually unknown to most performers.

Sri Semmangudi Sreenivasa Ayyangar re-tuned the popular Kriti Bhavayami Raghuramam of Maharaja Swati Tirunal set originally in Raga Saveri. He converted the Kriti into a Ragamalika , a delightful garland of Ragas ; setting its various sections in Natakuranji, Dhanyasi , Mahanam, Mukhari, Purvi Kalyani, and Madhyamavathi. This Ragamalika  is now hugely popular.

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One might perhaps say the noticeable factors that differentiate the Music of the Golden Age from that that of the present-day are mainly: (1) The contribution of Vac-geya-karas; the output of new Kritis; and the creation of new Ragas; (2) the quality of interaction between the composer-performer and the listener; and (3) the application of Music for varieties of purposes.

As regards the composers; the Kritis of the Uttama-Vac-geya-karas of great merit, such as Sri Pallavi Gopala Ayyar; Sri Thyagaraja; Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar; or Sri Shyama Shastry are endowed with rich, distinct characteristics and unique individuality. They differ not only in their approach to Music in general; but also in regard to the phasing of their structure, application of Alamkaras and in the Mathu and Dhatu phrases. They created new Ragas; brought to life rare and forgotten Ragas; composed a great number of compositions; experimented with different Sancharas, Gamakas and Taala patterns. Their Music was marked by freshness and a remarkable sense of enterprise.

Such a tremendous musical activity both in terms of quality and quantity perhaps became possible mainly because of their inspired and intimate involvement, the relations that existed among the music community as also between the composers and the listeners of those days. And, their Music took on its own enchanted life.

Perhaps it is difficult in any field of activity to sustain such a high degree of intensity for over a long period.  Following the ebb and flow phenomenon of fluctuations, a lean period was bound to occur.

 It appears that the Karnataka Samgita is presently passing through such a lean phase.

In regard to the Vac-geya-karas, Sri Mutthayya Bhagavatar and Sri Mysore Vasudevacharya were perhaps the last in the line of Classic Master Composers of Karnataka-Samgita. Since nearly about the last one hundred years no other composer of equaling merit has appeared on our Music scene; although there have been great many fabulous stage-performers. That is to say; we are thriving on the past glory.

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In regard to the interaction between the performer and the listener, owing to numerous reasons and limiting factors, the type and its quality have undergone a sea change, a profound or notable transformation. Such proximity as that existed between the two is no longer possible.

What we now have, mostly, is the faceless-interaction. Even the attendance at the Music-Sabhas, I understand, is either stagnated or is dwindling. The TV Channel too hardly set apart a slot for Classical Music. Although a plethora of music-pieces are posted over the net, there is no meaningful dialogue between the listeners and the performers. The appreciation or otherwise is restricted to posting minions, thumbs-up or down. Many a times, the present-day singers of the Karnataka-Samgita feel they exist in a vacuum or as if they are walking through an uninhabited tunnel.

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The rare and rather difficult Varnams, Svarajatis of Sri Shyama Shastry or the Kritis of Sri Dikshitar are neither much attempted on the stage nor or they sought for. The preference seems to be for the Ragas and Kritis that are light, easy and pleasant on the ears.

The teaching methods and practices also seem to tread along similar path.  It is a fait accompli. The learners seem to have no option.

But, the simplified Karnataka-Samgita, in its wake, has in a way has helped it reach a wider audience; say, by way of film-music or light-songs based on classical Ragas. These at times re-define the Grammar of the Karnataka Samgita.

These developments underline the fact that each variety or style of Karnataka-Samgita, in its own context, undergoes changes, giving rise to revaluation of the earlier styles of rendering. It is this inventive diversity, I believe, that has ensured Karnataka Samgita is not stagnant; bringing in fresh ideas and reshaping its Grammar; and, enlarging its Music-community.

These factors might not exactly be peripheral.

Having said that, let me also mention that  what truly is the need of the day is the applications of the cognitive general principles of Karnataka -Samgita as  are relevant  in the present context; preserving its purity; and, carrying it forward for greater acceptance , beauty and splendor .

[One could gainfully employ ones time and learn a lot reading the highly articulate and analytical study in tandem of Language and Karnataka-samgita: The Grammar of Carnatic Music by K G Vijayakrishnan (phonology and Phonetics, 2007)]

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The Golden Age

The decades spread over the Seventeenth and the Eighteenth centuries are aptly lauded as the Golden Age, the brightest epoch, of Karnataka Samgita. That period of great and innovative activity not merely gave birth to significant texts that re-defined Music theories (Lakshana); but it also witnessed the flowering of various Music forms in abundance; as also, the creation of new formats of compositions of sparkling beauty and charm, such as : Kirtana, Kriti, Daru, Varna, Padam , Javali, Thillana,   Naamavali  and so on.

And, as regards the performance and practice of Music (Lakshya), it was indeed the most sublime period when the Grand Masters, the highly inspired meritorious composers (Uttama-vac-geyakaras) flourished.

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Lakshana-grantha

Venkatamakhin (son of Govindacharya, a Kannada speaking scholar and musicologist who migrated from Mysore to Thanjavur), in his landmark work Chaturdandi-Prakasika (ca. 1650) gathered various music-forms under a four-fold system (Chatur-dandi); comprising Gita, Prabandha, Thaya and Alapa.

Here, the term Prabandha denotes a composition having specific characteristics; and, that which is well composed – ‘prabandhayeti Prabandha’. However, the definition was narrowed down to include only those compositions which were made up of Six Angas (Birudu, Pada, Tenaka, Pāta and Taala); and, Four Dhatus (Udgrāha, Melāpaka, Dhruva and Abhoga).

It appears that by about the time that the Chatur-dandi came to be composed, Prabandha as a class of Music was almost on its way out. And, in its later stages, the term Prabandha came to be understood as the final component of a four-fold system (Chatur-dandi) devised by Venkatamakhin: Raga; Thaya; Gita; and Prabandha.

Although, Prabandha, as a genre, has now disappeared, it needs to be said that the Prabandha did serve, for a long time, as a very  versatile, resourceful musical format allowing scope for many of the regional variations to model their structure as per their special needs in the context of their culture.  Prabandha was the dominant form of Music, Dance and other poetical works for more than a thousand years ending by 1700 AD or a little later.

The influence of the Prabandha has been long-lasting, pervading most parts, elements and idioms of Indian Music – both of the North and of the South. The structures, internal divisions, the elements of Meter (Chhandas), Raga, Taala and Rasa,  as also the musical terms that are prevalent in the Music of today are all derived from Prabandha and its traditions. Many well-known musical forms that are in practice today have all emerged from Prabandha

Apart from the Kritis, the other diverse musical forms, such as: Svarajati, Varna, Pada, Tillana, Jawali, Raga-malika etc., derived their fundamentals from the ancient Prabandhas. Only their musical-content and lyrics were attuned to suit the context of the occasions and times.

It could be said; the Prabandha helped the Karnataka Samgita, enormously, in defining its concepts and terms, specifying the structures of its songs, refining its Grammar; and, in ensuring continuity of our ancient tradition.

Thus, Prabandha is, truly, the ancestor of the entire gamut of varieties of patterns of sacred-songs, art-songs, Dance-songs and other musical forms created since 17-18th century till this day.

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The more significant contribution of Venkatamakhin’s work is the Appendix (Anubandha) attached to the main body of the text.

The Chatur-dandi-prakashika is known and recognized today mainly because of the 72 Mela-Scheme it introduced; and, the great influence it exercised over the attempts to reorganize the Ragas and the Music structure in Karnataka Samgita. 

The Appendix (Anubandha) to his Chatur-dandi-prakashika suggested the possibility  of classifying Ragas, built on 12 Svara-Sthanas , under a 72 Mela scheme, made into two groups of 36 each (Shuddha-Madhyama and Prathi Madhyama) . It was, at this time, only a theoretical possibility, since most of those 72 Melas were yet unknown.

Out of such 72 Melas, Venkatamakhin was able to identify the Ragas of only 19 Melas. The rest (53) he considered as mere theoretical possibilities; and, non-functional, since no known Ragas could fit in to his scheme of these Melas. Therefore, he could name only 19 Melas; the rest (53) were not assigned any names.

Venkatamakhin went by recognizing a Mela-Raga if all the seven Svaras occurred in it, either in the Aroha or in the Avaroha. He did not insist that a Mela Raga should be a Sampurna Raga, with all the seven Svaras in both the Aroha and Avaroha

In Venkatamakhin’s grandson Muddu Venkatamakhin’s Ragalakshana a drastic shift takes place in the Mela-concept. He synthetically creates Janya Ragas for the remaining 53 Melas that were earlier considered non-functional.

Here, for the first time, the Raga-description is based purely on its Svara-sthanas. It is also at this stage that the Raga Grammar or its characteristic is described in terms of its  Aroha and Avaroha Svaras.

He uses the terms Raganga-Raga (equivalent term to Mela-kartha) and Janya Raga; and, adopts the norm that the Raganga-Raga needs to be Sampurna in Arohana or Avaroha; not necessarily in both the orders. It is a non-linear (A-sampurna) system.

It is believed that it was Muddu Venkatamakhin, who gave the nomenclature for the Mela Ragas, (Kanakambari and Phenadhyuti etc) in his Gitam called Raganga-Raga-Anukramanika-Gitam; and, wrote Lakshanas for the Raganga (Mela) ragas and their Janyas.

Again, it was during late 17th – early 18th century, a person called Govindacharya the author of the  Samgraha-chudamani , changed the names of some Melas of Venkatamakhin, by assigning the nomenclature Kanakangi, Ratnangi etc. to the 72 Mela kartha Ragas.

The long-drawn process spread over the centuries  to identify the number of Melas  ended during the Golden Age ; and,  it settled down at 72 .

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Govindacharya expanded on Venkatamakhin’s Mela concept   by introducing the Sampoorna-Meladhikara (a term equivalent to Melakarta) scheme, which has a complete (Sampoorna)-Saptaka: both in its ascent (Arohana) and descent (Avarohana) structure; and, importantly it has the Svaras in the linear order (Krama). In this scheme, the Mela-kartas arise out of systematic permutation of the seven Svaras into the twelve Svara-sthanas

This scheme is not merely of academic interest; but, is also of immense practical value to all musicians, musicologists and students.

Govindacharya is also said to written Lakshana-gitas and Lakshana-slokas (numbering in all 366) covering 294 Janya Ragas. And, it is believed, he refined the Katyapadi prefixes by linking the Mela Ragas to their first two syllables of their names. Govindacharya’s Sampurna Arohana–Avarohana profile lent the Mela-kartha a sort of elegance.  This system of 72 Mela is the Karnataka Mela system of the present day.

Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar followed Venkatamahin’s scheme – A-sampurna Mela Paddathi- (Kanakambari-Phenadyuti); while, Sri Thyagaraja and Sri Shyama Shastry gave forms to most of the Ragas in the other scheme – Sampurna Mela Paddathi of Govindacharya-(Kanakangi-Rantnangi).   The subtle but main difference between the two schemes appears to be the importance given to the linearity and non-linearity of the Svaras in Arohana and Avarohana.

[But, in the later period, the distinction between the Mela and the Raganga-Raga gradually faded away; and, the two concepts merged into one system of Janaka-raga and Janya-raga.]

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Uttama Vac-geyakaras

The Uttama Vac-geyakara, the best among the highest class of composers is described as the Dhatu-Mathu-Kriyakari – as the one who writes the lyrics (Mathu), sets them to music (Dhatu) and ably presents (Kriyakari) his compositions.

The peak of the Golden Age was the phase that was adorned by extraordinarily brilliant music composers, musicologists and singers – the Uttama Vac-geyakaras. These Masters were endowed with proficiency and scholarship in Vyakarana (Grammar), Kavya-shastra (prosody), Alamkara-shastra (rhetoric), thorough knowledge  of the languages and their dexterous use, and a refined aesthetic sense (Rasa-bhava), Suti-laya-jnana, besides an  depth knowledge of Raga , Taala and Gamakas.

The wealth of the musical genius of Karnataka music flowered and bloomed during this period, when every branch of music and music related art-forms got enriched.

The most fortuitous occurrence or the heavenly blessing of this period was the sublime Music created by the Trinity of Karnataka Samgita (Samgita-Trimurthi), who flourished around the same time. 

It was an invigorating phase that ushered in innovation and elaboration of fresh Ragas, just as the 72 Melakarta scheme was beginning to take root.

It was also during this period, the Kriti format of Nibaddha-Samgita musical compositions, developed over a long period of time; and, was evolving out of the shadows of the older Prabandha and its immediate predecessor Kirtana or Pada, reached its definitive form. Though several composers of repute prior to 17th century, such as Muthu Tandavar and Margadarsi Sesha Ayyangar, had experimented with the Kriti format, it was the celebrated Trinity of Karnataka Samgita that perfected it during the 18th century. 

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During this period , the importance of the aspects of harmony (Laya) in Music was brought to fore. It was said; Laya, the rhythmical movement in time and space, governs every process in the universe; every aspect of life; and, even the functioning of body and mind. And, Laya is vital to the Music as well.

Here, in Music, the Laya is said to have two aspects or dimensions: one is the Sruti-laya, which determines the pitch of the Svara; and, the other is the Taala-laya, which relates to the measurement of time-units and its divisions. In a musical phrase, Laya signifies rhythm or rhythmical movement; and, Taala is that which measures the tempo of this movement.  Though technically, the terms Laya and Taala are defined differently; Taala cannot exist without Laya.

However, both Sruti and Taala are essentially abstract in their nature.

Sruti is understood as the distinct interval between two Svaras; But, it is not a precise mathematical or physical measure. The listening acumen of the musician is the sole guide to measure the rise or fall in Sruti. And, this is achieved only by diligent practice (Sad-abhyasa), as Abhinavagupta says:  Sruteh Sabdasya Srotragr-Abhyasya utka.

Similarly, Taala the time involved in a musical context is also abstract; and, it cannot be physically measured. One has to maintain Taala instinctively. One tries to keep track of it through Kriya, the action of hand, palm or cymbal for reckoning the Taala units (Matras).

The innate Laya-jnana (awareness) is as essential as the Sruti-jnana for a performing artist, whether she/he be a singer or a player on an instrument.

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It was during this period that besides the essential Angas (Pallavi, Anu-pallavi and Charana) many ornamental features were introduced into the Kriti format, by the musical Trinity.

Sri Thyagaraja is credited with introducing the practice of singing Sangathi (lit. putting together– a set of melodic variations to expand on the various shades of a theme in all its angles, gradually unfolding the melodic (Raga-bhava) potential of a phrase (Sahitya) in combination with Svaras. Some say that Sri Thyagaraja adopted Sangathi-rendering from dance-music, where variations are done for display of Abhinaya and for articulating the different shades and interpretations of the basic emotion (Bhava).

The other decorative Angas integrated into the Kriti as embellishment in order to heighten its aesthetic beauty were:

(a) Chitta-svara or a set of Svara passages sung at the end of the Anu-pallavi and Charana; and, compared to a bunch of flowers of a beautiful creeper. Usually the Chitta-svaras are in the same Laya (rhythm) as of the Kriti. But, one may try to improvise in Druta, increasing the Laya or speed by two degrees. In some Kritis which may carry Viloma-Chitta-svaras, the same set of Svara-passages can be in the reverse order as well, but sounding the same.

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(b) Svara-sahitya – where the  Svaras (Notes) flow briskly, as if riding a wave, at even pace, in Madhyama-Kala, weaving melody (Raga), rhythm (Taala) and words (Mathu) into grand patterns of beauty and delight (e.g. Sri Thyagaraja’s Ghanaraga-Pancharatna-kriti Jagadananda-karaka in Nata Raga, Adi Taala, contains some of the most beautiful Svara-sahitya-Chittasvaras in the Charanas.)

The Svara-sahitya can be in the Kritis as also in the Pada-varanas and Svarajatis.

In the Kritis having Svara-sahitya, the Svara-passage is sung at the end of Anu-pallavi; and, the related Sahitya-passage will be sung at the end of the Carana.

In the Pada-varna, the Svara-sahitya is applied for the Muktayi-svara and ettugada-svaras. Here, the Sahitya is sung just after the Svara-passage.

And in Svarajati, the Svara-sahitya is appended to the Caranas.

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 (c) Madhyama-kala-sahitya – a decorative Anga is an integral part of the Kriti; and has two or three Avartas, occurring towards the end of Anupallavi, Charana or Samasti-charana. In some of the Kritis of Sri Thyagaraja, the Madhyama-kala-sahitya comes after the Anu-pallavi (as in Manasu-Svadheena in Sankarabharana); and, in some others, they occur after the Charana (as in Sadhimchane in Arabhi, and Entaro-mahanu-bhavulu in Sri-raga)

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(d) Solkattu are regular Chitta-svaras, where in some portions, instead of Svaras, appropriate Jatis or bunch of syllables or spoken rhythms and patterns are added. Jatis are sung to the music of the displaced Svaras after the Charana; often Solkattu Svaras are sung after Anu-pallavi in Vilamba-kala and after Charana in Druta-kala,

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(e) Gamakas (the ornamented flourishes of the Note) are the graces or embellishments added for enhancing the melodic beauty of the Kritis. Gamakas are the very vital factors of Karnataka Samgita. They bring out the unique nature of the Raga (Raga-svarupa) in diverse modes of Raga-sanchara, by altering the plain character of the Svaras into delightful sound patterns. The Gamakas help to draw out the beauty that is inherent in Svaras. It also seamlessly and aesthetically bridges two adjacent Svaras in a Raga-phrase.

These are executed in varied forms, such as: graceful turn, curve or sliding touch given to a single note or a group of notes, which animates Svaras to bring out the melodic character and expression (bhava) of a Raga. Gamaka-rendering is a highly individualistic and a specialized skill. The Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry are remarkable for their Gamka-prayoga.

The Gamakas are said to be one of the special features of the Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry. His compositions set in Vilamba-kala are apt for use of Gamakas excelling in Chowka-kala like Kampita (oscillations) and Jaru (glides)

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(f) Svarakshara-Dhatu-Mathu-Samyukta-Alamkara is a variety of Sabda-lankara, a structural as well as a musical beauty, created by the confluence of the Svara syllable and the identical or like-sounding syllable in the Sahitya of a Kritis, Varanas, Raga-malikas, Padas, and Javalis etc. This is to say; a Svara-akshara and Svara-sthana-varna is one wherein Solfa letters figuring in the Sahitya of a passage are sung to the music signified by those letters.

Many of the compositions of Thyagaraja start with a Svarakshara. For instance; Marubalka in Sriranjani begins on the Svara ‘Ma’; and ‘Nee bhakti bhagyasudha‘ in Jayamanohari begins on the Svara ‘Ni’. In the Kriti Sri Rama Padama’ in Amritavahini, the word ‘pa-da -ma ‘ is a Svarakshara phrase.

Sri Dikshitar, at times, used Svaraksharas i.e., the words matching with the syllables of the notes. For instance; Sadasrita (in Akshayalinga-Vibho) could be tuned as Sa-Da-Pa-Ma; and, Pashankushsa-Dharam (in Siddhi Vinayakam)   could be tuned as Pa- SA- Ga- RI- Ni- SA.

Sri Shyama Shastry was indeed an adept in building Svarakshara-sahitya passages in to the Chitta-svaras of a Kriti; for instance, the identical sounding syllables such as ‘Padasarara‘ correspond to the Svaras: Pa-Dha-Sa in the Kriti, Devi-ni (Kambodhi).

Sri Shyama Shastry is remarkable for the rhythmic beauties that adorn his kritis.  For instance; we find in his compositions many words constituted of the five syllables, like Anudinamu, Durusuganu, Gatiyanuchu, Mahimalanu, Sarasamukhi, Vara-mosagu, Padayugamu, Kamalayuga and Kamalamukhi etc. corresponding to the spoken rhythmic pattern “ta dhim gi na thom”.

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(g) Mani-pravala (Mani=gem; Pravala=coral) is a type of beauty, where words of two or more languages figure in the Sahitya of a Kriti.

Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar brings in the Telugu and Tamil words amidst Sanskrit terms in three of his Kritis: Shri-Abhayamba-ninnu – chinthinchina-variki (Raga Sri); Venkatacalapate (Karnataka Kapi); and, Sri-maharajni (Karnataka Kapi).

The Travancore Maharaja Sri Swati Tirunal had composed 15 Mani-pravala kritis using Malayalam and Sanskrit as Mani and Pravala

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The Sangita-Kavitvam (creative music) reached its peak during this epoch. In addition to the musical embellishments, the composers of this period brought in verities of Sabda-alamkaras (figures of speech) as in the Sanskrit prosody (Kavya-shastra) such as: Prasa, Anuprasa, Yati and Yamaka etc., in order to enhance the charm and poetic beauty of the Sahitya (lyrics) of the Kriti, in enterprising manners.

Prasa, generally, stands for rhyme, the repetition of the second letter (Dvitiya-akshara-prasa) in the first Avarta and in the same position in the subsequent Avartas. It may also occur in the first letter (Adi-prasa) and also in the end syllable (Antya-prasa).

The Prasa can be for a single letter or for groups of two or more letters. The length of the syllable preceding the Prasa letter should be the same throughout. Different types of Prasas were employed. Such Sabda-alamkaras of like-sounding pleasant words or phrases are meant to heighten the poetic elegance.

Anu-prasa is the repetition of similar letters, syllables or words.

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Yatis are the Dhatu-Mathu-Samyukta-Alamkara, where the rhyming words are musically set in different patterns; The structures and the lengths of certain lines in the compositions of a Kriti, as also in the playing of the Mrdanga, are said to follow certain rhythmic patterns (Yati-s).

Different varieties of Yatis used by the composers are Sama-yati or Pipilika yati; Gopuccha-yati; Srotovaha-yati; Mrudanga, and Damaru etc.

In Sama-yati, where the lines are of uniform length (Sama), the same letter or sound is repeated at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.

In regard to the length of the lines in other Yatis: (1) Srotovaha-yati is broadening or increasing like the flow of a river; (2) Gopuccha-yati is tapering or decreasing like a cow s tail; (3) Mrdanga-yati is broadening towards the middle like the contours of a drum; and, (4) Damaru-yati is where the length of the lines first decrease and then increase; narrowing towards the middle, as the contours of an hourglass-shaped drum.

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

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

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Sarasa Pade,

Rasapade,

Sapade,

Pade.

de

Sarasa Kaye

Rasakaye

Sakaye

Aye

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And, in his kriti Tyagarajayoga Vaibhavam (Anandabhairav) , Sri Dikshitar uses both the Yatis : Gopuccha Yati and Srotovaha.

The phrases are:  Gopuccha Yati (like a cow’s tail):

Tyagaraja Yoga Vaibhavam

Agaraja Yoga Vaibhavam

Rajayoga Vaibhavam

Yoga Vaibhavam

Vaibhavam

Bhavam

Vam

 

 And Srotovaha Yeti (flowing or expanding like a river )

Sam

Prakasham

Svarupa Prakasham

Tatva svarupa Prakasham

Sakala Tatva svarupa Prakasham

Shivashaktyadi Sakala Tatva svarupa Prakasham

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Another literary decorative Anga, an exercise of words, often used in the Kritis is the Yamaka, a Sabda-alamkara, is a well-known device, where the same word or a repetition of vowels and consonants in the same order, give forth different meanings. That is; repeating words similar in sound; but, in different sense.

For instance; Sri Thyagaraja has used Yamaka-alamkara in the Kriti ‘Telisi-Rama-chintanato‘ (Purnachandrika), the words Rama, Arka and Aja are good examples of Suddha-Yamaka. Here, the word ‘Rama‘ is used in the sense of lady and in the sense of Brahman or the Absolute Being. The word ‘Aja‘ is used in the ·sense of goat and in the sense of Brahma or the creator; and the word ‘Arka‘ in the sense of sun and the plant caltrop 

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Amazingly, Sri Thyagaraja as also Sri Dikshitar and Sri Shyama Shastry, perhaps independent of each other, all contributed to the development of Kriti form, although they did not seem to have particularly corresponded or coordinated their efforts in this regard.

And, that was the turning point (Parva-kala) that gave a new sense of direction, vigour and identity to the music of South India. Their Kritis glowing like pure gems adorned with captivating fragrance (Sauganghika-svarna-pushpa) of sublime Ragas set in most fascinatingly elegant Sahitya are indeed matchless.

It is, fundamentally, the contribution of these brilliant and prolific composers that has enriched the art; given a definite form, substance and identity to the Karnataka Samgita and all the other related art-forms as are being practiced today. We all owe those Great Masters a deep debt of gratitude.

Lotouses three

Continued in Part Three

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

 

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Sri Shyama Shastry ( 1763-1827) – Part One

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OVERVIEW

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

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

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

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

Marga

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

Gana

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

Desi

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

Prabandha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kirtana, Padas and other forms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contribution of Haridasa movement

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

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

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

[ For more on The Suladi Sapta Taalas in Carnatik Music – please click here]

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.

Vajra 2

To sum up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

**

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

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

sarasvathi tanjore

Continued in Part Two

Sources and References

All images are taken from Internet

 

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Music of India – a brief outline – Part Nineteen

Continued from Part Eighteen – Lakshana Granthas– Continued

Part Nineteen (of 22 ) – Lakshana Granthas – Continued

 14. Venkatamakhin – Chatur-dandi-prakashika – Mela and Melakarta

 Note venkat

Venkatamakhin also referred to as Venkateshwara Dikshita and Venkatadhvari was the son of Govinda Dikshita, the author of Sangita Sudha and the minister of the Nayak Kings at Thanjavuru.

Venkatamakhin was said to be a distinguished Mimamsa scholar; and, is credited with Karmāntha Mimamsa, a work on the Mimamsa and Vrittikabharana, a commentary on Kumarila Bhatta’s work. Venkatamakhin is also said to have composed twenty four Ashtapadis on Lord Tyagaraja, the presiding deity at Tiruvarur temple.

Venkatamakhin shows enormous respect towards his father Govinda Dikshita, mother Nagamba and his elder brother Yajnanarayana Dikshita. He mentions that his elder brother Yajnanarayana Dikshita taught him Tarka (Logic), Vyakarana (Grammar) and Mimamsa Shastra, as also Music.  Yajnanarayana Dikshita, who also was in the service of Raghunatha Nayaka, was a renowned scholar of his times. He is said to have written a play Raghunatha-Vilasa and a Champu-kavya Raghunatha Bhupa Vijaya in honor of the King. Apart from that, Yajnanarayana Dikshita is credited with Shitya-Ratnakara a treatise on Sanskrit literature and Grammar.

Neelakantha Dikshita a minister in the Court of Nayak Kings was a disciple of Venkatamakhin. Neelakantha Dikshita was also a well known poet of his times; and is said to have written a Kavya Siva Leelarnava, which describes the Leelas of Lord Sri Meenakshi Sundareswara of Madura.

[The picture at the top of this post  is taken from a painting  made by Sri S Rajam. There is an interesting anecdote connected with it.  When Sri Rajam intended to provide an illustration of Venkatamakhin as an introductory painting for the Apr 2008-March 2009 calendar brought out by L&T, he had no earlier pictures of Venkatamakhin to guide him. His research into the archives of Sri Kanci Mutt led him to an interesting detail showing that Venkatamakhin who was also a skillful vainika wore his long hair in a coil such that it did not touch his body; he coiled it atop his head. Shri S Rajam then pictured Venkatamakhin with coiled locks of hair, rudraksha-mala; and surrounded by musical instruments such as Veena, Tambura etc. as also scrolls of ancient manuscripts, lending the picture an air scholarship and a spiritual aura.]

Chatur-dandi-prakashika

Venkatamakhin fame rests mainly on his work Chatur-dandi-prakashika, which he wrote (perhaps around the year 1650) under the patronage of the Fourth Nayaka King Vijaya Raghava who succeeded Raghunatha Nayaka and ruled up to 1672. Chatur-dandi-prakashika is a treatise on Music that illumines four forms of song-formats: Gita, Prabandha, Thaya and Aalapa (Gita-prabandha-sthaya-alapa-rupa-chatur –dandi) which seemed to have formed the pattern (or profile) for concert performances during 14-15th centuries. In that context, he makes frequent references to Gopala Nayaka (1205-1315) and to Tanappa-charya whom he calls Parama-guru ( Guru’s Guru) . Both of these were, perhaps, renowned performers of Charurdandi.Along with the text, Venkatamakhin is said to have composed Lakshana-gitas on a large number of Ragas.

The text of the Chatur-dandi-prakashika was said to contain ten Chapters (Prakarana), each dealing with: Veena, Sruti, Svara, Mela, Raga, Alapa, Thaya, Gita, Prabandha and Taala. Among these, portions of Prabandha-prakarana and the entire Taala-prakarana are lost. But, interestingly, it is the Appendix (Anubandha) to the main text that brought focus on Venkatamakhin.

The Veena-prakarana generally follows the concepts and techniques described in Somanatha’s Raga-vibodha and Ramamatya’s Svara-mela-kalanidhi ; and,  discusses about two kinds of fret-arrangements and tuning of the Veena-strings. Venkatamakhin mentions three types of Veena: Shuddha-mela-veena; Madhyama-mela-veena; and, Raghunathendra-mela-veena.

While describing the arrangement of the frets on each of the three types of Veena, Venkatamakhin follows the illustrations provided by Ahobala Pandita.  According to that, arrangement of frets could be done in two ways: One with fixed frets on which all Ragas could be played (Sarva-raga-mela-veena); and the other with frets specially placed to suit playing of a particular Raga (Eka-raga-mela-veena) .

Venkatamakhin informs that during those days, besides the common Shuddha and Madhya-mela Veena described by Ramamatya, there was also a Veena with a higher tuning, i.e. in this tuning the first three strings are ignored and the fourth one tuned to Shadja has frets for three Sthanas. It was named by Govinda Dikshita as Raghunathendra-mela-veena, in honour of the King.

In the Second Chapter dealing with Srutis, Venkatamakhin ,in the traditional manner,  talks about 22 Srutis and their distribution over Seven Svaras. He explains that the 22 Srutis are not placed at equal intervals, but are placed at specific intervals depending upon the  Svara structure in the Raga. For instance, he says, the Shadja and Shuddha Rishabha on the Veena should be divided equally into three parts ; and two frets be introduced and thus three Srutis of `ri’ are seen (Sa – – ri).

The third Chapter on Svaras explains the nature of Shuddha and Vikrita Svaras. He explains the Shuddha Svaras with the illustration of Mukhari Raga having Sa, Ma and Pa having 4 Srutis; Ga and Ni having 2 Srutis; and, Ri and Dha having 3 Srutis.

As regards Vikrita Svaras, Venkatamakhin asserts that in practice there are only five in number and not 7 or 12 as mentioned in the texts of Ramamatya and Sarangadeva.  The five Vikrita Svaras according to him are: Sadharana Gandhara; Antara Gandhara; Varali Madhyama; Kaishiki Nishadha; and, Kakili Nishadha.

Dr. N. Ramanathan explains: the one interesting feature of Venkatamakhin’s descriptions of Shuddha and Vikrita Svaras is that he considers the same Svara to be different if its interval from its previous Svara is altered.

Then, Venkatamakhin goes back to the ancient Gramas – Shadja, Madhyama and Gandhara; as also to the Murchana and the Tana. He also talks about Alamkara, Gamaka and Vadi-Samvadi Svaras. In all these, he refers to the descriptions as given in the older texts. As regards Vadi-Samvadi, he applies the ancient system to his contemporary practices and gives illustrations.

The Fourth Chapter is about his exposition of Mela scheme. He tried forming as many number of Melas as possible by permuting Shuddha and Vikrita Svaras. With this, he comes up with 72 Melas. Venkatamakhin asserts that his scheme of 72 Melas comprehends all the Melas that may have existed in the past and those that might be created in future.  Out of the 72 Melas, Venkatamakhin was able to identify the Ragas of only 19 Melas. Therefore, he could name only 19 Melas; the rest were not assigned any names. These (53) he considered as theoretical possibilities, but (then, at that time) non-functional since no known Ragas could fit in to his scheme of these Melas.

[Accoring to Emmie Te Nijenhuis:  Venkatamakhin’s system of nineteen Melas closely resembles the Ramamatya’s Mela system: fifteen of Venkatamakhin’s Melas are almost identicle with Ramatya’s Melas. For instance; the Mela Bhairavi of Venkatamakhin corresponds to Hindola of Ramamatya. Similarly, Venkatamakhin’s Shankarabharanam corresponds to Ramatya’s Kedaragaula and Saranganata Melas.  However, Venkatamakhin’s Bhupala, Pantuvarali, Simharava and Kalyani are not found in Ramamatya’s system.]

While describing the 19 Melas, he also gives the Svaras and the 22 Srutis in each case. And , while naming the 19 Melas he also indicates each one’s position  (number) in his Grand scheme of 72 Melas. He starts with Mukhari which is his first Mela and also the first among the 72; 2. Samavarali (3); 3.Bhupala (8); 4.Hejjuli (13); 5.Vasanthabhiravi (14); 6. Gaula (15);  7. Bhiravi Raga (20); 8.Ahiri (21); 9.Sri Raga (22); 10. Kambhoji (28); 11. Shankarabharanam (29); 12. Somantha (30); 13. Desaki (35); 14. Naata (36); 15.  Shuddha Varali (39); 16. Pantuvarali (45); 17. Shuddha Ramakriya (51); 18. Simharava Raga (58) – an invention of Venkatamakhin; and, 19. Kalyani (65).

[The numbers mentioned in the brackets indicate the number assigned to the Mela in the overall scheme of 72 Melas.]

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. Further, during the time of Venkatamakhin the concept of Mela-karta had not yet evolved. All his discussions are in terms of the Melas.

While talking about his scheme of 72 Melas, Venkatamakhin makes very interesting remarks :

I have no doubt worked out the 72 Melas , but it might be said that this permutation is a waste , since, of these 72, only a few are known and found in practice; my reply is that I have devised a scheme which would comprehend all Ragas of all times and of all countries , Ragas now known and Ragas which might be created in future, Ragas which we do not know  at all and Ragas which are only in text books , Ragas that are Desiya Ragas and the already generally accepted Melas of those  Desi Ragas , such Ragas like Pantuvarali and Kalyani  and their generally accepted Melas – it is to comprehended all these that I have devised this scheme of 72 Melas . Wherefore should one fear that it will be futile?

[Source: Collected writings on Indian Music .Vol 2 .p.264-5 by Dr. V. Raghavan]

Yes, indeed; it was not a futile exercise at all , but a path breaking pioneering work that led to improvements and refinements of the entire theory and scheme of the Melas and their derivatives.

[Venkatamakhin’s Mela scheme was thoroughly revised later. (We shall talk about these in a little while). The concept of Mela-karta (Janaka) from which other ragas may be derived and of Raganga Ragas also came about after Venkatamakhin’s time. Following that, the rest 53 Melas which Venkatamakhin could not name were duly recognized and assigned names. And, finally 72 Mela-karta Ragas were identified and named. Along with coining names, a system of hashing (Ka-ta-pa-yadi) for identifying the Raga-number with the aid of the first two syllables of its name was also introduced.]

In the Fifth Chapter – Raga prakarana – Venkatamakhin recalls the ancient system of identifying a Ragas with ten characteristics (Lakshanas) – Graha, Amsa, Tara, Mandra, Sadava, Audavita, Aplatva, Bahutva, Apa-Nyasa and Nyasa. He again talks of the earlier classification of Ragas as Grama raga, Bhasha Raga etc.  He describes 55 Ragas picked on the basis Graha Svaras (the initial note – Adi-Svara).  He starts with Ragas having Shadja as Graha Svara, then the Ragas with Rishabha as Graha Svara and so on. In case of each Raga, he mentions the Mela to which it belongs  as also their Lakshana and Lakshya.

He gives a classified list (according to Graha, Nyasa etc) of 54 Ragas with their descriptions, their Svara structure and their Mela.

The Sixth Chapter, Alapa-prakarana talks of various stages in developing a Raga Aalapa.

The Seventh Chapter Thaya-prakarana is the briefest with only seven verses. Venkatamakhin describes Thaya (Sthaya) as a melodic phase with rich musical potential that forms the main ingredient in Raga elaboration.  AS Dr. Ramanathan explains : In the Raga-alapana , Thaya is that in which a particular Svara is taken as the stationary point from which phrases are built up encompassing four Svaras in the ascending direction and later in the descending direction and finally conclude on mandra -sa.

The Eighth Chapter Gita-prakarana is about the Gita (the song); and also about the Shuddha Suda and Salaga Suda class of Prabandha. The latter, the Salaga Suda, in particular is treated a Gita. Venkatamakhin describes seven forms of Prabandhas under Salaga Suda: Dhruva, Mattha, Pratimattha, Nisharuka, Attatala, Rasa, and Ekatali

The Ninth Chapter Prabandha–prakarana is the extension of its previous Chapter; but , it is incomplete.  Here, Venkatamakhin describes Prabandha in terms of Six Angas (limbs or elements): Svara, Birudu, Pada, Tena, Paata, and Taala;   and Four Dhatus (sections in a song): Udgraha, Melapaka, Dhruva and Abogha. Then, he goes into to the classification of Prabandha depending upon the (a) number of Angas and (b) number Dhatus of which they are composed.  He also provides number of illustrations.

The Tenth and the Last Chapter on Taala is lost.

When you look back you find that Chatur-dandi prakashika, basically, recalls the Music practise as they existed during 14th to 17th centuries.  It throws light on the history of those times and clarifies some issues. But, by the time Venkatamakhin wrote this text, many of the subjects he discussed, particularly the Prabandha, were fading away giving place to newer forms of song-formats and improvised ways of rendering the Raga and the song.

Venkatamakhin was criticized for making uncalled for remarks such as: Ramamatya could not even understand what a Sheppard could easily understand; and, that not even Lord Shiva can improve upon his Mela scheme. (He, of course, was proved wrong as his Mela scheme was revised and improved upon). During the early 20th century controversies raged over the Melas of Venkatamakhin. Some critics argued that the Kanakambari -Phenadyuti nomenclatures – the Mela names –  found in the Appendix to Chatur-dandi – prakashika though ascribed to Venkatamakhin are not actually his own** . It was also pointed out that Venkatamakhin’s Mela was already marked with Ka-ta-pa-yadi prefixes. And they said, it is not known who invented this ingenious system ; but, it could not be Venkatamakhin. Most of such controversies have now been put to rest.

[**Prof N Ramanathan in his article The Post-Sangitaratnakara Svara System (included under The Traditional Indian Theory and Practice of Music and Dance – Edited by Jonathan Katz) observes: It is unlikely that the Appendix was written by Venkatamakhin himself. One cannot sure that Venkatamakhin himself is the author of the names of the seventy-two Melas, Kanakambari, Phena- dyuti etc.,; their Janyas and their Lakshanas in Slokas.

In the Text proper, the Svaras of the Ragas Mukhari are mentioned as being all Shudddha; and, Mukhari is placed as the First Mela. However, in the Appendix, the names of the Melas are different; and, the First Mela, here, is Kanakambari. And, Mukhari Raga is listed under the Twentieth Mela. Further, under the First Mela, another different Raga (that is – Shuddha Mukhari) is given.  This seems to suggest that Shuddha Mukhari comprises only the Shuddha Svaras.

The conclusion that follows is: that in the intervening period between the writing of the Text and the writing of the Appendix, certain changes had taken place in the Svara system.  To illustrate: in the old system Ga was five Srutis away from Sa; and, in the new system, Ga was four Srutis away from Sa. Similarly, in the old system, Shuddha –rsabha was three Srutis, while in the new system it was two Srutis.  Hence, the old scale of Shuddha Svaras was different from the new one. ]

Chatur-dandi-prakashika is known and recognized today mainly because of the 72 Mela Scheme that he introduced. And, this exercised great influence in reorganizing the Ragas and the Music structure in Karnataka Sangita.  In that regard, Chatur-dandi-prakashika is a very important text.

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Mela

Mela is a Kannada word that is still in use; and, it signifies ‘group’ or ‘gathering’. There have been many attempts, at various stages in the history of Karnataka Sangita, to organize the then known Ragas by groping them into categories. The earliest known such attempt was by the sage Sri Vidyaranya (1320-1380) who in his Sangita-sara   grouped about 50 Ragas into 15 Melas.

Following Sri Vidyaranya, Ramamatya in the Fourth Chapter – Mela-Prakarana– of his Svara-mela-kalanidhi (1550 AD) introduced the theoretical framework for classifying then known Ragas into 20 Melas, the notes and names of which were taken from the prominent Ragas of that time.  This was an improvement over the system initiated by Sri Vidyaranya.

Ramamatya lists 20 Melas: 1.Mukhari; 2.SriRaga; 3. Malavagaula; 4. Saranganata; 5. Hindola ; 6. Shuddha-ramakriya; 7. Desaki; 8.Kannadagaula; 9. Shuddanti; 10.Ahari; 11.Nada-ramakriya; 12.Shuddhavarjati; 13. Ritigaula; 14. Vasantha-bhairavi; 15.Kedaragaula; 16.Hejujji; 17.Samavarali; 18.Revagupti; 19. Samantha; and 20. Kambhoji.

Ramamatya gives details of Shuddha-Svaras and Vikŗta-Svara-s occurring in each of the Mela, a list of sixty-four Janya Raga-s classified under each Mela, and the Sruti positions of Svaras in the Melas. Mukhari is established as the Shuddha-Svara Saptaka in this treatise

Later scholars, that is after Ramamatya, started computing the maximum number of seven Svara combinations they could derive (melaprasthara) based on the number of Svara positions. Here, each author computed a different number of Melas based on the number of Svarasthanas he had theorised.

For example, during the second half of the 16th century Pundarika Vittala (in his Raga-manjari) introduced Ramamatya’s 19-Mela system in North India. But, he changed the names and scales of several Melas. He wrote two treatises. One was Sadraga Chandrodaya, and the other  was Ragamanjari. In Sadraga Chandrodaya Pundarika Vittala gives 19 Melas  with  66 janya ragas ; but, in Ragamanjari he gives 20 Melas and 66 janya ragas. ( It is explained; in Ragamanjari Pundarika Vittala gives one extra Mela, because of the chatusruti Ri and kaisiki Ni combination). But, in his Sad-Raga-chandrodaya Pundarika Vittala mentions the possibility of 90 Melas.

Another South Indian musicologist who migrated to North was Srikantha who wrote his Rasa-kaumudi at about the same time. In classifying 37 important Ragas, he reduced Ramamatya’s 19 Melas to 11 or in fact to 10 as his scales of Malhara and Saranga were actually the same. His system resembled the contemporary Arabic system of 12 predominant modes (Maqam).

Then, following Ramamatya and Pundarika Vittala, Ahobala Pandita classified 122 Ragas under six Mela categories and three subdivisions: Audava (pentatonic), Shadava (hexa-tonic) and Sampurna (hepta-tonic). Hridayanarayana Deva who followed Ahobala Pandita, arrived at 12 Melas composed of two sets of six Melas depending on the number of Vikrita Svaras. Lochana Kavi also came up with 12 Melas. And, in Somantha’s Raga Vibhodha there are 960 possible Melas. Even though they all came up with this computation they found that only a limited number of these were actually used in the form of a Raga.  Therefore, Somanatha felt that 23 Melas would suffice to classify the 67 Ragas then in practice.

Thus, right from 14th century, Musician-scholars have been classifying and re-classifying Ragas into different sets of Melas, each according to his pet theory.

When you look back you will find that over a long period there had been a tendency to evolve as many numbers of Melas as possible.

The proliferation of Melas seemed to have come about because that instead of abstracting Melas from out of the Ragas in vogue, attempts were made to arrive at as many number of Svara-structures as possible out of the known Shuddha ( pure) and Vikrta ( modified) Svaras. This practice came to known as Mela –prastara (elaboration or spreading of the Melas). For instance; a Mela is basically a collection of seven Svaras. By permutation of these Svaras in varying ways one could arrive at a number of plausible Melas. Somanatha , as mentioned earlier, claimed that he could devise as many as 960  plausible Melas; but then , he found it reasonable to restrict the numbers to 23  abstracted from the then known Ragas.

This process of Mela-prastara went on till the number of Melas (or Mela-karta) settled down at 72.

Melas0001

[ For a detailed  and scholarly discussion on ‘The Mela Classification of Ragas ‘ with particular reference to Pundarika Vittala , please refer to Chapter 8 Mela system of Dr.Padma Rajagopals’s thesis.]

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One of the most important texts in that context was Chatur-dandi-prakashika of Venkatamakhin (1650), which brought the Mela system on a rational basis. It classified the Ragas according to the system of 72 basic scales (Mela). The basics of system still prevail, though with modifications.

In 1620, Venkatamakhin also corrected Ramamatya’s system by reducing it to 19 from the original 20 Melas, because he found that the notes of the two Melas were similar.

But, in the Appendix (Anubandha) to his Chatur-dandi-prakashika, Venkatamakhin mentions the possibility of classifying Ragas (Kanakangi to Rasikapriya) 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 all 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.

[There is some interesting discussion on Todi, presently, a prominent Raga in Karnataka Sangita. Venkatamakhin calls Todi an ‘outhara’ raga. He does not include Todi in the 19 Melas called as ‘praak-prasiddha melas. According to his scheme of Asampurna paddhati, Todi is the eighth raganga raga known was Janatodi.

Some scholars do not however agree with Venkatamakhin’s treatment of Todi. They point out that Todi is not a ‘northern’ Raga; and, its traces can be found in the Southern music – say in the Divya Prabandhams as Mudirnda Kurinji – though it was fully developed in the period of the Trinities.

Prof. Sambamurthy also did not agree that Todi was an outhara raga; and, he described Todi as a ‘naya ragam’- the one that offers ample scope for alapana, niraval and swaraprasthara. He said Todi was a sarvaswara gamaka varika rakti raga. Dr. S.A.K. Durga called Todi as one of the ragas having most samvaaditva (consonance) or arguably the most consonant raga.

Todi which is sung often with shadja varja and panchama varja, seems to have been among the favourites of  Sri Dikshitar’s family. For instance; Ramaswamy Dikshitar composed a padam in Todi; Muthuswami Dikshitar’s dhyana kriti in his Navarana group is in Todi; Chinnaswamy Dikshitar’s popular pallavi ‘Gaanalola Karunaala vaala’ is in Todi; and, Baluswami Dikshitar’s chittaswarams for ‘Gajavadana,’ give the essence of Todi.

Todi – formally titled as Hanumatodi is the 2nd rāga in the 2nd chakra – Netra.  It is the 8th Melakarta rāga (parent scale) in the 72 Melakarta rāga system – Sampurna paddhati. 

Sri Tygaraja who followed Sampurna paddhati, has composed about 32 kritis in Todi, with each composition starting at every single note of the three octaves. It is a very popular raga, very often sung in the concerts. Yet; Todi is known to be a difficult raga, because of the complexity in its Prayoga (execution). That, perhaps, is the reason why beginners are not taught  Todi and Saveri. ]

It is said that it was Venkatamakhin’s grandson Muddu Venkatamakhin, who gave the nomenclature for the Mela Ragas, (Kanakambari, and Phenadhyuti etc) in his Gitam called Raganga Raga Anukramanika Gitam (numbered as 15.14.1 in Sri Subbarama Dikshitar’s Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (1904). Please check page  250 /664 of the web-page / page 207 of the Book .

In 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.

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

Some say, it is likely that Muddu Venkatamakhin’s scheme grew in two stages. In the second stage the Katapayadi prefixes were added to suit the Raga-names; or the other way. The Gitas in the Raganga (Mela-kartha) Ragas bear the names with their Katapayadi prefixes.

Shri TM Krishna observes: ‘The Muddu Venkatamakhin tradition, which uses the terms Raganga Raga (equivalent term to Mela-kartha) and Janya Raga, adopts the opinion that the Raganga Raga needs to be Sampurna in either Aroha or Avaroha but non-linear (A-sampurna). It is believed that Muddu Venkatamakhin wrote Lakshanas for the Raganga (Mela) ragas and their Janyas.

Sri Muthusvami Dikshitar gave form to most of these Ragas through his compositions. As regards the A-sampura (not-sampurna) Ragas, Sri Muthusvami Dikshitar chose to change their structure in order to mitigate the ill-effects of direct Vivadi Svaras in their scale.

[Sri Subbarama Dikshitar while writing about the life of Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar (father of Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar) says he learnt Mela system from Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshitulu who was the maternal-grandson of Venkatamakhin (Vaggeyakara Caritramu, pg.25, SSP English Translation Vol.1). This Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshitulu is identified by some as Muddu Venkatamakhi.

However, Dr. R. Sathyanarayana differs. According to the dates given by Dr. Sathyanarayana (Rāgalakaam of Śrī Muddu Venkatamakhin; Introduction, pg.9) Muddu Venkatamakhin may have been born around 1650 A.D and Venkata Vaidyanatha was a younger contemporary who taught Ramaswamy Dīkṣhitar at around 1750 A.D.]

Again, during late 17th – early 18th century, a person called Govindacharya the author of Samgraha-chudamani changed the names of some Melas of Venkatamakhin

[Sri  T R Srinivasa Ayyangar  , in his introduction to Sangraha Chudamani of Govinda , edited by Pandit Sri Subrahmanya Sastry  (Published by The Adyar Library, 1938) writes : The author of this work Govinda , popularly known as Govindacharya, to distinguish him from his famous namesake , does not seem to have been known otherwise to fame. Neither his place of nativity , nor his antecedents  , nor the time when he flourished can be traced with any accuracy.

Further , Sri Ayyangar mentions : a manuscript copy of Sangraha Chudamani  was in possession of Manabuccavadi  Venkata Subba Ayyar , an immediate disciple of Sri Thyagaraja; and, it had been copied by Maha vadidyanatha Sivan and  Pattanam Subrahmanya Ayyar..

It is , therefore, very likely that Sri Thyagaraja was familiar with the text and its Mela classifications.]

Govindacharya expanded on Venkatamakhin’s Mela concept   by introducing  the  Sampoorna Meladhikara (equivalent term to Melakarta) scheme which  has a complete (sampoorna) Saptaka : both in the Arohana and the Avaroha  structure; and importantly the Svaras are to be in linear order. In this scheme, the Mela-kartas arise out of systematic permutation of the seven Svaras into the twelve Svara-sthanas

Govindacharya is also said to written lakshana-gitas and lakshana-slokas (numbering in all 366) covering 294 Janya RagasAnd, it is believed, he refined the Katyapadi prefixes by linking the Mela Ragas to their first two syllables of their names. This system of 72 Mela is the Karnataka Mela system of the present day.

Some say; while devising the system of 72 Meladhikara-s, based on 22  Srutis,  Govindacharya  adopted the nomenclatures and characteristics that were used by the musicologist Akalanka  (later than Venkatamakhin?) in his Telugu  work Sangita sara sangrahamu.   Akalanka  had developed his system on the basis of the Sruti positions in a Rudra-veena ; and, had employed the Katapayadi mode of computation. In the system devised by Akalanka, the Melakartas were complete both in the Aroha and the Avaroha. Sri  Subrahmanya Sastry beleives that Sri Tyagaraja was the first Vakgeyakara to introduce Akalanka’s  Melakartas ; and to compose Kritis , illustrative of their principles.

[Please refer to the Sangraha Chudamani of Govinda, edited by the renowned scholar, Pandit Sri S . Subrahmanya Sastry; and, published by Adyar Library, 1938. Please do read the highly educative introduction written by Sri T R Srinivasa Ayyangar.

But , there is a dispute about the very name Akalanka. Dr. V Raghavan, in the introduction to Sangita Sara Sangrahamu Tiruvenga Dakaviedited by Dr. Narendra Sharma, remarks that the name Akalanka is ‘absolutely unreal’; and, Sri Srinivasa Ayyangar might have misunderstood the opening verse of the manuscript.  He surmises that its  author might have been one Tiruvenkata , who wrote it for a Lady named Kuntalamba (page ix).

Further , Dr.  Raghavan states : there is hardly any ground for asserting that this Telugu text, in rather untidy Telugu,  is the source for Govinda. ‘ –  Page xi]

In any case :

Govindacharya’s insistence on a Sampurna Arohana–Avarohana profile lent the Mela-karta a sort of elegance. And, seen from another view, the Mela-karta scheme appears as a product of mathematical abstraction. And, naming of the Mela, the ragas, the Svaras (and introduction of Vivadi Svaras) seem rather incidental to its technical process.

Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar followed Venkatamahin’s scheme (Kanakambari-Phenadyuti); while, Sri Tyagaraja gave forms to most of the Ragas in the other scheme (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.

*

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

With these stipulations, the sequence of the Svaras in Aroha and Avaroha became the defining characteristic of a Raga. And , in about a century following the Chaturdandi-prakashika , the eminent composers , mainly the Trinity, composed Kritis in the Ragas classified under all the 72 Melas.

But , in the later period , the distinction between the Mela and the Raganga-Raga gradually faded away; and, the two concepts merged into one.

Thus, the formulation of the 72 Mela-prastara and the later auxiliaries greatly influenced the course of the South Indian classical music of the later period.

As per Shri TM Krishna: ‘Mela started out as a way to organize existing Ragas but moved to creating scales as Ragas using the Mela structure. Probably for the first time in musical history theory influenced practice. This is probably why many Ragas in performance even today are only Svara structures sans features that give a Raga an organic form’.

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Raga Pravaham  a monumental work and a reference source of immense value to learners, teachers, musician and musicologists alike, is an Index of about 5,000 Karnataka Ragas, compiled by Dr. Dhandapani and D. Pattammal. The list of Ragas is given both alphabetically and Mela karta wise. The different kramas for the same Ragas and same scales with different names are also listed.

Apart from indexing Mela-karta Ragas, Janya ragas, Vrja and Vakra Ragas and their derivatives; the Raga Pravaham lists about 140 Hindustani Ragas, which are  allied or equivalent to Karnataka Ragas.

In his introduction to Raga Pravaham, the renowned musicologist and scholar Prof .Dr. S. Ramanathan (1917-1988)-(Wesleyan University, U.S.A),  wrote :

The Raga system in Carnatic music has a long and interesting history from the time of Matanga’s Brihaddesi, where you come across the definition of Raga. The system has evolved through the centuries. Ragas like Gaula, Takka etc. are mentioned in the Brihaddesi.

By the 13th century, the Sangita Ratnakara of Sarangadeva lists as many as 264 Ragas. Here, you come across Ragas like Sankarabharana, Sri Raga, Todi, Malavagaula (which is referred to as Taurushka), and Kedaragaula etc.

In the 14th Century Vidyaranya, in his musical treatise Sangeetha Saram gives a list of fifteen Mela Ragas ; and , by the year 1550, Ramamatya in his Swara Mela kalanidhi speaks of 19 Melas and several derivatives from each of them.

In the beginning of 17th Century, Somanatha’s Raga Vibhoda; and Govinda Dikshitar’s Sangita Sudha are two important works which deal with Ragas current at that time.

In the latter half of 17th Century, Venkatamakhi, son of Govinda Dikshitar appeared on the scene; and, in his monumental work Chatur-Dandi-Prakasika expounded the 72 Mela-karta schemes, which brought the Mela Janya system on a rational basis.

In this work, he only showed the possibility of 72 Mela  kartas. But, in his scheme, a Raga could be a Mela  only in case it had all the seven Svaras either in the ascent (arohana) or In the descent (avarohana). Kedara-Gaula which is Audava Sampurna was a Mela in his scheme.

It is believed that it was Venkatamakhi’s grandson Muddu Venkatamakhi, who gave the nomenclature for the Mela Ragas, (Kanakambari and Phenadhyuti etc) in his Gitam called Raganga-Raga-Anukramanika-Gitam (found in Subbarama  Dikshitar’s  Sangitha Sampradaya Pradarsini, 1904).

Later, Govindacharya, the author of Sangraha Chudamani gave the nomenclature Kanakangi, Ratnangi etc. to the 72 Mela karta Ragas. These Melas had all the seven notes in the ascent (arohana) and in the descent (avarohana) as well. He has also given Lakshana-gitas and lakshana-slokas for many Janya Ragas.

Though the arohana and avarohana krama of a Raga does not tell us everything about the Raga, it provides the frame work on which it is built. Ragas like Sahana, Ahiri, Neelambari, Devagandhari and Yadhukula Kambhoji defy definition. But for the majority of the Ragas, the Krama helps.

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When you look back the long and interesting history of Raga in Karnataka Sangita stretching from Matanga 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, it was Ramamatya that activated the process of binding the Ragas into structured groups.  This was improved upon by Venkatamahin; and later perfected by Muddu Venkatamahin and Govindacharya. These series of concepts and their refinements have provided Karnataka Sangita a unique and a thorough theoretical foundation.

*

The voluminous  Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini by  Sri Subbarama Dikshitar (1839-1906) , the grandson of Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar , running into about 1700 pages is a source-book on Music of India , tracing the history of Music from Sarangadeva to the 20th century through a series of biographies of noteworthy musicians and music-scholars . It  also provides  exhaustive details on 72 Melas  as also tables of Ragas, Ragangas, Upanga-s, Bhashangas with their Murcchanas, Gamakas, in addition to details of the  Taalas.

The Mela system also travelled North.  Pandit  Shri Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936), a scholar and a musicologist, in his colossal work ‘Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati’ reorganized the Uttaradi or North Indian Music, mainly,  by adopting the concept of Mela system as expanded by Venkatamakhin (1660) and others  .

Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande Stamp

Bhatkhande also adopted the idea of Lakshana-geetas that Venkatamakhin and other scholars employed to describe the characteristics of a Raga. Bhatkhande arranged all the Ragas of the Uttaradi Sangita into ten basic groups called ‘Thaat’, based on their musical scales.  The Thaat arrangement, which is an important contribution to Indian musical theory, broadly corresponds with the Mela-karta system of Karnataka Sangita.

The ten basic Thaats (or musical scales or frameworks) according to the System evolved by Pandit VN Bhatkhande are (From Wikipedia):

Thaats

Thaat-2

[ It is said;Pundit Bhatkhande composed a Dhrupad (in Raga Purvi ; set to jhap tala)  in praise of Venkatamakhin and his  Chaturdandi Prakasika.

ab chatura dandi mata venkata sunave ||
dvadasa suran ke khata chakra banave || (ab chatura)
ra ga ra gi ra gu ri gi ri gu ru gu rachave ||
dha na dhi ni dha nu dhi ni dhi nu dhu nu manave || (ab chatura)
dva saptati mela prati madhyama so janita
raganga saba janaka ade kahave ||
aroha avaroha ke bheda ko sadha
bhashanga rupanga chatura upa jave || (ab chatura)

 Pundit Bhatkhande states in this composition that Venkatamakhin authored the work Chaturdandi Prakasika; and, that he modelled 12 chakras with the 12 tonal scale. He then goes on to state that Venkatamakhin  conceived of the different flavours of each of these positions (to constitute 16 swaras); he specifies three varieties of ‘ri’, ‘ga’, ‘dha’ and ‘ni’ and calls them out by name (ra, ri, ru, ga, gi, gu, dha, dhi, dhu, na, ni and nu). Bhatkhande then states that Venkatamakhin also explains the various combinatorial possibilities of ‘ra ga’, ‘ra gi’, ‘ra gu’, ‘ri gi’, ‘dha na’, ‘dha ni’, ‘dha nu’, ‘dhi ni’, ‘dhi nu’, ‘dhu nu’. In the sanchari, he states that Venkatamakhi conceived of the mathematical possibility of 72 families (melas) of ragangas (the janaka) raga-s taking into account the two madhyama possibilities (and the invariant Sa and Pa – not mentioned in the composition). Bhatkhande then states that Venkatamakhi spelled out (with authority and clarity) the murchanas (aroha-s and avaroha-s) of the various bhashanga-s and upanga-s that belonged to each family (raganga). The first and the last phrases of the composition contain the composer’s mudra (chapa) ‘chatura’. Bhatkhande adopted the pseudonym ‘Chatura pandit’ and all his compositions have the mudra ‘chatura’ built into them. This composition thus features two occurrences of the chapa. The dhatu and the matu of the composition blend extremely well and this dhrupad makes a powerful musical tribute to Venkatamakhin.

(Source  acknowledged with thanks : http://srutimag.blogspot.in/2013/07/the-chaturdandi-prakasika-and-chatura.html)

[Please check here for a comparative study of Mela-kartas and Thaats -https://bioinfopublication.org/files/articles/2_1_7_IJNN.pdf ]

whitelotusmandala

The 72 Mela-kartas

Emmie Te Nijenhuis in her Indian Music: History and Structure explains the 72 Mela-kartas.

The 72  Mela-kartas are arranged in 12 series (Chakras) each having 6 Ragas. All are having the same tonic (Shuddha Sa) and fifth (Shuddha Pa). All the Mela-kartas in the Chakras from 1 to 6 have a perfect fourth (Shuddha Madhyama; abbreviated as Ma). And, the Mela-kartas in the Chakras numbering 7 to 12 have augmented fourth (Prati Madhyama; abbreviated as Mi). With respect to the other notes in the scale Chakras 7 to 12 duplicate Chakras 1 to 6 respectively.

For a list of the seventy-two Melakarta Ragas , classified under two broad categories (Shudda Madhyama and Prati Madhyama Ragas)  ; and,  enumerated under twelve Chakras , from Indu  (1) to Aditya (12) , please click here .

The name of each of the 12 chakra suggests its ordinal number as well.

:- Indu  stands for the moon, of which we have only one – hence it is the first chakra.(Eka Indu)

:-Nētra  means eyes, of which we have two – hence it is the second (Dve Neta)

:-Agni is the third chakra as it denotes the three divyagnis (fire, lightning and Sun).They could be the three Agnis viz. Aahavaneeyam, Anvwaaharyam & Gaarhapathyam. (Tri Agni)

:-Vēda  denoting four Vedas is the name of the fourth chakra (Chatus Chakra)

:-Bāa  comes fifth as it stands for the five bāṇaa of Manmatha (Pancha bana)

:-Rutu  is the sixth chakra standing for the 6 seasons of Hindu calendar(Shad Riru)

:-Rishi, meaning sage, is the seventh chakra representing the seven sages (Sapta Rishi

:-Vasu  stands for the eight vasus of Hinduism (Asta Vasu)

:-Brahma  comes next of which there are 9 (Nava Brahma)

:-Dishi The 10 directions, including akasha (sky) and patala (nether region), are represented by the tenth chakraDishi. (Dasha Dishi)

:- Rudra  Eleventh chakra  is Rudra of which there are eleven (Ekadash Rudra)

:- Aditya Twelfth comes Aditya  of which there are twelve (Dwadasha Aditya)

[Please do read Sri S Rajam’s most wonderful illustrations of the 12 Chakras and their 72 Melakarta-s.

http://www.carnaticindia.com/images/downloads/Rasi_Pocket_new.pdf]

Each Chakra is determined by the lowest, middle or highest variety of the second (abr, Ra, Ri Ru) and third note (abr. Ga, Gi, Gu).

The six Ragas of each series are individually determined according to the lowest , middle and the highest variety of the sixth (abr. Dha, Dhi, Dhu) and seventh note (abr. Na, Ni, Nu).

In order to make a clear diction between the three varieties of notes –Ga, Dha and Ni, the vowels of these tone syllables are changed, a- indicating the lowest;  –i indicating the middle; and –u indicating the highest variety.

In short, the structure of the first (that is lower) tetrachord (purvanga) of a Raga is determined by its serial (chakra) number, while the structure of the second (the higher) tetrachord (uttaranga) is determined by the number of scale within the particular series (chakra) . Multiplying the serial (chakra) number (after having subtracted 1) by the number 6 and adding the number of the scale within the series, one arrives at the exact Mela (karta) number.

Mela Raga Chart 2

( Source : Raga Pravaham by Dr. Dhandapani and D. Pattammal)

**

Katapayadi

The schemes of 72 Mela and Mela-karta employed a system of deriving the Mela-number by referring to the first two syllables of its name. This helped in easy tracking of a Mela from among the 72. The system of assigning a prefix number to each Mela was adopted from the ancient Katapayadi formula which classifies the letters of the Sanskrit alphabets in a specified manner. It is not known who invented the ingenious Katapayadi formula. But, the system seems to have been in use at least since 7th century.

It is also not clear who introduced the practice of numbering the Melas by means of the Katapayadi prefixes. In the earlier references to Mela system (either by Sri Vidyaranya or Ramamatya or Pundarika Vittala) the prefixes were not mentioned. But, in the Appendix (Anubandha) to the Chatur-dandi-prakashika the Melas were already marked by Katapayadi prefixes.

ancient_indian_katapayadi_mnemonic_for_remembering_raga_names_

According to the scheme, the consonants have numerals assigned as per the above table. All stand-alone vowels like a (अ) and  (ऋ) are assigned to zero. In case of a conjunct, consonants attached to a non-vowel will not be valueless. The only consonant standing with a vowel is ya (य). So the corresponding numeral for kya (क्या) will be 1. There is no way of representing Decimal separator in the system.

Under this naming scheme, the number of a Mela-karta (Janaka) Raga is obtained by decoding the first two letters using the Katapaya scheme; and reversing it. For instance; For Divyamani – Di=8; and Va=4, giving 84. And reversing that you get 48, which is its Mela number. Once you get the Mela number you get its notes too

[ For more on that please check : http://rksanka.tripod.com/music/katapaya.html]

Melakarta  File by courtesy of Sri Basavarjtalwar at https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Melakarta.katapayadi.sankhya.72.png ]

Melakarta.katapayadi.sankhya.72

 Please click on the figure for an enlarged view.

Please do read the scholarly work  A Karnatik Music Primer by Dr. Parthasarathy Sriram at

 http://www.ae.iitm.ac.in/~sriram/karpri.html

References and Sources:

I gratefully acknowledge

  1. Caturdandiprakasika of Venkatamakhi by Dr. N.Ramanathan
  2. The Anukramaikā Gīta in the SSP by Sumithra Vasudev http://musicacademymadras.in/webjournal/sumithra.pdf
  3. Indian Music: History and Structure by Emmie Te Nijenhuis
  4. The “ka-Ta-pa-ya” scheme http://rksanka.tripod.com/music/katapaya.html
  5. A Brief Overview of the Evolution of Indian Music

https://sites.google.com/site/chitrakoota/Home/carnatic-music

6. Collected writings on Indian Music .Vol 2  by Dr. V. Raghavan

ALL PICTURES ARE FROM INTERNET

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2015 in Music, Sangita

 

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Music of India – a brief outline – Part Seventeen

Continued from Part Sixteen – Lakshana Granthas– Continued

Part Seventeen (of 22 ) – Lakshana Granthas – Continued

10. Pundarika Vittala

Perhaps the first Musicologist who applied Ramamatya’s system of 19 Mela (basic scales) to North Indian Music was Pundarika Vittala (16th century).

Till about the late 16th century both the South and North traditions followed the same set of texts.  Then, Pundarika Vittala a musician-scholar from Karnataka  , Karnata Desiya , (from Sathanur , around Shivaganga Hills about 50 KMs from Bangalore), of Jamadagni gotra, who settled down in the North under the patronage of Muslim King Burhan Khan  in Anandavalli  (near Nasik) in the district of Khandesh, wrote a series of books concerning Music of North India.

(Karnate Shivaganga abhidana giri nikate, Satanur-hrudaye yo gramasta janma pravarasunikarath Jamadagni yo asmita vamsa)

While in Anandavalli during 1560-1570, Pundarika Vittala wrote his famous Sad-raga-chandodaya having three Chapters: Svara-prasada, Svara-mela prasada, and Aalapi-prasada.  In this text, he introduced Ramamatya’s Mela system to the North Indian Music. He almost adopted Ramamatya’s 19 Mela (as in Svara-mela-kalanidhi)   . But, he changed the names and scales of several Melas.

Of the 19 Melas listed by Pundarika Vittala, 11 are identical with those mentioned by Ramamatya:  Mukhari, Malavagaula, Sri, Shuddhanata, Desaksi, Karnatagaula, Kedaragaula, Abhiri, Shuddhavarali, Shuddharamakri and Nadanamakri.

AS regards the other eight Melas either their notes are different or their names as well as their names are different (few of them have only one note different).  For instance; Ramamatya‘s Hejuri becomes Pundarika’s Hijeja; Similarly Vasanthabhairavi becomes Todi, and Saranganata becomes Saranga.

The Hindola Mela is entirely different in both the systems.

In his Sad-raga-chandodaya, Pundarika Vittala says that due to different application of a Svara in different Ragas, different Sthana (positions) of the same Svara in different ragas occurs. He further says that it is important to know the exact structure of Raga,

Later, when he moved to the court of the Prince Madhavasimha and Manasimha who ruled from Jaipur as the feudatory of Akbar, Pundarika Vittala wrote Raga Manjari. In his writings, Pundarika Vittala carried forward the work of Gopala Nayaka (14th century) of grafting Karnataka music on to the newly evolving North Indian music.  Raga Manjari shows a further leaning towards North Indian Music, although the set of twenty Melas is the same as in his earlier Sad-raga-chandrodaya. He adopts the typical North Indian classification of Ragas as: Male (Purusha), female (Stri) and infant (Putra) Ragas. However, in both these works as well as in the third treatise named Ragamala written in 1576 (which he says was written for one Kapila muni- Srimath Kapilamuniyarthe  kriyate Raga –maalikah) , Pundarika Vittala uses for his Shuddha scales, the notes of the South Indian Mela Mukhari 0r Kanakangi scale .

According to the great  Scholar Pandit VN Bhatkhande, : The Ragamala distinctly shows that Pundarika Vittala had come into contact with the music and musicians of North India ,perhaps   in  Delhi or Agra, because the names of Ragas  he mentions , like Chaiiri, Gowdi, Musali, Iraq, Bakharej, Yemen, Husaini, and Tirban distinctly belong to that region.

Ragini samgita border

[Prof. O C Ganguly in his Raga and Ragini (Nalanda Books, 1935; pages 54-57)  and also Chapter II Pundarika Vittala of Shodhganga   ( which is a part of  a thesis titled – The Study of Pundarika Vittala’s Treatises with Reference to the Systems of Raga Classification in Post Ratnakara Period by  Dr.Padma Rajagopal) give details of the three works that Pundarika Vittala wrote under the auspices of three successive royal patrons: (1) Sadraga-candrodaya written under the service of the Faroqi Prince Burhan Khan of Khandesh; (2) Ragamala, written probably under the patronage of the Jaipur prmces, Madho Singh and Man Singh Kacchwas; and, (3) Ragamanjari, probably composed under the patronage of Raja Mansingh Kacchwa

1. Sadraga Chandrodaya

The first one Sadraga-candrodaya was written some time between 1562 and 1599 under the service of the Faroqi Prince Burhan Khan of Khandesh which was incorporated in the Mughal empire after the seige of Asirgarh in 1599.

It is a very extensive text covering almost all the aspects of Music . It is spread over three Chapters ( Prasada) , titled as : Svara Prasada; Svara Mela Prasada; and, Alapti Prasada.

In the first chapter (Svara Prasada) Pundarika briefly describes the music-terms , such as  Nada, Sruti, Svara (defines suddha, vikruta, vadi, samvadi etc),  Grama, Murhcana, Tana prastara etc.. He also briefly discusses about graha, amsa, nyasa, apanyasa vidari, sadja as universal graha. Then he takes up various alankaras, sthaya, aroha, avaroha varieties of alankaras, etc.,

The second chapter, Svara Mela Prasada, has two sub-sections. In the first  (Svara prakarana ) Pundarika discusses about arrangement of frets on theVeena; and then, in the second section (Mela prakarana )  he takes up the description of Mela formation (paryayavriti) and number of melas formed when two, three, four and five svaras are made vikruti (mela prastara) totaling 90 melas.  In the Mela prakarana, he provides a list of 19 Melas   and their deravatives. For more on that – please click here.

In the third chapter – Alapti Prasada – Pundarika,  first describes different types of Gamakas totaling 15; and , then dicusses different varieties of sthayas and alapti, when playing of a raga on Veena.

 In this work, Pundarika deals with both the Southern and Northern systems of ragas and classifies them under nineteen Thats or parent scale, viz.: Mukhari, Malava-gaula, Sri, Suddha-natta, Desaki, Karnata-gauda, Kedara, Hijeja, Hamir, Kamode, Todi, Abhiri, Suddha-varati, Suddha-ramakri, Devakri, Saranga, Kalyana, Hindola and Nada-Ramakri. Out of these nineteen original (Mela) ragas, he attrIbutes to five of them their respective derivative forms (janya-raga).

Dr. Padma Rajagopal observes:

In Sadraga Chandrodaya he gave only 19 melas his explanations resemble those of Ramamatya, but only the names of the svaras differed. For example, Pundarika Vittala  explains the raga Kamata Gauia’s svaras as after Sa, the first svara occurs on the 6th sruti, it is in the realm of Ga, it means that suddha Ga is on the 5th sruti and the 6th sruti is sadharana Ga. The second svara occurs on the 12th sruti, he calls it as lagu Ma, but it can be also taken as one of the varieties of Ga. (he himself says that lagu Ma represents antra Ga). So he explains both svaras as Ga. But Ramamatya explains Kamata Gaula as having the same svaras, but after Sa the first svara on the 6th sruti he calls it as shatsruti Ri, the svara on the 12th sruti. Ramamatya calls it as chyuta madhyama gandhara.

As Prof. Bhatkhande remarks, “the Hindusthani musician will find this classification very interesting. He wIll find many of his own ragas in the list. Some of these latter seem to have retained their original svaras (notes) to this day.”

The work, is, therefore, of great significance for the data provided for the hIstory of the ragas. It is noteworthy, that when the author composed his works, the recognized melodies in the north far exceeded the limits of an exhaustive enumeration as is evident from the author’s remark: “Owing to the ragas being innumerable it is impossible to describe each individual one, I am reciting, here, some of them, following a particular school.”

Anantatvattu raganam pratyekam vaktumakrmah / Kesaacin-matam ashritya kati ragan vadamyaham //

2.Ragamala

In his next treatise Ragamala, written probably under the patronage of the Jaipur prmces, Madho Singh and Man Singh Kacchwas, Pundarika Vittala classifies the Ragas (Raga-Ragini Parivara) under six male ragas, and attributes to each, five ‘spouses’ (bharyyas) and five ‘sons’ (Raga putra). He also gives the details related to their Svaras, such as:  graha, amsa, nyasa etc.  He also explains the Raga structures in terms of:  nada, sruti, svara, sthana, grama, murchana, tana, etc.

In all, he covers six  Male Ragas-  with five Raginis and five Putra (sons) for each Male Raga- totaling 66 Ragas.

Male Raga: Suddha Bhairav

First Ragini: Dhannasi; Second Ragini: Bhairavi ; Third Ragini: ; Fourth Ragini: Maravi ;  and, Fifth Ragini: Asaveri .

First Son: Bhairava; Second Son: Suddha Lalita; Third Son: Panchama ; Fourth Son: Paraj ;  Fifth Son: Bangala.

Male Raga: Hindola

First Ragini: Bhupali; Second Ragini: Varali; Third Ragini: Todika; Fourth Ragini: Pratama Manjari; and, Fifth Ragini: Yavana Todika .

 First Son: Vasanta; Second Son: Suddha Bangala ; Third Son: Syama ; Fourth Son: Samantha ; and, Fifth Son: Kamoda.

Male Raga: Deshikar

First Ragini: Ramakri ; Second Ragini: Bahuli ; Third Ragini: Desi ; Fourth Ragini: Jayatasri ; and, Fifth Ragini: Gurjari .

First Son: Lalita; Second Son: Bhibas; Third Son: Saranga; Fourth Son: Ravana; and, Fifth Son: Kalyan

Mela Raga: Sri Raga

First Ragaini: Goudi; Second Ragini: Padi ; Third Ragini: Gunakri ; Fourth Ragini: Nadaramakri ; and, Fifth Ragini: Gundakri .

First Son: Takka; Second Son: Devagandhari; Third Son: Malava; Fourth Son: Sudhagouda; and, Fifth Son: Karnata Bangala.

Male Raga: Suddha Nata

First Ragini: Malava Sri; Second Ragini: Desakshi; Third Ragini Devakri; Fourth Ragaini: Madumadhavi; and, Fifth Ragini: Aberi.

First Son: Jijavant; Second Sons: Salanga Nata; Third Son: Karnata; Fourth Son: Chayanata; and, Fifth Son: Hamir Nata.

Male Raga: Natta Narayana

First Ragini: Velavali; Second Ragini: Kamboji ; Third Ragini: Saveri ; Fourth Ragini: Suhavi ; and,Fifth Ragini: Sourastri .

First Son: Malhara; Second Son: Gaunda; Third Son: Kedar; Fourth Son: Sankarabharana; and, Fifth Son: Bihagada

*

He mentions that Suddha, Chayalaga and Sankirna ragas were analysed as ragas and putras. He also gives a natural explanation to the classification. He introduced a new concept ‘gathi’ in the book, which meant movement of svaras from one sruti to another. He gives for all these ragas their svaras, colour of the body, colour of clothes, ornaments worn, tilakas in the forehead, time of the day, season for singing these ragas.

These 66 ragas probably represented the then current melodies as Pundarika Vittala found them in Northern India when he sat down to compose his work. But the Ragamala, from our point of view, is the most important document, as it is in this work that we come across for the first-time descriptive verses, actually giving the visual pictures, along with the component notes of the melodies, and also an indication of the time allocated to the singing of the ragas.

 (Please refer to Dr. Padma Rajagopal’ paper for a detailed discussion on the Raga-Ragini system of Raga classification, Please also see the Appendix : List of Raga-Ragini Parivar Ragas , according to different authors)

Further, as regards  the treatment of the Mela system in two  of Pundarika’s works – Sadraga Chandrodaya and  Ragamala – Dr. Padma Rajagopal mentions :

The difference in mela details between Sadraga Chandrodaya and Ragamala were: (1) in Sadraga Chandrodaya he gives 19 melas and in Ragamala he gives 20 melas; (2) in Sadraga Chandrodaya he introduced a new term lagu sadja, lagu madhyama, etc. and also used the conventional terms sadharana gandhara, antra gandhara, kakali Ni and Kaisiki Ni. In Ragamanjari, he introduced the new turn gathi while explaining the ragas. He clearly mentioned chatuscruti rishabha and dhaivata and suggested dvisruti rishabha and dhaivata which later on became komal. May be from his period only the fourth sruti Ri was considered as suddha for the musicologists of the north, and in the South, they considered dvisruti as suddha svara.

The details of the Mela system discussed in Sadraga Chandrodaya and in Ragamala are provided in Chapter VIII of Dr. Padma Rajgopal’s thesis

3. Ragamanjari

The third treatise, Ragamanjari, was probably composed by Pundarika Vittala under the patronage of Raja Mansingh Kacchwa and after he was introduced to the Imperial Court at Delhi. In this work, he cites twenty Melas as parents of the 64 derivatives (janya ragas). First, he gives the svaras of Mela ragas; and, then the derivative ragas. The twenty Melas are as follows: Mukhari, Soma-raga, Todi, Gaudi, Varati, Kedara, suddha-niata, Desaki, Desi-kara, Saranga, Aheri, Kalyana, Kamoda, Hijeja, Rama-kri, Hindola, Karnata, Hamira, Malav-kaisika, and Sri-raga.

But the interesting feature of this work is the recognition of the place of as many as sixteen Persian melodies ; and,  relating them to the Indian Ragas by their nearest equivalents.

Most probably, these imported melodies had already obtained a place in current Indian music of the North; and, the author only confirmed the practice by including them in his work and by indicating their characters by assigning them to their places in relation to the Indian models.

As Professor Bhatkhande remarks that the use of the locative case termination of the Indian ragas named “is intended to show that the Persian melody is not exactly the same as the Indian but that the two are founded on the same scale.” He accepts them as part of the Hindusthani system though he characterized them as “Persian” and recognized that they are “the gift from others” (parada). They are sixteen in number and are known as: Rahayi, Nisavar, Mahura, Jangula, Mahang(?), Vara, Sunhath, Iraya, Huseni, Yaman, Sarpharada, Vakhreja, Hijejaka, and Musak.

It is significant that Turuska Todi, which must have received an earlier affiliation is not mentioned in this list. On the other hand, Sarparda, which is ascribed by tradition to Amir Khusrau, is here enumerated as a new-comer… By this time, the melodies had too far exceeded in number to be confined within the limits of the six ragas and their wives.]

Together with Ramamatya’s tuning of Shuddha Mela Veena, which corresponds to the Hindustani Been (Rudra Veena), Pundarika Vittala adopted Ramamatya’s 12 semi tones (Sruti). However, in his description of the Melas, he uses more than 12 Svaras. In his works Ragamala and Ragamanjari (a small work in two Chapters : Svara and Raga)  he develops a system of 18 micro intervals, the application of which was however restricted to middle octave (madhyama saptaka).

While discussing the 18 Sruti positions, he says that the octave contains 22 theoretical Sruti positions. However, 4 of which (that is: between Shuddha Sa and Shuddha Ri , and between the notes Shuddha Pa and Shuddha Dha) should not be used in practice.  Later, Somanatha in his Raga-vibodha adopted this system of 18 notes, omitting only one note (ekagatika Madhyama) and changing the name the Vikrta notes.

[Even as late as in the 16th century, the texts usually began with the traditional description of the scales in terms of the 22 Srutis. But, in actual practice (application), the octaves seemed to have been composed of 12 basic Srutis. In Sad-raga-chandrodaya, for instance, the octave is said to contain 14 notes. But, in his description of the fretting of the Veena, Pundarika Vittala locates only 12 frets, because, he says, the other two notes would be too close to their adjacent frets on the finger board. He adds, if these two frets should be needed in any Raga, the adjacent higher fret would be acceptable, as the difference of one Sruti will not make much difference in the general effect on the Raga.]

Pundarika’s system was later adopted by the North Indian musicologists. It is likely that Somanatha’s Ragas which reflect Pundarika’s theories mostly correspond to modern Hindustani Ragas, while the Karnataka Ragas of the same name developed along different lines.

Apart from Music, Pundarika Vittala was well versed in Sanskrit literature. He is credited with compiling two lexicons: Shigara-bodhini Namamala and Dutikarma Prakasha.

Besides the above mentioned works, Pundarika Vittala may have written the following treatises the chapters of which are available in the Tanjore Sarasvathi Mahal Library: Nartana-nirnaya (written to please Akbar – Akbar-nrupa-ruchyartha krutamidam); Sangita-vrtta-ratnakara; and Vittaliya.

[ I would like to post here a short Note on Pundarika Vittala’s  Nartana-nirnaya based mainly on the work of Dr. Mandakranta Bose.

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  Regarding Nartana-nirnaya

The fame of Pundarika Vitthala rests mainly on the texts he compiled on the subjects related to Music. But, his work on dancing and dramaturgy, the Nartana-nirnaya, written in the sixteenth century, while was in the Mughal Court, is no less significant.  It is indeed a major work that throws light on the origins of some of the dance forms – particularly Kathak and Oddisi – that are prevalent today. But, it is sad that Nartana-nirnaya has not received the level of attention and depth of study that it rightly deserves.

By the time of Akbar, the Persian art and music had vastly influenced the cultural life of India, particularly the milieu surrounding the Mughal court. Though the regional traditions did exist, the Persian tradition was the dominant one.

Pundarika Vitthala, while in the Mughal Court, had the opportunity to watch. appreciate and enjoy excellent presentations of the Persian oriented dance and music. He also had the privilege of discussing varied issues related to art with the Persian scholars and connoisseurs attached to the Royal Court. 

Citing the circumstances that prompted him and that led to his writing of Nartana-nirnaya, a text about dance, Pundarika Vitthala states that he wrote the book in order to please the Emperor Akbar

Akbar nrupae icchartha bhuloke sangitam / krutamidam bahu tara bhedam sah-hrudam hrdaye sukam bhuyath // N N 53 b //.

 In the world, this simple Sangita is created with a lot of varieties in order to please the king Akbar. May it please the heart of the goodhearted ones.

The Nartana-nirnaya, an authentic text on dance and dramaturgy, written in a variety of metres (chhandas), has four chapters, one each on, rhythm (259 verses); drum (116 verses); vocal music (579 verses); and,  on dance (the largest, with 916 verses).

And, at the outset, Pundarika states that along with the various regional styles of dancing he would be describing the dance of the Yavanas, (meaning, the Persians).

In his work, Pundarika Vitthala does not confine only to the traditional dances of India and Persia; but, he also describes the various dance traditions of the different regions of India that were practiced during his time. The information he provides on regional dance forms is quite specific, in the sense that he points to the part/s of India from where the particular style came from, the language of the accompanying songs and the modes its presentation. The Nartana-nirnaya is, therefore, an invaluable treasure house on the state of regional dance forms as they existed in the sixteenth century India

Dr. Mandakranta Bose, in her very well researched paper ( The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition )  stresses the historical importance and relevance of Nartana-nirnaya; and , states   :  This text ,thus, offers us a major breakthrough in understanding both the evolution and the continuity of the art of dance;  because , it enables us to reconstruct the styles prevalent at a transitional period in the cultural history of India.

Thus, Nartana-nirnaya serves as a bridge between the older and present-day traditions of classical Indian dancing.

 **

While explaining the title of his work (Nartana-nirnaya); and the use of the term Nartana, generally, to mean ‘Dance’, Pundarika said that by Nartana he meant it to be a general class name for Dance. And, that the term Natrana would cover the three forms of Dance: Natya, Nrtya and Nrtta. The last (Nrtta) would again be subdivided into three other types:  visama (acrobatic), vikata (ludicrous) and laghu (light and graceful), identified respectively as rope-dancing, a comic dance, and a dance based on easy karanas.

Thus, it seems, while Nartana stood for the general class name; the other three were its sub-divisions.

*

As rgards the definition of these terms, Pundarika said he would be adopting those offered by Sarangadeva (11th century).

And, Saragngaseva had, in turn, followed the explanations given by the earlier writers like Somesvara, Dhananjaya and such others (perhaps from Nadikesvara too?)

According to those explanations, generally (although there were some slight variations among them):

Natya: refers to an art form that gives forth Rasa (ultimate aesthetic enjoyment) ; and, is based in Rasa – Natyam rasam-ashrayam (DR.I. 9). It gives expressions to the inner or true meaning of the lyrics through dance gestures – vakyartha-abhinayatmaka.

Nrtya: is a means of putting forth different aesthetic moods or bhava (bhavahetu or bhavashraya) or giving expression to individual words of the song through appropriate gestures and/or facial expressions  pada –artha-abhinayatmaka

Nrtta: are  display of smart looking (shobhahetu) limb movements,  in  tune with attractive and catchy Taala (rhythym) and Laya (tempo) – Nrttam Taala Laya ashrayam (DR.I. 9). But, in itself, it is devoid of meaningful content; and, is valued for its mere visual beauty of  body movements (gatrasya viksepaha).

*

Nandikeshvara (Abhinayadarpana. 1. 15-16) distinguished Nrtya from Nritta, thus:

Bhavabhinaya-hinam tu nrittamitya-abhidhyate | Rasabhava-vyanjana adi yuktam nrityam ity uchyate

And, Sarangadeva said that Nrtya and Nrtta can both be of two kinds –Tandava and Lasya (SR. 7. 28); and, while Tandava is uddhata (vigorous), the Lasya is of Lalita (delicate) movements (SR. 7. 29- 30).

But, Pundarika, in his Nartana-nirnaya, throughout, uses the terms Nrtta and Nrtya interchangeably, perhaps, because, both those dance forms involved, in some measure, the elements of abhinaya or interpretative movements.

**

But, the more significant theoretical aspect of Nartana-nirnaya is the adoption of the two sets of concepts to classify the dance forms.

Pundarika adopts Marga and Desi class  concepts into the Lakshana and Lakshya (theory and practice) of Dance, for classifying its  forms.  

And then, he introduces a novel feature (hitherto not tried by anyone else), which is the principles of Bhaddha (structured) and Anibhaddha (neither bound nor structured) for stratifying the dance forms into two separate classes.

(1) Pundarika carried forward the practice of the earlier scholar-writers who distinguished the dance forms along the lines of Marga and Desi. The term Marga (literally ‘of the way’ or ‘path’) refers to those arts that adhere to codified rules; while Desi is understood as the unregulated regional variations.   

The concepts of Marga and Desi were originally introduced into Music by Matanga in his Brhaddeshi (around seventh or eighth century) to distinguish the pure and well-structured Music (Marga) from the innovative regional melodies (Desi).

As regards the dance forms; by about the eleventh century, Somesvara adopted the Marga-Desi classification to categorize the then existing Dance forms. Later, around the same time, Sarangadeva, in his Sangitaratnakara, systematically presented the Marga and Desi forms as distinct styles of dance. 

Here, in these texts, the classical style, that is the one codified by Bharata in the Natyashastra; and, acknowledged by tradition   as the core of classical art was regarded as the Marga.  The Nrtya, for instance, was classified under Marga form of dance.

The regional and popular dance styles, with easy movements, that allowed more freedom free improvisation within the given framework were classified under Desi. Nrtta, for instance, was treated as a Desi form of dance.

Pundarika Vitthala, in his Nartana-nirnaya, also adopted the Marga-Desi classification to categorize the different dance forms. Nartana-nirnaya describes several entirely new dance forms that were popular at that time.

(2) Matanga had classified Music  into two classes – Nibhadda and Anibhadda – the one that is regulated and structured with Dhatus (elements) ; and , the other  that is not structured (un-bound).

According to Matanga’s classification:  Anibaddha Gita is free flowing music that is not restricted by Taala; it is also   free from disciplines of Chhandas (meter) and Matra (syllables); and, it does not also need the support of compositions woven with meaningful words (Pada or Sahitya). In fact, not one of these – neither Taala, nor Grammar, nor lyrics – has a role to play in the Anibaddha Samgita. Sarangadeva explains Anibaddha as Aalapa which is not bound or which lacks rules (bandha-hinatva) – Alapir bandha-hinatvad Anibaddham itirita (Sangitaratnakara: 4.5).

And the Nibaddha Gita, in comparison, is a rendering of a pre-composed structured musical composition that is governed by Chhandas and Taala; and has words (meaningful or otherwise); as also has a definite beginning and an end. In short; it is a composition (like Prabandha, Giti, and Kriti etc.)

*

Pundarika was the first scholar to apply the Nibaddha – Anibhaddha type of classification to Dance forms. That is to say; almost 1500 years after these terms came into use in music, Pundarika Vitthala’s work applied them to Dance forms in order to segregate well-structured dance forms from rather free flowing regional dances.

 While both parts followed certain rules of structure and of exposition, Anibaddha was comparatively loose in its construction since it was free of the regimen of Tala. Anibandha-nrttas are, thus ,  flexible in both form and content , within the broadly specified aesthetic frameworks .

Dr. Mandakranta Bose observes:

It would seem that the Anibandha nrttas were unlike any other dance pieces described in the literature before the Nartana-nirnaya.   The Anibandha-nrttas seemed to be short dance-sequences, using which a dancer could choreograph her own piece. Thus, they have the same function in the dancer’s choreographic design as the karanas of the Marga tradition. But, their structural principle is entirely different from that of karanas in that they are entirely flexible as to their components and structure while karanas are of course rigidly set structures.

Roughly, it would seem Bandha-nrttas denoted dances for which there already were prescribed rules; and, the Anibandha-nrttas denoted dances for which there were none or minimal.

In contrast, Bhaddha-nrtta was more rigorously constructed, bound as it was by the constraining patterns of Tala; and, was performed by dancers who were appropriately trained; and, who could interpret a composition perfectly, executing all the movements in detail and precisely as per the prescribed sequence.

Pundarika grouped under the Bandha-nrtta class those dances that were characterized by yati, tala, laya, sthana, carl and hasta etc. as prescribed in the Sastras. He enumerated twelve varieties; and, described in detail their specific movements, their structured sequences, including karanas (N2V.43a-45b)

All the other dance forms were drought under Anibandha dance form. In the Nartana- nirnaya, the Anibandha dances are described in two parts; the first consisting of twenty-one Anibandha urupas (denoting  a broad category of dance sequences formed with the karanas); and, the second consisting two Anibandha-nrtyas. Of the two Anibandha-nrtyas, one comes from Persia and the other is Raasa, which includes the form called Dandarasa (NN. 53a-b). Raasa is the only dance recorded by Pundarika which seems to have continued over centuries and is found even today in at least two regions of India, Gujarat and Manipur.

In the later times, many works on dancing followed the Nartana-nirnaya’ s approach to the categories of dance; and, that eventually became part of their conceptual framework.

*

Now, as regards the historical significance of Nartana-nirnaya; many scholars, after a deep study of the text, have observed that there is enough evidence to conclude that the text marks the origin of two major styles of India today, namely, Kathak and Odissi. Dr. Bose also concurs that such connection seems highly plausible. The text was part of the same cultural world of the Mughal court that nurtured Kathak.

 She points out that several technical terms used in Nartana-nirnaya match those used in Kathak today. And she goes on to say:

When we look closely at the technique of the dance described under the Anibandha category, we begin to see certain striking similarities with the technique of Kathak. One cannot say that the style described in the Nartana-nirnaya matches Kathak in every detail.  but one may certainly view that style as the precursor to Kathak; but the descriptions and the similarities in their techniques clearly show it to be the same as what we know today as Kathak.

The Nartana-nirnaya seems, thus, to be the proper textual source for Kathak. This claim becomes stronger still on examining points of technique, ….

 **

As regards Odissi, Dr. Bose observes that the Bandha-nrtta as practiced in the Odissi style is very similar to the descriptions given in the Nartana-nirnaya.  And, the basic standing postures prescribed in the Odissi style: Chauka and Tribhangi  . (Chauka and Tribhangi are the two main basic stances in Odissi. Chahka is a stable-wide  stance, with weight of the body distributed equally on both the sides; and, the heels facing  the center. It is said to be a masculine posture.  Tribanghi, is a graceful feminine posture, with the body bent in three-ways) . These are comparable to vaisakha-sthana and Agra-tala-sanchara-pada of the Nartana-nirnaya.  Further, some acrobatic postures still in use are: danda-paksam, lalata-tilakam and nisumbhitam (the foot raised up to the level of forehead),  and several others are found both in Odissi and in Chau dance of Mayurbhanj region of OrissaFurther, there is in the Nartana-nirnaya, the description of a dance called Batu involving difficult poses; and it is very similar to the Batunrtta, a particularly difficult dance in the repertory of Odissi.

For more on Nartana- nirnaya and other texts on Dance forms ; as also  for the details of the few mentioned here , please do read  Dr. Mandakranta Bose’s research  paper ( The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition

[Ref: Pundarika Vittala by Dr. Padma Rajagopal; Musicological Literature by Emmie te Nijenhuis; Dr. Mandakranta Bose’s research  paper ( The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition]

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11 . Raga-vibodha of Somanatha

Raga-vibodha of Somanatha (1610 A.D) is an important text in many ways. It is also an interesting link between the Karnataka Sangita of the South and Hindustani Music of the North.

Pandit V. N. Bhatkhande in his ‘A Short Historical Survey of the Music of Upper India’ writing about Ragavibodha of Somanatha says:

The date of Raga Vibodha appears to be the 3rd Asbvin Shuddha, Shaka year 1531, i.e., A.D. 1610- as given by the author.

The work clearly shows that the author had himself come under the influence of the music of Northern India. He uses in the Raga Vibodha the svara—names of both the Southern and the Northern systems of music. It is; impossible to say whether he had obtained a copy of the Raga Tarangini because the only names of his predecessors he refers to in his book are Hanuma, Matanga and Kallinatha. His use of the svara names as Tivra, Tivratara and Tivratama; and the term ‘Thata’, as a synonym for “Mela,” will also show that he had come into contact with Northern music. Somnatha Pandit, unlike the writers of his time, makes use of the Svara names Mrudu-Sa, Mrudu-Ma, and Mrudu-Pa to denote the sounds of the third Shruti of each of the notes Sa, Ma and Pa.

Ahobala in his Parijata refers to these notes  and follows Somanatha. Their works may safely be cited as instances of the tendency of those times to establish! good musical relations between the North and the South.

*

Apart from discussing theories (Lakshana) of Music, the Raga Vibodha pays special attention to practical (Lakshya) aspects of music performance. It deals elaborately with the Gamakas and Alamkaras (graces and ornamentation) that adorn and enhance the beauty of music-presentation. Though his exposition is based on the vocal styles of Gamakas and Sthaya (a characteristic phase of a song) , Somanatha excels in offering varieties of  left and right-finger-techniques for  playing on stringed instruments (Veena) –Vadana bedha –  such as, deflections , slides  and others that help to explore the limits of the subtleties that the instrument is capable of.  Veena occupies an exalted position in Raga- vibohda.

Raga-vibodha of Somanatha closely follows the Svara-mela-kala-nidhi of Ramamtya. The author himself has written a detailed commentary (titled Viveka) on his work.

The Raga-vibodha is made of five Chapters.  The first chapter deals with Sruti and Svara-s; the second with Veena; the third with Mela; the fourth with Raga; and, the fifth with Raga-rupa (structure of the raga). There are 83 verses in the First chapter; 53 in the Second; 61 in the Third; 48 in the Fourth; and, 225 in the Fifth.

 Somanatha mentions that, in his work, he has adopted the Arya Chhandas (meter) throughout, as it is the only meter that  provides the facility to express short syllables  like Sa, Ri, Ga and Ma in quick succession.

 [For a complete text of Raga-vobodha of Somanatha along with his own commentary thereupon (Viveka) as edited and translated by Pandit M Subrahmanya Sastry (Adyar Library; 1945), please click here.

 Please also do read the scholarly explanations provided by Dr. C . Kunhan Raja in his elaborate introduction to Pandit Subrahmanya sastri‘s edition of Raga-vobodha. He covers a number of technical aspects such as Sruti-s- Svara-s; Shuddha Svara; Vikrta Svara-s; their respective positions; Murchana-s; varieties of Alamkara-s etc. He also discusses the differences in the treatment of these concepts by Sarangadeva and Somanatha .

Dr. Raja explains the concept of Alamkara ; and how different Svaras are indicated in the text through notations by placing a dot or a vertical line above :

Ragavibodha Alamkara , notations

Ragavibodha notations

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While discussing the technical aspects of music and particularly Veena, Somanatha, in his commentary, offers lucid explanations and also quotes many previous authorities. He quotes mainly from Sarangadeva’s Sangita-ratnakara together with its commentary by Kallinatha. The other authorities, ‘sources’ mentioned by Somanatha include ancient Masters such as Kohala, Matanga, Hanuman and others.

 In the process, Somanatha presents the details of Art as it was practiced during his time, in comparison with what was in vogue in the earlier periods. Thus, Raga-vibodha, apart from its own merit, also serves as a valuable source-book on the history of Indian Music. Further, its Chapter Four would be of particular interest to those studying   the history of musical instruments in India.

The Raga-vibodha, a distinctive text, serves as a bridge between the music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and that of the present-day. Somanatha is, therefore, regarded by many as the most important and the most original of all the sixteenth and seventeenth century Musicologists.

Somanatha makes a very valid observation that the Shastra-s (texts on technical subjects) should present and explain the facts as they really are; and, should never twist the facts to suit it’s own views and pet opinions.

Shastranam laksha-anugruhaya pravrutvat yatra tayo viruddhah tatra shastrasya niryamitasyapi arthasya upa-lakshana-tvadina  prakarantarenaapi gatihi kartavya  I  Na tu lakshyam upekshyam I

Raga-vibodha deals with the Marga and the Desi streams of classical Indian Music. Following the earlier tradition, Somanatha describes Marga Music as that which was sought for (from the root Mrg, to search) by the gods; And, as the pristine Music that was practiced by Bharata and other sages  in the presence of Shiva . Marga, therefore, he says, is worthy of veneration.

 Margaha sa yo viricchadyoh   anvistau Bharatadi Shambhor-agre pratyukto-acharyah II 1.6 II

[Somanatha brings in the concepts of the Tantra School to explain how the sound is produced within the body-mind complex; and , is put out ( 1.10-13) : ‘ The urge to speak excites the mind; the mind strikes fire in the body ; this , in turn , sets in motion the air that resides in Brahma-granthi. This air raises up through the navel, the chest , the throat , the head and the mouth producing sound. It is only the sound which passes beyond the chest, the throat and the head that can be used for singing.

Raga Vibodha extract

About the organs of speech; and, the differences in the pitch of the sound: the twenty-two Naadi-s in the chest , produce twenty-two Sruti-s; each successive Sruti being higher in pitch than its preceding one. A similar arrangement exists in the head and the throat.

raga vibodha extract 2

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Somanatha (1610 A.D – Ku-dahana-tithi-ganita-Sake 1531)) a musician scholar hailing from Andhra Desha, son of Mudgala Suri a versatile scholar in all arts (sakala kala) , was perhaps the earliest musician-scholars to introduce the system writing notation (Raga-sanchara) to music passages in a systematic manner. Some say that Raga-vibodha is perhaps the only example before the modern times of any Indian Music using Notations. That may not be entirely correct.

[Examples of early Indian Melody in Notation occur in the 7th century Kudumiyamalai Inscriptions, the Brihaddesi of Matanga, and Sarasvathi-hrdaya-alamkara-hara of Nanyadeva of 10-11th century. Nanyadeva the ruler of Tirhut in Nepal is cited as an authority by Sarangadeva . His text not only includes descriptions of several Ragas but also about 15 examples of compositions ( called Panikas, which are of lighter nature might have been used for dancing as also for singing in groups)  with notations  for vocal rendering. The Panikas belong to a genre of music forms called Gitakas or Prakaranas of varying rhythmic patterns ( as opposed to the modern compositions set to a particular Taala). These are no longer in use. Each rhythmic suit is identified by the number of  matras (time units) , by claps and gestures to measure the time of the beats.

The Notation used by Nanyadeva are simple pitch notations by numbering the Svaras (Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni). However no distinction is made between Shuddha Ga and Antara Ga; or between the standard Shuddha Ni and Kakili Ni. Some notations are indicated by placing dots as superscripts. In some cases it is not clear; as it appears the copyists might have got confused.

For more on Nanyadeva and notations on Panika songs please the remarkable study made by D.R .Widdess in his paper :Tāla and Melody in Early Indian Music: A Study of … – jstor]

Somanatha also scripted Dhyanas the pictorial or iconographical descriptions of certain Ragas. He also outlined the norms regarding the preferred time of performance, the special characters (Raga-lakshana) or the atmosphere in regard to some 27 Ragas. Somanatha improved upon the traditional themes associated with Ragas as in the Dhyanas of Sudhakalasha and Kumbha and of the later scholars Damodara, Shubhankara and Srikantha; and, he diversified Dhyanas by relating Ragas to deities, human characters, seasons etc.

It is sad; Raga-vibodha did not get the level attention it deserved from merited composers and musicians of Karnataka Sangita. Further, the system of musical notations that Somanatha introduced was not followed upon; and it is now almost completely lost. Similarly, the Dhyanas, the ancient system of aesthetics that characterized the Ragas, were totally by  passed in Karnataka Sangita, though some norms regarding the time of performance or the special character or atmosphere of some Raga still lingers on in the Hindustani Sangita.

Somanatha largely adopted  Ramamatya’s Mela system and his Veena techniques, as also the theoretical aspects of Music as in the works of Pundarika Vittala.  His Raga-vibodha, spread over five Chapters, also follows the general plan of Ramamatya’s Svara-mela-kalanidhi and Pundarika Vittala’s Ragamanjari.

The first Chapter of Raga Vibodha closely resembles the first Chapter of Pundarika Vittala’s Ragamanjari. It summarizes the ancient terminologies in the same order. Somanatha starts in Chapter Two a discussion on tuning of the Shuddha and Madhya-mela Veena, which resembled Hindustani Bin (Rudra Veena). This Chapter corresponds to Chapter 3 of Svara-mela-kalanidhi of Ramamatya.

In Chapter Three, Somanatha mentions eleven Persian modes, just as Pundarika Vittala did at the end of his Ragamanjari. The seven out of Somanatha’s eleven names for Persian Maqamat are mentioned: Irakha, Huseni, Musali, Vakhareja, Hijeja, Puska ( or Muska) and Saraparda.

The Chapter Three of Raga-vibodha again corresponds to Chapter Four of Svara-mela- kalanidhi; of Ramamatya; and, it deals with Melas. Here, Somanatha added five  more Melas  (Bhairava, Malhara, Kalyana, Suddha-vasanta and Hammira ) to the 20 listed by Ramamatya  and deleted two Melas  ( Hindola, and Hejujji ) to bring up the net number of Melas to 23. (In this list ,  Malava-gauda  is sometimes accepted in place of Bhairava).

Somanatha’s  arrangement of 23 Mela (scales) is based on the division of the Octave (Saptaka) of 17 notes, some of which bear two names. Therefore, the 22 (theoretical) names of the notes cover only 17 actual Srutis.

Out of these, thirteen Melas are identical with Ramamatya’s Melas; and, three (Shuddhavarati, Sriraga and Karnatagaula) are slightly different from their equivalents in Ramamatya’s system.

Out of the remaining Seven Melas, three (Todi, Hammira and Saranga) corresponds to the Melas of the same name which Pundarika Vittala describes in his Ragamanjari.  Of the other four, Somanatha’s Kalyana has its equivalent in Srikantha’s system. And, Somanatha’s Mallari, Bhairavi and Vasantha Melas are not found in any of the works of his predecessors.

In Chapter Four, which corresponds to Chapter Five of Somanatha’s Svara-mela-kalanidhi, describes the individual characteristics (Lakshanas) of the Ragas. Here, after giving the division of the Ragas according to the different standards, their structure in terms of Graha, Amsa and Nyasa are presented.

Somanatha in his Raga-vibodha mentions 51 Ragas, of which 29 are used in the Music of the present-day: 17 in Karnataka Music, 8 in Hindustani and 4 in both the systemsSome scholars surmise Somanatha’s Ragas mostly correspond to modern Hindustani Ragas; and, though the names of some his Ragas resemble those in Karnataka system it is likely they developed along different lines.

Chapter 5 which is the last Chapter is the most valuable part of Raga Vibodha. Following his processor Srikantha, Somanatha gives the pictorial descriptions (Dhyana) of the Ragas and specifies their appropriate times of performance.  But, in Somanatha’s opinion a mere abstract, aesthetic picture (Devamaya rupa = Divine form) of the Ragas would not suffice. He therefore presents their sound-pictures (Nadatmaka rupa) as well through musical notations.

Thus, Somanatha has presented most interesting music examples of the history of Indian Music.  In contrast to the ancient and almost forgotten music-examples of Jati and Gramas as in the older treatise, Somanatha’s music-pictures give an insight into contemporary music practices. The notations he provides indicate various musical ornaments (Gamakas) that were played on the Veena.

The notations

Somanatha’s work is unique because right from the older times Music compositions have come down to us through Oral traditions; and,   no composition could have had musical notations. And, where their lyrics (Sahitya) were written down, they were, sometimes, marked at the top with only the names of the Ragas and Taalas in which the song was set.  Even in the case of  the Music-texts (Lakshana granthas) that described various concepts and  theories and provided illustrations ,  they  merely discussed   the Lakshanas, Svaras, of the basic scale.

However, Somanatha’s music illustrations offer more details. They not only illustrate the scale (Mela) and the modal character (Lakshana) of the Ragas but also indicate the musical ornamentation (Gamaka) and special ways of playing Veena, the left and right hand techniques, by means of particular notation symbols or signs. Since no Taala is involved in these examples, Somanatha’s explanations virtually represent written guidelines outlining    Raga Alapana and other modes of elaborations i.e. a map for improvised explorations in freestyle.

Although Somanatha’s system of notations was not generally accepted and did not lead to a common system of Gamaka-notations, his explanations and his application of various types of ornamentation (Alamkara) to Veena playing (Vadana-bheda) are indeed highly interesting. Somanatha has described twenty Vadana-bhedas plus three other terms to indicate (1) specific registrar positions (Sthana) of the Svaras and (2) phrase endings. His Vadana-bheda techniques roughly fall into four categories: (1) fingering, (2) deflection, (3) slides and (4) others.

Gamakas and Notations

Veena

The Veena techniques (Vadana-bheda) expounded in Somanatha’s work generally follows the traditional pattern. Some of Somanatha’s terms referring to the techniques have equivalents in the ancient Gamakas mentioned in Matanga’s Brhaddeshi and Sarangadeva’s Sangita-ratnakara.

Matanga, in his Brhaddeshi, while discussing about Raga-giti , one of the seven charming song-forms, he mentions that Ragagitis should be rendered with varied delicate Gamakas (lalithau–Gamakau-vichitrau); and should be adorned with Svara pronunciations, lucid, powerful and even (300); and that the Vibhasha–giti should be sung blending in the Gamakas that are pleasant on the ears (Gamakau–srotra-sukhadai-lalithairasthu) and are also delicate , according to the will of the singer (yadrucchaya samyojya)   to the delight of the people (lokan-ranjathe)- (308).

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

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

Sarangadeva in Chapter three: Prakīrņaka-adhyāya of his Sangita-ratnakara treats Gamaka in greater detail. He lists fifteen types of Gamakas (Panchadasha Gamaka): the various kinds of shake or oscillations that Svaras can be endowed with.

Narada in Sangeeta Makaranda describes nineteen Gamakas; and, Haripala in Sangeet Sudhakar describes seven Gamakas.

**

Prof. Ranganayaki Veeraswamy Ayyangar, University of Pennsylvania , (who has studied, edited and translated the manuscripts, lithograph versions and printed versions of Raga-vibodha),   in her Gamaka and Vadanabheda: a study of Somanatha’s Ragav- ibodha in historical and practical context, mentions:

among the many music treatises that describe the Gamakas, Somanatha’s Raga-vibodha is the most important because it is the only text that has an entire chapter on ornaments. Somanatha has called these ornaments vadana-bheda; and, has created notational symbols for them after having described, in detail, their realizations on the contemporaneous fretted instrument, the Rudra Veena. Further, he has exemplified the vadana-bhedas by incorporating them in his extensive music examples. Somanatha has acknowledged that his vadana-bhedas were based on the Gamakas and Sthayas (components of a raga) encountered in the Sangita-ratnakara (13thc. A.D) and  other earlier texts.

Somanatha has described twenty vadana-bhedas plus three other terms to indicate specific registral positions of the scale degrees and (phrase endings. A study of the vadana-bheda techniques indicates that most of them fall roughly into four categories, namely, (1) fingering, (2) deflection, (3) slides and (4) others… An analysis of the distribution of the various types of the vadana-bhedas in the musical illustrations in Raga-vibodha indicates that there are in each of the first three categories, at least one type that is widely distributed either singly or in combination and some that occur rarely, again either singly or in combination. Further, it also indicates that some combinations are widely distributed, whereas some others are narrowly restricted….

It is important to reiterate that Somanatha was the first theorist, in the descriptive tradition, to attempt to describe in his Raga-vibodha, instrumental vadana-bhedas based on vocal Gamakas. He was also the first to describe, with adequate notation using these vadana-bhedas, actual music of his time through extensive music examples.

*

Somanatha while describing the Veena techniques employs terms that are equivalents to the Gamakas mentioned by Sarangadeva   (Spurita – Pratihati; Kampa-Kampita; Kurulu-Parata; Uchata- Ahati; Ahota- Ahuti; Ulhasita-ghasana; Plavita-Gamaka ).

Dr. Ramanathan the noted Musician-scholar explains Somanatha’s Pratihati as equivalent to the present day Spurita. Similarly Somanatha’s Vikarsa, Dolana, Gamaka and Kampana , he says, are comparable to four types of modern Kampita: (1) Vikarsa : single deflection of the string , pulling it away from Veena fret; (2) Dolana : deflection and release allowing the string to assume its original position; (3)  Gamaka: number of slow oscillations – prolonged Kampita; and (4)  Kampa: small number of fast oscillations .

Somanatha’s Garshana is equivalent to Hindustani Ghasit and Karnataka’s ekku or erra and downward (digu) slide (jaru). Pida, heavily stressed (pressure by left hand) is Khandimpu. And, Naimnya, a heavy pluck of the string, is periya-mittu.

Dr. E. Te Nijenhuis, in her the Ragas of Somanatha, observes that Somanatha was well conversant with both the Karnataka and Hindustani systems of Music. And, eight of the twenty-nine Ragas that he dealt with in his work, are exclusively Hindustani Ragas that are still current. She also mentions that the notation systems adopted by Somanatha are admittedly more precise than most of the others in vogue; and, definitions and signs for various types of ornamentation are indeed distinctive.

Dr. Ramanathan , however, observes: It is doubtful if the Notations of Somanatha were ever used by the practicing Musicians. That is perhaps because; the Musicians of India had not felt it necessary to develop an elaborate system of notations as in the West. Up to the present day in Indian Music a great freedom is left to the performing artist in the form of Raga improvisation. In the South it might be Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi; and in the North Aalap, Jor and Gath. Even in the pre composed forms of the South (Kriti, Varnam and Padam) and of North (Drupad, Khyal and Tumri) are always rendered with improvised and elaborate ornamentation and figurative variations adorned with Gamaka (grace notes), Sangathi or Tans ( melodic variations) , Svara vistara or Sargam (sol-fa) and improvised preludes (Alapana) .

And, even in modern times, the Notation system did not come into use until the end of 19th century when the first printed books on Music of South India appeared. But at that time there was no uniformity, with each composer or editor developing his own system.

[As regards the use of staff notations for recording the classical Indian Music, the noted scholar Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (in his introduction to Sir Ernest Clements’ work the Introduction to the Study of Indian Music; Published by Longmans, Green & Co., London – 1913), observed: the publication of Indian music in staff notation, without warning that the scale is other than that usually implied by that notation, tends to the destruction of the character of that music… It is far better that the method of oral transmission should be maintained. That is because, this is the true method of learning for an artist; because , every singer so taught must be in some degree a composer (he is taught, not merely to repeat a given song, but to sing in a given mode and mood); and because, it is so great an advantage for the true musician to need no external aid to memory, such as a printed score.

Indeed, I suppose that even if we succeed in recording the greater part of Indian music as it still survives, the music itself cannot persist as a part of everyday life unless it is thus handed on as a sacred tradition.]

The Dhyanas

As regards the Dhyanas, although the earlier musicologists like Damodara, Shunamkara and Srikantha had presented Dhyanas, their descriptions seemed to have bypassed the traditional themes associated with Ragas. They switched on to Nayaka-Nayaki dramatic situations, personifying the Rasas (aesthetic experiences) particularly of Srngara (erotic) Rasa.

Somanatha obviously considered Rasa personification an important aspect of pictorial Raga description since he himself refers to eight types Nayaka-Nayaki situations or eight different states (avastha)of  Nayika in Nayaka-Nayaki relationship. Somanatha relates Abhisarika Nayika (eager to meet her lover) with Raga Bahuli; Vasakasajja Nayika (dressed up for the meet) with Raga Bhupali; and Proshitabhartruka Nayika (proceeding to meet the lover) with Raga Dhanasri. Similarly, he relates Khandita Nayika ( angry with the lover) with Raga Lalitha ; and Abhisarika ,Vasakasajja and  Uktha Nayika  with the Ragas Saurasri. He relates Dakshina Nayaka with the Ragas Hindola;  and the Proshitabhartruka  Nayika  (sojourning with lover)  with Raga  Kamodi .

Some of Somanatha’s Dhyanas resemble the ancient iconographical Raga descriptions which relate to gods. The Dhyanas of Raga s Bhairava, Kedara and Shankarabharana, for instance, refer to Shiva; the Dhyanas Natanarayana to Vishnu; the Dhyanas of Hindola and Pavaka to Krishna; the Dhyanas of Mallari to Vishnu-Krishna; the Dhyanas of Ragas Adana, Paraja and Vibhangada to Kamadeva; and the Dhyana of Vasantha to god of spring Vasantha.

Besides, Somanatha presents some very vague descriptions which do not refer to any particular deity, human character or state of mind. For instance; in the Dhyanas of the Ragas Dhavala, Gauda , Gaudi, Hammira and Pauravi.

There is an interesting Dhyana which refers neither to a deity nor to a human character. It is the Raga Chaity which personifies the month of Chaitra. This perhaps was the forerunner of the Barahmasa poetry and paintings.

One of the illustrations provided  in Chapter Four of Raga-vibodha describes Raga Abhiri (equivalent to Abheri as it is known now) as a woman (Abhira) , dark in complexion , wearing a black dress adorned with a garland of fresh flowers around her neck, attractive ear ornaments. She has a soft and a tender voice; and, wears her hair in beautiful strands. Abira is idealized as a pretty looking Gopi of the Abhira tribe of Mathura region. She is an attractive looking dark complexioned tribal girl.  In the traditional Indian Music , dark complexion of the Ragini and her  dark clothes correspond to the predominant note (Amsa) Pa

As Emmie te Nijenhuis remarks: Apparently, the ancient Indian aesthetics had already fallen into disuse. The ancient Dhyanas which associates Svaras with particular deity deities, social class, animals, sentiments, colors etc – the system reflecting the ancient Indian mystical view of life – became rather irrelevant, when in the course of time, musicians changed the modal characteristics of Raga.

After Somanatha, the ancient system of aesthetics which was already on decline was completely forgotten in the South. Modern Hindustani Music however has preserved something of this ancient system. Its rules regarding the time of performance or the special character or atmosphere of some its Raga still remind us of the ancient Indian aesthetics.

[Ref: The Rāgas of Somanātha: Musical examples. Part 2 by Emmie te Nijenhuis; Musicological Literature by Emmie te Nijenhuis; DR. S Ramanathan on Raga-vobodha

For a complete text of Raga-vobodha of Somanatha along with his own commentary thereupon (Viveka) as edited  by Pandit M Subrahmanya Sastry (Adyar Library; 1945), please click here ]

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Music of India – a brief outline – Part sixteen

Continued from Part Fifteen – Lakshana Granthas– Continued

Part Sixteen (of 22 ) – Lakshana Granthas – Continued

8. Sangita-ratnakara by Sarangadeva

Sarangadeva

Sarangadeva’s Sangita-ratnakara (first half of 13th century) is of particular importance, because it was written just before influence of the Muslim conquest began to assert itself on Indian culture.  The Music discussed in Sangita-ratnakara is free from Persian influence. Sangita-ratnakara therefore marks the stage at which the ‘integrated’ Music of India was before it branched into North-South Music traditions.

[Sarangadeva’s Sangita-ratnakara was published by Adyar Library in four volumes. Please click here for : Vol I; Vol II ; Vol III and Vol IV ]

It is clear that by the time of Sarangadeva, the Music of India had moved far away from Marga or Gandharva, as also from the system based on Jatis (class of melodies) and two parent scales.  By his time, many new conventions had entered into the main stream; and   the concept of Ragas that had taken firm roots was wielding considerable authority.  Sarangadeva brought together various strands of the past music traditions, defined almost 267 Ragas, established a sound theoretical basis for music and provided a model for the later musicology (Samgita Shastra).

Sarangadeva’s emphasis was on the ever changing nature of music, the expanding role of regional (Desi) influences on it, and the increasing complexity of musical material that needed to be systemised time and again. Yet; Sarangadeva was rooted in the prevalent musical practices of his time. His stress was consistently on the Lakshya the music as practiced than on ancient theories which though he respects them highly.

Thus, Sangita-ratnakara not only provides materials for the study of the ancient music , but it also gives an insight into the then current practices. In his writing, Sarangadeva draws a clear distinction between the well established ancient (purva prasiddha)  and the contemporary  popular (adhuna prasiddha)  Ragas. He also gives descriptions of the  structures and temperaments of   musical instruments such as Veena and Vamsa (flute ) according to the practices of his times. 

Sarangadeva gives some information about himself in the beginning of the work. Sarangadeva introduces himself as belonging to a family which hailed from Kashmir. His grandfather Bhaskara, an Ayurveda physician, moved from Kashmir into the newly found Yadava capital Devagiri (Maharashtra) in the Deccan region at the invitation of King Bhillanna V (1173-1192). After the death of Bhillanna, his son Jaitrapala or Jaitugi ascended the throne and ruled for a short period. He was succeeded in 1200 by Singhana (1200-1247). He was a very powerful king and also a great patron of arts, literature, and science. It is during his reign that Sarangadeva was appointed in his father’s (Sodhala’s) post as the Royal Accountant (Sri-karana-agrani). Along with his work at the King’s offices, Sarangadeva continued to practice the family profession of Ayurveda. He is also said to have written an Vedanta work entitled Adhyatma-viveka. That work is not available now.

During his spare hours Sarangadeva was busy composing his monumental work on Indian music the Sangita Ratnakara, the Ocean of Music. It turned out to be one of the important and comprehensive Sanskrit texts on Music of India.

The Samgita Ratnakara of Sarangadeva is a great compilation,  not an original work, that ably brings together various strands of the past music tradition found in earlier works like Nāţyashastra, Dattilam, Bŗhaddēśī, Sarasvatī-hŗdayālańkāra-hāra and one that is greatly influenced by the commentary of Abhinavagupta  the Abhinavabharathi . But for Samgita Ratnakara, it may have been more difficult to understand Natyasastra and Brhaddesi and other ancient texts. And, Samgita Ratnakara also established a sound theoretical basis for music related issues and practices. It also provided a model for the subsequent treatises to elaborate on music-theories and practices (Samgita Shastra).

**

The Sangita, according to Sarangadeva, is a comprehensive term. It includes vocal (Gitam) and instrumental (Vadyam) music; as also dance (Nrtyam) – Gitam, Vadyam tatha Nrtyam trayam Samgitam uccyate. The last one, Nrtyam, the dance, is composed of all the three elements.

 In his work Sangita-ratnakara, Sarangadeva devotes seven chapters for discussing these three components (Anga-s) of Sangita.

The Gitam, the song format, is a fusion of Nada (sounds) and Akshara (composition made of words). Its musical element is named Dhathu; while its composition made of words is called Mathu. Lohana Pandita, in his Raga-tarangini, says: – Dhatu-matu-samayauktam Gitam iti uccyate budhaih; tatra nadatmako dhatur matur akshara sambhavah’.

Gitam, going by its traditional definition, strictly belongs to the Salaga Suda class of Prabandha, which is composed two Angas (elements) – Pada (words) and Taala (time-beats); and, having three components or Dhatus (Tri-dhatuka Prabandha):  Udgraha, Dhruva and Abhoga. For more on that, please click here. But, in common practice, anything that is sung goes by the name of Gita (Giyata iti Gitam).

The term Vadyam, covers a wide variety of musical instruments, such as : the varied string instruments; different types of Drums; bell-metal cymbals ; and a host of wind instruments including  flutes, pipes , conch,  trumpets etc.

The Nrtya covers rhythmic limb movements as also eloquent gestures expressing emotions through Abhinaya. It is a harmonious combination of facial expressions, various glances, poses and meaningful movements of the hands, fingers and feet. Nrtyam, the dance, delightfully brings together and presents in a very highly expressive, attractive visual and auditory form, the import of the lyrics (sahitya), the nuances of its emotional content, to the accompaniment of soulful music and alluring rhythmic patterns (tala-laya).

 [Please also read the highly educative introduction written by the renowned scholar SriT R Srinivasa Ayyangar to the Sangraha Chudamani of GovindaEdited by Pandit Sri S .Subrahmanya Sastry ; published by Adyar Library, 1938.]

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Thus, the Samgita Shastra as envisaged by Sarangadeva was a composite art consisting Gita (melodic forms), Vadya (instruments) and Nrtta (dance or limb movements). By the time of Samgita-ratnakara, three Angas (limbs) of Samgita were well developed. Of these, the Vocal music was regarded as the essential, fundamental music through which all other forms of music were to be understood and interpreted. Here again, Sarangadeva focuses on Desi Sangita, though he comments on aspects of Marga Sangita. On Dance (Nrttya) he offers clear picture of both Marga and Desi traditions, although in a concise manner.

Sangita Ratnakara is a standard and an authoritative text; and it hugely impacted  almost all the writers in the subsequent period. It is also a reliable source book on ancient music traditions and their authors. Sarangadeva, gives an elaborate resume of the general system of Indian music in theory and practice as had been developed in the centuries previous to the thirteenth. He gives detailed exposition of th jatis, and the grama-ragas, accompanied by actual notations.

But the most valuable information that this text conveys to us is as to the ancestry of several of the ragas, whose names occur for the first time in the Sangita Makaranda and which ragas must have acquired those names some time before, say about the eighth century. The text of Sarangadeva affords the only evidences as to the sources from which these well-known ragas derive their character and existence. But for Samgita Ratnakara, it may have been more difficult to understand Natyasastra, Brhaddesi and the other texts .

The text of Sangita Ratnakara has 1678 verses spread over seven chapters (Sapta-adhyayi) covering the aspects Gita, Vadya and Nritta: Svaragat-adhyayaRagavivek-adhyaya; Prakirnaka-adhyaya; Prabandh-adhyayaTaala-adhyaya; Vadya-adhyaya and   Nartana-adhyaya. The first six chapters deal with various facets of music and music-instruments; and the last chapter deals with Dance.

The first chapter deals with Nada (the sound); the second with Raga; the third with Prakirna (miscellaneous topics relating to music); the fourth with Prabandha class of Music ; the fifth with Marga and Desi Taala systems; the sixth with Vadya (musical instruments); and the seventh chapter  on Nartana dance.

In general, Sarangadeva follows Abhinavagupta very closely.

Chapter One – Nada: What seems rather unusual for a formal text on music is that Samgita-ratnakara opens with a lengthy chapter (Svara-gathadhyaya), divided into eight Prakaranas or Sections running into more than 170 verses purportedly dealing with Svara. It does not talk much about music.  But, it goes into elaborate details of human anatomy (according to the Ayurvēda) , the centers (Sthanas) in the body associated with  origin, development and articulation of sound  – heart (Hrid), throat (Kantha) and head region (Murdha) – in three varieties of pitches – Mandara, Madhya and Tara.

The third Prakarana of the first chapter is Nada-Sthana-Sruti-Svara-Jati-Kula-Daivata-Risi-Chanda-Rasa-prakarana. It also goes into the philosophical aspects of Nada, sound, which it regards as the manifestation of the undifferentiated, absolute principle Nada Brahman. Then it talks about two forms of Nada the un-struck or un-manifest (anahata) and the struck or the manifest (ahata). The sound in the human initially commences as an impulse or an idea in the mind with an urge to express itself. That idea is individualized and activated by the mind. It takes the aid of breath (Prana), the medium, to act as the vehicle to carry that idea. When the intention (idea or impulse) strikes (ahata) a bond with breath (Prana), the un-manifest turns into manifest Nada.

The, ahata, like its prior form (anahata) is neutral Svara, sound. It is only after passing through series of processes; the Svara is differentiated into Sruti (pitch) modulations.

Srutis are units of tonal interval with which the interval of a Svara is measured. Hence the Svaras are described next. After describing the intervals of the Suddha-Svaras those of the Vikrita-svaras are given. Suddha-svaras are those which conform to the arrangements of the seven Svaras of the Shadja-murcchana of Shadjagrama. Those which differ from this arrangement are the Vikrita-svara-s. There are 7 Suddha and 12 Vikrita-svaras.

The Sruti-s (pitch) are said to be of 22 kinds of time-intervals.  When certain of these are located along the chosen octave-continuum   , modified (sharp or flattened) from their normal and highlighted, a recognizable pattern of Svaras emerge.  Here, the Prana and certain body parts play vital roles to transform Sruti into Svaras. Body is considered as an arched harp with 22 strings activated by Prana (vital breath).

Three Gramas are described – Sahdja-grama, Madhyama-grama and Gandharva-grama. The names of the Seven Murcchanas in each Grama are also given.

The sixth Prakarana is on Varna and Alankara. Varnas denote the different kinds of movements that a melodic line can take.  Four Varnas are described:  Sthayi, Arohi, Avarohi and Sanchari. Alankara-s are ornamental patterns of Svaras that decorate a melodic line. Alankaras are classified under the four Varnas.

The seventh Prakarana is Jati-prakarana in which the lakshana (characteristics) of eighteen Jatis are given. The first seven are classified into Suddha and Vikrita; and the remaining eleven  as Samsaragaja. The characteristics or the laksana-s that are used for a describing a Jati are the same ten as mentioned in Brihaddesi.

The last Prakaraņa is called the Gīti-prakaraņa. Although it is named thus it takes up the treatment of certain musical forms called Kapāla and Kambala first and then goes on to Gīti-s. The Kapāla songs are based on some derivatives of Jāti-s and they are made up of words describing the fierce form of Lord Shiva.

Chapter Two – Raga viveka: is about the descriptions of the Ragas which are treated under two broad heads of Marga and Desi. He mentions six varieties of Marga Ragas: Gramaraga, Uparaga, Raga, Bhasha, Vibhasha and Antarbhasha. He also gives a list of purva-prasiddha (well established) and adhuna-prasiddha (recently established) Ragas. Many Ragas are illustrated in notation. There are also Sanskrit compositions in notation.

But, Sarangadeva’s focus is primarily on the Desi Ragas. He describes and discusses four types of Desi Ragas: Raganga, Bhasanga, Upanga and Kriyanga.

The Gramaragas resemble the Jāti-s closely and they are further classified on the basis of the different melodic styles. These styles are called Gīti. In this chapter, the five Giti-s, namely, Suddha, Bhinna, Vesara, Gaudi and Sadharini are described.

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Vidushi Prof. Uma Garg in her Melodic Flavours According to the Season, observes: The ragas of the music (in the Hindustani system) have been categorized in many ways, such as Raga-ragini-paddhati; Thaat-raga paddhati; Raganga-paddhati etc. These classifications are technical by nature, involving the grammar of the concerned raga/ragas. But there is another classification of ragas, which does not involve the grammar of a particular raga. Instead, it focuses on its performance time. This concept is called the Time Theory of Ragas. According to this theory, performance of a raga is done in two-fold ways –according to the time of the day or according to the season of the year

The Time Theory of Ragas is a very unique concept in Hindustani Classical Music. It is a purely imaginative concept. It was developed over centuries in poetry, songs, as also in the texts of music. For instance; Nanya Bhoopala (11-12th century) in his Sarasvati-hrdaya-alamkara hara, while discussing seasonal Grama ragas, quotes Matang thus –yadah matang – 

sarve raga mahadeve samyak santoshkarakaha |hemant-greeshma-varshasu kaleshu gan-shasimiha | shadja-madhyam-gandhargrama geya yathakramam ||

All Ragas are dear to Lord Mahadeva. Yet; it would be proper to sing the songs  of shadja; madhyama ; and , gandhara gramas during winter, summer and rainy seasons.

Narada, in the third khanda of the chapter Sangeetadhyaya of his Sangeet Makranda, categorized ragas according to the suryansh (solar) and chandransh (lunar) groups, i.e. sun- and moon-based ragas. He further says –

evam kalavidhin gyatva gayedhyaha sa sukhi bhavet || ragavelapraganen raganan hinsako bhavet | yaha shrinoti sa daridri ayurnashyati sarvada

One who sings the raga-s according to their designated times, attains peace and prosperity. The raga-s themselves shall become violent and lose their attraction if sung off their times. Such (singers) become poor and live a short life

Following that tradition, Sarangdeva in his Sangeet Ratnakara, emphasized the importance of the performance of the ragas in their proper season and time.

In this chapter Raga-viveka-adhyaya, Sarangdeva laid special emphasis on the specific times and seasons for the performance of ragas. He also makes mention of the allotted times and seasons for the rendition of the ancient Gram-ragas. For e.g. he says Shadjagrama raga is to be performed in Varsha ritu; Bhinna Kaishik in Shishira ritu ; Gaud Pancham in  Grishma ritu ; Bhinna Shadja in Hemanta ritu ; Hindol in Vasanta ritu ; and, Raganti in  Sharad ritu.

**

As described by Prof. O C Ganguly in his monumental work Raga and Ragini (Nalanda Books, 1935)

Sarangadeva devotes a large section of his chapter on Ragas (raga-vivekadhyaya) to the Desi Ragas famous in ancient times (prak-prasiddha desi-ragah). He gives an historical survey of Ragas according to theancient scholars Yastika and Matanga. He then gives a preliminary list of eight Uparagas: Tilaka, Saka, Takka-saindhava, Kokila, Pancama, Revagupta, and Pancama-sadava.

Next, he gives a general list of twenty Ragas , namely : Bhavana-pancama, Nagagandhara, Naga-pancama, Sri-raga, Natta, Vangala, Bbasa, Madhyama-sadava, Raktahamsa, Kollahasa, Prasava, Bhairava·dhvani, Megha-raga, Somaraga, Kamoda, Abhra-paficama, Kandarpa-desakhya, Kakuba, Kaisika, Natta-narayana.

He then enumerates, on the authority of Yastika, fifteen melodies-which are asserted as generic ragas from which the minor melodies bhasha (raginis) are derived- (Bhasanam Janakah panca-dasaite Yiastikoditah). These are: Sauvira, Kakubha, Takka, Pancama, Bhinna-pancama, Takka-Kaisika, Hindolaka, Vhotta, Malava-kaisika, Gandhiira-pancama, Bhinna-sadja, Vesara-sadava, Malava-pancama, Tana, Pancama- sadava.

Then he proceeds to enumerate the different bashas or derivative melodies affiliated to these ragas. In the next section, he describes the further subdivisions of the melodies into Ragangas, Bhashangas and Kriyangas on the authority of Kasyapa, son of Sodhala and enumerates thirtyfour melodies. “These 34 ragas are said to have been famous in early times.” Catus-trimladime ragah prak-prasiddhah prakirtiah.

 “Now,” says Sarangadeva, “I am proceeding to enumerate those which are famous in modern times.” (Athadhuna prasiddha namuddesah pratipadyate) “The aggregate numbers of these ragas amount to 264”. Kallinatha, commenting on this list explains Desaval as equivalent to Kedaragauda, and Tauruska as equivalent to Malavagauda

**

Chapter Three: Prakirnaka: deals with varieties of topics such as: Guna –Dosha (merit and de-merits) of Vak-geya-kara (composers who set their songs to music) ; Guna –Dosha  in voice culture of male (Gayaka) and female (Gayani) singers, articulation (Sabda) and resonance in voice (Sarira); improvisations in song-rendering  by application of  ornamentations (Gamaka) of fifteen kinds*;  expressions that manifest the feelings or effects associated with Raga phrases (Sthaya) , which are of ninety-six kinds; and, Alapi  free and improvised rendering of Raga and the song  of two sorts Raga-Alapi that is not bound (Anibaddha)  or  restricted by Taala ; Rupaka-Alapi , melodic improvisation done while rendering the text of the song.

[*He recognized fifteen varieties of Gamakas- Tiripa, Sphurita, Kampita, Leena, Andolita, Vali, Tribhinna, Kurula, Ahata, Ullasita, Humpita, Plavita, Mudrita, Namita and Misrita; and, three kinds of Yatis – Sama, Srotogata or Shrotovaha and Gopuccha.]

In this Third Chapter (Prakirnaka Adhyayam- Verses 13 to 18), Sarangadeva elaborately sketches the virtues and the desired qualities of a highly accomplished singer (Uttama Gayaka) who belongs to a good tradition (Su-sampradayo). He says: the experts (gitajno) declare the best singer (gayana-agrani) as one who has the following merits: –

: – One who is gifted with good tonal quality of a naturally pleasant voice (hridya sabdah su-sareero), free of blemishes (nirdosho, sarva dosha vivarjitah); and, which is well controlled (kanta-sthala-ajnaha svadhano jita sramah);

: – One who has the diligence (kriyaparo) to workout, to regularly practice (Abhyasa);

: – One who is versatile attentive; has the capacity to hold breath effortlessly (shvasa-anayasa lasadgatih) while singing with great passion;

: – One who has the aesthetic sense to delineate, to lucidly bring out the distinctions between the various stages in the exposition of a Raga (vividha aalapti tatva vit), including its initial and finishing segments (graha moksha vicakshnaha);

: – One who is well versed in rendering (giyate) Raganga, Kriyanga and Bhashanga Ragas (Raga Raganga Bhashanga Kriyangonga kovidah); and, is highly dextrous in singing the Prabandhas (Prabandha gana nishnatau), with the full understanding of its varied forms;

: – One who is  well versed in rendering the  Shuddha and Chayalaga Prabandha compositions with all its intonations (Shuddha Chayalaga abhijnaha, sarva kaku vishesha vit);  

: – One who has the virtuosity in portraying the essence and the distinctive nature of a Raga through the different layers of the well spread out Alapti (vividha aalapti tatva vit);  

: – One who has the intelligence to improvise the Gamakas in all their movements (Sarva sthanao-ttha Gamake, sarva kaku vishesha vit, aneka sthaya sancharaha) in all the three registers (Sthanas);

: – One who has the command over observance and execution of time units (Taala), tempo (Gati); and rhythm (Laya); and,

: – One who has the capacity to hold and retain the attention of the listeners, effortlessly (sughato dharananvitah/ sphur-jannir-javano harirah krudbhanjanod adhurah)

Hridya sabdah su-sareero graha moksha vicakshnaha //3.13// Raga Raganga Bhashanga Kriyangonga kovidah / Prabandha gana nishnatau, vividha aalapti tatva vit //3.14// Sarva sthanao-ttha Gamake shvasa-anayasa lasadgatih/ Ayatta kanta-sthala-ajnaha svadhano jita sramah // 3.15 // Shuddha Chayalaga abhijnaha, sarva kaku vishesha vit  / aneka sthaya sancharaha , sarva dosha vivarjitah //3.16// Kriyaparo yukta layah , sughato dharananvitah/ sphur-jannir-javano  harirah krudbhanjanod adhurah //3.17// Su-sampradayo  gitajno giyate gayana-agrani/ // 3.18 //

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Sarangadeva remarks; the singing that lacks clarity and conviction (kathipaya-hina); but, is, otherwise, blemish-less (nirdosho) is of the adequate or passable class (madhyamā). And, the singing that is flawed and riddled with blemishes is inferior (adhama).

Kathipayai-guna-hinha, nirdosasha madhyamha / sadoshayukta gayanao adhamaha // 3.19//

Sarangadeva also mentions five other types of singers (Verses 3. 19 to 22). According to him; the one who is capable of imparting flawless instructions (shikshane dakshah) is considered a wise teacher or a trainer (Shikshaka). The one who merely mimics another’s style (para-bhangya-anukarakaha) is Anukara, the imitator. One who gets absorbed in the aesthetic delight (Rasa) of the music is Rasika, the aesthete (Rasa-avishtastu Rasiko). One who amuses the listener is Ranjaka, the entertainer. And, one who is passionately and intensely involved in bringing out the emotional content of the song is Bhavaka, the one who inspires emotions (Geetasya atishaya dhanad bhavakaha parikeertitaha).

Shikshakaro-Anukaras cha, Rasiko Ranjakas tatha //3.19// Bhavakascheti geetajnaha , panchada gayanam jaguhu / Anyuna shikshane dakshah shiksha-karo matah satam //3.20// Anukara iti proktaha para-bhangya-anukarakaha / Rasa-avishtastu Rasiko Ranjakaha //3.21// Geetasya atishaya dhanad bhavakaha parikeertitaha //3.22//

**

Chapter Four –Prabandha: is a detailed discussion on Prabandha class of Music that was dominant during the days of Sarangadeva.  He says: the Gayana (singing) is twofold – Nibaddha and Anibadda. That which is composed of Anga-s (limbs or elements) and Dhathu-s (sections) is Nibaddha Samgita. And Alapita which is free from such structures is known as Anibadda Samgita. Then he goes on to say that Nibaddha has three names: Prabandha, Vastu and Rupaka.

By the time of Samgita-Ratnakara, Prabandha had grown into thousands. Sarangadeva explained Prabandha as that which is pleasant; and that which is governed by rules regarding Raga, Taala, Chhandas, Vritta (Sanskrit verses) and Anga. Sarangadeva described about 260 types of Prabandha-s with their variations.  Sarangadeva generally followed Manasollasa and Sangita-Samayasara.

He describes the four sections (Dhathu) of a Prabandha song (Udgraha, Melapaka, Dhruva, and Abogha) along with Antara the intermediary; and its six elements (Anga) or limbs (Svara, Birudu, Tenaka, Pata, Pada and Taala) . These comprehensively cover the three aspects of a song: the text, the Raga (melody) and Taala (rhythm).

Then he takes up the discussion on class of Prabandhas: Shuddha Suda, Salaga Suda, Alikrama and Viprakirna. Of these , Sarangadeva selects Salaga Suda for detailed treatment. Sarangadeva was the first to present the class of Suda systematically, lending it a theoretical base. For about 300 years thereafter, the terms and descriptions provided by Sarangadeva were adopted by all the later authors.

He discusses seven types of Salaga Suda songs: Dhruva, Mantha, Prati-mantha, Nihsaru, Addatala, Rasaka and Ekatali.

Chapter Five – Taala: deals with time units or rhythmic patterns Taala. Sarangadeva deals with Marga Taala and Desi Taala separately.  Under Marga Taala , Sarangadeva mentions five varieties : Caccatpuţa ;  Cācapuţa ; Şaţpitāputraka ; Sampakvēşţāka ; and Udghaţţa. Under these he discusses the different aspects of the Taala such as the time-units Laghu, Guru and Pluta; the Kriyā-s; the different forms of a Taala like Ēkakala, Dvikala and Catuşkala.

After the Marga Taala, 120 varieties of Desi Taala employed in Prabandha songs are discussed.

Chapter Six- Vadya: generally follows the discussions on Music instruments (Vadya) as elaborated in Natyashastra. Sarangadeva also describes various class of instruments in terms of : Tata (stringed) Susira (hollow) , Avadhana (Drum type) and Ghana ( solid like cymbals).

Under these, he names some specific types: Tata (Ekatantrī, Citrā, Vipañcī, Mattakōkilā, Ālāpinī, Kinnari); Susira (Vamśa, Kāhala, Şańkha); Avadhana (Huḍukka, Paţaha) ; and, Ghana(Kāmsyatāla, Ghaņţā).

He also talks about the construction of these instruments and ways of playing them.

Chapter Seven– Nartana: The seventh and the last chapter is in two parts.  The first one deals with Nartana. The term Nartana is a common term representing the arts of Nŗtta, Nŗtya and Nāţya. In describing the Marga tradition of Dance, Sarangadeva follows Natyashastra. As regards the Desi class of Dance he improves upon the explanations offered in Manasollasa of King Someshwara and Sangita Samayasara of Parsvadeva

[ For more on the last and the Seventh Chapter Nartana-adhyaya, dealing with Dance : please check the following link

https://sreenivasaraos.com/2018/12/10/the-texts-of-the-indian-dance-traditions-part-sixteen/  ]

Although he follows Bharatha in describing the movements of the body, he differs from Bharatha in dividing the limbs into three categories, Anga, Upanga and Pratyanga. he follows the Manasollasa in using the term Nartana for dance; dividing Nartana into three categories : Natya, Nrtya and Nrtta (SR. 7. 3).

He also differs from Natyashastra which identifies Tandava as Shiva’s dance and Lasya as Parvati’s. According to Sarngadeva, Nrtta and Nrtya can both be of two kinds, Tandava and Lasya (SR. 7. 28). Tandava requires uddhata (forceful) and Lasya requires lalita (delicate) movements (SR. 7. 29- 30).

Sarangadeva’s description of Cari, Sthana, Karana and Angaharas of the Marga type are as in the Natyasastra. But the Desi Caris, Sthanas and Utplutikaranas are the same as those in the Manasollasa of Someshwara.

Next described are Gaundali and Perani, the two dances commonly performed in  in the Desi tradition. Here he follows Sangita-Samayasara.

Sarngadeva explains the importance of aesthetic beauty, lays down the rules of exercise, and describes the qualities and faults of a performer (including a description of her make-up and costume), and those of the teacher and the group of supporting performers. Then he describes the sequential process of a performance, including the musical accompaniment, in the pure mode or suddha-paddhati.

After describing these two dance pieces, Sarngadeva deals with the qualifications of the Acharya (the teacher), the Nata (the actor), the Nartaka (the dancer), the Vaitalika (a general entertainer), the Charana (an expert in understanding gharghara) and the Kohlatika (a performer who specializes in Bhramari, rope-walking and dancing with a dagger). Next, he describes the audience and the sitting arrangements.

In the second part of this chapter, the author describes Rasas (nine in number), Sthayibhavas (thirty-three in number) and the definition of Sattva (the essence) and Sattvikabhavas (eight in number). Sarangadeva largely follows the explanations offered by Abhinavagupta on the theories of Rasa. The chapter concludes with final prayers

The significant commentaries on the text include the Sangitasudhakara of Simhabhupala (c.1330) and the Kalanidhi of Kallinatha (c.1430).

[ Ref : 1. Sangitaratnakara of Sarngadeva by Dr.N. Ramanathan ; 2. Sangitaratnakara  of Saringadeva  translated into English with detailed notes by Dr. C. Kunhan Raja, the Adyar Library, 1945. 3. Sangitaratnakara of Saringadeva by Natalie Savelyeva.  4. The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition by Mandakranta Bose ]

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9. Swaramelakalanidhi of Ramamatya (1550AD)

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Ramamatya who described himself as the maternal grandson of the learned scholar Kallappa Desika (Vidyanidhih Kallappa Desikaste matamaho) – identified by some as Kallinatha (the author of a commentary on  Sarngadeva’s Sangita Ratnakara ) ; was the son of  Todarmalla Timmamatya (Todara-malla meaning  in Kannada – the hero-malla– who wears the honorific anklet – Todar).

Ramamatya was a noted scholar and musician in the court of the Vijayanagar King Sadashiva Raya (1542-1570). It is said; that Ramamatya was requested by Venkadri, the brother of Rama Raja the Minister of King Sadashiva Raya, to write a book on Music, particularly to reconcile the tradition and the current practices. The result of his efforts was Swaramelakalanidhi having five Chapters : Upodgata (preface),  Swaraprakarana, Veenaprakarana, Melaprakarana and Ragaprakarana with a total of about 328 couplets in Sanskrit. The text systematically deals with Svara, Veena, Mela system and Ragas. The date of the text is said to  be Shravana Shuddha 10th, Shaka year 1472, I.e, A.D. 1549.

[Please check  for the text in English script;  and here for the  text in Sanskrit  ]

Swaramelakalanidhi is a fitting introduction to the post-Sangita Ratnakara period in the history of South Indian Music. Ramamatya’s work   makes it evident that the Sangita of his time (around 1550) was yet to be influenced by the Muslim music. The Raga-vibodha of Somanatha (1609) supports this view, although Somanatha himself seemed to be getting familiar with Muslim music.

As desired by his patron, Ramamatya brings the theory up to his times, rationalizes music principles and practices). He speaks of two kinds of Music: the ancient Marga or Gandharva which was Lakshana (theory)  oriented (pradhana) and the Desi Sangita which is in practice (Lakshya pradhana). He seemed to favor the practice of Music over the theory (Lakshya pradhanam khalu Gita-shastram).

Ramamatya describes various types of Veenas used in his day as well as their tuning. He distinguishes two main types: Veena with fixed frets which that allows all the Ragas to be played (Sarva-raga-mela-veena); and, Veena on which only one Raga could be played at a time (Eka-raga-mela-veena) and for playing another Raga the frets had to be moved and re-arranged.

Besides these he mentions three other types of Veena differing in in the tuning of their main strings : Shuddha-mela-veena (Sa, Pa, sa, ma); Madhya-mela-veena (Pa, sa, pa, sa) ;   and , Achutharaya-mela-veena (Sa, Pa, sa, pa) .

An interesting aspect of Ramamatya‘s description is the method of placing the frets. Ramamatya bases his technique in the principle of Samvadi Svaras as described in in ancient texts.

Applying this principle, he introduced (svayambhuvah svara hyete na svabuddhya  prakalpitah)  the concepts of Svayambhu-Svara (self-generating note, which some say is the equivalent of the ancient Samvadi- perfect consonant)  to all other notes . Based on this he determines the positions of all the frets on the Veena. He explains that the different Shuddha and Vikrtasvaras can be derived as the Samvadi-s of one another, starting with the basic Svaras viz. Sa, Pa and Ma to which the strings of the Veena are tuned, are termed Svayambhu-Svara. And in turn, he says, the other Svaras derived through Samvadi relationship are also called Svayambhu-Svaras.(caturthasaryam samjatah svarah sarve svayambhuvah)

He also brought certain improvements into the technical aspects of Music. For instance; the ancient music-theories mentioned 22 Srutis, although only 14 were used as Svaras (notes). Ramamatya reduced the number of Srutis to 12, because, he said, the difference in pitch between Antara Ga and Cyuta Ma (prefix cyuta means lowered) and the notes were negligible. He specified the implementation of this tuning by describing the location of six frets on his Veena

Veena colour

The most important contribution of Ramamatya was in the formulation of a logical principle of classifiation of the ragas, on the basis of the common elements of their characteristic note structures. Following the precedent of Yastika (Bhasanam janaka panchca-dasaite Yastikoditah), whom he cites, he enumerates the fifteen major Ragas ; and, also indicates that these fifteen Ragas  are the father (janaka), that is to say, the genus of the minor melodies (bhasas).

This old janya-janaka system (corresponding to the raga-ragini-putra system of the North) is replaced by Ramamatya by an independent analysis of the Ragas; and, by a systematic classification based on a study of the common elements of the Svara compositions of the different varieties of Ragas, grouped (mela) according to their basic structural unity.

He clarified the distinction between abstract Mela ragas, Janaka ragas  and Janya ragas. He then combined these three concepts to identify 20 Melas under which he classified about 64 Janya Ragas.

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Ramamatya’s Swaramelakalanidhi , thus , marked the revival or a new  beginning of an era of classifying Ragas on purely music principles; and, methodically grouping them under what came to be known as Mela system. After Swaramelakalanidhi, numerous other works were written following Ramamatya‘s theories of classifying Ragas into Mela system. Thereafter, the 16th and 17th centuries grew into periods of great importance for production of Lakshna-granthas. Bringing to fore the method of classifying Ragas into Melas could be said to be the major contribution of Ramamatya.

It appears that by the time of Ramamatya, the method of deriving tunes from the complicated arrangement of Grama-Murchana-Jaati was no longer in use. Similarly, the ancient model essentials (lakshanas) for identifying a Raga based on ten criteria was no longer in practice. The ten ancient criteria (lakshanas) had then been reduced to five.

Ramamatya, in his Svara-mela-kalanidhi classified the then known Ragas into 20 Melas. His classification of Melas was based on five criteria (Lakshana). That is, Amsa (predominant note); Graha (initial note); Nyasa (final note); Shadava (sixth note); and, Audava (pentatonic structure) were no longer considered necessary.  This meant that the ancient modal system was replaced by a scalar system. Nevertheless, individual Raga continued to preserve some of their ancient modal essentials (Lakshna), in certain case even until today.

In chapter 5 , Ramamatya arranges the Ragas into three classes :  Uttama (pure or superior) suitable for singing (Giti) ,  for elaboration (Alapa) , phrasing (Taya) and for composing (Prabandha). The second was the Madhyama (middle one) Ragas suitable for singing segments of  compositions (prabandha khanda). And , the third being Adhama ( inferior)  the Ragas that are meant to dazzle the masses  ( pamara -bhramaka) ; but , unsitable for Alapa, Prabandha or Taya.

Ramamatya also mentions traditional characteristics (Lakshana)  of certain individual Ragas , such as the initial note (Graha) , the dominant note (Amsa), and the   the final note (Nyasa) ; the number of notes ( 5,6  or 7) ; and, recommended suitable time for performance.

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The germ of the idea of the genus-species system was perhaps present long before Ramamatya. But, he was the first to introduce a chapter on Mela called Mela-prakarana. In this chapter, he enumerates, the Melakas (unifiers) and then explains their characteristics.

Even prior to Ramamatya the method grouping the Ragas into Mela was in vogue. Mela is a Kannada word meaning gathering or grouping.  The practice of grouping (Mela) the Ragas according to their parent scale, it said, was initiated by Sage Sri Vidyaranya in his Sangita-sara (14th century). Govinda Dikshita (who reverently addresses Sri Vidyarana as: Sri Charana)   confirms this in his Sangita-sudha (1614). Sri Vidyaranya classified about 50 Ragas into 15 groups (Mela). The intention of the Mela system was to organize then known Ragas that were in practice. Sri Vidyaranya’s work on Melakarta system was followed up and improved upon in later times by other scholars.

Following Sri Vidyaranya, Ramamatya in the fourth Chapter – Mela-Prakarana– of his Svara-mela-kalanidhi introduced the theoretical framework for classifying then known Ragas under 20 Melas (parent scale), the notes and names of which were taken from the prominent Ragas of that time.  This was an improvement over the system initiated by Sri Vidyaranya.

Treating Ragas in terms of a Mela was possibly the most significant approach and development in musical history. Mela refers to a collection of seven Svarasthanas (Svara postions). All Ragas are Janya Ragas, and janya Ragas that have a common set of Svarasthanas are placed in the same Mela. The name of the Mela was given to the Raga among the group that was most significant or popular. At this stage, the Raga that held the title for the Mela did not need to possess all the seven Svaras; and though the Mela was referred by its name, it was still a janya Raga.

Following an older precedent, Ramamatya takes the Mukhari Mela, as the Shuddha scale and gives it the place of precedence. He said “Of all the Melas, Mukhari is the first. Other Melas are  followers” .

Ramamatya gives details of Shuddha-svara-s and Vikŗta-svara-s occurring in each of the Mela, a list of sixty-four Janya Raga-s classified under each Mela, and the Sruti positions of Svaras in the Melas. Mukhari is established as the Shuddha-svara saptaka in this treatise (For more, please see Swaramelakalanidhi of Ramamatya by Dr. N. Ramanathan)  According to Tulaja , the Karnataka Raga Mukhari (Raga as well as Mela) is the same as the ancient Suddha-sadharita.

Ramamatya lists 20 Melas : 1. Mukhari; 2. SriRaga; 3. Malavagaula; 4. Saranganata; 5. Hindola ; 6.Shuddha-ramakriya; 7. Desaki; 8.Kannadagaula; 9. Shuddanti; 10.Ahari; 11.Nada-ramakriya; 12.Shuddhavarjati; 13. Ritigaula; 14. Vasantha-bhairavi; 15.Kedaragaula; 16.Hejujji; 17.Samavarali; 18. Revagupti; 19. Samantha; and 20. Kambhoji.

[Later, Venkatamakhin pointed out that two of Ramamatya’s Melas – Saranganata and Kedaragaula – do not differ in their structure.]

In this scheme,  ten ancient model essentials (lakshanas) which had been reduced to 5 (the predominant note (Amsa); the initial note (Graha); the final note (Nyasa), the hexatonic structure (Shadava) and the pentanotic structure (Audava)) were no longer considered to be the criteria for classifying the Ragas. That meant that the ancient modal system was replaced by a scalar system. Nevertheless, individual Raga continued to preserve some of their ancient modal essentials (Lakshna) , in certain case even until today.

Such continuity in the Ragas is illustrated by the following Ragas: 1. The Karnataka Raga Mukhari (a Raga as well as a Mela) , which according to Tulaja is the same Raga as the ancient Suddha-sadharita; 2. Karnataka Raga Varali or Varati that is both Samavarali and Jhalavarali; 3.Hindustani Varari or Barai – Varati; 4.Hindustani Bhairava; 5.Karnataka Lalita; 6.Karnataka and Hindustani Dhanasri; and, 7.Hidustani Sindhubhairavi.

Ramamatya’s exposition of Mela, Raga and his technique of ‘Madya Mela Veena’ was a pioneering work in the systematic classification of Ragas. After his work, numerous others on Raga, Mela, Janya, etc were published.  Ramamatya was followed by:  Pundarika Vittala (16th century); Venkatamakhin (17thcentury); and his grandson Muddu Venkatamakhin (18th century).

Ramamatya’s work also enormously influenced Somanatha’s Raga Vibodha and Govinda Dikshitar’s Sangita Chudamani, two important works which deal with Ragas current at their time. Some regard Ramamatya, Somanatha and Govinda Dikshitar as the Trinity of Karnataka Sangita theory (Sangita Shastra).

Later scholars, that is after Ramamatya, started computing the maximum number of seven Svara combinations they could derive (melaprasthara) based on the number of Svara positions. Here, each author computed a different number of Melas based on the number of Svarasthanas he had theorised. For example, the Sad-Raga-chandrodaya Pundarika Vittala mentions a possible 90 Melas, while in Somanatha’s Raga Vibhodha there are 960 possible Melas. Even though they came up with this computation they found that only a limited number of these were actually used in the form of a Raga.  Therefore, Somanatha felt that 23 Melas would suffice to classify the 67 Ragas then in practice.

During the second half of the 16th century Pundarika Vittala (in his Raga-manjari) introduced Ramamatya’s Mela system in North India. But, he changed the names and scales of several Melas. Another South Indian musicologist who migrated North was Srikantha who wrote his Rasa-kaumudi at about the same time. He reduced Ramamatya’s 19 Melas (as Saranganata and Kedaragaula) were actually the same scale. This system resembled the contemporary Arabic system of 12 predominant modes (Maqam).

One of the most important texts in music of South India was Chatur-dandi-prakashika of Venkatamakhin (1660), which brought the Mela- Janya system on a rational basis. It classified the Ragas according to the system of 72 basic scales (Mela). This system still prevails in South Indian music, though with modifications.

In 1620, Venkatamakhin, son of Govinda Dikshitar, corrected Ramamatya’s Mela system by reducing the number of Melas from 20 to 19, because he said the notes of the two Melas Kedaragaula and Saranganata were the same. More importantly, in the Appendix (Anubandha) to his Chatur-dandi-prakashika, Venkatamakhin mentions the  possibility of classifying Ragas (Kanakangi to Rasikapriya) built on 12 Svara-Sthanas  under a  72 Mela-karta scheme made into two groups of 36 each (Shuddha Madhyama and Prathi Madhyama) . (It was at this time a theoretical possibility, since all those Melas were yet unknown.) The 72 Melas bear the names of prominent contemporary Ragas; and each of which is considered the basic scale of one or more Ragas.

It is believed that it was Venkatamakhin’s grandson Muddu Venkatamakhin, who gave the nomenclature for the Mela Ragas, (Kanakambari, and Phenadhyuti etc) in his Gitam called Raganga Raga Anukramanika Gitam (found in Sri Subbarama Dikshitar’s Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (1904).  Shri TM Krishna observes:

‘The Muddu Venkatamakhin tradition, which uses the terms Raganga Raga (equivalent term to Mela-kartha) and Janya Raga, adopts the opinion that the Raganga Raga needs to be Sampurna in either Arohana or Avarohana but non-linear. Sri Muthusvami Dikshitar gave form to most of these Ragas through his compositions.’

Again, during late 17th – early 18th century, Govindacharya the author of Samgraha-chudamani changed the names of some Melas of Venkatamakhin. He expanded on Venkatamakhi’s Chatur-Dandi-Prakashika  by introducing the Sampoorna Melakarta scheme which has a complete (sampoorna) arohana – avaroha structure. as well as delineating Lakshanas for 294 Janya Ragas, many of which were till then unknown, with their Arohana and Avarohana. In this scheme, the Melakartas arise out of systematic permutation of the seven Svaras into the twelve svara sthanas.  

Govindacharya also gave lakshana gitas and lakshana slokas for 294 Janya Ragas. And, he also refined the Katyapadi prefixes by linking the Mela Ragas to their first two syllables of their names. This system of 72 Mela is the Karanataka Mela system of the present day.

As per Shri TM Krishna: ‘Mela started out as a way to organize existing Ragas but moved to creating scales as Ragas using the Mela structure. Probably for the first time in musical history theory influenced practice. This is probably why many Ragas in performance even today are only svara structures sans features that give a Raga an organic form’.

The voluminous  Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini by  Sri Subbarama Dikshitar (1839-1906) , the grandson of Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar , running into about 1700 pages is a source-book on Music of India , tracing the history of Music from Sarangadeva to the 20th century through a series of biographies of noteworthy musicians and music-scholars . It  also provides  exhaustive details on 72 Melas  as also tables of Ragas, Ragangas, Upanga-s, Bhashangas with their Murcchanas, Gamakas, in addition to details of the  Taalas.

 Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande (1860-1936), a scholar and a musicologist, in his colossal work ‘Hindustani Sangeet Paddhati’ reorganized the Uttaradi or North Indian Music, mainly,  by adopting the concept of Mela system as expanded by Venkatamakhin (1660) in the Appendix to his Chatur-dandi-prakashika.

Bhatkhande also adopted the idea of Lakshana-geetas that Venkatamakhin employed to describe the characteristics of a Raga. Bhatkhande arranged all the Ragas of the Uttaradi Sangita into ten basic groups called ‘Thaat’, based on their musical scales.  The Thaat arrangement, which is an important contribution to Indian musical theory, broadly corresponds with the Mela-karta system of Karnataka Sangita.

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In his introduction to Raga Pravaham, Prof. Dr. S. Ramanathan (Wesleyan University, U.S.A) wrote :

The Raga system in Carnatic music has a long and interesting history from the time of Matanga’s Brihaddesi, where you come across the definition of Raga. The system has evolved through the centuries. Ragas like Gaula, Takka etc. are mentioned in the Brihaddesi.

By the 13th century, the Sangita Ratnakara of Sarangadeva lists as many as 264 Ragas. Here, you come across Ragas like Sankarabharana, Sri Raga, Todi, Malavagaula (which is referred to as Taurushka), and Kedaragaula etc.

In the 14th Century Vidyaranya, in his musical treatise Sangeetha Saram gives a list of fifteen Mela Ragas ; and , by the year 1550, Ramamatya in his Swara Mela kalanidhi speaks of 19 Melas and several derivatives from each of them.

In the beginning of 17th Century, Somanatha’s Raga Vibhoda; and Govinda Dikshitar’s Sangita Sudha are two important works which deal with Ragas current at that time.

In the latter half of 17th Century, Venkatamakhi, son of Govinda Dikshitar appeared on the scene; and, in his monumental work Chatur-Dandi-Prakasika expounded the 72 Mela-karta schemes, which brought the Mela Janya system on a rational basis.

In this work, he only showed the possibility of 72 Mela  kartas. But, in his scheme, a Raga could be a Mela only in case it had all the seven Svaras either in the ascent (arohana) or In the descent (avarohana). Kedara-Gaula which is Audava Sampurna was a Mela in his scheme.

It is believed that it was Venkatamakhi’s grandson Muddu Venkatamakhi, who gave the nomenclature for the Mela Ragas, (Kanakambari and Phenadhyuti etc) in his Gitam called Raganga-Raga-Anukramanika-Gitam (found in Subbarama Dikshitar’s Sangitha Sampradaya Pradarsini, 1904).

Later Govindacharya, the author of Sangraha Chudamani gave the nomenclature Kanakangi, Ratnangi etc. to the 72 Mela karta Ragas. These Melas had all the seven notes in both the ascent (arohana) and in the descent (avarohana) as well. He has also given Lakshana-gitas and lakshana-slokas for many Janya Ragas.

Though the arohana and avarohana krama of a Raga does not tell us everything about the Raga, it provides the frame work on which it is built. Ragas like Sahana, Ahiri, Neelambari, Devagandhari and Yadhukula Kambhoji defy definition. But for the majority of the Ragas, the Krama helps.

Mela Raga Chart 2

(Source : Raga Pravaham by Dr. Dhandapani and D. Pattammal )

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When you look back the long and interesting history of Raga in Karnataka Sangita stretching from Matanga 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, it was Ramamatya that activated the process of binding the Ragas into structured groups. This has provided Karnataka Sangita a unique and a thorough theoretical foundation.

Thus, Swaramelakalanidhi of Ramamatya occupies a significant position in the history of the development of Karnataka Sangita. And, as Dr. N. Ramanathan remarks: Swaramelakalanidhi is an important work as the information contained in it is more relevant and related to the modern practice than the books written prior to it. It is not , therefore, surprising that Emmie Te Nijenhuis lauds Swaramelakalanidhi  as a landmark  in the history of Indian Music. 

[ At the end of his work , Ramamatya says he does not treat the subjects of Taala and Prabandha because these had already been treated exhaustively by Sarangadeva .]

[Ref: 1. Swaramelakalanidhi of Ramamatya by Dr. N . Ramanathan;2. http://www.chrysalis-foundation.org/Ramamatya-s_Vina.htm 3.http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/centred-upon-centuries/article1117724.ece;4.Indian Music: History and Structure by Emmie Te Nijenhuis]

 

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[Sagītaśiromai

Sagītaśiromai is a compilation or a Handbook of Indian Music prepared by a group of scholars, based on number of older texts in Sanskrit. It is said; Sultan Malika Sahi, who ruled the region surrounding Allahabad, invited a group of scholars to his capital Kada, during the year 1428; and, asked them to prepare a large book on music  , to serve as the source / reference material,  by making use of considerable number of  ancient  texts he had collected.

The resultant work Sagītaśiromai, which to a large extent was based on Sarangadeva’s Sangitaratnakara, soon gained the reputation as a standard and a very valuable reference book on Music. And, various scholars and authors often quoted verses from Sagītaśiromai. But, in the later times, sadly, the portions of the book dealing with musical instruments and dance were lost.

Please do read the edited and translated version of the first fourteen chapters of the Sagītaśiromai, as rendered by the noted scholar Emmie Te Nijenhuis. Her edition of Sagītaśiromai: A Medieval Handbook of Indian Music is remarkable for its scholarly and detailed explanation / illustration of the principles of Indian music such as : Sruti (intonation); Svara (notes); Grama ( tone-system); Murchana (scales); Taana (tone-patterns); Sadharana (overlapping); Varna (melodic line); Alamkara (musical figures or graces); Jati (mode); Giti (styles of singing); Ragas – their  classifications and characterizations; and others.

The introduction, which Emmie Te Nijenhuis has scripted, is highly educative; and, students and scholars, alike, would certainly benefit, greatly, by reading it closely.]

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Posted by on June 5, 2015 in Music, Sangita

 

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