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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

Tiruvavuru 2

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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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Ten

Continued from Part Nine

Lakshana Granthas – continued

5, Abhinavabharati

Illustration of Abhinava Gupta by Elke Avis

The Natyaveda-Vivritti, more famously celebrated as Abhinava-bharati is the most well known commentary by Abhinavagupta on the Natyashastra of Bharata.  It is one among the handful of commentaries that are as renowned, if not more, as the texts on which they commented upon. Abhinavagupta illumines and interprets the text of Bharata at many levels: conceptual, structural and technical. He comments, practically, on its every aspect; and his commentary is a companion volume to Bharata’s text.

The earliest surviving commentary on the Natyashastra is the Abhinavabharati by Abhinavagupta. It was followed by the works of commentators like Saradatanaya (12th century), Sarangadeva (13th century) and Kallinatha (16th century). However, Abhinavabharati is regarded as the most authoritative commentary on Natyashastra ; because, Abhinavagupta provides not only his own illuminating observations and interpretations, but also gives wide range of information about the works of the scholars earlier to his period , most of which are now lost.

Abhinavagupta, who lived in Kashmir by about the late tenth and early eleventh century, was a visionary endowed with incisive intellectual powers of a philosopher who combined in himself the experiences of a mystic and a Tantric. He was equipped with extraordinary skills of a commentator and an art critic

Abhinavagupta dealt with almost every important aspect of Indian aesthetics in his two commentaries – Kavya-loka-locana (called, in short, as Locana, a commentary on the Dhvanyaloka of Anandavardhana); and, the Abhinavabharati (a detailed commentary on the Natyashastra of Bharata).

These are the two well known aesthetic works of Abhinavagupta; for which he is celebrated as the principal exponent of aesthetic theory (Rasa-vada). In his Locana, he firmly established the concept of Vyanjana -Vritti or Dhvani or the suggestive power of the words as the best form of poetic expression. And, the Abhinavabharati is the best guide to understand Bharata

These two commentaries influenced and guided the subsequent generations of authors and critics; especially in regard to the aesthetic experience (Rasanubhava). No succeeding writer or commentator could ignore Abhinavagupta’s commentary; and his discussions on two crucial chapters of the Natyashastra namely, the Sixth and the Seventh on Rasa and Bhava.

His work came to be recognized as a text of indisputable authority (Pramana grantha); and, was regarded as the standard work, not only on Music and Dance, but also on poetics (Almkara shastra) as well. Hemachandra in his Kavyanusasana; Ramachandra and Gunachandra in their Natyadarpana; Kallinatha in his commentary on the Sangita-ratnakara; and, Saradatanaya in his Bhava-prakasana, very often refer to Abhinavagupta.  The chapter on Dance in Sarangadeva’s Sangita-ratnakara is almost entirely based on Abhinava’s work. And, similar is the case with Jaya Senapati’s Nrttaratnavalli. The noted scholar Dr. V Raghavan, therefore, remarked: ‘So what is often taken today as the influence of the Natyashastra in these texts is in reality the influence of Abhinavagupta.’

*

Between the time of Bharata and the Eleventh century , many commentaries on Natyashastra were written ; and, many other independent treatise on dramatics were composed by several authors such as Kohala, Rahula, Dattila, Harsha, Nandikesvara , Varattikakara and others . But, those works are no longer extant, except for a few verses cited in the later texts on Drama, Dancing and Music.

And, many scholars who hailed from the region of Kashmir; and, who preceded Abhinavagupta, had also produced brilliant commentaries on Poetics , Music and Dramaturgy , with special reference to Rasa, Bhava, Abhinaya, Nayika Nayaka’s and construction and presentation of drama with its varieties. Among those scholars were Bhattalollata, Udbhata, Shankuka, Bhattanayaka and Kirtidhara, as mentioned in Sangita-ratnakara.

 But, sadly, all those works are no longer extant; except for a few verses cited in the later texts on Drama, Dancing and Music.

It is only through the efforts of Abhinavagupta that the works of all those masters can only be partially reconstructed through references to them in his Abhinavabharati. Further, Abhinavagupta also brought to light and breathed life into ancient and forgotten scholarship of fine rhetoricians Bhamaha, Dandin and Rajashekhara.

It is through Abhinavagupta’s quotations from Kohala, whose work is occasionally referred to in the Natyashastra, that one can reconstruct some of the changes that took place in the intervening period between his time and that of Bharata’s.

And, in regard to Dance, since a number of works on dancing that were  known to have been written after Bharata are now lost, it is difficult to follow the discussions  concerning the developments in the field  of Dancing that took place during the early period of its evolution , without the aid of Abhinavabharati.

Abhinavagupta also drew upon the later authors to explain the application of the rules and principles of Natya. For instance; he quotes from Ratnavali of Sri Harsha (7th century); Venisamhara of Bhatta Narayana (8th century); as also cites examples from Tapaas-vatsa-rajam of Ananga Harsa Amataraja  (8th century) and Krtyaravanam .

In addition, Abhinavagupta introduced many improvements and new thoughts into the system of Sanskrit literary criticism, which have been accepted by all the later writes and commentators, beginning with Mammata Bhatta in the eleventh century and ending with Jagannatha Pandita in the 17th century

The  Abhinavabharati thus serves as a bridge between the world of the ancient and forgotten wisdom and the scholarship of the succeeding generations. And, Abhinavagupta himself said that he wrote the commentary in order to save and perpetuate the ancient tradition.

Evam anyad api ūhyam iti an-upayogyāt samasta na likhitam āgama-bhrasa-rakanāya tu di nirupitā

abhinavabharati

The Abhinavabharati, though basically a commentary on and a companion volume to Bharata’s Natyashastra, is, for all purposes, an independent work in its own right. It, again, is a detailed exposition on various subjects such as: drama, dance, poetry, music, art, prosody and also aesthetics with reference to Anandavardhana’s Dhvanyaloka (820-890). Abhinavagupta comments on a range of subjects, at different levels. He cites and discusses the views of many ancient authorities who wrote on drama, dance, music etc. He illustrates the principles and its application in Natya, through examples taken from well-known Dramatic works.

Abhinavagupta not only expands on Bharata, but also interprets him in the light of his own experience and knowledge; and, also with references to the then current practices. And, at many places, he differs from Bharata; and, introduces concepts and practices that were not present during Bharata’s time. For instance; the concept of minor dramas was absent in the Natyashastra. But, Abhinavagupta, in his commentary, speaks of minor categories of drama (Uparupakas); and calls them as Nrtta-kavya and Raga-kavya. These were the type of plays where the narration through Dance and Music is prominent.  

Similarly, Abhinavagupta provides the details of several dance forms that are mentioned but not described in the Natyashastra. For instance; he describes Bhadrasana, one of the group dances termed Pindibandha by Bharata but not described by him- piṇḍīnā vividhā yoniryantra bhadrāsana tathā NS.4. 290

Abhinavagupta, thus, comments, practically, on every aspect of Natyashastra. Further, he brings in the concepts of his School pratyabhijna, while interpreting Bharata’s text.

The works of the later writers (such as: Mammata, Hemachandra, Saradatanaya and others) clearly bear the influence of Abhinavagupta.

[Dr. Mandakranta Bose, who examined the text critically, observes: Even though his commentary is illuminating in general, there are places where his explanations are not enough to visualize the movements he describes. Since the edited text is often corrupt, the task of understanding is even harder. The movements are sometimes unclear and impossible to reproduce. However, as the single extant commentary on Bharata’s seminal text, Abhinavagupta’s work has exerted great influence on subsequent writers on dance, drama and on Alamkara as well.]

*

The importance of Abhinavagupta’s work can hardly be overstated. And, Abhinavabharati is the best guide to understand Bharata. The learned scholar Dr. K Krishnamoorthy in his Indian Literary Theories (1985) writes:

If Bharata is the father figure hallowed by the tradition, and revered by all the later writers; Abhinavagupta is the sole interpreter to us of not only Bharata’s thoughts, but also of the writers of those authors over several centuries ,  between the time of Bharata and Abhinavagupta, since he sums up all the traditions of various Schools and enlivens it by his own illuminating and original thinking.

His work is the only source for all the accumulated knowledge of on the subject in the golden age of Indian history. There is perhaps no other single work in the wide range of literary, technical and philosophical treatise that matches the Abhinavabharati. Such is the incandescent lustre of the far- flung genius of Abhinavagupta.

If Bharata is the Panini of the Indian theatrical lore, then Abhinavagupta is his Patanjali. His work is not a mere commentary; but, often an original dissertation.

Abinavagupta - Version 3

The Abhinava-bharati follows the Natyashastra, chapter by chapter, except for the Seventh, the Eighth, and the Thirty-third to Thirty-seventh.

Abhinavagupta’s text ends with Chapter Thirty-seven while most of the other versions of the text end with the Thirty-sixth. At the commencement of his commentary, Abhinavagupta mentions that the Natyashastra of Bharata consists Thirty-six Chapters. Thereafter, at the beginning of each successive Chapter of his commentary, he praises the deity representing the corresponding Tattva, beginning with Bhumi or Prithi, the principle of Earth. And, the last Chapter of his commentary, that is the Thirty-seventh, commences with salutations to Anuttara, the Supreme Reality beyond which there is nothing, therefore, free from all limitations – Na vidyate uttaram prana prati vacorupam yatra. And, Anuttara is Parama Shiva, the Absolute, the primal source of all existence.

[The 36 Tattvas as per Kashmir Shaiva philosophy are : Five Physical Elements or Mahabhuta (Prithvi, Jala, Agni, Vayu and Akasha); Five sensations or Tanmatras (Rupa, Sparsha , Rasa, Gandha, and Sabda); Five sense organs or Jnanedriyas (Upastha, Payu, Pada, Pani and Vac); Five Sense experiences (Grahana, Tvacha, Rasana, Chakshu, and Srotra); Three mental functions (Manas, Ahamkara and Buddhi); Prakrti; Purusha; Six limited individual experiences (Niyati, Kala, Raga, Vidya, Kala and Maya); Five Tattvas of Universal experience (Shudda vidya, Isvara, Sadashiva , Shakthi and Shiva)- please check here  and then go to page 25 of the Book (page 36  of PDF document).]

The reason for the extension of the number in Abhinava-bharati seems to be that the Shaiva Siddantha recognizes Thirty-six Tattvas (principles); and  when that is extended, the  Thirty-seventh  is said to represent the concept of Anuttara (the ultimate or nothing beyond) a doctrine of the Pratyabhijna System of philosophy propounded by Utpaladeva the Parama-guru (the teacher’s teacher) of Abhinavagupta

Of the thirty-seven Chapters in the Natyashastra; about twelve Chapters are related to Dance. They are the Chapter numbers: 4, 5, 8-13, 19, 21, 22, 25 and 31.

[Please click here for volumes of Natyashastra with commentary of Abhinavabharati: For Volume One by Dr. K .Krishnamoorthy; For Volume Two by Pandit M. Ramakrishna Kavi; and, Volume Three by Pandit M. Ramakrishna Kavi.]

Umasadashivamurti

As regards the Angikabhinaya, Abhinavagupta, generally, follows Bharata, rather closely.

In the Fourth Chapter of his commentary, Abhinavagupta deals with the definition and the division of 108 Karanas which constitute the fundamental dancing poses.

Abhinavagupta explains: Karana is indeed the harmonious combination (sam-militam) of Gati (movement of feet), Sthanaka (stance), Cari (foot position) and Nrtta-hastha (hand-gestures)

Gatau tu Caryah / purvakaye tu Gatau Nrttahastha drusta-yashcha / sthithau pathakadyaha tena Gati-Sthithi – sam-militam Karanam

As regards Gati (gait) , Abhinavagupta also mentions that in the Nrtta though the Gati could generally follow the Natyadharmi, one should also keep in view the context of the times, the situation (desham, kalam) and the prevalent practices

Cari, Mandala prasangasya chitta-vrttitvad Gati viniyoga meva pratijanite/ Gatisha prakrutim rasa-avastham desham kalam cha apekshya vakthavya prati purusha abhidanath

According to Abhinavagupta, Karaa is action (Kriyā Karaam); and, as the very life (jivitam) of Ntta, the pure dance movements. It is a Kriya, an act which starts from a given place and terminates after reaching the proper one. It involves both the static and dynamic aspects: pose (Sthiti) and movement (Gati).

And that is why, he says, Karaa is called as ‘Ntta Karaa’. Such throws (kepa) of the limbs must be guided by a sense of beauty and grace (vilasa-ksepasya). A Karana has to be intellectually and spiritually satisfying. The word nttasya in Bharata’s definition is meant to emphasize this aspect of dance.

Kriya karanam. Kasya kriya. nrttasya gatranam vilasakhepasya heyopadeya visaya kriya adibhyaf; vyatirikta ya tatkriya karanam itya artha.

According to him, the Sthanaka (posture), Cari (foot-position) and Nrtta-hastha (hand-movements) can be compared to subject (kartru-pada), object (Karma-pada) and verb (Kriya-pada) in a meaningful sentence; while the resultant Karana could be compared to a sentence.

As regards Recakas (circular movement of a limb), Abhinavagupta says: it is through the Recakas that the Karanas and the Angaharas derive their beauty and grace. He gives some guidelines to be observed while performing a Recaka of the foot (Pada-recaka) , neck (Griva-recaka) and the hands (Hastha-recaka) .

According to him; while performing the Recaka of the foot one should pay attention to the movements of the big toe; in the Recaka of the hands one should perform Hamsa-paksha Hastha in quick circular movements; and, in the Recaka of the neck one should execute it with slow graceful movements.

Padayoreva chalanam na cha parnir bhutayor antar bahisha sannatam namanonna manavyamsitam gamanam Angustasya cha /Hasthareva chalanam Hamsapakshayo paryayena dhruta bramanam/ Grivayastu Recitatvam vidhuta brantata//

After the discussion of Karanas, Abhinavagupta deals with the definition and division of Angaharas, which are made of Karanas – Nānā Karaa sayuktair Agahārair vibhūitam (NS.4.13). Abhinavagupta explains Agahāra as the process of ‘sending the limbs of the body from a given position to the other proper one (Angavikshepa). And, such Angavikshepa is said to be a dominant feature of the Nrtta. And, that term stands for graceful composition of limbs (gatram vilasena-kshepaha). Thus, the Angaharas, basicallyare Nrtta movements, the Angika-abhinaya, involving six Angas or segments of the body.

caari-bheda

Abhinavagupta comments on seven divisions of Nrtta. The first three are to be used in independent Laukika dance, for the satisfaction of the deities. The last four are employed in the preliminaries.

Abhinavagupta classifies Nrtta into two broad Groups; the first group having three types; and, the second having four types.  Thus, the Nrtta, in all, is classified by Abhinavagupta into seven types.

The First Group belongs to the pure Nrtta type; whereas, the Second Group relates to of what came to be known as Nrtya, which involves Abhinaya. Abhinavagupta, in his explanations, did not, however, use the term Nrtya.

The First Group of Nrtta that Abhinavagupta formulated has the three types: (1) Shuddha-Nrtta; (2) Gitakad-abhinayao-nmukha-Nrtta; and, (3) Vadya –Talanusari Nrtta.

Here, Shuddha, that is, pure or abstract dance; the Gitakad-abhinay-onmukha is a dance that expresses the meaning of a song; and, the Vadya-talanusari is a dance that follows instrumental music and rhythm.

The Second Group of Nrtta has four types: (1) Uddhata Nrtta ;(2) Masrana-Nrtta; (3) Misra Uddhata Nrtta; and,(4)  Misar-Masarna Nrtta.

And, here, the Uddhata is a vigorous dance; the Masrana is a dance with delicate and graceful movements (Sukumara); the Misra Uddhata Nrtta is a vigorous dance mixed with delicate movements; and, the Misar-Masarna Nrtta is a delicate dance mixed with vigorous movements.

Since many of these dances in the Second group were expressive, they required Abhinaya or interpretative movements. Such dances, then, fall into the category that later became known as Nrtya. Abhinavagupta, however, does not use the term Nrtya, perhaps because Bharata spoke only of Nrtta; and, had not used the term Nrtya.

peacock

The commentary on the Fifth Chapter expands on Bharata’s description of the preliminaries of the performance of the play and remarks on theatrical terms like Purvaranga, Naandi, and Dhruva etc.

The subject of Dhruva, which is the song to be sung in the course of the play, is discussed in detail.  Natyashastra (NS: 32.32) explained the Dhruva Gana as the well composed songs that are steadfast (Dhruva) in  the principles of Pada  (words),  Varna  (syllables) and Chhandas (meter)

Natyashastra had devoted one entire and a lengthy chapter (Chapter 32) to discuss the Dhruva songs. That was because; the songs formed an essential ingredient of the play. And, Bharata said:  without songs, the Drama is incapable of providing joy (NS. 32. 482): Just as a well-built dwelling house (citraniveśana) does not become beautiful and provide a pleasant ambiance without any colour; so also a Drama without any songs does not provide much joy.

Abhinavagupta, accordingly, deals with the Dhruva songs, in fair detail. He explains that the Dhruva songs help to enhance the artistic sense of the important themes that occur in various situations in a play.

 While commenting on the term Dhruva, Abhinavagupta  explains that these types of songs were called Dhruva ( = standpoint; locus of reference)  because in it, the Vakya (sentence), Varna (syllables) , Alamkara (grace notes), Yatis (succession of rhythm patterns) , Panyah (use or non-use of drums) and Laya (beats) were  harmoniously fixed ( Dhruvam) in relation to each other – (anyonya sambandha) .

Vakya –Varna–Alamkara yatyaha -panayo-layah I   Dhruvam-anyonya sambandha yasmath smada Dhruva smrutah II

He further says, the composition (pada samuha) structured as per a rule (niyatah) and that which supports (adhara) singing could be called Dhruva (Dhruvah- Gitya-adhara niyatah pada –samuha).

At another place, Abhinavagupta explains Dhruva as the basis or the support (adhara) on which the song rests. Abhinavagupta says: just as the painting is supported by wall, the Dhruva song is supported by Pada (word). And, Pada in turn is supported by, the Chhandas (meter) – (Abhinavagupta: NS.32.8).

Thus, in the Dhruva Gana, the words of the song are regulated by Chhandas. And, the words are then set to appropriate tunes and Taala-s.

peacock

The Sixth Chapter is described as Rasadhyaya; because it mainly deals with concept and the theories of Rasa, the aesthetic pleasure, the essence of all Art experience. Though this Chapter is not directly related to Dance, we may take a brief look at it; because, this Chapter is considered as one of the very important Chapters in the Natyashastra ; and also because , Abhinavagupta discussed the various aspects of the Rasa-doctrine (Rasa-siddantha) in great detail.  And, in the process, he dealt with almost every important facet of Indian aesthetics. Abhinavagupta’s contribution to the revision of Indian aesthetics is truly outstanding.

In this Chapter, Abhinavagupta interprets, mainly, eleven elements of the Natya. They are: Rasa, Bhava, Abhinaya, Dharmi, Vrtti, Pravrtti, Siddhi, Svara, Atodya, Gana and Ranga. Among these, the Rasa is regarded as one of the most important theoretical aspects of the Natyashastra. According to Bharata, Rasa is the sum and substance of all Art- expressions; and, no sense proceeds without RasaNa hi rasādte kaścid artha pravartate (prose passage after verse 31, in Chapter Six).

The Natyashastra asserts that the goal of any Art form is to invoke Rasa, the aesthetic enjoyment in the mind and heart of the cultured spectator (sumanasa prekakā or Sahrudaya). And, such enjoyment is an emotional or an intellectual experienceāsvādayanti manasā tasman nāya- rasā sm (N.S.6.33).

The Chapters Six and Seven in the Natyashastra have been the mainstay of the Rasa concept in all traditional literature, dance and theatre arts in India. Bharata says that which can be relished – like the taste of food – is RasaRasyate anena iti rasaha (asvadayatva). Though the term Rasa is associated with palate, it is equally well applicable to the delight afforded by all forms of Art; and, the pleasure that people derive from their art experience. It is literally the activity of savouring an emotion in its full flavour. The term might also be taken to mean the essence of human feelings.

[The Rasa-doctrine is also relevant to classical dance, particularly since its performance is pervaded by emotion; and, its presentation, in varied graceful and meaningful forms (Abhinaya), attempts to express those emotions. Further, the Rasa-principle also provides a philosophical framework for explaining the fundamentals of an aesthetic experience; and, how it relates to the human psychological processes.]

The famous Rasa sutra or the basic formula to invoke Rasa, as stated in the Nātyashāstra, is: vibhāva anubhāva vyabbhicāri samyogāt rasa nispattih (prose passage after verse 31, in Chapter Six).

Here, the Vibhāva represents the causes, while Anubhāva is the manifestation or the performance of its effect communicated through the Abhinaya.  The more important Vibhāva and Anubhāva are those that invoke the Sthāyi-bhāva, or the principle emotion at the moment of the performance. The Sthayi-bhava combines and transforms all other Bhavas; and, integrates them with itself.

Thus, the Rasa-sutra states that the Vibhāva, Anubhāva, and Sanchari or the Vyabhicāri-bhāvas coming together (samyogād) with the Sthayi-bhava result in Rasa (rasa nispattih).

Abhinavagupta, in his commentary, initially takes a review of the explanations given by the previous authorities and scholars; then sums them up; and, later provides his own comments and explanations. He remarks that he is formulating his own theories on the foundation laid by others; and, his views are only an improvement on what has been said by the earlier interpreters.

Abhinavagupta begins by explaining his view of aesthetics and its nature. Then goes on to state how that aesthetic experience is created. During the process, he comments on Bharata’s concepts and categories of Rasa and Sthayi-bhava, the dominant emotive states, and of Sattvika, the involuntary bodily reflexesHe also examines Bharata’s other concepts of Vibhava, Anubhava and vyabhichari (Sanchari) bhavas and their subcategories Uddipana (stimulantand Aalambana (ancillaries).

Abhinavagupta comments on these concepts in the light of Shaiva Pratyabhijna philosophyand explains the process of One becoming many and returning to the state of repose (vishranthi)). He also brings in the elements of Abhivyakti (an expression that suggests release from ignorance, resulting in Camatkara); and Dhvani (aesthetic-suggestions) as expounded by Anandavardhana (820-890) in his Dhvanyaloka.

 [At places, Abhinavagupta uses the term Samvitti, in place of Rasa, as a synonym. He also uses the term Visranti to denote the state of aesthetic experience, which is a state of complete repose. These terms (Samvitti and vishranthi) are used in the Shaiva Pratyabhijna philosophy to represent Ananda, the absolute bliss. And, Abhivyakti is also a term of that branch of philosophy.]

For Abhinavagupta, soaked in sublime principles of Shaiva Siddantha, the aesthetic experience is Ananda, the unique bliss. He regards such aesthetic experience as different from any ordinary experience; and, as a subjective realization. It is Alukika (out of the ordinary world), he said, and is akin to mystic experience. That experience occurs in a flash as of a lightening; it is a Chamatkara, the state of blissful aesthetic experience. It is free from earthly limitations; and, is self luminous (svaprakasha). It is Ananda; a direct experience; a state of pure and undefiled joy. This Rasa-ananda, he says, is almost to be equivalent to the philosophic bliss (Brahma-ananda)

Abhinavagupta interpreted Rasa as a ‘stream of consciousness’ (Caitanya-Vahini) that is not restricted by time and place.

Sa ca rasana na pramanya vyaparo na kara kavya aparah svayam tu na apramanikah /

As regards poetic experience, according to Abhinavagupta, its Rasa is in understanding (rasana ca bodha-rupaiva) the essential inner meaning of Kavyatatkavyartho rasah. It is realized by the cultured reader with empathy (Sahrdaya) who has a clear perspective – Adhikari catra vimala pratibhana sahrdayah. He states that the poet’s experience is the seed of poetry; the poem he composes is the tree; and, the reader’s experience is the fruit of the tree

Tadevam mulam bijasthaniyat kavigatah rasah; Kavirhi samajikatulya eva tatah vrksa sthaniyam kavyam tatra puspadi-sthaniyo abhinayadinata-vyaparah; tatra phala-sthaniyah; samajika-rasa-asvadah tena rasa-maya-meva visvam.

According to Abhinavagupta, a real work of art, in addition to possessing emotive charge carries a strong sense of suggestion (Dhvani) and the potential to produce various meanings (Artha). It can communicate through suggestions and evoke layers of meanings and emotions.

A true aesthetic object, Abhinavagupta declares, not merely stimulates the senses but also ignites the imagination of the viewer. With that, the spectator is transported to a world of his own creation. That experience sets the individual free from the confines of place, time and ego (self); and elevates him to the level of universal experience.  It is liberating experience. Thus art is not mundane; it is Alaukika in its nature.

Abhinavagupta also talks about Sadharanikarana, the generalization. He points out that while enjoying the aesthetic experience, the mind of the spectator is liberated from the obstacles caused by the ego and other disturbances. Thus transported from the limited to the realm of the general and universal, we are capable of experiencing Nirvada, or blissfulness. In such aesthetic process, we are transported to a trans-personal level. This is a process of de-individual or universal – the Sadharanikarana.

*

 He then goes on to expand the scope and content of the Rasa spectrum by adding the ninth Rasa to the eight enumerated by Bharata: and, to establish the Shantha-rasa, the Rasa of tranquility and peace, as the most significant Rasa.

Abhinavagupta considered Shantha Rasa (peace, tranquillity) – where there is no duality of sorrow or happiness; or of hatred or envy; and, where there is equanimity towards all beings – as being not merely an additional Rasa; but, as the highest virtue of all Rasas. It is one attribute, he said, that permeates everything else; and, in to which everything moves back to reside (hridaya_vishranthi). 

na yatra dukha na sukha na dveo nāpi matsara sama sarveu bhūteu sa śānta prathito rasa

Following Abhinavagupta, the theory of Nine-Rasas, the Navarasa, became universally acceptable in all branches of Indian aesthetics. And, Shantha Rasa has come to be regarded as the Rasa of Rasas.

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The Eighth Chapter discusses the detailed description of the fourfold Abhinaya (Angika, Satvika, Vachika and Aaharya). These relate to physical representations through the use of various gestures and postures. That is followed by the descriptions of the expressions the movements of the head, glances, action with pupils, the eye-lids, the eyebrows, the nose and Nostrils, cheeks, lower-lip, neck; and through the colours of the face.

It also deals with two types of Angika-abhinaya. The first one analyses the movement of the principal and subsidiary limbs (Anga, Pratyanga and Upanga); and, the second deals with the combination of these primary movements such as Caris and Mandala. The topics in Chapter Eight are directly connected with the general discussions in the first five Chapters and therefore, the eighth Chapter could be considered as the continuation of the first five Chapters

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The commentaries on Chapter Nine to Twelve of the Natyashastra provide abundant details on the Angikabhinaya. But, Abhinavagupta does not offer any fresh or additional information on the subject; although his comments help us to visualize the required body movements.

In Chapter Nine, the Angikabhinaya, various expressions produced by the gestures and movements of the hands (Hastha) and the limbs are discussed. Here, he details 24 kinds of single-hand gestures (Asamyukta-hasta-bheda); 13 kinds of gestures devised by the combination of both the hands (Samyukta hasta bheda); and, 27 kinds of Nrtta-hasthas, gestures in pure Dance movements.

He explains the Abhinaya-hasthas (expressive gestures through hands) as the indicators of the inner thoughts and emotions. He says; while inner feelings, thoughts etc., are the causes (Vibhava), their manifestations through Abhinaya, the expressions through hand-gestures (Abhinaya-hasthas) is Anubhāva. The two together, in combination with the Sthayi-bhava (dominant mood or sentiment) produce Rasa.

As regards the movements of the arms (Bahu), Abhinavagupta says, with the numerous circular movements (vaichitrena bahu paryayayena) of the arms in different speeds, combined with various hand and wrist positions, can generate innumerable Hastha gestures:

Yetheshu karaneshu chatushra drutha Madhya vilambitadi vaichitrena bahu paryayayena cha samasthani yojina yada niyujyante tada patha vartanadi shatasaharenyvam ta brthani

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The tenth Chapter of the commentary deals with the actions and movements of actions related with chest, sides, belly, waist, thighs, shanks and feet. In all these descriptions, Abhinavagupta, generally, follows Bharata.

Here, while dealing with Angika-abhinaya related to the actions of the feet (Cari-vidhana), Abhinavagupta enumerates and defines thirty-two kinds of Caris, of which sixteen are termed Bhaumi (ground) and the other sixteen are called Akasiki (aerial).The Caris are considered as the most important single unit of movement in the Nrtta technique.

Further, as many as forty Sthanas or standing postures are discussed under six category of static postures along with their applications. They are: Vaisnava, Samapada, Vaisakha, Mandala, Alidha and Pratyalidha, which are used variously.

There are also the descriptions of four types of Nyayas   (Bharata, Sattvata, Varsaganya and Kaisika). These are the ways of regulating (niyante)  how the various  weapons are to be handled while staging a fight on the stage; and, how the actors move about on the stage using various Caris and Angaharas (combinations of Caris and Karanas)

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The Eleventh Chapter of Abhinavabharati interprets Mandala-vikalpanam, which are more complicated movements of the legs involving combinations of Caris. These Mandals are again classified into two categories:  Akasa-mandala (aerial, having ten varieties); and,   Bhu-mamandala (ground, having eight varieties).

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The Chapter Twelve of the commentary describes different types of gaits (Gati) to be adopted by various types of characters in different contexts and in different states (Bhavas). It mentions the different gaits for men, women, the stout, the intoxicated, the Jester etc. It also enumerates the Gatis or gaits suitable for Kings and superior characters as also for middling characters. The walking styles for women of various classes are also described.

Abhinavagupta quotes the ancient authority Kohala while discussing the Gatis; and suggests specific Taalas and Layas (beats and tempo) that are suitable for each type of character depending upon the context.

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Chapters Twenty-one and Twenty-two provide detailed descriptions of Aharya-bhinaya (use of costumes, stage properties and other external aids which are essential both to dance and drama); Samanyabhinaya and Chitrabhinaya (general and special histrionic expressions).

While dealing with Aharya-bhinaya, Abhinavagupta stresses the importance of Aharya among other Abhinayas. He details the different types of costumes of various characters of different classes; the various types of dresses which should be used in dramatic representation; the makeup of different characters ; and , the stage settings (Nepathya). He also mentions the details of the ornaments suitable for men and women; making up the face and other limbs with grease paints etc; the use of natural and subsidiary colours; appliance of false hair; wearing of masks etc. These details help us to understand the technicalities of stage presentation as practiced in the Eleventh century.

*

Then Abhinavagupta describes the physical, natural, involuntary graces in women, men; twelve forms of voice expression; eight varieties of heroines in love (Astavidha Nayikas); ten kinds of Kama-avasthas (states of being in love) ; the acting of various types of women in love ; and, the general exclusions on the stage

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At the beginning of twenty-fifth chapter of Abhinavagupta’s commentary, there is the explanation of Citra-abhinaya.

While the Samanya-abhinaya is the harmonious use of four kinds of Abhinayas; the Citra-abhinaya applies only to the special representation of various objects and ideas. The latter is employed for indicating morning, sunset etc. Seasons, birds, animals, demons, celestials, expression in soliloquies, aside etc. In addition, Abhinavagupta mentions the representation of some other objects and ideas like God Skanda, Goddess Sarasvati etc. according to the view of Kohala and others.

Abhinavagupta remarks; whether it is Samanya-abhinaya or Chitra-abhinaya, what is more important is the ardent practice (Shikshitum abhyasitam) and the state of mind of the performer (Chitt-vrtti pradanam).

Shikshitum abhyasitam va prayoktam drustam va, chitta-vrtti pradanam chedam natyamiti tadeva vakyum nyayam

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In Chapter Thirty-one, Abhinavagupta discusses Taala (time units); Laya (rhythm or tempo); the qualities of singer and instrumentalists; and delicate, graceful dance (Lasya)

According to him, Taala is the foundation of music and also of dance. He says the Taalas are of two types, Tryasra and Caturasra.  He explains three kinds of Laya (tempo) – Druta (slow), Madhya (medium) and Vilambita (fast).  He also explains Kala as the measure of time in the musical sphere. He interprets the Margas of rhythm which are of three kinds – Citra, Vrtti and Daksina.

Abhinavagupta interprets Lasya as a form of graceful dance. Lasya is the term that Abhinavagupta uses to indicate the Sukumara-prayoga of the Natyashastra. There, the Sukumara-prayoga meant a graceful dance with delicate movements (Angaharas). And, Sukumara-prayoga did not mean a feminine style of dancing, as was interpreted later. Such distinctions, as between masculine and feminine dances, were not made in the Natyashastra.

Abhinavagupta seemed to be following the contemporary usage of the term Lasya to mean a feminine style of dancing.

 He also used the term Masrana-Nrtta to indicate the softer type of dance (Lasya) aligned with Srngara, Karuna Rasas and so on. This, he described, as the feminine type of dance.

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Abhinavagupta’s commentary ends with chapter Thirty-seven. There is a narration (Guhya-tattva-kathana) of the mythical account of how King Nahusha encouraged Bharata to promulgate Natyaveda on the earth.  

This final Chapter praises the Anuttara-marga (or Anupaya-marga) as the highest and the best method (upaya) to attain liberation – tato pi paramam jnanam upayadi-vivarjitam…Anuttaram.

Bharata also concluded his work with the Benediction:

What more should I say? Let there be  peace and plenty  on this Earth ; and let it be free from famine and diseases, for all times. Let there be peace and prosperity among all beings and humans; and, let the Ruler protect thus the entire earth.

ki cānyat samprapūrā bhavatu vasumatī, naṣṭa-durbhika-rogā śāntir go brāhmaānā bhavatu , narapati pātu pthvī samagrām NS.37.31

Nātyaśāstram sampūram

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storehouse-consciousness

In the next part we shall move on to other texts dealing with Dance and its several aspects

 

Continued

In

Part Eleven

References and Sources

  1. Movement and Mimesis: The Idea of Dance in the Sanskritic Tradition by Dr Mandakranta Bose
  2. Abhinavabharati – Chapter Three
  3. The Natyashastra
  4. Natyashastra and Rasa
  5. Abhinavagupta’s philosophy of Rasa
  6. Abhinavagupta 
  7. Abhinavabharati

ALL IMAGES ARE FROM INTERNET

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2018 in Art, Natya

 

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SRI TYAGARAJA (1767 – 1847) – PART I – Intro

 ( For my friend Shri Kannan Rangachar )

Tyagaraja SRajam 02 

Inheritor of a  rich Legacy

1.1. The genius of Karnataka classical music may be said to have found the peak of its glory and fulfilment in Sri Tyagaraja. “But for the emergence of Sri Tyagaraja along with two of his contemporaries, Mutthuswamy Dikshitar and Shyama Shastry, the Karnataka musical heritage might not have been consolidated and handed down to us in its integrated form, as it is now. It is the extraordinary genius of these Masters and their sublime creations that is the mainstay of the Karnataka music tradition”.

1.2. Sri Tyagaraja comes as a culmination of the music of the masters and giants who preceded him, such as Sri Purandaradasa, Bhadrachala Ramadasa, Jayadeva and Narayana Teertha. Sri Tyagaraja was influenced by the varied excellences of all of these masters. And, in addition he brought in his own grace and brilliance.

As the renowned scholar Dr. V Raghavan explained: “Tyagaraja appears in a long line of a Sampradaya sanctified by Jayadeva. In sheer volume of output, he essays in the direction of Purandaradasa and Kshetragna; in devotion, religious fervour, reformatory zeal and spiritual realisation, his songs approach those of Purandaradasa; when we think of him singing in anguish to his Rama, we find in him a second Ramadasa of Bhadrachala; in his lyrical moods, he takes a page off Kshetragna; in his Pancharatnas and some of his grander  compositions, he treads the path  of the earlier Prabandhakara-s and later Varnakara-s; turning out pieces now and then in the language of the gods, he seems to beckon his contemporary Dikshitar singing the glory of Mother Tripurasundari; when he calls out in anguish to Rama or to Mother goddess , he is like  Shyama Shastri ;  and in his  dramatic compositions he  is  like Narayana Teertha or Merattur Venkatarama Bhagavatar  ( the composer of the Bhagavata Nataka-s in Telugu )  “.

1.3. Tyagaraja in his childhood learnt to sing the songs (padam-s) of Ramadasa and Purandaradasa from his mother who had a fair knowledge of music.

In his musical play Prahalada Bhakti Vijaya, Sri Tyagaraja pays obeisance to many of his eminent predecessors; and, in particular to Bhadrachala Ramadasa who was intensely devoted to Rama  (in Ksheerasagara sayana in Devagandhari and Emidova balkuma in Saranga).

And  again in Prahlada Bhakthi Vijayam  he pays his tribute to Sri Purandaradasa whom he regarded as a Guru . Sri Tyagaraja brought into some of his Kritis,  the thoughts, emotions and concepts of Sri Purandaradasa.

 – వెలయు పురందరదాసుని మహిమలను దలచెద మదిలోన్ (I ponder, in my mind, on the greatness of Purandaradasa who shines in a state of ecstasy, always singing the virtues of Lord Hari which rescues from ill-fate)

Varied influences

:- Sri Upanishad Brahmendra

2.1. The scholars mention that in his childhood (in the years prior to 1780), when he was about ten-twelve years age, Tyagaraja was greatly influenced by a Sanyasin named Ramacandrendra Sarasvati (later renowned as Sri Upanishad Brahmendra Yogin). Sri Ramacandrendra Sarasvati, who then resided in Tanjavuru, used to conduct discourses on Ramayana and also lead chorus-singing of the devotional songs he composed in praise of Sri Rama. Tanjavuru was just about 13 Km away from Thiruvaiyaru where the Tyagaraja family lived. It is said; Tyagaraja, along with his father, used to attend the musical discourses and Bhajans conducted by Sri Ramacandrendra Sarasvati.

Sri Upanishad Brahmendra was well versed in music; and, was intensely devoted to Sri Rama, his Ishta-devatha. He followed the Divya nama-samkirtana, the Bhajana form in worship of Sri Rama. He is credited with number of Bhajana-samkirtanas, devotional songs set to music, singing the glory of the Lord.

Ramayana and Rama-Bhakthi had enormous influence on Sri Tyagaraja, his life and outlook.

rama lakshmana sita

2.2. Dr. V. Raghava , a renowned scholar and musicologist,  opines that the traces of Ramacandrendra Sarasvati‘s influence can be found in the Divya-nama-samkirtana songs composed by Sri Thyagaraja. He points out the similarities in the structure of songs and in the word-play (pada-jaala) employed by Sri Thyagaraja and his inspiration, Ramacandrendra Sarasvati. (e.g.,Kanakambara; Kanakavasana; Celakanaka; Hatakacela;Bhaktha-chandana; Sakalonnata; Rajavandya; Sitamanohara; Rajivaksha; Ranabhima; Jitakama; Navanitasa; Sara-sarastara; Mruduvacana; Niramayanga;  Nadapradipa; Nadasadhana; etc.

He also points out the similarities in the structure of songs and in the word-play (pada-jaala) employed by Sri Tyagaraja and his inspiration, Ramacandrendra Sarasvati in his Tarangas.

Further Dr. Raghavan mentions; Sri Tyagaraja’s songs: Dhyaname varamaine;  Gangasnaname and Kotinadula which emphasize that the real snana and thirtha (the bath and the holy waters of the pilgrimage) are verily in the contemplation on the name of the Lord and not in the rivers, were inspired by Sri Upanishad  Brahmendra‘s  Tarangas  in his Sri Rama Taranga .

It is also mentioned that   Sri Ramacandrendra Sarasvati’s Sri Rama Taranga, was in turn influenced by the songs in most enchanting opera Krishna-Leela-Tarangini of Sri Narayana Thirtha (1650 -1745).

3.1.. Sri Upanishad Brahmendra was an integral part of the tradition that was in vogue during those times when the Sanyasins based in Advaita ideology also cultivated Bhakthi (devotion) and Samgitha (music). Apart from Upanishad Brahmendra the two other Sanyasins – Sri Narayana Thirtha and Sri Sadashiva Brahmendra – excelled in practice of Nada-vidya as a part of their Sadhana.

3.2. Sri Upanishad Brahmendra produced monumental sets of commentaries on all the 108 Upanishads listed in the Mukthiko-panishad. He was the first scholar in the Advaita tradition to have provided commentaries on all those listed Upanishads. And yet; in his work, Upeya-Nama-Viveka, he attempts to synchronize Advaita with Bhakthi. There, he explained Divyanama –samkirtana, the recitation of the sacred name of the chosen deity (Istadevata) as Upaya the means for attaining the ultimate (Upeya) the Brahman.

Then, Sri Rama just as the symbol (pratika) Om, according to him, would no longer be a Nama of a Rupa (form) but will be the very essence of the Supreme divinity. Thus, Divya-nama or nama-chit (name –consciousness) is the means (sadhana) and also the end (sadhya). He asserts that the quote “Om eti ekaksharam Brahma” (Bhagavad-Gita: 8.13) gives expression to the identity of the symbol or the name (abhidana) with the object of contemplation (abhideya).

3.3. Sri Tyagaraja who had a great affinity towards Upanishad Brahmendra, later in his life, followed that hallowed tradition. He too, like his ideal, lovingly adorned Sri Rama in hundreds of his songs; and he too later in his life took to Sanyasa – bringing together devotion, music and knowledge of self (jnana– vairagya). All of his mentors had asserted that Bhakthi was the means (sadhana) to realize the goal (sadhya) of attaining unity with God or Brahman.

:- Namasiddantha

4.1. Besides this , there had arisen  in the Cauvery delta a movement – Bhajana Sampradaya – that firmly believed in the power of the sacred name of the Lord (Namasiddantha).It asserted the faith that recital of the holy name in loving devotion and giving expression to that through soulful music (nama samkirtana) was the most potent means for liberation. The movement cut across the distinctions of caste (varna) and the stages of life (ashrama). It brought into its fold householders, men, women and children of all sections of the society. Sri Sridhar Venkatesha Ayyaval, Sri Bhodendra Sarasvathi and Sri Bashyam Gopala Krishna Sastry renowned as the triumvirate of Bhajana tradition were the prominent leaders of the congregational devotion (Bhajana mandali) practices. They were followed by Sri Venkataramana – Sadguruswami who strengthened and gave a form to the Bhakthi and Bhajana-paddathi movement.

gurutrayam

4.2. It is also said; Krishna Leela Tarangini, an opera, of Narayana Teertha provided inspiration for Tyagaraja to compose his Nauka Charitram and Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam. Another popular feature of the times was the celebration of Radha, Rukmini, and Seeta Kalyanam-s. The traditional songs sung during those festivals, it is said, inspired Sri Tyagaraja to compose utsava sampradaya kirtanas. And, these became a part of his daily worship of Rama.

4.3. Sri Tyagaraja was thus an inheritor of a long , rich and a holy Sampradaya.

Environment

5.1. Sri Tyagaraja appeared in a period which was thronged by giants in the arts; performers; theorists and composers; authors of dance music, dance-drama; and, composers of Grammatical (Vyakarana) and technical works of great value, such as Lakshanas, Thayas and Varnas.

5.2. Giriraja Kavi, said to be his paternal grandfather, was a poet and a composer.  His maternal grandfather Kalahastayya was a Veena player besides being a scholar.  Sri Ramakrishananda, Tyagaraja’s Guru  (as mentioned in Nauka Charitram) , who initiated him into Rama–mantra (Namo Namo Raghavaya) was himself a scholar, poet and a musician.  And in music, Tyagaraja was the pupil of Sonti Venkataramayya (illustrious musician of the Court), the son of another renowned performer Sonti Subbayya, was one of the great teachers of his time.  Thus, both at home and in his surroundings, Tyagaraja was immersed in the soothing environment of music and Rama-bhakthi.

6.1. Further, during his period, Tanjavuru was virtually the cultural capital of South India. With all the leading scholars and artists migrating to Tanjavuru which provided royal patronage and support, Karnataka music was getting enriched from all directions. The period witnessed development in all most all branches of Manodharma Samgita: alapana, tana, pallavi exposition, niraval and svara kalpana.

6.2. It appears the region was lit up with activities churning out and crystallizing various forms of creative expressions. To have appeared amidst the throng of talents and to have outshone the others with his creations is indeed the greatest testimony to the genius of Sri Tyagaraja.

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Continued in Part II- Life of Tyagaraja

Sources:

Manaku Teliyana Tyagaraju: http://eemaata.com/em/issues/200809/1337.html

Tyāgarāja and the Renewal of Tradition: Translations and Reflections by William Joseph Jackson

The Power of the Sacred Name: Indian Spirituality Inspired by Mantras by V. Raghavan

Spiritual Heritage of Sri Tyagaraja by Dr. V Raghavan and C. Ramanujachariar

I acknowledge with gratitude the Sri Tyagaraja’ s portrait by Shri S Rajam

Other images are from Internet

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2015 in Tyagaraja

 

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Music in Sama Veda

Following my post the state of music in Ramayana, there was some discussion about Sama and its relation to music. I was asked to say a little more about the music in Sama Veda; hence this post.

  1. Sama Veda Samhita

1.1. The earliest form of organized Music that we know about is the Music of Sama Veda or the Saman. Sama Veda is linked to music through Yajna.

The Yajna-s, were at the very heart of the Vedic way of living. During the Yajna-s, it was customary to invoke and invite devas (gods) by singing hymns dear to them or dedicated to them ; and to recite the mantras while submitting to them offerings (havish) through Agni, the carrier (havya-vahana). The group of priests who sang (Samaga or Chandoga) the Mantras, initially, compiled a text for their use by putting together selected Mantras from Rig-Veda (the oldest known text) that could be sung during the performance of a Yajna or a Soma Yaga. That collection of lyrical Mantras came to be known as Sama Veda Samhita; and was regarded as one of the three Vedas(Trayi)..

1.2. Out of the 1,549 mantras in Sama Veda Samhita, as many as 1,474 mantras are taken from Rig Veda (mainly from the eighth and the ninth Mandalas). Most of the mantras are in Gayatri chhandas (metre), while some are in Pragatha. It is said; the term Sama is composed of: SA, which stands for Rik (Vedic Mantra); and AMA, meaning various notes (Brihad Up: 1-3-22).

eṣa u eva sāma | vāg vai sāmaiṣa sā cāmaś ceti tat sāmnaḥ sāmatvam | yad v eva samaḥ pluṣiṇā samo maśakena samo nāgena sama ebhis tribhir lokaiḥ samo ‘nena sarveṇa tasmād v eva sāma | aśnute sāmnaḥ sāyujyaṃ salokatām | ya evam etat sāma veda || BrhUp_1,3.22 ||

Sama Veda is thus, virtually, a musical rendering of the selected mantras from Rig Veda. In other words, Sama took maathu (words) from Rig Veda; and provided dhathu ,  the musical substance to those words. Sama Veda is perhaps the earliest known musical literature.

1.3. The Sama Veda Samhita has two segments. The first segment is called Sama – Yoni (adhara) mantra Samhita, meaning that it is the basic text. This segment contains the selected mantras as they appear in the Rig Veda . This, virtually, is the source book.

The second segment called Sama–gana text. Here, the mantras are not in the order they originally appear in Rigveda. But, the selected mantras are rearranged to suit the sequence of rituals during the Yajna; or according to the meters (chhandas) or the gods to whom mantras are addressed.

2.Sama-gana

2.1. While rearranging the text for the purpose of singing, the selected mantras are converted to Saman by turning, twisting, elongating its syllables; and, by inserting various modulations, rests, and other modifications.  The musical effect or the ‘floating form’ of the Sama-gana is enhanced by interpolation of Svaras and meaningless sounds called Stobha (which resemble shouts of joy) such as: Hoyi, Hoi, Hova, Hai, Haw, Oi, Ai, Ha, Ho, Uha, Tayo, etc. This is the text for singing; expanding each mantra with notations and instructing how mantras are to be sung. This is the Sama Veda as it is generally understood and sung.

2.2. Sama-singing (Sama-gana) was an integral part of a Yajna. Sama, thus, represents the earliest known instance of deep relationship between religious life and Music. There were numerous styles of singing Sama. Patanjali in his Mahabhashya remarks that there were a thousand recessions (shakhas) or ways of singing Sama – sahasra-vartma samvedah.  That perhaps was a poetic manner of suggesting there were a range of styles of rendering Sama.  

[Some texts speak of thirteen Samaga-charyas – ways of singing Sama. But names of about only eleven are mentioned:  Ranayaniya; Chatyamugra; Kaleya; Kalvala; Mahakaleya; Langalayana; Mahakalvala; Sardula; Langala; Kouthuma; Jaiminiya]

2.3.  In any case, of the many, only three recessions (shakhas) Viz. Kauthumiya, Ranayaniya and Jaiminiya, have survived. The Kauthumiya and Ranayaniya carry the same set of mantras; but, their internal grouping differs; and there are also variations in their svaras (accent). The Jaiminiya is said to be different from the other two, in both the aspects. Of the three shakhas, Kauthumiya is regarded the prominent one.

  1. Archika

3.1. Throughout, Sama Veda is arranged in two streams of classification. And, the two often   interrelate. One is Arcika, the way in which Sama Veda text is structured and the way its Riks (stanzas) are grouped. The other is Gana, the musical aspect which details the manner of singing the Sama Riks.

First, Archika (group of Riks sung in adoration), is essentially the collection of the texts (yoni) of individual Riks adopted from Rigveda. Here, the selected Riks from Rigveda are put together under several chapters (prapathakas). And, under each prapathaka; the Riks are bunched into sets of ten (dasasti) or less.

3.2. The Sama Veda text is broadly made into two Arcikas.

The first Arcika (Purvarchika or Shadarchika) is made of six chapters (prapathakas) together with an Appendix.  The Purvarchika consists about 650 Riks selected from Rigveda that  are grouped partly according to meters (chhandas) and partly according the gods  (devatha) that are propitiated. The first five prapathakas have about 585 Riks to be sung in honour of Agni, Indra and Soma-Pavamana.  The sixth prapathaka having 55 Riks is called Aaranya or Aranyakanda.  There is also an Appendix consisting 10 Riks attached to Purvarchika; and is called Mahanamani (or Sakravayah) to be sung in honour of Indra the Great (Mahan).

3.3. The second Arcika, Uttararcika (that which follows the first) is made up of nine prapathakas, divided into number of segments (khandas). Under these Khandas, about 900 Riks are grouped into about 300 songs of three Riks each. The Riks, here, are arranged according to the sequence of events that occur in the course of the performance of the Yajna. It is presumed that the Uttararcika is, comparatively, of a later origin. And, it is regarded as an essential supplement to the Purvarchika.

  1. Gana

4.1. As regards the Gana, the musical element of the Sama Veda, the Riks included in the first five chapters (prapathakas) of the first Arcika (Purvarchika) and those under Mahanamani are known as Grama-geya-gana – that is , the songs meant to be sung in homes and in the villages – praying to gods (devatha) Agni, Indra Soma and Visvedevah – during the course of domestic functions such as Brahmayajna (teaching of Vedas), Upakarma and other worships.

The Riks included under the sixth chapter (prapathaka) of the Purvarchika – that is Aaranya or Aranyakanda – are meant to be sung in the solitude of forests. Hence, they are named Aranya gana. The singing is of contemplative nature; and, it is deemed as sacred-music.

The Purvarchika way of singing (both the Grama and the Aranya gana) is deemed Prakrti-gana, the natural way of rendering a song.  And, it appears that the hymn-melodies for the Soma-yaga performed at homes in the villages (Grama) were different from those performed by the hermits living in the forests (Aranya).

4.2. As regards the singing (Gana) of the Riks included under the second Arcika (Uttararcika), it basically consisted two kinds of songs: Uha-gana (numbering 936) sung during the Soma Yajna; and Uhya-gana (numbering 209) singing within oneself.

The texts (yoni Riks) of most of the songs were adopted from Purvarchika. But, here, the singing style is improvised with unusual variations; and, therefore it is named Vikrti-gana (not the straightway of singing). It is also said; the same Rik can be sung in different tunes, producing different Samas. The number of such Samas can vary from one to eighteen..!

[It is also said; Uha and Uhya were composed for the purpose of indicating the order of rituals in the Yajna. And, that Uha is related to Grama-gana; and , Uhya to Aranya –gana.]

*

In summary; The Sama Veda Samhita, is arranged in two primary sections – the verse books (Archica) and melody books (Gana). The Archica is divided in two parts: Purvarchica and Uttararchica.  And, as regards melody (Gana) there are four styles of singing hymns: Grama-geya-gana; Aranya-gana; Uha-gana; and; Uhya-gana.  There is a mutual relation between the Riks contained in Arcika and the Gana books.

Sama Veda 4

*

  1. Sama-chanting

5.1. The priests who sing the Mantras at the Yajna are designated as Udgathru-s (derived from udgita – to sing ’high’ or loud).

Chandogya Upanishad (1.3.6) explains the term Udgita by splitting it into three syllables ud-gī-tha: Ud meaning breath (Prana) in high pitch (utti shati); Gir refers to speech (vag gī); and, tha : in which all this is established (sthita )

atha khalū-udgīthākarāy upāsīta ud-gī-tha iti | prāa evot |prāena hy uttiṣṭhati | vag gī | vāco ha gira ity ācakate | anna tham | anne hīda sarva sthitam || Ch.Up_1,3.6 ||

The Sama Veda Samhita came to be compiled, essentially, for the use and guidance of Udgathru-s .  They were usually a group of three singers (Prasthothru, Udgathru and Prathiharthra). And, the group, together, rendered the Sama in five stages.

Prasthava: The initial portion of the mantra is sung by an Udgathru designated as Prasthothru.  And, he starts with a deep Huuum sound (Hoon- Kara).

Udgita: Prasthothru is followed by the chef Ritwik (designated the chief Udgathru) who sings his portion of the Rik. He commences with an elongated Om Kara.

Prathihara: the mid-portion is sung loudly by Prathiharthra. This adulates the Devatha to whom Rik is addressed.

Upadrava: The chief  Udgathru sings again; and

Nidhana: the final portion is sung by all the three together, commencing with prolonged Om-kara.

When a mantra, as per the above format, is sung three times, it is then a stoma. Some texts describe the set of these five stages (Prasthava, Udgita, Prathihara, Upadrava and Nidhana) as Bhakthi. Its number is extended to seven by adding Hoon- Kara and Om Kara.

  1. Elements of chanting

6.1. Shiksha, a branch of Veda lore (vedanga), deals with elements of chanting and phonetics. According to Taittiriya Upanishad (1. 2), the elements of chanting includes six factors: Varna (syllable); Svara (accent); Maatra (duration); Balam (stress); Sama (even tone) ; and Santana (continuity) . The first four deal with correct pronunciation of individual syllables; and the last two with the recitation of the entire line or the verse.

oṃ śīkṣāṃ vyākhyāsyāmaḥ | varṇaḥ svaraḥ | mātrā balam | sāma santānaḥ | ityuktaḥ śīkṣādhyāyaḥ ||

Briefly, Varna is the correct pronunciation of every isolated syllable, combination of consonants and ovals and compound letters. Svara is how a syllable has to be pronounced in one of the three accents (udatta, anudatta and svarita). Maatra is the time duration for pronouncing a syllable. There are of four types: hrasva– a short one – duration for short ovals; dhirga –  two unit-duration for long vowels; plutam– longer than two–unit duration; and, the fourth is ardha- maatra, half unit, meant for consonants not accompanied by vowels.

Sama Svaras

6.2. In the beginning, Sama-gana employed only three notes called Udatta, Anudatta and Svarita. The lyre (Vana-Veena) accompanying the singing had only three strings, one for each note. The songs were perhaps like Ga Ga -Re Re -Sa Sa Sa. This kind of singing might have suited for chanting hymns.

The three notes were differentiated depending on whether it was produced from above or below the palate (taalu).

Udatta refers to sound produced from above the palate; and is acutely accented (uchchaih).

Anudatta was gravely accented (nichaih); produced from below the palate.

Svarita is a combination of udatta and anudatta, with udatta in the first-half. It is called a circumflexed accent.

[It is also explained that in context of Sama Veda , Udatta meant the highest Svara; Anudatta , just lower; and Svarita is the summation of the two.]

In the written/printed texts of the Rig Veda, Udatta is not indicated by any symbol; Anudatta is indicated by underlining the syllable; and Svarita is indicated by a vertical line above the syllable.

The Sama–gana texts, however, indicate Udatta by writing the Sanskrit numeral –one above the letter; Anudatta by writing the numeral–three above the letter; and Svarita by writing the numeral–two above the letter. In the Sama text, the syllables that have no symbols are called prachaya.

Please see the following example:

  1. Sama Svara and Venu Svara

7.1. Dr. Lalmani Misra, a noted scholar, explained the (Rig) Vedic priests used a single or two notes. The Sama singers improved on that and used at least three notes. “The singers explored further and discovered more notes. M G R S D has been determined to be the basic set of notes used in this order by Sāmik singers” , he said, “Sāmik notes were exactly those followed in Shadja grāmik tradition.”

7.2. As Sama-gana originated from the Yajna, its purpose, at least in the initial stages, was limited to chanting by the Udgathrus. Later, as the Sama Music developed, the number of notes increased from three to four, then five (which continued for a very long time), then six and finally seven. With that, the number of strings of the lyre too increased. Thus, over a period, the Sama scales expanded from three to seven notes. (It is not clear when or at what stage seven notes were introduced into Sama).

7.3. Naradiya Shiksha is a text that deals mainly with the musical notes and the pronunciation of the words in the Vedic language. Some believe it might pre-date Bharata’s Natyashastra. Narada Shiksha explaining the Sama music states that there were three Gramas (Sadja, Madhyama and Gandhara). It also mentions that each Grama has seven Murchanas (a total of 21 Murchanas). (But, it does not define Grama or Murchana). The set Murchanas related to Gandhara Grama are meant to please Devas; and the other two to please Pitris and Rishis. In addition, it mentions 49 Taanas.

[According to some other texts (Samavidhana Brahmana and Arseya Brahmana), Sama-Gana employed seven Svaras (notes): 1. Prathama; 2. Dvitiya; 3. Tritiya; 4. Chaturtha; 5. Panchama or Mandra (low); 6. Shasta or Krusts (high); and, Antya or Atiswara (very high)]

7.4. Naradiya Shiksha relates the Sama Svaras to the notes on the flute (Venu) as: Ma, Ga, Ri, Sa, Dha, Ni, and Pa.

Sama svara Venu svara
01 Prathama Madhyama Ma
02 Dwithiya Gandhara Ga
03 Trithiya Rishabha Ri
04 Chathurtha Shadja Sa
05 Panchama Nishadha Ni
06 Shasta Daiwatha Dha
07 Sapthama Panchama Pa
       

7.5. In the later Sama texts, it became customary to write the numerals (one to seven) on top of the Sama mantras to indicate their note-delineations (Sama vikara).

  1. Derivation of Svaras

8.1 . Naradiya Shiksha (1.5.3; 1.5.4) explains that each Sama-svara was derived from the sounds made by a bird or an animal in its appropriate season. For instance, bulls roar was Rishabha; kraunchaka’s (heron) cry was Madhyama; elephant’s trumpet was Nishadha; and koel’s (cuckoo) melodious whistle was Panchama and so on. Please see the table below.

Name in SamaMusic Symbol Sama VedaSvara Bird/animalSound associated
Madhyama Ma svarita heron
Gandhara Ga udatta goat
Rishabha Ri anudatta bull
Shadja Sa svarita peacock
Nishadha Ni udatta elephant
Daiwatha Dha anudatta horse
Panchama Pa svarita koel
  1. Descending order of Sama Svaras

8.1. As can be seen, the Sama notes were of Nidhana prakriti (diminishing nature) or Vakragati, following Avaroha karma, a descending order (uttarottaram nicha bhavanthi).

The order of the Svaras in Sama-music was: Ma, Ga, Ri, Sa, Ni, Dha, and Pa. The order of the svaras was revised in the later texts to: Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni ; as we are familiar with it today.

[Another Shiksha text, the Yajnavalkya Shiksha gives the names of the seven Svaras as SA-RI-GA-MA-PA-DA-NI; and says that the seven Svaras belonged to Aranya-gana.]

Dr. Misra says  that the ancient musical scale using notes in descending order can be translated into modern Shadja grām by considering the Madhyam  to be Shadja and moving up the scale.

8.2. Even then, since the Sama notes were in a descending order there was not much flexibility in music. Dr. Misra remarks “In those times there were no microphones or loudspeakers. Sam was sung in large, wide, open or canopied spaces, with the intention that all present should be able to hear it. In such a condition if the song has notes M G R S D (as in Sama) it would be audible at best in a single room, but if the notes, S N D P G starting from Tār-saptak are sung they would be loud enough for all to hear. So, from this angle of usage too, S N D P G seems more appropriate than M G R S D. “

Further since the Raga concept was, then, yet to be evolved, there might not have been much depth and variation in the rendering of Vedic or Sama music.

As Dr. N.Ramanathan, a noted musicologist remarked, Sama music was to acquire the rhythmic-time- patterns. That is to say, the taala system was yet to evolve.

  1. Development of Sama music

9.1. The Sama music, in its later stages, was just ripe; and it was also eager to grow and expand both in scope and content.

Historically, the Sama chanting is recognized by all musicologists as the basis for the Indian Music. The roots of Sangita, the traditional (classic) Indian Music are firmly founded in Sama- gana.

9.2. The Saman initially gave rise to a body of devotional songs called Marga or Gandharva sung in Jati. No matter who sang and in which region it was sung, the Sama and the Marga music had to follow the traditional approved format.

As a result of the disciplines evolved over the ages, a well structured system of music could be erected during the Gupta period on the foundations of the Sama–gana. It was during this period that Indian music started gaining the form with which we now are familiar.

9.3. From Marga, the devotional music (Vaidika) , was born the Art music (laukika) Desi,  the Music of Ragas. Desi, the one derived from regions, sprang from the common people; and, it varied from region to region. Desi was inspired from life, spontaneous and fluid.

9.4. Then for over a thousand years the Music scene was dominated by a structured Music (Nibaddha-samgita) format called Prabandhas (a type of Khandakavya). Since Prabandha grew rigid it had to give place, by about 17th century, to varieties of free flowing (Manodharma-samgita) such as Padas,  Kritis or Kirtanas, Varnas, Javalis etc.

9.5. Of late, the Marga and Desi; the classical folk and other improvised forms Of Music are coming together, enriching and inspiring each other. It is wonderfully delightful development.

  1. Music and spiritual progress

10.1.  Music in the Vedic times was sung and played for entertainment. Its other main use was during the performance of the Yajna; and it was here that Sama-gana was born. The concept of Nada-Brahman does not appear in Rigveda or in the early Upanishads. The metaphysical concept of Nada – Brahman is not discussed either in Sama Veda or its recitations (shakhas).  It seems to have come from Yoga or Agama.  Similarly, the notion  that music would lead to spiritual development did not seem to have existed then.

10.2. It was only in the later texts, say of 4th to 6th century AD, such as Brihaddeshi, Vayupurana and Naradiya shiksha assigned the musical taanas, names of the various Yajnas; and said that the benefits of those yajnas could be obtained by singing the relative taanas. It seems , at that stage, the idea that music was a way to liberation (moksha sadhana) was yet to get established .

[ In the later times,  Music was elevated to the status of a Veda ; and , came to be reckoned as the fifth Veda (Panchama Veda).  It was, therefore, held in high esteem and invested with an aura of spiritual pursuit (Sadhana),  leading to liberation from earthly-attachments. It is said; for both the performer and the good-hearted listener (sah-hrudaya), pure-music (Samgita) can be a fulfilling blessed experience. 

For instance ; Yajnavalkya (Yajnavalkyasmrti-III-4-115) describes Samgita as the most sublime of all the fine-arts that pleases ; and , has the potential to convey all shades of emotions . It is a Vidya that, if practiced diligently, can lead the aspirant towards liberation- mokamārga niyacchati

āvādanatattvajña śrutijātiviśārada / tālajñaś cāprayāsena mokamārga niyacchati // Yj_3.115 //

gītajño yadi yogena nāpnoti parama padam /rudrasyānucaro bhūtvā tenaiva saha modate // Yj_3.116 //

And much later, Abhinavagupta, commenting on Natyashastra, remarked that Gandharva bestows bliss and leading towards Moksha. Such Music , he said, is a worthy offering to gods.  And, gods would be delighted with sublime Music than with reading Puranas or lecturing on Yoga exercises.

In support of his observation, Abhinavagupta quotes verses (26,27 and 28 of Chapter 36) of the Naytashastra :

The recital of poetry, performance of dance (drama) along with songs and instrumental music are equal in merit to the recitation of Vedic hymns.

hyaya tathā geya citravā aditrameva ca  veda-mantrārtha-va-canai sama hyatad bhaviyati 26

I have heard from the god of gods (Indra) and even from Shankara (Shiva) that music (vocal and instrumental) is indeed purer and superior to taking a ceremonial dip in a river and repeating a mantra (Japa) a thousand times.

śruta mayā devadevāt tattvata śakarāb-ddhitam  snāna japya saha srebhya pavitra gīta vāditam 27

Whichever places that reverberate with the auspicious sounds of songs and music of Natya will forever be free from inauspicious happenings.

yasmin nātodya nāyasya gīta pāhya dhvani śubha  bhaviyatya śubha deśe naiva tasmin kadācana 28॥ ]

***

  1. Musical instruments

We may make a brief mention about the musical instruments mentioned in Rig Veda,.  The following musical instruments find reference in the Rig Veda. These instruments later developed into vana (lyre), veena, Venu or vamsha (flute) and mridanga (drums).

Karkari (RV 2.43.3) and Tunabha were veena –like string instruments. In fact, all string instruments were called veena.

Vana (RV 1.85.10; 6.24.9 etc.) was a lyre; a plucked string instrument like a harp. Rig Veda (10.32.4) mentions the seven tones (varas0 of the vana (vanasya saptha dhaturit janah).

Naali (RV 10.135.7) was a wind instrument similar to flute.

Dundhubhi (RV 1.28.51; 6.47.29 etc.) was a drum to keep betas and rhythm.

Adambarara was also a drum made from udambara tree.

Shanka vadya blowing of conch is also mentioned.

Musical instruments were basically used as accompaniments to singing and dancing. There are no references to playing them solo.

(*)While on the subject of swaras, let me append here the wonderful explanation of the swaras in Indian music offered by Shri S Rajam the renowned artist and musician. He says:  The Seven swaras have twelve swara divisions:

Carnatic System Syllable Hindustani System Western
Shadja SA Shadj C
Suddha Ri R1 Komal Rishab D Flat Db
Chatusruti Ri R2 Thivra Rishab D
Sadarana GA G1 Komal GA E Flat Eb
Antara GA G2 Thivra GA E
Suddha MA M1 Komal MA F
Prati MA M2 Thivra MA F Sharp F+
Panchama PA Pancham G
Suddha Da D1 Komal Da A Flat Ab
Chatusruti Da D2 Thivra Da A
Kaisiki NI N1 Komal NI B Flat Bb
KakaliNI N2 Thivra NI B

 

SA & PA are constant. Others have two levels (sthanas). Thus there exist twelve swara sthanas. Four more having shades of other swaras – Suddha Gandharam, Shatsruti Rishaba, and Suddha Nishada  & Shatsruti Dhaivata – make up a total of sixteen.

72 Sampoorna Ragas having all seven swaras both in ascending (arohana) & descending (avarohana) emerge as Mela ragas. Each mela has all the seven swaras but drafts varying swarasthana formulations.

Each mela raga applied to permutations & combinations of swara sthanas gives scope to 484 janya (sub) ragas. 72 mela ragas have thus a potential to give the colossal 34776 janya ragas. Of course, this is only an arithmetical projection & not a melodic feasibility.

Of 72 melas, the first 36 have M1 & the second 36 have M2.

http://www.indian-heritage.org/music/Melakartha%20Raga%20Booklet%20-%20new.pdf

 

Sources and References

http://www.omenad.net/page.php Dr. Lalmani Mishra

Sama-gana : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samagana

http://www.ragaculture.com/history.html

The tradition of Indian art music (a historical sketch)   by Acharya Chintamani Rath

Sama Veda & its Music by R L Kashyap

 Vaidika sahithya Charithre by Dr, NS Anantharanga Char

*

*
Painting by Shri S Rajam

http://rkmathbangalore.org/Books/Vedanta%20Kesari/%282007,%20September%29.pdf

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2012 in Music, Rigveda, Sanskrit

 

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The state of music in the Ramayana

My friend Shri DSampath posted a delightful blog weaving the Ramayana tale with colourful strands of lines of great charm set   in catchy tunes, chosen from popular Hindi movie songs. It was enterprising and highly entertaining too. Naturally, the blog was well received and was hugely popular. I enjoyed the sparkle of wit and wisdom.

That set me to think about Ramayana and music.

Ramayana

anjan7bRajam

After the Music of Sama comes the singing of Akhyana or ballads, narrating a story in musical forms. Of all the Akhyana-s, the Ramayana of the Adi Kavi Valmiki is the most celebrated one. It is a divine ballad (Akhyanam Divyam) narrating history of ancient times (Itihasam puratanam).

It is believed; the Ramayana had its origins in folk lore; and was preserved and spread as an oral epic (Akhyana), for a very long-time. It is suggested that poet Valmiki rendered the folk lore into a very beautiful, sensitive and lyrical epic poem by about 7th century BCE. Thereafter, in age after age, the Suthas narrated and sang the glory of Rama and Sita, in divine fervour; and spread the epic to all corners of the land and beyond. Even to this day , the tradition of devote groups of listeners gathering around a Sutha to listen to the ancient story of chaste love between Rama and his beloved, and their unwavering adherence to Dharma amidst their trials and tribulations; is still very  alive. What characterize the Dharma in Ramayana are its innocence, purity and nobility. The Indian people prefer listening with joy, the rendering of Ramayana as musical discourse, to reading the epic themselves.

Ramayana of Valmiki is a renowned Kavya, an Epic poem in classic style. It is also the Adi-Kavya, the premier Kavya; the most excellent among the Kavyas (Kavyanam uttamam); and, the best in all the three worlds (Adikavyam triloke).

The Epic of Valmiki is at the very core of Indian consciousness; and is lovingly addressed variously as: Sitayasya-charitam-mahat; Rama-charitam; Raghuvira-charitam; Rama-vrttam; Rama-katha; and Raghu-vamsa-charitam.

The Great scholar-philosopher Abhinavgupta (Ca.11th century) hailed Valmiki as Rasa Rishi one who   created an almost perfect epic poem adorned with the poetic virtues of Rasa, Soundarya (beauty of poetic imagery) and Vishadya (lucid expression and comfortable communication with the reader) ; all charged and brought to life  by Prathibha , the ever fresh intuition.

The Adi Kavi states that his Epic poem  (Kavyam)  Ramayana , adorned with Srngara,  Karuna, Hasya, Raudra, Bhayanaka and Vira Rasas is sung by Kusi – Lava –  rasaiḥ śṛṃgāra karuṇa hāsya raudra bhayānakaiḥ | virādibhī rasair yuktam kāvyam etat agāyatām (R.1-4-9 )

Music

Ramayana is more closely associated with music than other epics. That might be because Ramayana is rendered in verse; and, its poetry of abiding beauty melts into music like molten gold, with grace and felicity. Further, the epic has a certain lyrical lustre to it. The epic itself mentions that the Rama tale was rendered in song by two minstrels Kusi and Lava to the accompaniment of Veena, Tantri- laya-samanvitam (I.20.10), during the Asvamedha.

There are innumerable references to Music in Ramayana. Music was played for entertainment and in celebration at the weddings and other auspicious occasions; (II.7.416-36; 48.41.69; III.3, 17; 6.8; IV 38.13; V.53.17; VI.11.9; 24.3; 75.21 etc.)  . Music was also played in palaces and liquor parlours (IV 33.21; V.6.12; X.32; 37.11.4; Vi.10.4). Soulful songs were sung to the accompaniment of instruments, at religious services and in dramas. Music was played in the festivities; to welcome and see off the guests. The warriors fighting on the battlefield were lustily cheered and enthused by stout drum beats;   and piercing blow of conches, horns and trumpets. There is also mention of those who took to music as a profession. Besides, there were court (state) sponsored musicians. Music was thus a part of social fabric of the society as described in Ramayana.

There are numerous events narrated in Ramayana where Music was sung or played. The word Samgita in Ramayana is a composite term covering Gana (vocal), Vadya (instrumental) and Nritya (dance). Samgita or Music was referred to as Gandharva-vidya. There is also a mention of Karna sung to the accompaniment of Veena (R. VII. 71.5). Samgita was also Kausika (kaisika) the art of singing and dancing (gana-nrtya-vidya), the art of singing and dancing in groups (kausika-charya) to the accompaniment of instruments.

 For instance:

:- The sage Valmiki, the author of the Epic, at the commencement says that the Ramayana he composed is well suited to musical rendering in melodious (madhuram) tunes (Jatis) having all the seven notes (Svaras) in three registers (vilambita, Madhyama and Drita) with proper rhythm (laya) to the accompaniment of string instruments (tantrī laya samanvitam) – pāhye geye ca madhuram pramāai tribhir anvitam | jātibhi saptabhi yuktam tantrī laya samanvitam (R.1-4-8)

:- Describing the glory and the beauty of Ayodhya, it is said the city resounding with the rhythmic  drum beats of Dundubhi, Mrudanga and Panava; with the melodious tunes of string instruments like Veena , the city , indeed, was unique ; and undoubtedly the best city on earth –dundubhībhi mdangai ca vīābhi paavai tathā | nāditām   bhśam atyartham pthivyām tām anuttamām (R.1.5.18)

: – And, in the hermitage of Rishyasrnga the girls sent by King Lomapada sang and danced – tāḥ citra veṣāḥ pramadā gāyaṃtyo madhura svaram  (R.I .10.11 ).

 :- When  Sri Rama and his three brothers took birth, the Gandharvas in great jubilation  sang cheerfully; the celestial nymphs Apsaras danced with great delight, the Devas played on the drums enthusiastically, while the heavens showered flowers ; and,  with that there was a great festivity in Ayodhya among its joyous people who had  thronged in celebration – jagu kalam ca Gandharvā nantu ca Apsaro gaā | deva dudubhayo nedu pupa vṛṣṭi ca khāt patat  utsava ca mahān āsīt ayodhyāyām janākula (R. 1-18-17 )

: – Sri Rama himself is said to have been proficient in Music (Gandharve Ca bhuvi Sresthah).

: – As Lakshmana enters the inner court  of the Vanara King Sugriva, he hears singing and ravishing strains of the music of the Veena and other string instruments.

: – As Hanuman flew over the sea towards Lanka he heard a group of musicians singing sons (kausika-charya).

:-  Hanuman , as he entered the city of Lanka, while going from one building to another,  heard a sweet song which was decorated by sound from the three svaras – Mandra, Madhya and Tara of love lorn women like Apsara women in heaven.

:-Hanuman while wandering at night through the inner courts of Lanka heard melodious and sweet  songs adorned with Tri-sthana and Svara; and, the songs had regular Taala (sama-taala) and aksara (words) – (R.V.4.10)- Śuśrāva madhuram gītam tri sthāna svara bhūitam | strīām mada samddhānām divi ca apsarasām iva  (R . 5-4-10 )

:-  Hanuman heard musical notes coming from stringed instruments which were comforting to ears: Tantrīsvanāh karasukhā pravttā | svapanti nārya patibhi suvttā (R. 5-5-9 )

:-  Hanuman found the huge palace of Ravana, vast like the legendary mansions of Kubera, encircled by many spacious enclosures; filled with hundreds of best women; and, resounding with the sounds of percussion on Mrudangas with deep sound – mdanga tala ghoai ca ghoavadbhir vināditam ( R.5-6-43)

:- Silently wandering through the inner courts of Ravana, in the middle of the night, the bewildered Hanuman came upon sleeping groups of women, adorned with rich and sparkling ornaments (R 5.10-37-44) . These women who were skilled in dance and music, tired and fast asleep, lying in various postures, was each clutching or hugging to a musical instrument ; such as Veena,  Madduka; pataha; Vamsam ; Vipañchi; Mridanga ; Paava; Dindima;  and, Adambar. 

Hanuman  sees a lady of the court, tired and asleep, clutching to her Veena,  like a cluster of lotuses entwining a boat moored on the banks of a stream – kācid vīām parivajya prasuptā samprakāśate | mahā nadī  prakīrā iva nalinī potam āśritā (R. 5-10-37  )

There was one woman with black eyes sleeping with an instrument called Madduka under arm pit shone like a woman carrying an infant boy with love – Maḍḍukena asita īkaā | prasuptā bhāminī bhāti bāla putrā iva vatsalā  (5-10-38).

A woman with beautiful body features and with beautiful breasts slept tightly and hugged instrument called Pataha as though hugging a lover, getting him after a long time – paaham cāru sarva angī pīya śete śubha stanī | cirasya  ramaam labdhvā parivajya iva kāminī (5-10-39)

Another woman with lotus like eyes hugging a  vaśam (flute  ) slept like a woman holding her lover in secret – kācid vaśam parivajya suptā kamala locanā | raha priyatamam ghya sakāmeva ca kāminī (R. 5-10-40 )

Another woman skilled in dance obtained sleep getting  Vipanchi an instrument like Veena and being in tune with it like a woman together with her lovervipañcaiim parighyānyā niyatā nttaśālinī | nidrā vaśam anuprāptā saha kāntā iva bhāminī (R.5-10-41)

Another woman with lusty eyes slept hugging a percussion instrument called Mridanga Anya kanaka … mdangam paripīya angai prasuptā matta locanā (R. 5-10-42 )

Another tired woman slept, clutching an instrument called Panava between her shoulders and reaching arm pits- bhuja pārśva antarasthena kakagena krśa udarī | paavena saha anindyā suptā mada krta śramā (R. 5-10-43 )

Another woman with an instrument called Dindima near her slept in the same way as a woman hugging her husband and also her child – iṇḍimam parigrhya anyā tathaiva āsakta iṇḍimā | prasuptā  taruam vatsam upagūhya iva bhāminī (R. 5-10-44 )

And, Another woman with eyes like lotus petals slept making the instrument called Adambara pressing it by her shoulders – kācid āambaram nārī bhuja sambhoga pīitam |ktvā kamala patra akī prasuptā mada mohitā (R. 5-10-45 )

Some excellent women slept hugging strange instrumentsātodyāni vicitrāi parivajya vara striya(6.10.49)

: – Some versions of Ramayana mention that Ravana was a reputed Saman singer; and music was played in his palace. He, in fact, suggests to Sita, she could relax like a queen listening to music in his palace, instead sitting tensely under the tree- mahārhaṇi ca pānāni śayanānyāsanāni ca | gītam nṛttaṃ ca vādyaṃ ca labha maṃ prāpya maithili (R. 5-20-10 )

:- According to some versions of the Ramayana , Ravana was a well known player of Veena  called Ravana-hastaka (an instrument played with a bow).

:- As Ravana’s soldiers prepare for the war, they hear the sounds of the Bheri played by Rama’s monkey –army. Sarama asks Sita to listen and rejoice the Bheri sounds resembling the thundering rumbles of the clouds- Samanahajanani hesya bhairava bhiru bherika / Bherinadam ca gambhiram srunu toyadanihsvanam – (6-33-22)

:- Ravana  compared the battlefield to a music stage; bow (weapon for firing arrows) to his Veena; arrow to his musical bow; and the tumultuous noise of the battle to music – jyā śabda tumulām ghorām ārta gītam ahāsvanām | nārā catalasam nādām tām mamā hita vāhinīm | avagāhya maha raṅgam vādayiṣyāntagan raṇe – ( R. VI: 24:43-44)

:- As the battle ended with victory to Rama, the  Apsaras danced to the songs of Gandharvas, such as Narada the king of Gandharvas (Gandharva-rajanah), Tumbura, Gopa, Gargya, Sudhama, Parvata, and Suryamandala (R.6.92.10). Tumbura sang in divine Taana (divya-taaneshu).

:-The triumphant Rama, the foremost among men, on his return, was greeted and loudly cheered by the people of Ayodhya accompanied by sounds of conchs  (shankha) buzzing in the ears and tremendous sounds of Dundhubi  – Śankha śabda praādaiśca dundubhīnān ca nisvanai | prayayū puruavyāghrastā purīn harmyamālinīm (R. 6-128-33)

:- Rama drove to his palace, surrounded by musicians cheerfully playing on the cymbals, Swastika and such other musical instruments singing auspicious (mangalani) songs- Sa purogāmi abhistūryaistālasvastikapāibhi | pravyāharadbhirmuditairmagalāni yayau vta ( 6-128-37 )

:- On that auspicious and most joyous occasion of the coronation of the noblest Sri Rama, the Devas, the Gandharva sang gracefully ;and , the troupes of Apsaras  danced with great delight – Prajagur deva-gandharvā nantuśc āpsaro gaā | abhieke  tadarhasya tadā rāmasya dhīmata (6-128-72 )

 Ramapattabhishekam

Music terms

Ramayana is not a thesis on music; it is an epic poem rendering the story of chaste love between a husband and his wife. The music or whatever elements mentioned therein is incidental to the narration of the story. And, yet, Valmiki accorded importance to music and elements of music in his work. He crafted situations where music could be introduced naturally. More importantly, his verses have a very high lyrical quality; and, can be rendered into music quite easily. All these speak of Valmiki’s   love for music and his aesthetic refinement.

Many Music-terms are mentioned in Ramayana, indicating the state of Music obtaining during the time of its composition – (not necessarily during the event-period).

:-  Valmiki mentions that Kusi–Lava sang in Marga style – Marga-vidhana-sampada – (R. I.4.35); in seven melodic modes called Jatis (jatibhih saptabhir) that were pure (shuddha) – (R. I.4.8 ).

:-  Valmiki endorsed use of sweet sounding words, with simple and light syllables; and advises against harsh words loaded with heavy syllables (R. IV.33.21).

: – The music of Kusi-Lava was Baddha, structured into stanzas – with apt rhythm (laya), tempo (sthana) and words (Pada)-  (R.I.4.8).

:-  Valmiki mentions, Kusi-Lava were familiar with Murchana and Tri- Sthana; as also with the rhythmic patterns – Laya, Yati – in three-speeds. Tri-Sthana might either refer to three voice registers (Mandra, Madhyama and Tara) or three tempos (Vilamba, Madhyama and Druta).

: – Lava and Kusi were said not to fall away from Raga. Here, the term Raga is said to mean sweetness of voice (kanta-madhurya).

Here are some terms that  might need short explanation:

: – Marga or Gandharva is regarded the music fit for gods.  It is said to have been derived from Sama Veda; and constituted of Pada (the text), Svara (notes) and Taala (rhythm).Marga was rather sombre and not quite flexible too. Marga or Gandharva in the later centuries gave place to free flowing Desi the Music derived from the folk and the regions.

:- Baddha is a song format that is well structured into stanzas – with apt rhythm (laya), tempo (sthana) and words (Pada). It contrasts with Anibaddha unstructured Music without restrictions of Taala. It is analogous to the present-day Aalap, and rendering of Ragamalika, Slokas etc. The Baddha – Anibaddha distinction is observed even today, just as in Valmiki’s time.

: – Grama (group) was the basic gamut of notes employed in the early music-tradition. The ancient tradition is said to have employed three Grama-s beginning from ShadjaMadhyama, or Gandhara note. Later, the third Grama, based on Gandhara reportedly went out of vogue as it required moving in a usually high range of notes.

: – Jati refers to the classification of musical compositions as per the tones. Svaras and Jatis were seven primary notes such as Shadja, Rshabha etc of the octaves – patya-jati. Ana is said to be a drag note generally called ekasruti.

It means Kusi Lava rendered the verses in several melodies. However, since the raga concept was, then, yet to be evolved, there might not have been much depth and variation in their rendering.

:-   Murchhana was the ancient mode of extending available tonal frameworks by commencing ascents and descents, ranging over (purna) seven notes, every time from a new note. This mode gave place to the Mela system around the 15th -16th century.

Instrumental Music

Valmiki’s Ramayana mentions varieties of musical instruments. The musical instruments were collectively mentioned as Atodya The term also  denoted instrumental music. The musical instruments, of the time, were categorized, broadly, as those played by hand (hastha-vadya); and as those played by mouth (mukha- vadya) (R. II.65.2). The string and percussion instruments came under the former category; while the wind instruments were among the latter category. Instrumental Music was primarily individualistic; not orchestrated. It appears instruments were used mainly as accompaniments (not solo) and depended on vocal music. Group music- vocal with instruments –appeared to be popular.

In another manner , the musical instruments were  classified under four broad categories : Tatha which included all stringed instruments; Anaddha which included all that  were covered or were struck like drums; Sushira which included all wind  instruments like the flute and the Shanka; and, Ghana which included all  solid cymbal-like resonators.

String instruments

Among the string instruments (Tatha), Ramayana mentions two kinds of Veena: Vipanchi (fingerboard plucked ones with nine strings like the Veena as we know) ;Vana or Vallaki (a multi stringed harp); and, Kanda-Veena (made by joining reeds). In fact, till about 19th century, string instruments  of all kinds were called Veena: harps like the Chitra; fingerboard plucked ones like  the Vipanchi,  Rudra Veena, the Saraswati Veena and the Kacchapi Veena; bowed ones such as the Ravana hastaveena and the Pinaki Veena.

Percussion instruments

As regards the percussion instruments, the Epic refers to quite a large number of them: Mrudanga; Panava (a kind of Mridanga which had a hole in the middle with strings were laid from one side to another); Aataha; Madduka ( a big drum of two faces having twelve and thirteen angula- finger lengths ); Dundubhi (Nagaara); Dindima (resembling Damaru but smaller in size); Muraja (a a bifacial drum, the left one of eight fingers and right one of seven fingers); Adambara ( a sort of kettle drum made of Udambara wood); Bheri (two faced metal drum in a conical shape , the leather kept taut by strings; the right face was struck by a kona and the left one by hand, striking terror in the heart of the enemy ); Pataha (resembling Dholak);  and Dundubhi (drums made of hollow wood covered with hide) played during wedding ceremonies as also for welcoming the winning-warriors . Gargara was another drum used during the wars.  All these were leather or leather bound instruments. They were played with metal or wooden drum-sticks with their ends wrapped in leather.

There is also a mention of BhumiDundubhi where the lower part of a huge drum is buried in a pit while the exposed upper part covered with animal hide is beaten with big sized metal or wooden drum-sticks to produce loud booming sounds. It was played during battles to arouse the warriors; to celebrate victory; or in dire emergency. BhumiDundubhi was also played at the time of final offering (Purna-Ahuthi) at the conclusion of a Yajna.

The other instruments to keep rhythm (Taala) were: Ghatam and cymbals. Aghathi was a sort of cymbal used while dancing.

Wind instruments

The instruments played by mouth (mukha- vadya) , that is the wind instruments, mentioned in Ramayayana include : Venu or Vamsa (flute) , Shankha ( conch) blown on auspicious occasions and at the time of wars ; Tundava ( wind instrument made of wood); Singa ( a small blower made of deer horns to produce sharp and loud sounds); and, kahale or Rana-bheri (long curved war- trumpet). The flute was also used for maintaining Aadhara- Sruthi (fundamental note). [Tambura or Tanpura did not come into use till about 15th-16th century.]

State of Music

It is evident that during the period in which Ramayana was composed (say 7th century BC) , the Music was fairly well developed ; and the basic concepts were, in place. However, a full-fledged musicology and elaborate theories on music were yet to develop. Marga system was prevalent; and, Desi with its Ragas was yet centuries away.

Singing well known texts of poetry, in public, appeared to be the standard practice.  Instruments were used for accompaniment and not for solo performances. Group singing with instrumental support appeared to be popular. Music was very much a part of the social and personal life.

Mahabharata

As compared to Ramayana, there is relatively less information about Music in Mahabharata. Yet; Music (Gandharva) did occupy an important place in the life of its people. There are references to Music played on various occasions, including welcoming and seeing off the guests.  Along with singing (Gita) such Musical instruments as Panav, Vansa and Kansya Tala etc., were played. The Music instruments were broadly covered under the term Vaditra, denoting the four-fold group of Tata, Vitata, Ghana and Sushira -Vadyas.

In Shanti-parva, there are references to Veena and Venu.  The string instrument (Tantri-Vadya) Veena, was played during religious ceremonies like Yajnas; and, for relaxation by the ladies of the Queen’s court- vīṇā-paṇava-veṇūnāṃ svanaś cāti manoramaḥ / prahāsa iva vistīrṇaḥ śuśruve tasya veśmanaḥ – 12,053.005

In Dronaparva, there are references to Drum class instruments like: Mridanga, Jharjhara, Bheri, Panava, Anaka, Gomukha, Adambara, and Dundubhi (paṇavānaka-dundubhi-jharjhar-ibhiḥ – 07,014.037).

Andin Virata-parva, there is a reference to Kansya (solid brass instrument), the cymbal; Shankha (conch) and Venu (flute), the wind instruments Sushira -Vadyas. And, Gomukha was perhaps a cow-faced horn or trumpet – śaṅkhāś ca bheryaś ca gomukhā-ḍambarās tathā – 04,067.026.

The known Musical Instruments of the Mahabharata Period could be grouped as under:

Muscial instruments in Mahabharata

elepphant carriage

References:

Ramayanadalli Sangita (Kannada) by Dr. R Satyanarayana

Origin of Indian Instrumental Music Music is found …

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/13634/8/08_chapter%202.pdf

http://www.4to40.com/discoverindia/index.asp?article=discoverindia_musicalinstruments

Musical Instruments

http://www.hvk.org/articles/1098/0000.html

Telling a Ramayana

www.srinivasreddy.org/summer/History%20Notes.doc

Music of India

http://www.nadsadhna.com/glossary.html

Glossary of music terms

The Music and Musical Instruments of North Eastern India by Dilip Ranjan Barthakur

Painting by Shri S Rajam
 

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2012 in Music, Rigveda, Sanskrit

 

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