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Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Vidya (8 of 8)

Kamalamba Navavarana kritis-Part two


Continued from page one.

While discussing the Navavarana kritis, I propose to restrict myself to those portions of the kritis that have reference to Sri Vidya and Sri Chakra. Most of such references occur in the Charanam segment of the kritis.

[ Note : The worship of Sri Yantra involves use of ten types of Mudras (Dasa-mudrani) – the gestures through the fingers – from Sarva-Samkshobhini to Sarva-Trikhanda . For a discussion on ; and, for the illustration of these Mudras, please click here.]

1.      First Avarana – Bhupura

Kamalaambaa Samrakshatu Maam– Ananda Bhairavi – Misra Chapu (Triputa)

[The avarana is Bhupura and the Chakra is Trailokyamohana chakra ‘enchants the three worlds’. The yogini is Prakata; Mudra is Sarva Somkshibhni; Siddhi is Anima; and the mental state of the aspirant is Jagrata. The presiding deity is Tripura. Her Vidya is Am Am Sauh.The gem is topaz. The time is 24 minutes and the Shaktis are 28 that include the ten starting with Anima, the eight Matruka Devis starting with Brahmya and Maheshwari;  and the ten Mudra Shaktis. 28 is the dominant number. This avarana corresponds to the feet of the mother goddess.]

Tripuraadi Chakreshvari Animaadi Siddhishvari Nitya Kaameshvari
Kshitipura Trailokyamohana Chakra Vartini Prakata Yogini
Suraripu Mahishaasuraadi Marddini Nigama Puraanaadi Samvedini
Tripureshi Guruguha Janani Tripura Bhanjana Ranjani
Madhuripu Sahodari Talodari Tripura Sundari Maheshvari

The Bhupura Chakra, the earth stretch, includes within its spacial scope the entire design even as the earth supports the entire existence . As he enters the first Avarana, Dikshitar submits his salutations to the Mother Goddess Kamalamba and prays for protection and guidance.

He address her as the magnificent transcendental beauty without a parallel in three worlds (Tripura Sundari); the conqueror of three levels of existence; the presiding deity of Tripura and other chakras (Tripuraadi Chakreshvari); Kameshwari; the empress of Trailokyamohana Chakra (Trailokyamohana Chakravartini) of Bhupura (Kshithipura). She is the presiding deity of the chakra (Tripureshi); mother of Guruguha; and the enchanting beauty of all the tree worlds (tripura Sundari).

He also submits his salutations to Anima and other Siddhi deities of the Avarana (Animaadi-Siddhishvari); the Nitya Devis; the Yogini of the Avarana (PrakataYogini); and Maheshwari and other Matruka Devis.

[The Eight Siddhis (Asta-siddhi) are: 1.Aimā: reducing one’s body to the size of an atom; 2.Mahimā: expanding one’s body to an infinitely large size; 3.Laghimā: becoming almost weightless; 4. Garima – power to become inordinately heavy; 5. Prāpti: ability to be anywhere at will; 6. Prākāmya: realizing whatever one desires; 7.Īśiva: supremacy over nature; and,8. Vaśiva: control of natural forces


The Nityas are the primary Devatas of the first Chakra. The Nitya Kameshwari is at the center. They are sixteen in number, 1. Kameshwari; 2.Bhagamalini; 3.Nityaklinna; 4.Bherunda; 5.Vanhivasini; 6. Maha-vajreswari; 7.Shivadooti (Roudri); 8.Twarita(Kshipra-prada) ; 9.Kulasundari; 10. Nitya;  11. Neelapataka; 12.Vijaya; 13 .Sarvamangala; 14.Jwalamalini; 15.Chidroopa (Chitra); and 16.Maha-nitya (Vichitra).

They are represented in the triple-girdle (Tri-vrtta), between the outermost enclosure (Bhupura) and the sixteen—petalled -lotus (Asta-dala-padma of the second enclosure), in the form of sixteen vowels, each of them inscribed on a petal, in an anti-clock sequence. They are worshipped during the brighter half of the month (Shukla-paksha), in a sequential order : Kameshvari on the first day; Bhagamalini on the second day; and, so on , till the fifteenth day . But, during the darker half of the month (Krishna-paksha) , the worship sequence is reversed , starting with Maha-nitya ( Vichitra). The full-moon or the New-moon represent the culmination of all the phases (Kalas) of the moon or of the Nityas. The sixteenth aspect of the moon (Shodashi) is looked upon as Maha-Tripura-Sundari (or Lalitha) , represented by the central point (Bindu) of the Sri Chakra. ]

Nityas of Sri Vidya

Thus, along with the prayers, he brings out the salient features of the Bhupura Chakra, the Earth principle. The name of Raga Anandabhiravi is suggested by the phrase Kamalaja-ananda Bodhasukhi. His signature also appears in Guruguha janani.

2, Second Avarana – Shodasha dala padma

Kamalambaam Bhajare Re Maanasa –Kalyani- Adi.

[The avarana is Shodasa Dala, and the Chakra is Sarva asha paripuraka chakra ‘fulfiller all desires and expectations’; the yogini is Gupta Yogini; Mudra is Sarva Vidravini; the Siddhi is Laghima; and the mental state is Swapna, The presiding deity is Tripureshi. Her vidya is Aim Klim Sauh. The gem is sapphire. The time is three hours. The Shaktis are the sixteen starting with Kamakarshini.16 is the dominant number. This avarana corresponds to the Savdhistana chakra of the mother goddess.]

Sarvaashaa Paripuraka Chakra Svaamineem Parama Shiva Kaamineem
Durvaasaarcchita Gupta Yogineem Dukha Dhvamsineem Hamsineem
Nirvaana Nija Sukha Pradaayineem Nityakalyaaneem Kaatyaayaneem
Sharvaaneem Madhupa Vijaya Venim Sad Guruguha Jananeem Niranjaneem
Garvita Bhandaasura Bhanjaneem Kaamaa Karshanyaadi Ranjaneem

Nirvishesha Chaitanya Roopineem Urvee Tatvaadi Svaroopineem

The sixteen petaled lotus(shodasha-dala-padma) called sarva-asha-paripuraka-chakra , the fulfiller of all desires , is the second enclosure. In the sixteen   petals , the sixteen vowels of Sanskrit alphabet is inscribed.These symbolize sixteen kalas or aspects or phases.This Avarana is about the self protection of the devotee (atma-raksha); and liberation from discontent by seeking identity with Shiva the ever complete and content.

He calls upon his mind to meditate on Kamalamba and cast aside attachments to illusory existence (kalpita maaya) .The craving Asha springs from discontent; and is quenched when discontent is eliminated. That is possible when devotee identifies himself with Shiva, ever complete and ever content.

He worships the presiding deity of Sarvasaparipuraka chakra, the fulfiller of all desires and expectations (Dukha Dhvamsineem); the beloved of Parama Shiva; the bestower of true and everlasting bliss (Nirvaana-Nija-Sukha-Pradaayineem). 

She is the manifestation of attribute_ less supreme spirit (Nirvishesha-Chaitanya-Roopineem). She is also the representation of the world and its principles (Urvee Tatvaadi Svaroopineem).

When he calls her “she who is worshipped by Durvasa (Durvaasaarcchita)”, he is referring to the Kaadi matha tradition to which he belonged. The sage Durvasa is one of the gurus of the Kaadi matha.

Dikshitar also refers to the Gupta Yogini, the yogini of this avarana; the sixteen, Shakthis starting with Kama-akarshini (Kaamaa-Karshanyaadi-Ranjaneem). They are also called Nithyas and named Kamakarshini (fascinating the desires), Budhyakarshini (fascinating the intellectetc. They relate to powers in the Five Elements, the ten senses of perception or Indriyas (being further divided into five organs of action and five sense organs) and the Mind.   

The phrase Nija-Sukha-Pradaayineem-Nitya-kalyaaneem refers to the sixteen Devis of this avarana, called Nitya Kala or Nitya Devis.

[The sixteen presiding deities (Nityas) in the second Avarana, all ending in the phrase Akarshini  (the one who attracts or draws forth) are – Kama-akarshini; Buddhi-akarshini, Ahamkara-akarshini; Chitta-akarshini, Dhairya-akarshini; Smrti-akarshini; Sharira-akarshini;  Shabda-akarshini, Sparsha-akarshini; Rupa-akarshini, Rasa-akarshini;, Gandha-akarshini; Nama-akarshin; Bija-akarshini, Atma -akarshini; and, Amrtita-akarshini .]

The Goddess Kamalamba, in this Kriti, is served by Lakshmi and Sarasvathi. This is said to have been inspired by the phrase “sacamara Rama Vani savya-dakshina sevita”, which appears in the Lalita-sahasranama. Sri Dikshitar, in his another Kriti in Nasamani Raga, commences  with the words “Shri Rama Sarasvati sevitam shri Lalitambam bhavaye”


The Raga mudra is in the phrase Nityakalyaneem; and , his signature is in Guruguha -jananeem.

3. Third Avarana –Ashta dala padma

Shree Kamalaambikayaa Kataakshitoham -: Shankarabharanam-Rupaka

 [The avarana is ashta dala; The Chakra is Sarvasamkshobana chakra ‘agitates all’. The Yogini is Guptatara; Mudra is Sarvakarshini; the Siddhi is Mahima; and the mental state is Shushupti. The Presiding deity is Tripura Sundari. Her vidya is Hrim Klim Sauh. The gem is cat’s eye. The time is day and night. The Shaktis are the eight starting with Ananga Kusuma. 8 is the dominant number. This avarana corresponds to the navel region of mother goddess.]

Ananga Kusumaadyashta Shaktyaakaarayaa
Arunavarna Samkshobhana Chakraakaarayaa
Anantakotyandanaayaka Shankara Naayikayaa
Ashta Vargaatmaka Gupta Tarayaa Varayaa
Anangaa Dyupaasitayaa Astadalaabjasthitayaa
Dhanur Baanadhara Karayaa Dayaa Sudhaa Saagarayaa

Eight petalled lotus (astha dala padma) called Sarva-samkhobhana-Chakra the agitator of all, is the third Avarana. Each petal has a consonant inscribed within it that begins with ‘Ka’  The petals represent eight divinities associated with erotic urges , independent of physical body (ananga).

The Avarana is about overcoming agitations (Samshkoba) and the formless erotic urges (ananga)that arise in mind .These refer to mental pleasures and agitations related to the modalities of mind such as rejection (repulsion or withdrawal), acceptance (attention or attachment) and indifference (detachment).

The eight petals of the Avarana Asta dala represent eight divinities associated with such erotic principles. Sri Dikshitar refers to them as Ananga-Kusumaadyashta-Shaktyaakaarayaa.

The eight Shakthis referred to as Ananga-kusuma are:

    1. Ananga-kusuma;
    2. Ananga-mekhala;
    3. Ananga-madana;
    4. Ananga madanatura;
    5. Ananga-rekha;
    6. Ananga-vegini;
    7. Ananga-amshuka; and
    8. Ananga-malini.

These Shakthis are described as Guptatara yogini-s.

Dikshitar obviously succeeded in gaining freedom from mental agitations and urges caused by these erotic principles.

Dikshitar is thrilled with divine ecstasy; I am blessed by the grace of mother Kamalamba (Shree Kamalaambikayaa Kataakshitoham); and I have realized that Absolute Brahman (Sacchidaananda Paripurna Brahmaasmi). 

He describes the Devi as the one seated on the red colored (Aruna Varna) Samkshobhana Chakra, amidst its eight petals (Anangaa-Dyupaasitayaa-Astadalaabjasthitayaa) having names starting with Ananga (Ananga Kusumaadyashta).

In the eight petals of the lotus, eight consonants such as ka, cha, ta and so on are inscribed (Ashta-Vargaatmaka). 

She holds in her hands the bow and arrows (Dhanur-Baanadhara-Karayaa). She is the ocean of mercy (Dayaa-Sudhaa-Saagarayaa).

Ananga has also a reference also to the cult of Cupid or Eros (Manmatha or Kamaraja) and its deities that have merged into the tradition of Sri Vidya. Dikshitar is referring to the school propagated by Kamaraja, the Kamaraja vidya or Kadi matha; and continued by the sage Agasthaya. Dikshitar belonged to this school.

He mentions the yogini of the Avarana, Gupta Tarayaa (Gupta Tarayaa Varayaa).

Raga mudra is hinted in Shankara Naayikayaa, the beloved of Shankara. His signature appears in the phrase Guruguha-tatrai-padayaa.

4. Fourth Avarana –chaturdasha trikona

 Kamalaambikaayai Kanakamshukaayai-Kambhoji -Khanda Ata

[The Avarana is chaturdasha trikona, a figure made of 14 triangles; the Chakra is Sarvasoubhagya dayaka chakra, ‘grants excellence’. The Yogini is Sampradaya Yogini; the Mudra is Sarva Shankari; the Siddhi is Ishitva. The mental state is Iswara Vichara. The presiding deity is Tripura Vasini. Her vidya is is Haim Hklim Hsauh. The gem is coral. The time is day and night . The Shaktis are the fourteen starting withSamkshobhini.14 is the dominant number. This avarana corresponds to the heart of mother goddess.]

Sakala Saubhaagya Daayakaambhoja Charanaayai
Samkshobhinyaadi Shaktiyuta Chaturthyaavaranaayai
Prakata Chaturddasha Bhuvana Bharanaayai
Prabala Guruguha Sampradaayaantah Karanaayai
Akalanka Rupa Varnaayai Aparnaayai Suparnaayai
Sukara Dhruta Chaapa Baanaayai Shobhanakara Manukonaayai
Sakunkumaadi Lepanaayai Charaacharaadi Kalpanaayai
Chikura Vijita Neelaghanaayai Chidaananda Purna Ghanaayai

Dikshitar worships the presiding deity of the fourth Avarana, playing on the words occurring in the title of the Chakra: sarva sowbhagya dayaka, the bestower of all prosperity and addresses the Mother as Sakala-Saubhaagya-Daaya-kaambhoja-Charanaayai, the goddess with lotus like feet and benefactor of all good things in life. He inserted the Raga mudra, in the phrase kaambhoja Charanaayai, worshiping her lotus feet.

This Chakra referred to as Sarva-saubhagyadayaka – that which grants all auspicious things in life – is also called Manukona, named after the fourteen Manus; and, it consists of fourteen triangles. The fourteen Shakthis (called as Sampradaya-Yoginis)  that are involved here are:  

    1. Sarva-samkshobini;
    2. Sarva-vidravini;
    3. Sarva-akarshini,
    4. Sarva-stambhini;
    5. Sarva-jhrambhini;
    6. Sarva-vashamkari;
    7. Sarva-ahladini;
    8. Sarva-sammohini;
    9. Sarva-ranjani;,
    10. Sarva-anmodinI,
    11. sarva-arthasadhaka;
    12.  Sarva-sampattipurani;
    13. Sarva-mantramayi; and
    14. Sarva-dvandvakshyamkari.

The fourteen triangles are inscribed with fourteen consonants beginning with ka and ending with dha. The fourteen corners represent fourteen powers of mother goddess.

The fourteen triangles (chaturdasha-trikona) of the chakra represent fourteen channels  of the vital forces in the body(naadis), corresponding with the fourteen divinities Sarva Samkshobhini and thirteen others.

Sri Dikshitar refers to these fourteen forces of the fourth avarana as Samkshobhinyaadi-Shaktiyuta Chaturthya-avaranaayai.

He adulates the Devi as manifest ruler (prakata-bharanayai) of the fourteen worlds (chaturdasha buvana). The fourteen worlds also represent the faculties :

the Mind (Manas), the Intellect (Buddhi), Being (Chitta), the Conscious Ego (Ahamkara) and the ten Indriyas.

This avarana corresponds to the heart of the mother goddess. Dikshitar addresses Kamalamba as the heart (antah karanaayai) of the great tradition (prabala-sampradaya) to which Dikshitar (Guruguha) belongs. He is referring to the tradition of the Kaadi matha of the Dakshinamurthy School of Sri Vidya.

He describes the mother as seated in fourteen triangle (manu-konayai), smeared with vermilion (sa-kunkumayai), holding in her beautiful hands (su_kara) arrows (baana-chaapa). 

She is the creator of movable and immovable existence (Charaacharaadi-Kalpanaayai).

 She is the embodiment of consciousness (chit) and bliss (ananda).

The symbolism of this Avarana is the one cherished by all, sarva-sowbhagya-dayaka; for it suggests the identity of Shiva with his Shakthis (Chidananda-purna-ghanaayai).


The Raga-mudra Kambhoji appears slightly altered as “Kambhoja” in the line Daya-kambhoja-caranayai .

5. Fifth Avarana –Bahir dasara

Shree Kamalaambikaayaah Param Nahire- Bhairavi -Misra Jhampa

[The Avarana is Bahirdasara; the Chakra is Sarvarthasadhakachakra, the ‘accomplisher of all’. The Yogini is Kulotteerna yogini; the Mudra is Sarvonmadini; and the Siddhi is Vashitva. The mental state is Guroopa Sadanam. The presiding deity is Tripura Shri. Her vidya is is Haim Hklim Hsauh. The gem is pearl. The time is lunar day. The Shaktis are the ten starting with Sarva Siddhi Prada.10 is the dominant number. This avarana corresponds to the neck of mother goddess.]

Shreekantha Vishnu Virinchaadi Janayitrayaah
Shivaatmaka Vishvakartryaah Kaarayitryaah

Shreekara Bahirdashaara Chakra Sthityaah
Sevita Bhairavi Bhaargavee Bhaaratyaah


Naadamaya Sukshmarupa Sarva Siddhipradaadi Dasha Shaktyaaraadhita Moorthe
Shrotraadi Dasha Karana-aatmaka Kula Kauli Kaadi Bahuvidhopaasita Keertthe
Abheda Nitya Shuddha Buddha Mukta Saccida Anandamaya Paramaadvaita Sphurtthe
Aadi Madhyaanta Rahitaaprameya Guruguha Modita Sarva Arttha Saadhaka Sphurtte
Mulaadi Navaadhaara Vyaavrtta Dashadhvani Bhedajhna Yogibrunda Samraksanyaa
Anaadi Maayaa Avidyaakaarya Kaarana Vinoda Karana Patutarakataaksa Viksanyaah.

This avarana which is in the form of a figure with ten corners is called Bahir dasara , the outer ten triangles; and represents ten vital currents  (pranas)  responsible for the various functions of body and mind. They are also the representations of ten incarnations of Vishnu meant to accomplish welfare of mankind. Hence the chakra is called Sarvartha-Sadhaka, the accomplisher of all objects.

Dikshitar addresses the Devi as the auspicious one (Shreekara) seated on the Bahirdasara Chakra, served by Bhairavi (Kaali), Bhargavee (Lakshmi) and Bharathi (Saraswathi).

The term Bhairavi is also the Raga-mudra, here. (Shreekara-Bahirdashaara-Chakra-Sthityaah-Sevita Bhairavi-Bhaargavee-Bhaaratyaah)

The Shakthis of the avarana are ten in number; and are named Sarva-Siddhiprada, Sarva Sampathprada, and Sarva-Priyankari and so on.

Dikshitar worships the ten manifestations of these shakthis (Sarva-Siddhipradaadi-Dasha Shaktya-araadhita-Moorthe); and describes them as the subtle forms of sounds in the body (Naadamaya Sukshmarupa).

The yoginis of the chakra are Kulotteerna-yoginis; and are also called Kuala yoginis.

Dikshitar worships the mother as being present in various forms (Bahu-vidho-pasthitha) such as the ten yoginis kula, Kaula and others (Dasha Karana-aatmaka-Kula-Kauli Kaadi).

The term Dasha-karana stands for the ten organs, consisting of the five sense organs (Jnanendriya-s) and the five organs of action (Karmendriya-s).

The ten Shakthis (Dasha Shakthi) referred to here as Kulotteerna Yoginis  (those who enhance the prosperity of the generations) are:

    1. Sarvasiddhiprada;
    2. Sarva-sampatprada;
    3. Sarva-priyamkari;
    4. Sarva-mangalakarini;
    5. Sarva-kamaprada;
    6. Sarva-duhkhavimocani;
    7. Mrtyu-prashamani;
    8. Sarva-vighnanivarini;  
    9. Sarva-sundari; and,  
    10. Sarva-saubhagyadayini.

He describes the fifth avarana Sarvartha Sadhaka, the accomplisher of all objects, in highly lyrical terms. He hails her as the ultimate good (Shiva) and the objective of the Tantra and Vedic rituals alike; and as the supreme non-dual non-differentiated ever pure enlightened free self, consciousness and bliss. She is the incomparable, non-dual being, without an end or beginning. She is loved in devotion by Guruguha; and is manifested in Sarvartha-Sadhaka-Chakra. She is the sublime inspiration.

(Abheda Nitya Shuddha Buddha Mukta Saccida Anandamaya Paramaadvaita Sphurtthe, Aadi Madhyaanta Rahitaaprameya Guruguha Modita Sarva Arttha Saadhaka Sphurtte).

She is also present as Naada, sound, in the nine vital centers such as Muladhara and other chakras. She protects yogis; dispels delusion and ignorance. The nine chakras referred to are :

Muladhara, Svadhistana, Manipura, anahata, Vishuddha and Ajna; together with Manasa chakra (mind centre) situated above Ajna, Soma chakra (lunar-centre) situated above Manasa-chakra; and Sahasra-padma, symbolically, located above the head.

The Sahasra is the seat of consciousness (Shiva).

 6. Sixth Avarana –Antar dasara

Kamalaambikaayaastava Bhaktoham- Punnaagavaraali -Thrisra Eka

[The Avarana is Antardasara; the Chakra is Sarvaraksakara chakra The gem is emerald. The time is Lunar Fortnight. The Shaktis are the ten starting with Sarvagnya.10 is the dominant number. This avarana corresponds to the middle of the eyebrows (bhrukuti) of the mother goddess.] ‘Protects all’. The Yogini is Nigarbha Yogini; the Mudra is Sarva mahankusha; and the Siddhi is Prakamya. The mental state is Upadesa. The presiding deity is Tripura Malini. Her vidya is is Hrim Klim Blem.

Dasha-kala-atmaka Vahni Svaroopa Prakaasha-antar-dashaara
Sarva Rakshaakara Chakreshvaryaah

Kachavarga Dvaya Maya Sarvajhnaadi
Dasha-shakti-sameta Malini Chakra-eshvaryaah
Tri-dashavim-shad-varna Garbhini Kundalinyaah
Dasha-mudraa Sama-araadhita Kaulinyaah
Dasharathaadinuta Guruguha Janaka Shiva Bodhinyaah
Dashakarana Vrutti Mareechi Nigarbha Yoginyaah Shree

The ten- sided figure (antar-dasara) called Sarva-raksha karaka (one that protects all) consisting ten triangles is the sixth avarana. The ten triangles represent the powers of the mother goddess who presides over ten vital fires (vanyaha). These represent  the ten specific fires within the body; they  being the fire of :

    1. purgation (Rechak);
    2.  digestion (Pachak);
    3. absorption (Shoshak);
    4.  burning (Dahak)
    5.  secretion of enzymes (Plavak); 
    6. acidification (Ksharak);
    7.  to take out or excrete (Uddharak);
    8. fires of pessimism and frustration (Kshobhak);
    9. fire of assimilation (Jrambhak); and
    10. fire of creating luster (Mohak).

The significance of this avarana is explained as protection from all obstacles. The devotee distances himself from all that hinders his spiritual progress; and he begins to develop the awareness he is Shiva (the consciousness).

Dikshitar describes the Antar-dasara-chakra , consisting the inner set of ten triangles , as endowed with ten aspects; and, glowing like fire (Dasha-kala-atmaka-Vahni-Svaroopa-Prakaasha-antar-dashaara) . 

These ten vital fires correspond to the ten divinities , also referred to as the Nigarbha yogini-s, are:

    1. Sarvajna;
    2. Sarva-shaktiprada;
    3. Sarva-aishvaryapradayini;
    4. Sarvajna-namayi,
    5. Sarva-vyadhivinashini;
    6. Sarva-dharasvarupa;
    7. Sarva-papahara;
    8. Sarva-anandamayi;
    9. Sarva-rakshasvarupini;, and,
    10. Sarve-psitaphalaprada 

These ten along with the presiding deity Tripura Malini, reside in the ten-cornered-figure Antar dasara (Sarvajhnaadi Dasha-shakti-sameta Malini Chakra-eshvaryaah).

Tripura Malini is the goddess of the Chakra Sarvarakshakara (Sarva-Rakshaakara-Chakreshvaryaah).

The ten triangles are inscribed with ten consonants beginning with letters of the Ka and Ca groups (Tridasha-adi-nuta Kachavarga Dvaya Maya). They, again, represent the powers of the mother goddess who presides over ten vital fires (vanyaha).

She is the goddess Kaulini, propitiated by ten Mudras . The ten Mudra-s are:

    1. Sarva-samkshobhini;
    2. Sarva-vidravini;
    3. Sarva-akarshini,
    4. Sarva-veshakari;
    5. Sarva-anmodini;
    6. Mahankusha;
    7. Khecari;
    8. Bija,
    9. Yoni and
    10. Tr-ikhanda

The mudras of the avarana are Mahakusha Mudra (Dasha-mudraa Samaaraadhita-Kaulinyaah).

Dikshitar also mentions the yogini of the chakra: Nigarbha yogini (Nigarbha-Yoginyaah). 

Dikshitar describes the Sri Chakra as containing in itself the fifty six alphabets and also being the very representation of Kundalini (Tri-dashavim-shad-varna Garbhini Kundalinyaah).

Sri Chakra  has several symbolisms. As per the Tantric ideology , the Sanskrit alphabet is regarded the vocal epitome of the universe; and each letter is transformed into energy when introduced into the chakra. It acquires the character of a “seed-syllable” , Bija-kshara, representing a divine aspect or a retinue divinity.

Here , the Tantra texts explain that the consonants are basically inert and depend on vowels (just as Shiva depends on Shakthi) to manifest in a meaningful form. It is only when the germinating power (bija) of the vowels is infused with consonants, the latter gain meaning. That is the reasons the vowels are Bija-aksharas. They transform ordinary letters into mother like condition (Matrka); that is, they impregnate ordinary letters with meaning and power. The consonants inscribed into Sri Chakra derive power since they are now in union with Shakthi.

Further, in Tantra, the articulate sound is the basic structure overwhich all our thoughts, emotions, aspirations and pleasures are woven as fabrics.

As regards Kundalini, it is basically a terminology of the Yoga school. In Tantra the term has an extended meaning. Tantra regards the creation as an expression of the universal energy (maha-kundalini); Its representation in the individual is the kundalini. That Kundalini is the basis for all his intentions, cognitions and actions. The awakening of Kundalini signals the spiritual progress. It is by means of its mediating power (mantra-shakthi) , the individual realizes the oneness of consciousness-energy.

Dikshitar therefore says that the vowels and consonants inscribed into the Sri Chakra as representations of energy and consciousness.

Dikshitar hides the Raga mudra (Punnagavarali)  in a delightful flight of phrases (Ati-madhuratara-vaanyaah-Sharvaanyaah-Kalyaanyah-Ramaniya-punnaaga-varaali-Vijita-Venyaah-Shree)  She whose braided hair excels the beauty of  lovely black bees swarming around the Punnaga tree.

The Charanam concludes with salutations to the Yogini of the chakra, the ten aspects of  Nigarbha Yogini, shining brightly like the rays of light (Dashakarana-Vrutti-Mareechi-Nigarbha-Yoginyaah-Shree)

Devi sri chakra

7. Seventh Avarana-Ashtara

Shree Kamalaambikaayaam Bhaktim Karomi- Sahana-Thrisra Triputa

[The avarana is asthakona; the Chakra is Sarvarogahara chakra ‘cures all ills’. the Yogini is Rahasya Yogini; The Mudra is sarva khechari; and the Siddhi is Bhukthi. The mental state is Manana. The presiding deity is Tripura Siddha. Her vidya is is Hrim Shrim Sauh. The gem is diamond (Vajra). The time is Lunar month. The Shaktis are the eight, starting with Vashini. 8 is the dominant number. This avarana corresponds to the forehead (lalata) of the mother goddess.]

Raakaachandra Vadanaayaam Raajiva-nayanaayaam
Paakaarinuta Charanaayaam Aakaashaadi Kiranaayaam Hrimkaara

Vipina-harinyaam Hrimkaara-Susharirinyaam
Hrimkaara Taru Manjaryaam Hrimkaareshvaryaam Gauryaam

Sharira-traya Vilakshana Sukhatara Svaatmaanu Bhoginyaam
Virinci Harishaana Harihaya Vedita Rahasyayoginyaam
Paraadi Vaagdevataa-rupa-vashinyaadi Vibhaaginyaam
Charaatmaka Sarva-roga-hara Niraamaya Raaja-yoginyaam
Karadhruta Vinaa Vaadinyaam Kamalaanagara Vinodinyaam

Eight-cornered figure (ashtara) called Sarva-roga-hara (the remover of all deceases) is the seventh avarana. In the eight triangles formed by this figure, eight divinities presiding over speech reside.They are known as deities of self expression (Vak-Devatha). These include four forms of speech : Para; Pashyanthi; Madhyama and Vaikhari.

These eight Shaktis also rule over basic urges and contradictions in life (dwandwa) such as  cold (water) and heat (fire); happiness (air) and sorrow( earth); as also the Desire(akasha-space) and the three Gunas  of  Sattva  (consciousness) , Rajas  (ego) and Tamas (mind).

The eight Shakthis that are involved here are collectively known as Rahasya Yoginis are:

    1.  Vashini;
    2. Kameshi;
    3. Medini;
    4. Vimala;
    5. Aruna;
    6. Jayini;
    7. Sarveshi; and
    8. Kaulini

The significance of this enclosure is its power to eradicate the most basic of diseases viz. involvement with impure, fleeting existence laden with stress. The blessed state is attained when the distinctions between the subject, the object and transactions between them are dissolved.

Hrim is the Bija-mantra (seed-syllable) of this chakra. In the context of Sri Vidya, hrim is a particularly sacred syllable; it represents the mother goddess herself. Dikshitar worships the mother as the very embodiment of hrim (Hrimkaara-Susharirinyaam Hrimkaara-Taru-Manjaryaam). She is Gauri; she is the presiding deity of hrim (Hrimkaare-shvaryaam-Gauryaam).

Dikshitar refers to his tradition (Kadi-matha) by invoking the name of one of its gurus Hayagreeva (Harihaya-Vedita). He also refers to the Yogini of the chakra Rahasya Yogini (Rahasya-yoginyaam); and to the letters of the Pa group inscribed in the eight triangles, representing eight Shakthis (Vasini and others) presiding over the aspect of speech (Paraadi-Vaagdevataa-rupa-vashinyaadi Vibhaa-ginyaam).

Dikshitar refers to the basic nature of the chakra Sarvarogahara chakra ‘cures all ills’ and calls the mother the Raja Yogini, who cures all kinds of illness ( Charaatmaka-Sarva-roga-hara Niraamaya Raaja-yoginyaam).

The Raga mudra (Sahana) is in the phrase Harishaana; while the composer’s signature is in  Guruguha-vara-prasaadinyaam.

 8. Eight Avarana –Trikona

Kamalaambike Avaava-Ghanta-Adi

[The Avarana is Trikona; the Chakra is Sarvasiddhiprada chakra, ‘grants all attainments’. the Yogini is Athi Rahasya Yogini; the Mudra is Sarva Beeja; and the Siddhi is Iccha. The mental state is Nitidhyasana. The presiding deity is Tripuraamba. Her vidya is is Hsraim Hsrklim Hsrsauh.. The gem is Gomaya .The time is a ritu- two months. The Shaktis are the three: Kameshwari, Vajreshwari and Bhagamalini. (4+3=7) is the dominant number. This avarana corresponds to the top of the head (masthka) of the mother goddess]

Lokapaalini Kapaalini Shoolini Lokajanani Bhagamaalini Shakrudaa
Aalokaya Maam Sarva Siddhipradaayike Tripuraambike Baalaambike


Santapta Hema Sannibha Dehe Sadaa-akhandaika-rasa-pravaahe
Santa-apahara Trikona-gehe Sa-kaameshvari Shakti-samuhe
Santatam Mukti Ghantaamani Ghosaayamaana Kavaata-dvaare
Ananta Guruguha Vidite – Karaahnguli Nakhodaya Vishnu Dashaavataare –
Antahkaraneksu Kaarmuka – Shabdaadi Pancha Tanmaatra Vishikhaatyanta
Raagapaasha Dvesa-ankusha Dharakare Atirahasya Yoginipare

The primary triangle with its apex downward (East) and colored white (Sattva) surrounding immediately around the central point , Bindu , is the eighth avarana. It is called Sarva Siddhi-prada-chakra, the one that bestows all accomplishment.

This triangle does not intersect with other triangles; and stands independent. It is Kama Kala. It is feminine in its aspect; and represents three fundamental manifestations of the mother goddess: Kameshwari (symbolizing-moon-creation); Vajreshwari (symbolizing-sun-preservation); and Bhagamalini (symbolizing – fire – dissolution).

The three angles of the triangle also represent three forms of speech : Pashyanthi, Madhyama and Vaikhari. The triangle is therefore the speech aspect Vak-Bhava.

It also represents the three powers of Iccha (will) , Jnana (knowledge) and Kriya (activity). The three corners of the triangle stand for three peaks(kuta) of the fifteen-lettered mantra; or as three dimensions of all existence. The triangle itself is regarded the abode of the mother goddess (kama-kala).

Dikshitar in divine ecstasy sings the glory of the Mother, the protector of worlds adorned with garland of skulls and holding a trident. She is Bhagamalini, symbolizing fire representing Rudra’s power of dissolution. She is also Tripurambika; the presiding deity of the avarana. She is Balamba. She is the ruler of the Sarva-siddhi-prada chakra :

Lokapaalini-Kapaalini-Shoolini-Lokajanani-Bhagamaalini-Shakrudaa-Aalokaya-Maam-Sarva Siddhi-pradaayike Tripura-ambike Baala-ambike 

She whose body is glowing like molten gold (Santapta-Hema-Sannibha-Dehe); She who is the eternal undifferentiated unique bliss (Sadaa-akhandaika-rasa-pravaahe ); She who resides in the enchanting Trikona chakra (Santa-apahara-Trikona-gehe); and delighting in the company of Kameshwari (symbolizing moon – creation) and host of  other friends (Sa-kaameshvari Shakti-samuhe).

The eight cornered figure that surrounds the Trikona, suggests five basic elements of phenomenal existence (tanmatras: earth, water, fire, air and space), symbolized by five arrows of flowers (pancha bana) which is also the symbol of Kama; passion (raga) symbolized by the noose (pasha); aversion (dwesha) symbolized by the goad (ankusha); and mind (manas) symbolized by sugarcane stalk (ikshu danda); all of which are held by the deity, in the company of the yogini of the avarana , Athi Rahasya Yogini.

Dikshitar puts the entire thing, beautifully, in just two compact lines:

Antahkaraneksu Kaarmuka – Shabdaadi Pancha Tanmaatra Vishikhaatyanta
Raagapaasha Dvesa-ankusha Dharakare Atirahasya Yoginipare.

The Raga mudra is in Mukti Ghantaamani Ghosaayamaana; while the composer’s mudra is in Ananta Guruguha Vidite.

Tripurasundari (1)

9. Ninth Avarana-Bindu

Kamalaambaa Jayati-Ahiri-Rupaka

[The avarana is the Bindu and the Chakra is Sarvanandamaya chakra, ‘ replete with bliss’. The yogini is parathi para Rahasya; the Mudra is sarva yoni; and the Siddhi is Prapthi. The mental state is Savikalpa Samadhi. The presiding deity is her Transcendent Majesty Lalita Maheshwari Mahatripurasundari. Her vidya is Kamaraja vidya : ka e i la hrim ha sa ka ha la hrim sa ka la hrim, plus a secret 16th syllable. The gem is ruby. The time is year. The Shakti is Maha Tripura Sundari the personification of Brahman. This avarana corresponds to Brahma_randra on the top of the head of the mother goddess.]


Shri Kamalaambaa Jayati Ambaa Shri Kamalaambaa Jayati Jagadaambaa

Shri Kamalaambaa Jayati Shringaara Rasa Kadambaa Madambaa

Shri Kamalaambaa Jayati Chidbimbaa Pratibimbendu Bimbaa

Shri Kamalaambaa Jayati Shreepura Bindu Madhyastha

Chintaamani Mandirastha Shivaakaara Manchasthita Shivakaameshaankasthaa


Sukara-ananaadya-arccita Mahaa-tripura
Sundarim Raajaraajeshvareem
Shreekara Sarva-ananda-maya Chakra-vaasinim Suvaasinim Chintayeham
Divaakara Sheetakirana Paavakaadi Vikaasakarayaa
Bheekara Taapa-traya-adi Bhedana Dhurinatarayaa
Paakaripu Pramukhaadi Praarthita-Sukalebarayaa
Praakatya Paraaparayaa Paalitodayaakarayaa


Shrimaatre Namaste Chinmaatre Sevita Ramaa Harisha Vidhaatre
Vaamaadi Shaktipujita Paradevataayaah Sakalam Jaatam
Kaamaadi Dvaadashabhir-upaasita Kaadi Haadi Saadi Mantra-rupinyaah
Premaaspada Shiva Guruguha Jananyaam Pritiyukta Macchittam Vilayatu
Brahmamaya Prakaashini Naamaroopa Vimarshini Kaamakalaa Pradarshini Saamarasya Nidarshini

This Kriti employs all eight Vibhaktis. The Pallavi is in the nominative case; the first three lines of the Anu-pallavi are in the accusative case; and, the rest of the Anu-pallavi is in the instrumental case.

The first line of the Charanam is in the dative case, and, it also incorporates the vocative (in the word Cinmatre). The consecutive lines are in ablative, genitive and locative cases.  The last two lines, meant to be sung in the Madhyama-kala, are again in the nominative case, in order to return to the main Pallavi line.

The Raga Mudra (Ahiri) is slightly altered as “Ahari”; and, it occurs in the phrase Ramahari.


The ninth enclosure is the Bindu. It is called Sarvananda-maya chakra , the supremely blissful one.  It is independent of the intersecting triangles. This, in a temple, would be the sanctum sanctorum, with all the other circles or enclosures representing various parts of the temple as you move inwards.

It is this Bindu that is in reality the Sri Chakra; it represents the mother goddess Maha Tripura Sundari, Lalitha or Rajarajeshwari herself; and everything else is a manifestation of her aspects.

The goddess is nothing other than the devotees own self. The self here refers to individual consciousness (buddhi) which is beyond the body-mind complex. It is filled with all bliss (sarvananda maya). This constant, abundant bliss is the expression of the union of Shiva (consciousness) and Shakthi (power of deliberation Vimarsha). It is the very basis of existence.

The significance of this avarana is the complete harmony (samarasya) of principles of pure consciousness (Shiva) and the principle of energy as deliberation (vimarsha shakthi). It signifies a state of non-duality, where all tendencies of approach and withdrawal become nonexistent, dissolve in a state in which the devotee ultimately rests. Bliss, in Tantra, is explained as resting in oneself (Svarupa pratishta).

Dikshitar bursts forth into a fountain of divine ecstasy and sings the glory and the celebration of the Supreme Mother Goddess in highly lyrical and sublime poetry. The krithi is also rich in Sri Vidya lore.

He describes the Mother as the very personification of the Bindu, the pure consciousness at the centre of Sri Chakra (Chidbimbaa Pratibimbendu Bimbaa); and as one who resides as the Bindu, in a mansion of ruby (Chintaamani Mandirastha), at the heart of the Sri Chakra (Shreepura Bindu Madhyastha).

Here the expression bimbendu, refers to the moon and the point.

As per the Tantric ideology the mother goddess is the moon; and the fifteen phases of the moon are her individualized aspects, kalas. She resides in the lunar orb.

The phrase Chintamani mandira-sthitha carries with it an elaborate background.

The Devi’s mansion is visualized as situated in a great garden (mahodyana) rich with many species of trees such as Santana, Kalpaka, Hari-chandana, Parijatha, Bilva etc. The garden is enclosed by four ramparts made of nine gems.

The central hall of her mansion (prasada) is made of coral (manikya mantapa). Inside this vast enclosure are three tanks (vapika) of immortality (amrita), of biiss (ananda) and of deliberation (vimarsha). There is also a grove of lotus flowers (padmatavi). Amidst all these is the magnificent mansion of the “wish granting jewel” (Chintamani-mandira). The mother goddess resides (sthitha) in this enchanting mansion.

At the entrance of this mansion (Kavaata-dvaare), the bejeweled bells (Ghantaamani) constantly (Santatam) ring and announce loudly the message of salvation (Mukti-Ghantaamani Ghosaaya-maana).

The line “Shivaakaara-Manchasthita Shiva-kaamesha-ankasthaa” ordinarily means that the goddess is sitting on the cot in embrace of Shiva.

But, in Sri Vidya, the imagery of the cot on which the mother goddess rests has a symbolic significance. The Mother Goddess is imagined to be seated at the Bindu (in her mansion) on a cot (mancha).

The four corners of the Bhupura represent the four legs of the cot. The four legs are the four principles of the phenomenal world: emanation (shristi-Brahma); preservation (sthithi-Vishnu); dissolution (upasamhara-Rudra);  and  withdrawal of the entire creation into a very subtle form (Ishvara).

The plank (phalakha), which rests on the four legs of the cot is Shiva; he represents the principle of reception, retention of the withdrawn phenomena. Such dichotomy of existence is preserved (anugraha) until the time for re-emanation arrives.

This principle is Sadashiva-tattva (the ever auspicious but inert principle of pure consciousness) ; corpse-like , hence also called Sadashiva-preta .  The Mother Goddess rests on this plank, the principle, of Shiva.

The Mother Lalitha is surrounded by nine guardian spirits (nava-shakthi) :

    1. vibhuthi (splendor), 
    2. unnathi (upliftment) ,
    3. Kaanthi (lustre) ,
    4. hrsti (satisfaction),
    5.  kirti (celebrity) ,
    6. shanthi (courtesy) ,
    7. vyushti (prosperity) ,
    8. utkrshta (excellence)  and
    9.  riddhi  (supremacy or accomplishment).


Lalitha parameshwari

In Tantra, the female is the predominant aspect and the male is subordinate to her. The plank of the cot is male; and the female rests on that. The cot is inert, and the Devi is dynamic. Yet, the male provides the female a field to function; and the two cannot be separated. Sri Chakra demonstrates this principle.

It is explained further, Shiva and Shakthi should not be viewed as mere male or female principles. They are indeed neither male nor female; nor even neuter. They represent the unity of consciousness and energy the very basis and the essence of all Universe.

Lalitha tripura sundari

[The seat of Lalitha or Maha Tripurasundari is Yoga pitha, in the form of red lotus, impressed with the Sri Chakra design, symbolizing the very heart of the devotee. The symbolism of this appears to be that Mother goddess worshipped in Sri Chakra is indeed the universe in all its aspects; and the devotee has to identify this principle in his body; and again his body too is Sri Chakra and the universe in miniature.]

The presiding deity of the avarana is Maha Tripura Sundari and her chakra is Sarvanandamaya chakra. Dikshitar meditates on the chakra and the presiding deity worshipped by Varahi and other attendant deties, the Yoginis (Sukara-ananaadya-arccitaMahaatripura –Sundarim Rajaraajeshvareem).

Sri Dikshitar mentions the Sun (Divaakara), the moon (Sheetakirana) and the fire (Paavaka) as the expansion (Vikaasa) and manifestation of the presiding deity.

Here, he is referring to the view that the central point, the Bindu, is actually composed of three dots or drops (Bindu traya) representing three fires (vanhi): Moon (soma); Sun (surya); and Fire (Agni).

The Bindu expanding into three three is an act of swelling (ucchuna); and is the immediate unfolding of the Sri Chakra.

Sri Dikshitar then sings the glory and the powers of the mother worshipped by Lakshmi, Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and other divinities.

In the line “Kaamaadi – Dvaadashabhir-upaasita Kaadi – Haadi- Saadi – Mantra-rupinyaah”, Dikshitar is recalling the twelve gurus and the traditions of the Sri Vidya. The Sri Vidya tradition which centres on the worship of Sri Chakra considers the following twelve gods and sages as its gurus:

Manu, Chandra, Kubera, Lopamudra, Kama (Manmatha), Agasthya, Nandisha, Surya, Vishnu, Skanda, Shiva and Durvasa.

It is said; each of the twelve gurus propagated a school with regard to the worship and significance of Sri Chakra. Of these, only two schools have survived to this day; one is the school started by Manmatha (also called Kamaraja) known as Kadi-matha. The Kadi tradition was continued by sage Agasthya.

The other school is Hadi-matha started by Lopamudra wife of the Sage Agastya. There is also an obscure third school called Sadi-matha.

Dikshitar belonged to the Kadi Matha School, started by Kamaraja.

Let my loving mind (chittam) be dissolved (vilayatu) in her, whose beloved (prema) is Shiva, and who is the mother (jananyaam) of Guruguha.

In the line “Brahmamaya-Prakaashini-Naamaroopa-VimarshiniDikshtar touches upon the core concepts of Sri Vidya.

Shiva as consciousness is illumination (prakasha); and the Kameshwari as the energy to unfold the creation, to evolve, is the deliberation (vimarsha).

The two principles are undistinguished, united and in perfect harmony at the time of dissolution (pralaya).

They however appear distinct at the time of creation (shristi) and preservation (sthithi).

The twin aspects of illumination (prakasha) and evolution (vimarsha) are the basis of the expanding universe. The relation between the two is analogues to that of lamp and its light. The rays of lamp spread in all directions and is responsible for life and its evolution.

Shiva is absolute consciousness (Brahmamaya-Prakaashini) and vimarsha the energy flows into the world of names and forms (Naamaroopa-Vimarshini).

These two principles come together again at the time of withdrawal or dissolution.

The phrase “Kaamakalaa-Pradarshini “ is again a reference to the concepts of Sri Vidya. The triangular formation of three dots or drops (Bindu traya) at the centre of Sri Chakra is rich in symbolism. The triangle is named Kama Kala.

One of the interpretations is that the top dot is shiva and the bottom dots are Shakthi (energy) and nada (sound). Here, Kama is the union of Shiva (kameshvara) and Shakthi (Kameshvari): and the concrete manifestation of the two is Kala. This is also referred to as Nada-bindu-kala.

The other interpretation is that the top dot stands for Kama (primordial desire to evolve) and the bottom two dots represent the manifestation and eventual withdrawal.

The concluding phrase “Saamarasya Nidarshini” suggests the complete harmony (samarasya) of the principle of pure consciousness (Prakasha, Shiva) and the principle of energy, as evolution or expansion (Vimarsha, Shakthi). It signifies (nidarshini) a state of non-duality, a state in which the devotee ultimately rests (Svarupa pratishta).

Please check here for a rendering of the Kamalamba-Navavarana-Kritis

Sri Dikshitar concludes in his auspicious Mangala kriti (Sri Kamalambike-Sri Raga) in deep devotion, fulfillment and celebration of the Mother’s transcendent powers and glory- Shri Kamalambike Shive Lalite mam pahi – Oh Kamalambika, gracious and auspicious one, protect me.

[ Note : The worship of Sri Yantra involves use of ten types of Mudras (Dasa-mudrani) – the gestures through the fingers – from Sarva-Samkshobhini to Sarva-Trikhanda . For a discussion on ; and, for the illustration of these Mudras, please click here.]

Sri Rajarajeshwari by Shilpi Sri Siddalaing aSwamy


Painting of Sri Rajarajeshwrai by Shilpi Siddanthi Shri Siddalainga Swamy of Mysore

Other pictures are from Internet


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Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Vidya (7 of 8)

Kamalamba Navavarana Kritis – Part One


Sri Kamalamba at Sri Tyagaraja temple, Tiruvarur.

The years he spent at Tiruvavur were richly creative and highly productive for Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar, the composer.  Sri Dikshitar’s creations at Tiruvavur included a set of sixteen kritis on the various attributes of Ganesha; a set of kritis on Thygaraja and Nilothpalambika the presiding deities of Tiruvarur shrine; a set of Tiruvarur Panchalinga kritis; and eleven kritis of Kamalamba Navavarana group.

Sri  Dikshitar had developed a fascination for composing a series of kritis on a composite theme, perhaps in an attempt to explore the various dimensions of the subject. In some of these, he employed all the eight Vibhaktis, the various cases that delineate a noun.He also composed a series of kritis in a set of ragas, all ending with the same suffix (e.g.Gaula). No other composer has attempted so many group kritis in such a planned, orderly, meticulous fashion.

The most outstanding of such series of compositions is of course the magnificent Kamalamba Navavarana kritis. They are incomparable compositions and are the jewels of Carnatic music.These compositions, intellectually sublime steeped in deep devotion, are a testimony to Sri Dikshtar’s musical genius, his mastery over the Sanskrit language; and his thorough knowledge of and intense dedication to Sri Vidya, Sri Chakra and the worship of its avaranas.

Through its graceful lyrics , majestic sweep of ragas and descriptive details rich in mystical symbolism of Tantra, Mantra, Yoga, Sri Vidya and Advaita ; Dikshitar virtually threw open the doors to the secret world of Sri Vidya,to all those eager to approach the Divine Mother through devotion and music.

It is amazing how Sri Dikshitar builds into each of his crisp and well-knit structure of lyrics, the references to the name of the chakra; the names of its presiding deity, yoginis, mudras, Siddhis and the gurus of the Kadi tradition of Sri Vidya ;and to the seed(Beeja) mantras. In addition he manages to insert, as ever, cogently, the name of the raga and his signature. The Kamalamba Navavarana is a treasure house not merely to the classical musicians but also to the Sri Vidya upasakas.

Kamala is one of the ten maha_Vidyas, the principle deities of the Shaktha tradition of Tantra. But, the Sri Kamalamba referred to by Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar in this set of kritis, is the Supreme Divine Mother herself. The immediate inspiration to Dikshitar was, of course, Sri Kamalamba (regarded one of the sixty-four Shakthi centers), the celebrated deity at the famous temple of Sri Tyagaraja and Sri Nilothpalambika in Tiruvavur.

Thyagarajasvami and his consort Nilotpalamba

Interestingly, the temple complex also accommodates the shrines of Maha_Ganapathi, Subrahmanya, Dakshinamurty and Balamba; all Shakthi deities. The temple complex has a Pushkarini, a lake, named kamalalaya, the abode of Kamala.This tank is referred to by Sri  Dikshitar , in his kritis ,  as Kamalalaya thirtha and the Devi is Kamalalaya thirtha vaibhave. The town of Tiruvarur  is mentioned as Kamala nagara (e.g. Kamalanagara viharinai) and as Kamala pura(e.g.Kamalapura sadanam) ; referring to Devi as one who resides in and walks about the town of Kamalapura/Kamalanagara.

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar follows the Smahara krama, the absorption path, of Sri Chakra puja and proceeds from the outer avarana towards the Bindu in the ninth avarana at the center of the Sri Chakra. At each avarana, he submits his salutation and worships the presiding deity, the yogini (secondary deity) and the attendant siddhis of that avarana; and describes the salient features of the avarana according to the Kadi School of the Dakshinamurthy tradition of Sri Vidya. It is in effect both worship and elucidation.

Sri Dikshitar devoted one composition to each of the nine avaranas. In addition, there is a Dhyana Kriti, a verse in meditation, preceding the set of nine; and a Mangala kriti, the verse celebrating the auspicious conclusion, at the end. Thus, the Navavarana composition of Dikshitar, per se, is a set of eleven kritis.

The Dhyana kriti Kamalambike_ashrita_kalpa_lathike is composed in Raga Todi (Rupaka). The Vaggeyakara Mudra is in  – Guruguhakarane Sadashiva antahkarane

[The Dhyana-kriti in Todi does not bear the customary Raga_mudra, the name of its Raga.]

The concluding Mangala Kriti – Sri Kamalambike  Shive pahimam, Lalite , Sripathi Vinute  – is in the auspicious Sri Raga , set to Khanda Eka Taala. The Raga Mudra is in the opening line as Sri; and, the Vaggeyakara Mudra is the phrase Shankara-Guruguha-bhaktha vasankari.

Apart from these eleven Kritis; It is customary, as a prelude to Kamalamba Navavarana group of kritis, to invoke Maha_Ganapathi and Lord Subrahmanya by singing Shri Mahaganapathivaratu mam (Gaula) followed byBalasubrahmanyam Bhaje (Surati).


Thus , the vocal tradition of the Kamalamba Navavarana has , in all, a set of thirteen kritis. The core kritis are however the nine relating to nine avaranas of Sri Chakra.

For the core nine kritis sang in worship of the Navavaranas of Sri Chakra, Sri Dikshitar employed nine different Ragas and eight different Vibhakthis (case endings denoting the noun) of Sanskrit grammar; and, in addition,  for the ninth avarana kriti he employs a garland of all the eight Vibhakthis.

As regards the Raga-mudra, a distinctive feature of Sri Dikshitar’s compositions, the kritis in Anandabhairavi (first avarana), and shankarabharaaam (third avarana) indicate their Ragas   only partially (the word “Ananda” for the former, and shankara for the latter). The kambhoji, Sahana, and Ahiri compositions have their Raga mudras hidden within complex phrases.  In all the other kritis, the Raga mudra is explicit.

The following briefly is representation of the kriti, the Raga, the taala and the Vibhakthi of the nine kritis:

Kamalamba Vibhakthi

For the complete text of the Kamalamba Navavarana :

kritis in English Click here ;and for the Sanskrit text please click here.

There are several theories explaining Dikshitar’s selection of Ragas for these kritis. Sri  Dikshitar was a meticulous person and had a methodical approach to life and to his works. Dr. R K Srikantan, the celebrated Carnatic musician and scholar, feels that the Ragas selected for these kritis are stringed together by an underlying scheme that is at once simple and logical. He observes that the Raga of each kriti flows into the next, seamlessly with minimum alteration in the structure of its swaras. Here is an extract from his article:

Sri Dikshitar followed the Venkatamakhin sampradaya – the scheme of classifying the Ragas – where Bhairavi and Ananda- bhairavi were treated as Upanga – Ragas. The Ragas adopted by Sri Dikshitar for the nine (Navavarana) Kritis, could broadly be classified under three main categories: two Mela-karta Ragas (Kalyani and Shankarabharnam); three Upanga Ragas (Shahana, Bhairavi, Aanda-bhairavi); and four Bhashanga Ragas (khambhoji, Punagavarali, Ghanta and Ahiri)

The Swara-structure, the sequential change of Ragas was methodical:

Sri Dikshitar has used only four Chakras * – Veda, Netra, Bana and Rudra. This corresponds to the four types of structures in the Sri-Chakra, viz.:  square (chaturanga), circle (vyuha), triangle (tri kona) and point (bindu).

The Swara-structure, the sequential change of Ragas was methodical:

1. From Ananda-bhairavi to Kalyani meant a change of Gandhara.

2. From Kalyani to Shankarabharanam meant a only a change of madhyama.

3. From Shankarabharanam to Khamboji meant an addition of a nishada.

4. From khamboji to Bhairavi meant removal of the additional nishada, addition of a dhaivata and change of gandhara.

5. From Bhairavi to Punnagavarali meant removal of the additional dhavata and introduction of a rishabha.

6. The next song shows changes in gandhara and dhaivata after the removal of the additional rishabha.

7. Ghanta indicates addition of Rishabha and dhaivatha with change in gandhara.

8. The last change is extremely complex. It basically indicates addition of gandhara and nishadha.

[For more on that theme, please check here ]

[* Sri Srikantan is referring to 12 series or Chakras in which the 72 Melakartas are arranged:

The 72 Mēḷakarta ragas are split into 12 groups called Chakrās, with each Chakra containing 6 ragas. The ragas within the chakra differ only in the dhaivatam and nishadam notes (D and N). The name of each of the 12 chakras suggests their ordinal number as well.

The twelve Chakras are:

1. Indu (moon, one);

2. Netra (eyes, two);

3. Agni (sacrificial fires, three types: garha-patya, Ahavaniya and Daksina; and Agni has two other names : Vaishvanara and Jatavedasa);

4. Veda (four Vedas- Rig, Sama, Yajur & Atharvana );

5.Bana (arrows of Manmatha the cupid-five: Aravinda/Asoka/Chuta/Nava-mallika/Nilotpala);

6. Ritu (seasons – six seasons of the year-Vasanta, Greeshma, Varsha, Sharad, Sisira and Hemanta );

7. Rishi (sages – saptharishi – seven –Gowtama, Viswamitra, Kashyapa, Jamadagni, Bharadwaja, Atri and Vasishta);

8. Vasu (a group of celestial beings –  asta-vasu. eight – Aapa, Dhruva, Soma, Dava, Pratyusha, Anila, Anala and Prabhasa));

9. Brahma (reference to the nine cycles of the universe, each presided over by a Brahma – Nava Brahma- Atri, Angirasa, Brighu, Daksha, Kashyapa, Pulaha, Marichi, Vasishta and Pulastya);

10. Dishi (ten directions – eight plus above and below – their guardians being : Indra, Agni, Yama, Niruddhi, Varuna, Vayu, Kubera and Isana ; plus , Akasha and Patala);

11. Rudra (Ekadasha Rudra – eleven forms of Rudra – Aja, Dwasha, Ekapada, Triambake, Aparajita, Isana, Tribhuvana, Sambhu, Hara, Rudra and Ahirputniya); and

12. Aditya ( a group of twelve celestial beings – Dwadasha Aditya – Poosha, Bhaskara, Marichi, Arka, Khaga, Surya, Mitra, Aditya, Ravi, Bhanu, Savita and Hiranyagarbha)


The Svaras (notes) involved with the four Chakras  referred  to by Sri Srikantan are:

Veda: Sa, Chatusruthi Rishaba, Sadharana Gandhara, Suddha Ma

Netra: Sa, Suddha Rishaba, Sadharana Gandhara, Suddha Ma

Bana: Sa, Chatusruthi Rishaba, Anthara Gandhara, Suddha Ma

Rudra: Sa, Chatusruthi Rishaba, Anthara Gandhara, Prati Ma

For more , please do read Sri S Rajam’s most wonderful illustrations of the 12 Chakras and their 72 Melakarta-s. ]

As regards the Ahiri, the Raga of the kriti associated with the ninth avarana, there is a view, the raga has all the twenty-two notes in the octave; and such a fusion of all melodic and temporal elements in the same kriti is rather unusual especially when the pallavi has distinctive prose sections put together, seamlessly.

Before we enter a discussion on the Navavarana kritis, let us take a broad look at their association with the Chakras, the deities, the Yoginis, and Siddhis etc. of the Sri Chakra.

Kamalamba yogini


The Kamalamba Navavarana kritis are works of musical and poetic excellence. They are adorned with sublime music, intellectual sophistication, soulful devotional lyrics and richly imaginative poetic imagery. Listening to the kritis is a truly rewarding experience, even if one is not aware of or ignores the underlying connotations of Sri Chakra and Sri Vidya tradition.

[Please click here for an article covering an overview of the Sri Kamalamba Navavarana kritis.]


The scholarship of Sri Dikshitar as a Vainika has reflected in these compositions through the Gamakas, Viaba-kala and Madhyama-kala -Sahitya. His treatment of the Ragas and use of rare phrases at times bring in an unusual melody and effulgence to these compositions.

The Kamalamba Kritis ranges from Madra to Tara-Sthayi; and , in the other way too,  presenting a complete picture of the range and scope of the Raga,  bringing out  the Lakshaa and grandeur of the Raga, in full measure.


As regards the Taala, Sri Dikshitar in this series has employed the Suladi-Sapta-Taalas, with the exception of Dhruva and Mathya Taalas.

The Taalas used include Rupaka (3 beats); Tisra-Tripua (7 beats); Ata-Taala (14 beats) ; and,  Misra-Jhapa (10 beats).

There appears to be a method or a progression in accordance with the sequential order of the Avaranas of the Sri Chakra.

The Kalyani Avaraa is an enclosure of 16 lotus petals (2 times of Adi Taala).

The third Avaraa in Shankarabharaa is in Rupaka Taala, consisting of 6 Kriyas (2 times of Rupaka).

The fourth Avaraa in Kambhoji is in Aa-Taala,  having 14 Kriyas,  representing  the nature of 14 angles of Chakra.

The fifth Avaraa in Bhairavi is set to Jhapa Taala, having 10 Kriyas denoting the ten angled Chakra.

The sixth Avaraa in Punagavarāli set in Rupaka Taala,  has 6 Kriyas according to its order of Avarana .

The seventh Avaraa in Raga Sahana is set in Tisra-Jati-Tripua-Taala; it  being the seventh one in order.

The eighth Avaraa is in Adi Taala referring to 8 Kriyas.

The ninth Avaraa in Ahiri is in Tisra-Jati-Eka-Taala,  has 3 Kriyas , although it is  now being sung in Rupaka with 6 Kriyas highlighting the three elements residing in the Bindu Chakra.

The choice of the Taalas follows a definite scheme. The Avarana in Anandabhairavi is also sung with Misra Chapu Taala; because it has the same number of Taala units, although they differ in the Kriyas. Sri Subbarama Dikshitar, in his Sangita-Sampradaya-Pradarshini, has remarked that this Avarana could be sung with Misra-Jati-Eka-Taala , which again has the same  measure of 7 Matras. That is to say; this Avarana could be sung in three different ways, having either the Triputa, Misra-Eka, or Misra Chapu ( 3 ½ *2=7 Aksharas) , effecting slight change in Kala-pramana.


The Kamalamba-Navavarana-Kṛitis are enriched with rhetorical beauties or the decorative Angas.

The other aspects observed in the Navavaraa-Kritis  are summarised as follows.

Todi is a Raga which generally reflects compassion; and, Sri Dikshitar in the invocatory composition begins the song with Madhya-Sthayi-Nishada in accordance with the invocative nature of the song. Another significant description in the composition is Her sitting posture as ’Vinoda Carane’, which means enchanting feet. Sri Dikshitar addresses Her as one who enjoys music and one who bestows best poetic qualities on those who sing in praise of her ‘Sangita-rasike sukavitva -pradayike’,  suggesting both his music and poetry are due to Her blessings . Sri Dikshitar addresses the Devi by varied epithets, such as: ’Tripuradi-chakreshvarī’, ‘Animadi-siddishvarī’, ‘Kshitipura-Trailokya-Mohana-Chakravartinī; and ‘Prakata-Yoginī’.

The Kalyani Avarana has the word ‘Kamala’ in the Anupallavi has different meanings with reference to the subsequent word. Kamala inKamala-Vani” refers to Lakshmi and Vani is Sarasvathi; Kamala in “Kamala-pura-sadanā” refers to Tiruvaruru; and , the Kamala  in “Kamala- vadanam” refers to lotus-like face.

The ninth Avaraa is represented by a Bindu. This is here the Mother Goddess resides. She being the empress of the entire empire of Sri Chakra, named as Sarva-anandamaya Chakra, wherein the MahaTripura-Sundarī lives with Kameshvari. It has all Vibhaktis and the lengths of Pallavi, Anupallavi and Caraa represent the three natural equal parts of the Bindu- Moon, Sun and Fire.

The Mangalam Kṛiti is befittingly composed in the Raga Sri set to Khanda-Eka-Taala. This composition has exquisite descriptions and reflects the immense devotion of Sri Dikshitar; and, his adherence to Sri Vidya.

[ Source : Melodic Aspects of Kamalāmbā Navāvaraṇa Kṛti-s of Śrī Muttusvāmi Dīkṣita by Ms. Niranjana Srinivasan]


The discussion on each of the Navavarana kritis, with reference to and in the light of traditions, concepts and lore of Sri Chakra and Sri Vidya, follows in the next page.

Continued in the Next Part

Kamalamba Navavarana Kritis – Part Two


Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Music, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Sri Vidya, Tantra


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Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Vidya (5 0f 8)

Sri Chakra and Sri Vidya

According to Tantric texts, the Chakra, Mandala or Yantra is a sphere of influence and a consecrated environment. It is an instrument to harmonize feelings; and also to coordinate inner and outer forces.

The term Yantra is derived from the root yam suggesting a sense of control (say, as in niyantra to control), giving raise to the meaning of an instrument that can control or be controlled. In that sense, the body is a yantra. The other term tra is from the root word trayati, that which liberates. Yantra is that which controls and liberates. It draws towards the centre as also takes away from the centre of all reality.

The basic energies of the universe, which are idealized as the deities, can be approached through a mental creative process, that is, through words or through created forms. The Deities are therefore represented both in words and forms.

There are different degrees of abstraction. We can represent a deity through the description of its characteristics in words, or sounds, that is, mantras. Similarly, we can represent a deity through diagrams, geometrical abstractions   or patterns, the yantra. The representation of a deity through mantra or yantra is considered more subtle than through an image.

Yantras are the visual equivalents of the mantras. The yantra has the mantra as its soul; and the deity is the soul of the mantra. The difference between the mantra and the deity is the difference between the body and the soul. The deity is invoked by drawing its yantra and calling its subtle name (bija akshara).

All the elementary geometric figures –lines, triangles, crosses, and point (bindu) – have a symbolic value corresponding to their basic notions. They can be combined to form complex figures to give expression to forces, the inner aspects and qualities embodied in a given form of creation. It is said, there no shape, no form which may not be reduced to yantra patterns. Every shape, every leaf, every flower is a yantra, which through its shape, colour, formation, perfume can tell the story of its creation.


Yantras which are drawn on flat surfaces are basically conceived as solid forms. The drawing is a mere suggestion of its three dimensional aspects of the yantra. And, the yantra is itself a static image of the moving, living combination of forces represented in a divinity.


A Yantra is structured in three levels, of spaces(i) the level of physical world of beings and things (mahakasha); (ii) the level of thoughts and feelings (Chittakasha); and (iii) the level of pure, undifferentiated consciousness (Chidakasha).

The first level is predominantly inert , Tamas; while the second level is active and emotional, Rajas. The third level is of light and pure awareness Sattva.

A Yantra is a means to progress from the gross to the subtle, sukshma.

To put it in another way, Yantra is an instrument to transform matter into energy ; and, the energy into consciousness. In the final analysis, the walls separating the objective world, the subjective person and the Universal consciousness break down; and, it is all One at the end. This complete harmony of existence is symbolized by Bindu; a dimensionless point at the center of the Yantra or Chakra.

In fact, chakra is regarded the expansion or the evolution of that Bindu. The Bindu , in turn, is epitome or the microcosm of the Chakra. The Yantra facilitates the movement of consciousness from the concrete form of Chakra to the abstract Bindu. It also enables movement from the abstract Bindu to the form of Chakra. A Yantra , in essence,  is a map of the universe in its emanation and absorption.

Sri Chakra

Sri Chakra Yantra is regarded the supreme Yantra; the Yantra Raja, the king of Yantras. It is the Yantra of the Shaktha school of Tantra. It is also variously regarded as the visual representation of the city, mansion, island or the body of the Mother Goddess Devi, Tripurasundari, Lalitha, Rajarajeshwari and Parabhattarika, the supreme controller. The design also stands for this divinity’s court with all her attendant aids, guards, pavilions, enclosures and entrances. The principal divinity is regarded as being at the center, the Bindu at the heart of the Chakra.


The prefix Sri denotes that the Yantra is auspicious, beneficent, salutary, benign and conducive to prosperity. Sri is Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty and prosperity. Sri is also the Mother Goddess who rules the universe (tvam sris tvam ishvari).She is called Mother, because all living beings depend upon her for being, for happiness for fulfillment of their destiny (sriyete sarvair iti sriah). Sri Chakra is a representation of the interplay of the principles of pure consciousness (Shiva) and primordial power (Shakthi). Sri Chakra represents the essential aspects of the universe ;and also of the constitution of the devotee’s body-mind complex.

The concept and worship of Sri Chakra is relevant in the context of an esoteric discipline known as Sri Vidya.

Sri Vidya is hailed as the Vidya of Sri (the knowledge that leads to the ultimate benefit mukthi – liberation), she therefore is the highest divinity. Sri Vidya is also the Vidya that yields Sri (prosperity). Sri Vidya is thus Bhukthi Mukthi prada the bestower of well-being, prosperity and liberation. Sri Vidya is the path and also the goal.

The term Vidya usually stands for knowledge, learning, discipline and a system of thought. But, in the context of Tantra, it has an extended meaning. Here, it variously refers to a female deity, to the personification of her consciousness; or to the manifestation of her power.Each of these vidyas has a characteristic form and particular dhyana, mantra, kavacha and other  worship details .

Devi Durga is described as the Vidya in all beings (Ya Devi sarvabhutheshu, Vidya rupena samsthita); and , the form of her Vidya is the primordial energy Adi prakrithi.

The Tantra texts classify ten divinities into three levels of Vidyas:

(1) Maha_vidya, the extraordinary Vidyas, consisting Kali and Tara. The worship of these divinities requires great rigor, austerity, devotion, persistence and a sort of detachment. The practice of Maha_vidya is very difficult and filled with risks and dangers ;

(2) Vidya, the normal Vidyas consist deities Shodashi (or Tripura), Bhuvaneshwari, Bhiravi, Chinmastha and Dhumavathi. The practice of this class of Vidya is considered safe and suitable for householders;


(3) Siddha Vidya, the Vidya for adepts involves deities Kamalaa, Matangi and Bhagalamukhi. This class is not for normal persons as it involves rituals that cannot be practiced normally.

Shodashi is the first among the Vidyas in the middle group; she is otherwise known as Sri Vidya. Shodashi literally meaning “a girl of sixteen” , is identified with deities Lalitha, Raja_rajeshwari, Sundari, Kameshwari and Bala. Lalitha is the playful one; all creation, manifestation and dissolution is her play. She is Mahatripura Sundari the most magnificent transcendental beauty without a parallel in all the three worlds. She is the conqueror of three levels of existence.

The Tantra texts however explain that the Vidya is called Shodashi because the mantra of the Vidya is made up of sixteen seed-syllables (bija akshara). There is another school (Kadi Vidya) which says the mantra consists fifteen visible syllables (ka e i la hrim; ha sa ka ha la hrim; sa ka la hrim). It is explained that ka represents the air; ha the fire; sa the water; la the earth; and, e the space. The fifteen syllables are: one of space, two of air; three of fire; four of water; and five of earth. The sixteenth letter is “srim” in subtle form. The mantra then becomes Shodashi, the sixteen lettered.

The fifteen lettered (panch-dasha-akshari) mantra  is  considered the verbal form of the Devi. But, it is implicit or hidden. It is only when the sixteenth syllable ‘Srim’ is included; the mantra becomes explicit or becomes visible. Srim is regarded the original or the own form of the Mother Goddess. And, with the sixteenth syllable (Srim) the She comes to be celebrated as Sri-vidya.  And, the mantra itself becomes the body of the Mother Goddess. She manifests the un-manifest. She is Prakrti. The auspicious Sri (Srim) is thus revered as Saguna Brahman,  the sa-kara approach to the absolute principle of the Devi. 

The mantra (fifteen or sixteen letters) is , thus, an expression of Sri Vidya. The verbal expression (nada or sound) of the Vidya is mantra ; and, its visual expression is the Sri Chakra Yantra. The two are essentially the same. Both seek identity of consciousness with Maha Tripura Sundari.

Ka is the first letter in the fifteen-lettered (pancha-dashi) mantra of the Devi in the Sri Vidya tradition. Ka is an important syllable in the fifteen-lettered mantra, for it appears three times. Here, Ka variously stands the principle from which everything arises; for illumination (Kan dipatu); or for the principle of consciousness (buddhi) in beings; and, also for the symbol of Self.  And Ka also stands for  the form-less Brahman (ka iti Brahmano naamah). 

The fifteen lettered mantra is divided into three groups: ka e i la hrim; ha sa ka ha la hrim; and; sa ka la hrim. The three groups that constitute the mantra are called Kuta (peaks) or Khanda (segments). They are interpreted variously in sets of three as: 

  • Agni(fire) , Surya(sun) and Chandra(moon); 
  • Srishti (creation), Shtithi (preservation) and laya (dissolution);
  •  Iccha ( will), jnana(knowledge)and kriya (action);
  • Sattva, Rajas and Tamas;
  • Jagrat (wakefulness); swapna (dream state) and sushupthi (deep sleep);
  • jnatra (the knower), jnana (the knowledge) and jneya ( the known) ;
  • Atma (individual self) , Antaratma (inner being) and Paramatma (supreme self); and as ,
  • Past , present and future ( the three assumed layers of Time).

There is also a view that the first group starting with ka is kadi_matha (ka e i la hrim); the second group starting with ha is Hadi_matha ( ha sa ka ha la hrim ); and the third group starting with sa is Sadi_matha (sa ka la hrim ).

Another interesting aspect is that the vowels (aa, e, i etc.,) are regarded as representations of Shakthi; while the 35 consonants are basically inert and depend on vowels (just as Shiva depends on Shakthi) to manifest in a meaningful form. It is only when the germinating power (bija) of the vowels is infused with consonants, the latter gain meaning. That is the reasons the vowels are Bija-aksharas. They transform ordinary letters into mother like condition (matrika); that is, they impregnate ordinary letters with meaning and power.

Sri Vidya is also described as Chandra_kala_vidya, the lore of the lunar digits. This school of Sri Vidya explains that the fifteen letters of the mantra correspond to fifteen digits of the moon in each fortnight, commencing from prathipada, the first day of the brighter half, when the moon “comes out of the sun”; and, ending with the full moon on the fifteenth day. Similarly, in the dark half of the moon cycles, all digits “return to the sun”. The emanation of the fifteen digits of the moon from the Sun culminates in the full moon (purnima); while the absorption of the digits into the Sun results in new moon (Amavasya).The sixteenth letter (Shodasha kala or Srim) is said to be present in each of the digits which are called Kalas or nityas. The digits are invoked as forms of the Mother goddess.

The first digit is Maha Tripura Sundari; the second is Kameshwari; and, the third is Bhagamalini. These three together form the primary triangle which is the immediate unfolding of the central Bindu representing Mother Goddess.

The Sri Vidya tradition which centers on the worship of Sri Chakra, considers the following twelve gods and sages as its Gurus: Manu, Chandra, Kubera, Lopamudra, Manmatha, Agasthya, Nandisha, Surya, Vishnu, Skanda, Shiva and Durvasa.

It is said each of the twelve gurus propagated a school with regard to the worship and significance of Sri Chakra.  Of these, only two schools have survived to this day; one is the school started by Manmatha (also called Kamaraja) – known as Kadi_matha. The Kadi tradition was continued by Sage Agastya. The other school is Hadi_matha , started by Lopamudra , wife of the Sage Agastya. There is also a mention of an obscure third school called Sadi_matha.

Of the three, the Kadi_ matha (with its mantra starting with letter Ka) is regarded the oldest ; and , its attitude and worship is Sattvic. It insists on virtue, discipline and purity of rituals. The prominent Gurus of this School are Paramashiva, Durvasa, Hayagreeva and Agasthya. Of the other two schools, Hadi_matha is Rajasik ; and, the Sadi _matha is Tamasik.

Kadi matha accepts Vedic authority ; and, formulates its position in accordance with the Vedic tradition. The other School is considered different (iyam anya cha vidya).The term Samaya also means Vedic convention; as orthodox and valid. Hence Kadi School came to be known as Samaya.

Samaya believes in sameness of Shiva and Shakthi; and, the form of worship is purely internal. Hence , Kadi School is also known as Para Vidya , where the worship (archana) is conducted in the space of one’s heart (hrudayakasha madhye).

The external worship conducted, say by Kaulas, lays greater importance on the Muladhara and Swadhistana Chakras, which are said to be situated at the base of the spinal column; and, which relate essentially to physiological needs and psychological urges.

The Samaya School , on the other hand, prescribes that the internal  worship (antar aradhana) be conducted  at higher levels, viz., from Manipura to Sahasra. The seat of Tripura is at Sahasra, beyond the six Chakras. It is also the seat of supreme consciousness, Shiva from which Shakthi springs forth.

Shakthi is of the same nature as Brahma (Brahma rupini) that divides itself five-fold. It is a spontaneous un-foldment. In Samaya system, Brahman is called Sadashiva; it is the Bindu, from which emerges Nada which is Para_shakthi. It is at the Sahasra, the Bindu Sthana that Shiva and Shakthi reside. They are the same; one cannot be without the other.

Samaya is centered on knowledge (jnana), which is the realization of the identity of Shiva and Shakthi: Shiva becomes Kameshwara and Kameshwari becomes Shiva. Their names too get intertwined; for instance: Shiva and Shivaa; Tripura and Tripuraa; Bhava and Bhavani; Shambu and Shambhavi; Rudra and Rudrani; and , Sundara and Sundari etc.

Dakshinamurthi is a revered seer of the Kadi (Samaya) School. The term Dakshina literally means a woman and refers to the feminine principle, which can create, unfold and manifest. When Dakshina assumes a form, it results in Dakshinamurthi a variety of Shiva’s forms. Dakshinamurthi, as Ardha_nari; Kameshwara and Kameshwari, are together regarded the principle deities of Kadi School.

Sri Chakra is the main device employed by Kadi (Samaya) school; and the worship is mainly through symbolism ; and, successive identifications. The symbolism involves identification (saamaya) of the arrangements and the lines of the diagram with the structure of the Universe; the psycho-physical aspects of the devotee with the spatial arrangement of the diagram representing the goddess; and identifying the Mantra with the Yantra.

As regards the worship of Sri Chakra, there are three recognized procedures :

:- Hayagreeva tradition regarded as Dakshina_chara, the right handed method, reciting Lalitha_sahasra Nama and Lalitha_tristathi offering kunkumam.

:- Anandabhirava tradition , a Vama_chara,a left handed method; and

:-  Dakshinamurthy tradition , a doctrinal school.

Of the three, the last one is considered the best.


Sri Vidya  traditions speak of two forms of Sri Chakra. One is its physical representation of lines and forms. This form entails external worship (puja) according to prescriptions of kalpa sutra, spread over 26 steps. Here, Kameshwara and Kameshwari are the deities that receive worship.

There are, again, three methods of worship of Sri Chakra.

The shrishti_krama the expansion mode of worship, carried out in morning, comprehends the chakra from the central point the Bindu to the outer square.

The Sthithi_krama the preservation mode of worship, carried out in the afternoon, comprehends the Chakra from the outer square to the eight-fold lotus ; and, from the Bindu to the fourteen cornered figure.

The third, Samhara_krama the absorption mode of worship, carried out in the night, comprehends the chakra from the outer square to the central point.

 [Even in this method the visualizations and contemplations are not entirely dispensed with.]

The other form of worship is Viyacchakra, the chakra emerging within ones heart. This entails visualization of Bindu, which is in the center of the Sahasra, within ones heart. The ability to visualize Viyacchakra is known Assamaya. The worship (maanasa puja) is offered internally and consists wholly of visualizations and contemplation; and , is carried out in seclusion by one who is in control of his senses.

The process here involves a four-fold conceptualization of identity (aikya chintana). They are , briefly :

:- Identity of the Supreme goddess who is un_manifest with Sri Chakra which is manifest;

:- Identity of the design of Sri Chakra with the Universe. It is viewed as a cosmogram ;

:- Identity of the individual with the Universe . This is done primarily on the basis of the Shat chakra ideology (six chakras- muladhara, svadhistana, manipura, anahata, visuddha and ajna) and the tattvas , the principles , of Shaivagama;  and ,

:-  Identity of the letters of the alphabets (matrikas) with the deities located in various segments of the Sri Chakra.

As can be seen from the above the six factors involved are :

  1. the Universe (Brahmanda);
  2. the individual (pindanda);
  3. the structure of Sri Chakra;
  4. the letters of the alphabets(matrikas);
  5. the goddess (Devi); and
  6. the mantra specific to her.

[It is explainedMatrka-cakra, is the articulate sound over which all our thoughts, emotions, aspirations fears and pleasures are woven, as nothing can go beyond the articulate sound, which evolves into an extremely complex universe of sentence to meanings, meanings to mental images and mental images to pleasures and pain. This is called as matrka-sakti that can spread out externally by way of object-denotations, cognition, intentions (raja), emotions like sorrow, pleasure, envy, memory traces etc.(vikalpa), and the world of endless differentiation. This is the outward emanation (vikasa), standing for creation (srishti-krama); and, it can also contract (sankocha) by withdrawing the world of differentiation into pure awareness (samhara)]

The Tantra texts emphasize the merit of inner worship (antar_yaga), once a fair degree of understanding has been gained. They said “Best of all forms of worship is inner worship. External worship (ritualistic) is to be resorted until the dawn of understanding.”

In any case, Sri Vidya is the worship of Mother Goddess incarnated in the Sri Chakra. Her worship includes the worship of her consorts (Devata) and aids (yogini); all of whom are female. The ritualistic details are characteristically feminine.

The Upaasana of Srividya is explained in Upanishads like Kenopanishad and Bhavanopanishad ; and , in various Tantra texts, extensively. For more on the worship practices, please click here.

A Sri Vidya Upasaka worships beauty and grace; rejecting ugliness in thought, word and deed.  Sri Vidya is the path of devotion and wisdom. The wisdom consists in realizing ones identity (sva svarupa prapti) with the Mother Goddess. It is this wisdom that liberates the devotee (jivan Mukthi). This liberating wisdom is granted to him by the Mother out of pure love, when the devotee surrenders to her completely in full faith and devotion. The Mother is the path and the goal. Sri Vidya is the culmination of all paths, the consummation of all transformations.


[ Śri-Vidyā as a living Tantra has always countenanced change as part of the dynamic of a universe construed to be power itself. ..Śri-Vidyā embodies her contrast as saubhāgya-sampradāya, the tradition that entreats to prosperity by invoking divine self-identification with grace, beauty, and good fortune

The Goddess is transcendence and immanence, outside and in, macrocosm and microcosm and she is more: She is whatever she needs to become to be anything that is possible and all that precludes possible or impossible. Whatever transcendence is, she manifests as, for there is at once the narrowest sense of her fullness recovered through specific ritual arts of identification and the broadest sense of her inclusion in every kind of experience, in every aspect of reality. Unlike those who would prefer the perfection of final liberation to make for simple extrication from a world of opposites, Śri-Vidyā asserts that transcendence possesses no otherness and demands immanence without exception must be none other than she, the goddess herself in some manifestly karmic or playful form. Such a universe is not inscrutable nor can it be reduced to comprehension; illusions must be real in so far as they refuse any sensibility of falsity; options trump exiguity without the slightest diminishment of integrity.

What makes Śri  “the auspicious” is that there can be no scarcity, no summation, no ultimacy  that finalizes  less than another possibility; and all of this Śri reveals herself as Vidyā , a science, a process of veracity, an impeccable wisdom, a mantra  feminine-encoded as reality true to itself but beholden to none. Śri-Vidyā conceals itself in contradictions that pose no threat to those who embrace paradox as the solution to a world that is itself not a problem to be solved.. Śri-Vidyā flourishes, never fails; it assimilates, takes on new characters  in varied forms.

Douglas R. Brooks in the Forward to an Article concerning Sri Vidya and Tantra byJeffrey S Lidke ]

lotus red

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was initiated into Srividya Maha Shodasakshari Diksha. In his first kriti , he referrers  to its Guru tradition, its twelve gurus and three schools of worship, Kadi, Hadi and SadiKamaadi dwadashabhirupa_sthitha kadi hadi sadi mantra rupinya .

Sri Dikshitar also mentions that he followed the tradition of the Sages Durvasa , Agasthya and Hayagreeva ; and, declares he belonged to Kadi School: maatmaka kadi mathanusthano.

Sri Dikshitar followed the Kadi practice of worship of Sri Chakra from Bhupura , the outer square to the Bindu, the central point. He had a certain pride in his tradition; in his kriti Kamalambikai, he states “prabala guruguha sampradaya anthah karayayai – referring to his hallowed tradition

Sri Dikshitar composed about forty kritis,  spread over four sets of compositions on the subjects related to Sri Vidya;  Kamalamba Navavarana (11+ 2 kritis); Nilothpalamba kritis (8 kritis); Abhayamba kritis (10 kritis); and, Guru Kritis (8 kritis). Of these the Kamalamba set of kritis, is highly well organized; and,  is truly remarkable for its classic structure , majesty and erudite knowledge. More of that in the succeeding sections.

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar, in his kritis, yearns for Videha Mukthi. He beseeches the Divine Mother repeatedly and addresses her as one who grants Videha mukthi (Mamaka videha mukthi sadanam– Ranganayakam-Nayaki); the bestower of videha mukthi (vikalebara kaivalya danaya– Guruguhaya-Sama); and , at times , he feels he is nearing videha mukthi(Videha kaivalyam yami-Tyagaraje-Saranga). Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was a jivan Muktha who attained his Videha Mukthi.

Videha mukthi is a concept of the later Advaita Schools. It believes, one can attain liberation (moksha) from attachments while still encased in a body. Such an attained one is Jivan Muktha. The body continues to function till its Prarabdha Karma is exhausted; thereafter, the mortal coils fall away. Videha mukthi is shedding off the body by a Jivan muktha, the one who has already attained liberation.

Jivanmukthi, emancipation while yet alive, is also a concept of the Tantra Siddantha , which believes that it is possible for a person to transact with the world without getting involved in it. In other words, one lives on actively and cheerfully, amidst distractions and confusions of the world without letting his self reflect them. His moorings in the phenomenal world have withered away; his instinct of self-preservation and insecurity has been minimized. He is alive only to essential thing in life that is the source of life. The real world continues to exist for him. But he does not rest in the world but rests in himself (Svarupa pratishta).

In the Sri Vidya  tradition, a jivan muktha is a devotee, a Bhaktha as well as a Jnani the wise one. Here, the wisdom consists in realizing his identity (sva svarupa prapti) with the Mother goddess. It is this wisdom that liberates him (jivan Mukthi). This liberating wisdom is granted to him by the Mother , out of pure love, when he completely surrenders to her in full faith and devotion.

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar, either way, was a jivan Muktha who attained Videha Mukth with the grace of the Devi.


Continued in the Next Part

The structure of Sri Chakra



The Tantra of Sri Chakra by Prof.SK Ramachandra Rao (1953)


Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Music, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Sri Vidya, Tantra


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Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Vidya (4 of 8)

The music of Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar

dikshithar-1 (2)

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was a versatile intellect. He was open to  varieties of influences. His works reflect some of those influences rather explicitly ; while some others shine through in a subtle way. Before we get into a discussion about Dikshitar’s creations, we need to recognize a few features that influenced him.

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was a vainika-gayaka, a musician who sang as he played on the Veena. He was well trained both in vocal and instrumental music. Naturally, the graces, the rich Gamaka prayogas of his compositions structured in slow tempo shine in mellow glow when played on the Veena.

In his childhood, he received training in the Lakshya and Lakshana aspects of Carnatic music. The Lakshana Gitams and Prabandhas of Venkatamakhi formed an important input of his training. Later, as a composer, he chose to follow Venkatamukhi’s system of Mela -classification of Ragas.

He spent seven years at Varanasi, in the prime of his youth. He was captivated by the grandeur, the spaciousness and the purity of the ancient Druphad School. He learnt Dhrupad diligently; and ,that left a lasting impression on his works.

Earlier in his teenage, he gained familiarity with Western music; and, the traces of its influence can be noticed in the movement of his songs.

He had a good command over Sanskrit; and, learnt to use it to express his ideals and aspirations in pristine poetry. He had a fascination for Sabdalankara, beautifully turned phrases and wordplay . He had the composure of a yogi and the heart of a poet. Dikshitar’s kritis are therefore adorned with poetic imagery, tranquil grace, a certain majesty steeped in devotion.

Sri Dikshitar had acquired a fair knowledge of Jyothisa, Ayurveda, and iconography and of temple architecture.

He was unattached to possessions or to a place . He was a virtual pilgrim (jangama) all his life. He visited a large number of shrines ; and, sang about them and the deities enshrined there.

He was intensely devotional ; yet, was not overly affiliated to a particular deity. He composed soulful songs in praise of a number of gods and goddesses.

He had a fascination for composing a set of  kritis exploring the various aspects of  a particular deity or the different dimensions  of a subject , as if he had undertaken a project.

He was an Advaitin, well grounded in Vedanta.

And above all,

Sri Dikshitar was an ardent Sri Vidya Upasaka; a Sadhaka, an intense devotee of Devi, the Divine Mother. He was a master of Tantra and of Yantra Puja. The Tantra ideology permeates all through his compositions.

It is the harmonious confluence of these influences that one finds in Dikshitar’s music.



Anandamruthavarshini  by Shri S Rajam

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was prolific; about 479 of his compositions have now been identified, spread over 193 ragas. These include four Ragamalikas and about forty Nottuswara sahithya verses.

[For a detailed statistical analysis of the compositions of Sri Dikshitar , as undertaken  by Dr. P. P. Narayanaswami , please click here.

Please do refer to a very remarkable site created by  a group headed by its Chief Data Analyst –  Smt. Meera Subramanian  , listing as many as 510  compositions of Sri Muttuswamy Dikshitar,  along with its lyrics , audio and video files as also the deity-wise classification of his Kritis

For the list of Dikshitar compositions compiled by Todd Mc Comb , please click here

The Website of has listed 481 compositions of Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar . These include the four sub-categories : Guruguha Vibhakthi; Neelothpalamba Vibhakthi;Pancha-bhutha-linga Vibhakthi; and, Samgita Sampradaya Pradarshini  ]

The great Venkatamakhi who formulated the 72 Mela-kartha ragas is reported to have wondered ”of the 72 Melas only a few are known and found in practice… and will the permutation be a waste.?‘(Dr. V Raghavan:  paper presented at All India Oriental conference, at Hyderabad, 1941).

It was the genius of Muthuswami Dikshitar that gave form and substance to all the 72 Mela-kartha ragas, fulfilling the dream of Venkatamakhi. He gave expression to nearly 200 ragas of that system.

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was a pilgrim virtually all his life. He visited a large number of shrines and sang about them and the deities enshrined there. He was intensely devotional yet not overly affiliated to a particular deity. 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.

Sri Dikshitar has composed songs in honor of some other lesser-known divinities : Saṇdhyā dēvīm Sāvitrīm-Rāga Dēvakriya, Ādi-Tāla; Bhūśāpatim – Rāga Bhūṣāvati, Rūpaka Tāḷa; and, Renukādēvi Samrakśtōham – Rāga Kannada Bangāḷa, Miśra Jhampe.


Some scholars have said that Dikshitar’s songs are summaries of Durga Suktam, Sri Suktam and Purusha Suktam.   He built in the mantras in a few krithis like Sri Raaja raajeshwari  (madyamavathi), pavanatmaja aagaccha (Naatta). For the benefit of those who couldn’t practice rituals he composed vaara krithis on navagrahas. Similarly, he opened the doors to the secret world of Sri Vidya, for the benefit of all, through his Kamalamba navavarana kritis.

Krithi Groups

Dikshitar had a fascination for composing sets of kritis on a composite theme, perhaps in an attempt to explore the various dimensions of the subject. In some of these, he employed all the eight Vibhaktis, the various cases that delineate a noun. No other composer has attempted so many group kritis in such a planned, orderly, meticulous fashion. The following are some Important Krithi Groups. Please also check here. 

The selection of Raga and Taala; and the diction of these kritis demonstrate his musical skills and intellectual refinement.

For greater information on Group Kritis of Dikshitar, please check here.


Just as his father Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar (who had composed the longest ever Raga-malika in Karnataka Samgita- the Ashtotrasata ragatalamalika – set in 108 Ragas and various Taalas) ,   Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar  was also an adept in the Raga-malika format. Though he did not attempt anything as lengthy or as grand as his father did, the four delightful Raga-malikas that Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar created are true gems of art. 

: – Madhavo-mam-patu– is a Raga-malika on the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu, with ten passages set to ten Ragas (Nata, Gaula, Sri, Arabhi, Varali, Kedara, Vasanta, Surati, Saurashtra and Madhyamavati).

 Of the ten Ragas employed in the Raga-malika, five are Ghana-ragas excellent for rendering Taana on the Veena. The sixth Raga Kedara , is invigorating and the last four Ragas are Mangala Ragas leading up to the final Mangalam in Madhyamavati.

The Raga of each passage blends admirably well its Sahitya. Here too, Sri Dikshitar adopts his favorite Vibhakthi scheme of addressing the subject. The first eight passages are in the eight Vibhakthi cases, in their order (krama) ; and , the rest two- ninth and tenth are in the accusative case . 

While rendering the Raga-malika, the singers can progress from one passage to the next without having to repeat the Pallavi of the just concluded passage. 

: – The Ragamalika Purna-chandra-bimba-vadane in celebration of Goddess Kamalambika at Tiruvarur is composed of six Charanas in six different Ragas: ‘Shad-raga-malika‘.  The Ragas are: Poornachandrika, Saraswatimanohari, Narayani, Suddhavasanta, Hamsadhwani and Nagadhwani; and, all the six belong to ‘Dheera Sankarabharana’ (29th) Mela, Sri Dikshitar’s favorite. 

: – The third Raga-malika Simhasana-sthite in four passages is addressed to most graceful Devi seated on her throne in a serene tranquil posture. The four are Mangala-prada Ragas, auspicious, soothing and peaceful – Saurashtra, Vasanta, Surati and Madhyamavati. This Raga-malika is therefore sung at the conclusion of Sri Dikshitar’ annual celebration festivals. It is also a favorite of the Bharatanatyam dancers. 

:- Perhaps , Sri Dikshitar’s most famous Raga-malika is his ‘ Chaturdasha Raga-malika’ –  ‘Sri Vishwanatham bhajeham’ set in fourteen Ragas singing in ecstasy the glory of the Lord of the universe Shiva. The fourteen Ragas are interwoven with the passages in an intricate pattern.

 Chapter 12 of Shqdhganga describes this Ragamalika as

 “ The Pallavi has two Ragas, starting with Sri Raga; and, each Raga is encapsulated in two lines of one Avarta; the second being in Madhyama kala. Similarly, the Anu-pallavi is set to four Ragas  :  Gauri, Nata, Gaula and Mohanam. But, at the end, after Mohanam, a Viloma passage takes us through the same four ragas of the Anu-pallavi and the two of the Pallavi in reverse order, back to Sri.  

The same pattern is followed in the Charanam with eight Ragas : Sama, Lalita, Bhairavam, Saranga, Sankarabharanam, Kambhoji, Devakriya and Bhupala. And, these are again taken in reverse order in a Madhyama-kala sahitya, back to the Pallavi in Sri.

Sri  Dikshitar has followed a pattern not only in the order of the occurrence of the Ragas, but also in terms of the lengths of the Avartas for each Raga.

The fifth and sixth Ragas- Gaula and Mohanam – have been allotted 1 ½ Avartas, all in Madhyama-kala; while the preceding Ragas have been given 2 full Avartas – one each in Sama kala and Madhyama kala.

The same pattern has been followed in the first half and second half of the Charanam of the Raga-malika.  Another striking feature of the Sahitya of this Raga-malika of  Sri Dikshitar is that the last part of the Svara-sahitya set to each Raga is composed of the same words as of the last part of the preceding line of Sahitya.” 

Chronological order

It is rather difficult to arrange Sri Dikshitar’s compositions in a chronological order.

His Nottuswara-Shitya verses were, of course, composed in his early years while his family lived at Manali a small town near Madras. His first composition as Vak-geya-Kara was Srinathandi in Mayamalava-gaula, at the hill shrine of Tiruttani; and, his last composition was  Ehi Annapurne in Punnagavarali while he was at Ettayapuram during his last years.

It is believed that the set of Vibhakti kritis followed his first composition. Thereafter, he traveled to Kanchipuram, Mayuram, Chidambaram, Vaidyanatha koil and Kumbhakonam. He often visited Tiruchirapalli (where it is said his daughter lived).

He spent his productive years at Tiruvavur and his final years in Ettayapuram. In between, he is believed to have visited about 70 temples; and, sung the glory of those deities. It is however not possible to arrange those kritis in a sequence.

Please check here for a map of his probable travels in South India: 


Before going further, we need to talk a bit about Sri Muttuswami Dikshitar’s first Kriti as a Vak-geya-Kara , Srinathandi-guruguho-jayati in the Raga Mayamalava-gaula in the fifteenth Mela (the Mela in which Sri Dikshitar composed many Kritis) . The mantra of Sri Vidya also has fifteen matras (syllables).

After submitting salutations to the past Gurus of the Kadi-matha, the principal tradition of the Sri Vidya lore (shri nathadi guruguho) , Sri Dikshitar bows down to his Guru Yogi Chidambaranatha. Elsewhere, in another Kriti  composed in Raga Purvi, a Bhashanga-janya-raga of Mayamalava-gaula, Sri Dikshitar  adores his Guru  and Master Chidambaranatha as none other than Guruguha;  and , says ‘I am the humble servant of Guruguha, or I, myself, am of the form of Guruguha himself’

 -shri guruguhasya dasoham nocet cidguruguha evaham.

The opening line Srinathandi-guruguho-jayati-jayati, which bows to all the deities and Gurus of the Sri Vidya traditions, has been much debated. This line is said to be an almost a takeoff from the opening lines of the first shloka of the Sri Vidya paddhathi:

Shri nathadi gurutrayam ganapatim  pithatrayam bhairavam / siddhaugam vatukatrayam padayugam dutikramam mandalam/ viran dvyasta catushka shashti navakam viravali pancakam/ srIman-malini-mantra-rajasahitam vandeguror mandalam

This Shloka invokes the deities and the galaxy of Gurus (Guru-mandala) in the realm of the Supreme sovereign Srividya Parabhattarika.  It begins with salutations to the three generations of Gurus (Srinathadi gurutrayam – one’s own Guru; his Guru – Parama Guru; and his Guru – Parameshthi Guru) ; and prayers to Ganapathi  (Ganapatim).

It also recalls with reverence the three centres or seats of Shakthi (Piitha-trayam – Jalandhara, Purnagiri and Kamarupa); the eight Bhairavas (Bhairavam); the Siddhas (siddhaugam); the three celibates Brahmacharis (vatukatrayam – Skanda, Chitra and Virinchi); and then, submits to the feet of the Mother Goddess (Padayugam).

Then salutations are submitted to the group of Duti goddesses (dutikramam mandalam); to those who have attained Siddhi (Viran); to the sixty-four Siddhas (dvyasta catushka shashti); nine Mudra goddesses (navakam); and to the five supreme deities (viravali pancakam– Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Ishwara and Sadashiva).

Then, at the end, the devotee submits to the Goddess of Malini-Chakra with Mantra-raja; and, to all the Gurus of all the traditions of Sri Vidya (vande-guror mandalam).

Likewise, Sri Dikshitar, in his Kriti Srinathandi-guruguho-jayati –jayati , submits to his Guru, the Lord of the Universe, and all the Gurus of the Kadi Matha of the Sri Vidya tradition. And, to the Srividya Parabhattarika, the supreme Mother Goddess, who is invoked by the mantra beginning with Ka and ending with Ma (The Kadi Vidya of Sri Manmatha runs:  KA, E, I, LA , HRIM- vagbhavakua), residing in the centre of the Mani Chakra which resembles a thousand-petalled lotus.

And, to Maheshwara  the Lord  who obliterates  all types of illusions and delusions; who is meditated upon constantly by  Hamsa mantra , the Ajapa-japa (you breath out with a sound of ’Sa’; and you breath in  with a sound of ‘Ha’; and, throughout the day and night you perform the Hamsa Japa.

 (The Hamsa Japa is :  I am He , Shivo Hum, I am Shiva ,  breathing in and out continuously , instinctly and with ease ,  without being aware of your doing so. This effortless and ceaseless Japa is called Ajapa-japa).

And, to the Guruguha, Skanda, who is worshiped by kings of Mayamalava Gaula Desha and others; who is surrounded by Vishnu and other gods; and, who has expounded the real truth of Pranava to His father Mahesha.


The composition, ‘Sri Nathadi guruguho jayati jayati’ in Mayamalava-gau!a is ideal for the music students to practice in graded speeds, the ascent and descent of the Raga, the janta svara prayogas, alankara patterns, mandra-sthayi phrases etc.

In terms of Music, the first line of the Pallavi (Srinathandi-guruguho-jayati -jayati) summarizes all the ascending (Arohana) and descending (Avarohana) notes of the Mayamalava gaula:   “SA RI Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni SA Ni Dha Pa Ma Ga Ri”, in all the three speeds (kaala).  

[ It is said; upon his initiation into Sri Vidya Upasana , Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar was assigned the ordained name ‘Chidananda-natha‘. In the Pallavi of his first Kriti ‘, ‘Sri Nathaadi Guruguho Jayati,’ he refers to himself by his Diksha-name (rahasya-nama) as : ‘Sri Chidananda Naathoham iti’- श्री चिदानन्द नाथोऽहमिति ]

And , in regard to Sahitya , The prathama-akshara- prasa in the Charana  and in the Madhyama-kaala–sahitya is very interesting , where each line commences with ma or Ma.


  •  MAyamaya vishvadhishthano
  • MAtmaka kadi matanushthano
  • MAlini mandalanta vidhano
  • MantrAdyajapa hamsa dhyAno
  • MAyakarya kalana hIno
  • mAmaka sahasra kamallsiIno
  • mAdhurya ganamrita pano
  • mAdhavadyabhayavarapradano
  • mAyashabaLita brahma rupo
  • mArakoti sundara svarupo
  • matimatam hridayagopuradIpo
  • mattashuradi jayapratapo
  • mAyamalavagauLadidesha
  • mahipati pujita pada pradesha
  • mAdhavadyamara brinda prakasha
  • maheshasya maharthopadesha

 Madhyama Kala Sahityam:

  •  MAyaamaalavagaulaadidesha
  • Mahipati Pujitha Pada Pradesha
  • MAdhavaadyamara Brunda Prakaasha
  • Maheshasya Mahaarthopadesha


Dikshitar followed the Mela-paddhati (a system of classifying Ragas) devised by Venkatamakhi, to whose school he belonged. In handling the Vivadi-melas, Dikshitar followed Venkatamakhi; and, avoided inharmonious expressions, prayogas.

Further, since Kharaharapriya was not a part of Venkatamakhi’s scheme; there is no known composition of Dikshitar in that Raga. The twenty-second Mela-karta was Sri Raga; the Mangala kriti of the Navavarana series is composed in Sri Raga. Again, the Venkatamakhi-tradition treated Bhairavi and Anandha Bhairavi as Upanga Ragas; so did  Sri Dikshitar.

[Though Sri Dikshitar generally followed the Asampurna-Mela system of Venkatamakhin, he was quite familiar with the other, Govindacharya’s Sampurna-Mela system as well.

For instance; the Raga of his Kriti Shri-shulinim-shritapalinim according to Asampurna-Mela is Shailadeshaksi. But, in the Kriti, he uses the Raga-mudra as Shulinim , which is the Raga-name in the Sampurna-Mela system.

Similarly, the Raga of his Kriti Hariyuvatim-haimavatim is Deshi-simharavam according to the older system; but, the Raga-mudra is Hemavathi which is the corresponding Raga-name in the other system.

And, his Kriti Shri Nilotpala-nayike in Raga Nari Ritigaula contains the Raga-mudra Natabhairavi in the Anupallavi as per the Sampurna-Mela system.]

Some scholars opine that Sri Dikshitar’s major service to Carnatic music is that he gave expression to nearly 200 Ragas of Venkatamakhi’s system. He also breathed life into a number of ancient Ragas that were fading away. Several ancient Ragas found a new lease of life though Sri Dikshitar’s kritis.

To name a few of them: Mangalakaisiki, Ghanta, GopikavasantaNarayana Gaula,Sulini, Samantha, maargadhesi and mohana naatta. Even today, their  Lakshanas are illustrated mainly through Sri Dikshitar’s creations.

There are many Ragas which are employed only by Dikshitar. Take for instance: Saranganata, Chhaya Goula,  Poorvi , Padi Mahuri Suddhavasanta ,Kumudakriya, and Amritavarshini.

In the Raga Dwijavanti, his Kritis Chetasri and Akhilandeshwari  stand out in solitary splendor.

He transformed many Outhareya, the Hindustani Ragas into Karnataka form through his creative genius. His interpretation and rendering of Ragas like Dwijavathi, Ramkali, and Yamakalyan, Hamirkalyani, and Brindavan sarang are highly original and creative. He made them into his own. His Cheta-sri is so wonderfully well adapted to Carnatic Raga-bhava that one scarcely notices the Outhareya traces in its character. He took in the best aspects of the other system;  transformed them ; and, enriched both the systems.

Shankarabharanam scale appears to have been his forte.  There are as many as 96 kritis based on that scale. The kritis in Harikambhoji scale number about 63; while 57 kritis are in Kharaharapriya scale. He had a special affinity for Mayamalava-gaula in which he composed about 51 songs. The derivatives of that scale such as Saalanga Nata, Paadi and Mangala Kaishiki would have been lost but for Sri Dikshitar.


About forty-four of his compositions are set in forty Vivadi Ragas. Since Sri Dikshitar followed the A-sampurna-Mela-Paddathi of Venkatamakhin , even the Janaka-Ragas might look like Janyas. But, in fact, all those Vivadi-Ragas are Raganga or Melakartas. However, they do not have Vivadi-Svara-Sancharas. For instance; Raga Shuddha-Saveri under Kanakambari; and Manohari under Gangatarangini.

As many as forty of these Melas, are Vivadi-Ragas. Sri Dikshitar uses many means (Upaya) to counteract the jarring-effects of Vivaditva. These  measures include :

    • (i) Janti prayōga – using the Svara in pairs to  reduce the Vivadi- effect;  
    • (ii)  Alpatva – minimum usage or skipping  of the Vivadi-Svaras;
    • (iii) Dheergha-prayoga -Elongating one of the Vivadi Svaras to smoothen its effect; and 
    • (iv) Langhana or Dhatu-prayoga-using  crisscross Svara pattern to reduce the Vivadi effect.

[ Please do read about the frequency Analysis of the Ragas used by Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar , as attempted by Sri Vishnu Vasudev. Please click here.]


Sri Dikshitar was accomplished in the matter of Taalas, the rhythmic patterns. He is the only composer to have set his music in all the seven basic Taalas. He employed all the Saptha (Seven) Taalas in his Vara-Stutis i.e. a song for each day of the week.  He is said to have used ten improvised varieties of Taalas in his compositions. The majority of his compositions are set in Adi (190) and Rupaka (139) Taalas.

 Sri Dikshitar, in his compositions, has employed only Suladi Taalas; to the exclusion of Chapu and other Taalas. Each of his Nava-Graha Kritis is set in a different Suladi Taala. 



The most fascinating aspect of Sri Dikshitar’s Kritis  is the grandeur and majesty of his music, sublime lyrics, intellectual brilliance and the overall technical sophistication. They exude a tranquil joy. His vision of the Ragas and their structure is  truly inspiring.

Sri Dikshitar was blessed with the heart of a poet and the composure of a yogi. He was an intense devotee; but, was undemonstrative. There is, therefore, a certain composure, measured grace, dignity and a mellow joy glowing through his music,  as in his life.

The Druphad way of elaboration captured his imagination. The tempo of his songs is mostly the Vilamba-kala – slow, measured and majestic; rich in Gamaka just as the meends on a Veena. Sri Dikshitar aptly called himself “Vainika-gayaka Guruguha-nuta”.

[The musical structure of his Kritis display how well they are suited for playing on the Veena. For instance; he has employed wide Jaarus extensively in the phrase Murari-prabhruti occurring in his Kriti Sadashivam-Upasmahe (Raga Shankarabharanam; and, there is a Jaru from lower Shadja to Tara-sthayi -Rishabham). And again, the first line of the Charana of the Kriti Tyagaraja Maha-Dwajaroha (Raga Shri) has an elaborate Jaru :

Srishti-svarupa-vasanta-vaibhavam-ashtadhvajendra-vimana-bhuta-samashti-gaja-vrishabha-kailasa–vaham-ashlesha-mah-aratha -sthitam.]

Sri Dikshitar’s treatment of a Raga exemplifies the essence of the Raga bhaava; and, brings out its delicate shades. It is as if the musician is immersed in contemplative meditation. The graces, the rich Gamakaprayogas of his compositions structured in slow tempo shine in mellow glow when played on the Veena.

This is amply reflected in his works ; for instance in

The other compositions of this genre are: Dakshinamuthe (Shankrabharanam); Manasa-guruguha (Anandabhiravi); Ehi-Annapaurne (Punnagavarali); Amba Neelayatakshi (Nilambari), and ,each of the Nava-avarana kritis.  These are indeed monumental works.

It is not that all aspects of his music are slow and spacious. He built into his compositions exhilarating bursts of speed and sparkling delight as if in celebration of the divine spirit, towards the end. Certain kritis are interlaced with Madhyamakala-Sahitya, passages in tempo faster than the rest of the kriti (E.g. Mahaganapatim  in Nata).

Although the Kritis of Sri Tyagaraja are known for their elaborate Sangathi improvisations, there are some archaic Sangahtis in the Kritis of Sri Dikshitar as well(e.g.  in  Arunacala-natham in Raga Saranga ; and,  Pahimam-ratnachalanayaka in  Raga Mukhari).

Sri Dikshitar redefined the treatment of even the traditional Karnataka Ragas by way of elaborate beginning, rich in Gamakas resembling the sliding Meends as, for instance, in the slow paced majesty of Akshya-linga-Vibho  (Shankarabharanam);  or in Balagopala (Bhiravi), portraying the beauty of the divine child, Krishna. His Nirajakshi-Kamakshi in Hindolam with Dha flat entirely changed the way Hindolam came to be sung by his contemporaries, as also by the later Carnatic musicians.

It is believed; before the time that Sri Dikshitar went to Varanasi, the Hindola Raga in the Carnatic system was, generally, rendered with Chatusruti-Dhaivata (say, as in the kriti, Manasuloni of Sri Thyagaraja). While Sri Dikshitar was in the North, he had listened to Raga Malkauns (equivalent to Hindola of the South), sung with Shuddha Dhaivata, expanding it freely in all the three octaves. Sri Dikshitar felt such charm and appeal could be brought into the Hindola of the Karnataka-samgita. He thereafter, composed his splendid Nirajakshi-Kamakshi in Hindola with Dha flat, while retaining the purity of the Hindola Raga.

Some say; Sri Thyagaraja’s Kriti Samaja-vara-gamana in Hindola, shows the shades of Sri Dikshitar’s influence. Thais is because, his treatment of Hindola in his earlier Kriti – Manasuloni , was quite different.


Sri Dikshitar was well versed in the Alapana-paddhati; and, followed it in the elaboration of a kriti. The musicologists have said “The most outstanding aspect of the compositions of Sri Dikshitar is their richness in Raga-bhava”. His sense of selection of the apt Sancharas of the Raga to bring out the true emotion is remarkable. They range stretching from the Mandra to the Tara-sthayi ; and, give a complete picture of the Raga.  It is said that if you sing his kriti in Akara, it can bring out the character of its Raga. His kritis are virtually, Raga-alapana, chiseled to fit in with Taala ; and ,dressed in Sahitya.

[ Please also read Smt. Vidya S Jayaraman’s conversation with Dr.V.V.Srivatsa ]

Structure of kritis

His kritis are well structured, close knit and written in graceful Sanskrit. Sri Dikshitar’s kritis do not usually have more than one Charanam; and, as many as 157 of his creations are Samasti-charanams, carrying no Anupallavi or the Anupallavi itself acting as Charanam. His rhythm is subtle ; and, the lyrics are divine.

Sri Dikshitar’s kritis with Samashti-charanam have enriched the variety of musical forms in Karnataka Samgita. These Kritis composed in Madhyama-kala are highly popular ; e.g.

Since he did not compose multiple Charanas,  his single Charranas tended to be quite lengthy ,as compared to the Kritis composed in Pallavi-Anupallavi-Charanam format. Such fairly long Charanas, however, enabled Sri Dikshitar to provide exhaustive information about various deities, shrines, concepts of the Sri Vidya  tradition etc. The Madhyama-kala-sahitya that he employed for such Kritis, also  helped in introducing some variation in such long Charanas.

 [Perhaps his only multiple-charana creations are his Kriti ‘Maye-tvam’ (Tarangini) ; and , his  four  Ragamalikas]

Each of his compositions is unique, brilliantly crafted and well chiseled work of intricate art. It is incredible how delicately he builds into his tight-knit kritis a wealth of information about the temple, its deity, its architecture and its rituals; and about jyothisha, tantra, mantra, Sri Vidya, Vedanta etc. He also skillfully builds into the lyrics, the name of the Raga (Raga-mudra) and his Mudra, signature. 

Sri Dikshitar also built in phrases of Samgita-shastra in the body of  the few of  his kritis, sometimes giving technical details in precise ways.

For instance; in his Kriti ‘Meenakshi-me-mudam-dehi (Purvi-Kalyani), the phrase ‘Dasa-Gamaka-Kriye’ refers to Dasavidha-Gamakas discussed in ancient music-texts.

And, similarly, the phrase ‘Dvisapatati-raganga-raga-modinim’ in the KritiSringira-rasa-manjariin Rasamanjari Raga (Rasikapriya) refers to the scheme of seventy two Melas. 

Language and wordplay 

Except for one kriti in Telugu and three Mani-pravala-kritis (Sanskrit+Telugu+Tamil) , all his other compositions are in Sanskrit.

[ The term  is said to be made of mani + pravala,  meaning a mixture of gems and coral]

Sri Dikshitar is credited with one Chauka-kala-pada-varnam – ‘Rupamu juchi’ (Todi, Ata taala) and a Daru Ni sati (Sriranjani) also in Telugu.

Sri Dikshitar had a good command over Sanskrit; and, had learnt to express through it his ideals and aspirations in pristine poetry. He had the composure of a yogi and the heart of a poet. Sri Dikshitar’s  kritis are therefore adorned with poetic imagery, tranquil grace, a certain majesty steeped in devotion.

He had a fascination for Sabda-alankaras, adorning his poetry with beautifully turned phrases ringing sweetly like temple bells; captivating rhymes of Prasa and Anuprasa. He loved the intricate play of words and to coin sweet sounding phrases. Look at the pada lalithya, a grand procession of enchanting phrases : 

  • Akalanka darpana kapola vishesha
  • Mana matrike maye marakata chaye
  • Devi Shakthi beejodbhava matrikarna swaroopini
  • And
  • Komlakara pallava pada kodanda Rama.

 The rhyming and ringing phrases – Shyamalanga- vihanga- sadayapanga-satsanga- are of unparallel beauty.


The structures in the compositions of poetry and of a Kriti, as also in the playing of the Mrdanga are said to follow certain rhythmic patterns (Yati-s). 

There is, of course, the usual format which follows the uniform length of lines (Sama).

In addition, there are certain varied and improvised patterns of composing and structuring the lines in a Kriti; such as :  (1) broadening or increasing like the flow of  a river (Srotovaha); (2) tapering or decreasing like a cow s tail (Gopuccha); (3) increasing, then decreasing;  broadening towards the middle like the contours of a drum (Mrdanga); and,  (4) first decreasing and  then increasing; narrowing towards the middle, as the contours of an hourglass-shaped drum (Damaru).

composition patterns

And, there is also an arrangement that is devoid of any obvious pattern; it could be irregular or rugged (visama). It is rather difficult to define or illustrate such patterns.

Sri Dikshitar who was well versed in Kavya-prayoga, composing poetry, was, obviously familiar with these geometric patterns that were  meant to  improvise the structure of lines in a stanza.


Sri Dikshitar often structured his lyrics in geometric patterns. He enjoyed a childlike delight in employing Yatis (geometric patterns) such as Gopuccha (tapering like the tail of a cow) or it’s opposite, the Sorotovaha (broadening like the flow of a river) for structuring his lyrics. For instance; in his Sri Varalakshmi (Sri) and MayeTwam-Yahi (Sudha Tarangini) he used the tapering pattern of Gopuccha.

Sarasa Pade,





Sarasa Kaye




In his kriti Tyagarajayoga Vaibhavam (Anandabhairav) , Sri Dikshitar uses both the YatisGopuccha Yati and Srotovaha.

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

Tyagaraja Yoga Vaibhavam

Agaraja Yoga Vaibhavam

Rajayoga Vaibhavam

Yoga Vaibhavam





 And Srotovaha Yeti (flowing or expanding like a river )



Svarupa Prakasham

Tatva svarupa Prakasham

Sakala Tatva svarupa Prakasham

Shivashaktyadi Sakala Tatva svarupa Prakasham

design rangoli


Sri Dikshitar brings out the beauty of the Raga and the Sahitya, at many places, through the Svarakshara. For instance:

In the Kriti ‘Pancamatanga-mukha-Ganapatina-paripalitoham-Sumukhena-SriMalahari, Rupaka), the Pallavi is set to the Svaras ‘Pa- dha-Ma- pa –dha- pa- ma- ga- ri- sa- pa- dha- Sa’

In the Kriti ‘Sadacalesvaram-bhava-yamham’ (Bhupalam, Adi), the Pallavi has the Svaras ‘sa- Dha- sa- Pa’


Sri Dikshitar , at times, used Svara-sahitya 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.

Muhana Prasa

Rhyming in the first letter of line is called Muhana. One can observe it in the entire Carana of the Kriti Tyagarajaya-namaste (Begada, Rupaka) as follows:

Mukundādi-pūjita-sōmaskanda-mūrtaye / Muchukundādi-bhakta-jana manōratha pūrtaye/ Mukurabhmba pratibimbitha mukha-spurthaye / Munipaki mga kītādi mukti-pradakīrtaye

Dvitiyakshara Prasa

Rhyming in the second letter of each line is called Dvitiyakshara Prasa. One can observe it in the Carana of the Kriti Tyagarajam-bhajare (Yadukula-kambhoji, Rupaka) as follows

pauādi dikpālapūjita gātram / nītpalāmbānukūla tara kalatram /  trikya guru guha tātam trinetram / sailōkādi kaivalya prada caritram /

 Antya Prāsam

Rhyming words at the end of the lines is called as Antya Prasa. One can observe it in the Anupallavi and in the entire part of Carana of the Kriti Ttyagarajo-virajate (Athaa, Rupaka) as follows:

Vāgartha mayabhuvana rājo / Hari vānchitārtha prada rājo / Hara śri guru gua ganea rājo /Samsevita rājādi rājo /


 A striking feature of his compositions is the Jaaru Gamakas; both the upward and the downward slides: Digu-Jaarua and Ettaru-Jaaru. For instance; in the Kritis Hiranmayim Lakshmim (Lalita);  Arunachalanatham (Saranga);Ananda-natana-prakasham (Kedara) and , “Kari-kalabha-mukham’ (Saveri), one can see abundant use of Jaaru Gamakas.

He also uses many Chittasvara patterns like in the Kriti ‘Balambikē’ (Manoranjani), which has Shuddha-Rshabha and Shuddha Gandhara, bringing in the Vakratva: Ri- Ga- Sa-Ri-Ni-Sa-Dha-Sa,’; ‘Sa-Sa-Ri-Ri-Ga-Ri-Ga-Ga-Ri-Ri-Sa’.

Madhyama-Kala- Sahitya

The slow gait of his compositions is often balanced with an ornamentation of Madhyama-kala-Sahitya or Chittasvaras (For instance: Anandeshwarena-samrakṣhitoham Anandabhairavi -Chapu Taala; and, Soundara-rajamashraye– Brindavanasaranga- Rupaka Taala)

The Madhyama-Kala -Sahitya is one among the many interesting decorative features (Anga) of the Kritis of Sri Dikshitar.  It is seen mostly after the Carana; but, in some cases, the Madhyama-Kala section is also in the Anupallavi. It is also seen in both the Anupallavi and in the Carana; but, it rarely is also seen in Pallavi or in all the sections. The tempo of the Madhyama-kala, in all these cases, is double the tempo of the actual Vilamba Kala. There are numerous instances in his Thyagaraja- Vibhakthi –Kritis.

Apart from the Vibakthi group, the Kriti Tyāgarāja-mahādwajārōhanam in Sri Raga has the Madhyama-Kala passages in all its sections – Pallavi, Anupallavi and Carana.

Raga Mudra

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar set the trend for embedding Raga-mudra, the name of the Raga, in the lyrics. This served the purpose of establishing the Raga of the kriti; and, it also added a novel lyrical beauty. Sometimes the Raga-mudra could be as simple as Brindavana  Sarangendra;  or Satchidananda  Bhiravisham; or  Krithika  Suddha Dhyanyena.  

In the Kriti ‘Panca-Matanga’ (Malahari),the Raga-mudra is woven in the phrase ‘Kali-malaharaa-caturea’. And, in the Kriti ‘Sri Parvathi- Parameshvarau’ (Bhouli), the Raga-mudra is embedded in the phrase ‘Chithbim –boulila- vigrahau’.

 In the Kriti Tygāgaraja-pālayāṣumām (Gaua) the Raga-mudra is in the phrase ‘suthārtānga gaulāga’. In the Kriti Tyāgarāja-yōgavaibhavam (Anandabhairavi) it is depicted as ‘sacchit-ānanda-bhiravīam’. And, in Viravasanta- Tyāgarāja (Vīravasanta) it is in the beginning as ‘Vīravasanta-Tyāgarājamām’.


But, at times, he would ingeniously suggest the Raga by hiding it in a complex word, through shlesha, a skillful play on words. For instance, as in:

(Veena+Abheri) to suggest Abheri;

(Panchamukha+arishadvarga_rahita) to suggest Mukhari; and

(Chidbimbou+lilavigrahou) to suggest Bouli

Some of the Ragas have peculiar names and require great skill to blend them into the composition. For example; the Raga names like Paraz, Mahuri and Arabhi are rather unusual; and yet, he successfully binds them into the composition without marring  its  literary merit . For instance :

“Bhakthajananam athisamiparujumarga darsitam,

Tvamahurisadayo, Samsarabhithyapaham.”

Again there is a Raga with the name ‘Andhali’ which conveys no specific meaning. But in ‘Brihan-nayaki-varadayaki’ through the phrase   ‘Andhaliharana-chana-pratapini’ he develops a fine poetic expression out of it: “The fragrance of her shining beauty attracts even blind bees.”

The name of the Raga ‘Varali’ enhances the artistic beauty of the song ‘Mamava-Minakshi through the phrase ‘Madhuravani-Varali-veni.’ These are typical of Sri Dikshitar’s poetic excellence and his ability to achieve natural flow of delightful phrases set to sublime music.

Sri Dikshitar also specialized in the use of different Vibhakti (the various cases that delineate a noun) running parallel. A striking example is the first batch of eight krtis he composed in praise of Lord Subrahmanya of Tiruttani.

Sanskrit language employs eight cases (vibhaktis) for the declination of a noun, namely nominative (prathama), accusative (dvitIya), instrumental (tritIya), dative (chaturthi), ablative (panchami), genitive (Shasti), locative (saptami) and vocative (sambhodhana). The eight cases for the noun Guruguha would be: Guruguhah (Guruguho); Guruguham; Guruguhena; Guruguhaya; Guruguhat; Guruguhasya; Guruguhe; and, (hey or Oh..!) Guruguha.

Mutthuswamy Dishitar


Many of the Kritis of Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar are eminently suited for depiction in Dance form. Just to mention a few: Rupamu-juchi (Todi, Adi Taala); Meenakshime mudam (Gamaka-kriya, Adi); Chetah-Sri-Bala-Krishnam (Dvijavanthi, Rupaka) Kadambari Priyayai (Mohana, Misra Chapu) and Arunacha-natham (Saranga, Rupaka)

They also present a graphic picture of its principal characters.

Meenakshime-mudam-dehi-mechakangi-Raja Matangi (Gamaka-kriya, Adi-Taala) is graphic picture of the Mother Goddess Meenakshi. The descriptive lyrics vividly portray the beauty, the grace and the virtues of the Goddess. It offers abundant scope for the Dancer to  to meaningfully express through her Abhinaya the various facets of Her beauty , her power and her compassion. And, shades of Srngara are also woven into it by employing the Rati as the Sthayi Bhava; and, Moha, Harsha, Jadata, Mati and Vitarka as Sanchari Bhavas.

Sri Dikshitar weaves a picture of her beauty; with her eyes (Meenakshi, Meena-lochani), her face (vadane-vidambana – vidhu); her arms (mani-valaye); her radiant skin (marakata chaaye); and her waist (shaath-udari), which captivates all (vashankari) ,

Describing virtues and the nobility of Meenakshi, he calls her as: the fountainhead, the Mother of all knowledge (Maana-Matru; Meye); the means of achieving knowledge (Maye); adept in the art of Music (Dasha-kriye); the most compassionate Mother (Hrudaye) who rids one of all bondages (Pasha-mochani).

She verily is the loveliest one who resides in the Kadamba grove (Manini, Kadamba-vana-vasini). She the beloved of Mahadeva-Sundaresha (Mahadeva-Sundaresha-Priye) is the jubilant victorious one (Vijaye).


Chetah-Sri-Bala-Krishnam-bhajare (Dvijavanthi, Rupaka Taala) is a delightful word-picture of the most adorable child Krishna.  It lovingly describes the beautiful features of the boy Krishna. One might even say, it is a form of meditation.

O mind, worship the child Krishna, the one who grants liberation; and the worship of whose lotus-feet assures fulfilment of all the desired objectives in life.

The child of Nandagopla is resplendent like the rain-bearing cloud; his neck is shapely like a conch; and, he is adorned in yellow glowing robes. The upholder of the Govardhana mountain, the spouse of Rukmini , the one who is the slayer of Putana and other evil-doers, is indeed the incarnation of Purushottama (Vishnu), whose arena of sport is the hearts of sages which are  free  from passions ,.

The mouth of the Bala Krishna is fragrant with the  smell of fresh butter; the soft-spoken one; the one whose eyes are like lotus-petal; the one reclining on a Banyan leaf; the one whose nose is shapely like a Champa flower; the one who is radiant like the flax flower; the one bowed to by Indra and the other seven protectors of the eight directions of the world; the one wearing a deer musk Tilaka on his forehead; the one wearing fresh Tulasi and forest-flower Vanamala garlands; the one encircled by Rishis like Narada; the guardian of the worlds; he indeed is  the cowherd extolled by Guruguha.


The Kriti Ananda-natana-prakasham, in the Raga Kedara , dedicated to Lord Nataraja of Chidambaram, is another Kriti that is eminently suited for Dance. The Kriti is studded with ‘Sollukattu’ that or Bols , the  vocalized syllebles.


And, on the occasion of the Arangetram of  Kamalam , one of his disciples  and also one of the Dasis attached to the temple of Sri Thyagarajaswami at Tiruvarur, Sri Dikshitar composed a Padavarnam on Sri Thyagesha – Rupamu chuchi- in Raga Todi; and, a Daruvarnam – Nin sati Daivamandu ledani– the Raga Sriranjani.


Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar’s  two Kritis – Kadambari Priyayai and Arunacha natham – do definitely differ from his other well known compositions steeped in Bhakthi and Vairagya Bhavas.

The Kriti Kadambari Priyayai-Kadamba Kananayayi –Namaste –Namaste  (Raga Mohana, Misra Chapu Taala) is beautifully suited for an elaboration as a Padam in a Bharatha-natya recital. It brings nature and Srngara Rasa together beautifully.  Its Kala -pramana is eminently suited for Abhinaya.

In his other Kriti – Aruaachala-natham-smarami-anisam-apeeta kuchamba-sametam  (Saranga, Rupaka Taala) , which is based in Srngara Rasa, Sri Dikshitar brings out the Nayaka-Nayika-bedha in its fullest expression.

The sheer beauty of this piece lies in the fact the Nayaka-Nayika-bedha is installed within a larger Bhava of Madura-Bhakti, wherein the Jeevatma and Paramatma are in union.

Here in these cases, Srngara should be viewed as an aspect of Madhura Bhakthi; and , should not be taken as  something that is improper .



The mudra, the signature for his kritis occurs as Guruguha not only in his classic creations commencing with Srinathadi, but also in this earlier Sanskrit verses grouped under Nottuswara-Sahitya. The term Guruguha means the Guru dwelling in the cave of my heart; and it normally refers to Kartikeya. The term however acquires shades of other meanings depending on the context.

Sri Dikshitar was an Advaitin; and, in that context, the term Guru refers to the Supreme Principle Brahman. In his Sri Guruguha-dasoham he says” I am Guruguha”.

Sri Dakshinamurthy, the yogic incarnation of Shiva, is often referred to by Sri Dikshitar as Guruguha.

Again, in his Jambu-pathe (yaman-kalyan), he refers to Shiva the Guru in  nirvikalpa-Samadhi as Guruguha, the attribute-less (nir–vishesha), blemish-less (niranja) supreme consciousness (chaitanya)

– nir-vishesha- chaitanya- niranjana- Guruguha Guroo

Sri Dikshitar was also a yogi. In his Shrinathadi-guruguho-Jayati, the Guruguha is the Lord seated in his Sahasrara-Lotus; and, absorbing the nectar of his sweet music

In the Shakta tradition, the universe is interplay of Shiva and Shakthi. The Guru is Shiva the body, and Shakthi the energy as Guhya-shakthi, the intrinsic power. Guruguha is at times a wordplay based on this dual principle.

Sri Dikshitar was also a Srividya-Upasaka ;and, as per its tradition ,he submitted his salutations to that Guru-parampara (the linage of his Guru’s). Sri Vidya graduates the evolution from the most subtle form (Shukshma) to the gross in 36 steps; the first being Shiva-tatva , and the final one being Prithvi-tatva.

According to this School, Shiva is Adinatha the progenitorShiva is Adi-guru. The Tantric texts identity the Guru and the Mantra with the deity; the three are one. The Mantra represents Manas (mind), the Devata stands for the Prana (vital force); and, the Guru represents the aspirants own self (Atman).  That is the reason Sri Dikshitar in his Sri Guruguha-dasoham exclaims : “I am Guruguha”.

In the Sri Vidya tradition, the Guru is not an abstract concept. Guru is an individual. He also symbolizes the hoary tradition Sampradaya in a succession of masters. The human guru is the contemporary master; who has descended in an unbroken line of gurus beginning from Adi Guru Shiva himself. He not only reveals the transcendental reality to the disciple; but also helps him to realize his own essential reality (svartha–parartha-prakatana-paro-guruh). Devotion to the human guru is to purify the mind and fortify it with the spirituality of the Guru. In his Anandeshwara (Anandabhiravi), Sri Dikshitar refers to his Guru , who initiated him, as the incarnation of Guruguha (jnana-pradana- Guruguha-rupa).

Sri Dikshitar refers to the Guru-parampara as Adi- guruguha-varena. He mentions Paramashiva, Durvasa, Agasthya, Hayagreeva and other Gurus of Sri Vidya tradition. Elsewhere, he makes a mention of twelve Upasakas in three Schools of worship in Sri Vidya – Kadi, Hadi and Sadi – in his line  Kamadi-dwadasha-bhi rupasthitha-kadi -hadi -sadi-mantra- rupinya-iharena-navanathena-adyena. Shiva is Adi-guru, the Guruguha  who resides in the cave of the heart.

Influence of Advaita

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was well grounded in Vedanta ; and ,he was an Advaitin. The influence of that School of Vedanta is visible in several of his kritis.

For instance;

In these compositions, he speaks about the identity of jiva and Brahman; the superimposition, Aadhyasa; the seemingly real yet not- real (Maya); the errors in perception, each atom being the microcosm of the universe (chidvilasa koti koti cidabhasa) and other Advaita concepts. In his Kamalamba Navavarana kritis in Shankarabharanam he declares “I am guruguha”.


Influence of Sri Vidya

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was a Devi Upasaka; and, was well versed in all aspects of Sri-Vidya-Upasana. His kritis, permeated with Sri Vidya concepts, are too many to be listed here. The prominent among this genre is the Kamalamba-navavarana -kritis, a series that is rich in celebration of the deities and traditions of Sri Chakra worship, expounding in each of its  nine kritis, the details of the each Avarana of the Sri Chakra.

According to Sri Dikshitar, Sri Vidya protects the devotee: Bhaktanam Abhayapradam; leads his way to well being ; and, also to the way to liberation (bhukti-mukti-prada-margam) .He sings in inspired devotion; and, beseeches the Divine Mother to protect him ; and, to guide him along the right path.

There are references to Shaktha tradition in his Nilothpalamba-Vibhakthi compositions, the Guruguha Vibhakthi and Abhayamba Vibhakthi compositions, in addition to references in several individual compositions.

Dikshitar composed about 40 kritis spread over four sets of compositions on the subjects related to Sri Vidya; Kamalamba Navavarana (11+2 kritis); Nilothpalamba kritis (9 kritis); Abhayamba kritis (10 kritis) and Guru Kritis (8 kritis).

Of these the Kamalamba set of kritis, is highly well organized; and, is truly remarkable for its classic structure , majesty and erudite knowledge.

Let us talk more about Sri Chakra, Sri Vidya and their influence on Sri Dikshitar, in the next sections.


Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was a many splendored genius. He gave form and substance to all the 72 Mela-kartha-ragas. Besides, he breathed life into several ancient Ragas that were fading away from common memory. He redefined the paradigm of Karnataka Samgita . Each of his compositions exemplifies the essence of Raga-bhava; and captures the depth and soulfulness of the melody. His vision of the Ragas and their structure is sublime.

His compositions are crisp, well chiseled and rich in knowledge.  His Sanskrit is delightfully captivating. His synthesis of Karnataka and Hindustani Music systems is creative and original. He took the best in the other systems and adorned the Carnatic System; enriching both. Dikshitar revolutionized Karnataka classic ethos , while being  firmly positioned within its orthodox framework.

He excelled in all the four aspects of the traditional music viz. Raga, Bhava, Taala and Sahitya. The technical sophistication, intellectual brilliance and the majesty of his music is unsurpassed.

Sri Dikshitar was a scholar well grounded in good tradition (sampradaya). To him, music was more than an art; it was serene contemplation; a way of worship in tranquility; and, it was also an outpouring of his soul in celebration of the divine. He described the divine as embodiment of Raga, Bhava and Tala (Bhava-Raga-Taala – swarupakam).

He was a yogi, with the heart of a poet; there is therefore a certain composure and majesty in his music along with sublime poetic imagery adorned by grace and enchanting beauty. His Kritis exude with soulful repose, peace and transcendental joy.

[It is said; 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. It seems possible to reconstruct his life-events and personality by piecing together some of his compositions. The same could be said, to a certain extent, in the case of few other musicians, such as: Jayadeva kavi; Kshetrayya; Annamayya; Sri Purandaradas; Sri Shyama Sastri; and others.

(For a comparative study of the compositions of Sri Dikshitar and Sri Thyagaraja , written by the well-known musician-musicologist Prof. S R Janakiraman, please click here and also here)

But, in the case of Sri Dikshitar; his compositions are remarkably free from personal elements. We may admire his scholarship, his mastery over language and music; his superb artistry enriching his creations with beauty and excellence; his dexterity in weaving together and harmoniously synthesizing various strands of elements into precise, compact, faultless Kritis; and, his greatness, in general.  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 issues or factors; or, his reactions or views on the life around him. There is a sense of detachment; and, Yogic poise that permeates his compositions.

That does not mean that Sri Dikshitar, as a person ceased to be human.  Sri Dikshitar was a Jivanmukta, the one who is liberated even while encased in the body. He existed in the real world; but, his moorings and attachments in the phenomenal world had withered away. He rested in himself (Svarupa-pratishta). And, he regarded his Music pursuit as a spiritual quest in search of the most sublime state of consciousness, his identity (sva-svarupa-prapti) with the Mother goddess.]


Continued in Part Five

Sri Chakra and Sri Vidya


Compilation of Dishitar’s compositions  Dr. P. P. Narayanswami’s page
Statistical Analysis of Dikshitar’s compositions – Dr. P. P. Narayanaswami’s page
Group Kritis of Dikshitar

List of temples mentioned in his works

 Muthuswami Dikshitar – A Creative Genius by Chitravina N Ravikiran

Guru principle and Guruguha in Dikshitar

I gratefully acknowledge the paintings by Sri S Rajam


Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Music, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Sanskrit, Sri Vidya


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Sri Mutuswami Dikshitar and Sri Vidya (2 of 8)

Sri Dikshitar  and the Western Music

While the Dikshitar family lived in Manali, a Zamindari near Madras, the family enjoyed the patronage of the Zamindar Muddukrishna Mudaliyar and his son Venkatakrishna Mudaliar (sometimes referred to as Chinnaswami). The Zamindars were closely connected with the East India Company as its Dubash (interpreters); and in that capacity they often called on Fort St. George the seat of the Company in South India. Since the Zamindars were reputed art connoisseurs, they were regularly invited to Fort St. George to listen to the European Airs played by the Irish bands. The bands played simple Celtic marching tunes, lilting melodies, easy on the drums and bagpipes and flutes.

The zamindars would sometimes take along with them the Dikshitar brothers, who were in their teens, to listen to the “English” bands. That was how Muthuswami Dikshitar and his younger brother Baluswami came to gain familiarity with the Western music.

aquatint of the Fort Square inside Fort St. George by Thomas Daniell,

During this association, it is said, that   at the suggestion of Col. Browne who was in the service of the East India Company, Muthuswami Dikshitar composed the text in Sanskrit and Telugu for well known Western tunes. He also composed other songs in Sanskrit and Telugu based on Western notes. The collection of these compositions numbering about forty later came to be known as “Nottuswara Sahithya“. Nottu is Telugu/Tamil transformation of the word Note. It is a unique genre of music.

A list of about forty of the Nottuswara works of Dikshitar is given in the website KarnATik

The noted scholar musician Shri M.R.Shankara Murthy has  , however, in his book , listed 30 nottu songs, in addition to eight other songs. Please also check

Of these about forty compositions of “Nottuswara sahithya“, the notation is available for only thirty-six compositions. The text or sahithya for these compositions are in Sanskrit and Telugu and they are in the form of verses or songs. They do not have segments of Pallavi, Anupallavai and Charanam, as one would find in the classic kriti format of Carnatic music. The compositions are not in Shankarabharanam per se ; but are  based on simple melodies and devoid of the ornamentation (gamaka) that is characteristic of Carnatic music.

These songs or verses are in praise of the different Gods and Goddesses of different holy places, such as Srirangam, Tirupathi, Kanchi, Madurai, etc.

[The songs are praise of Ganesha (1),Saraswathi (2), Shiva (11), Vishnu/Krishna (5), Devi (10), Skanda (4), Anjaneya (1), Rama (6)]

Curiously, those songs composed during the end years of the 18th century bear the “Mudra” or the composer’s signature as “Guruguha”. That was several years before Dikshitar composed his first kriti, as Vak_geya Kara, (Srinathadi guruguho jayath...) on the hills of Tiruttani (around 1809). The “Nottuswara “songs were  thus the forerunners of Dikshitar’s monumental classic compositions; and Dikshitar had decided upon his signature, Mudra, quite early in his life, even before he left for Varanasi.

Among these songs, about thirteen of them were replicas of well-known European songs/tunes of those days. Dikshitar set Sanskrit words to the music of those songs. These were the songs:



Song commencing

with words

Replica of the song or the tune
01 Santatam_PahimamSangita Shyamale British National Anthem “God save the King/queen “
02 Vande Meenakshi Irish melody “Limerick”
03 Vara shivabalam “Castilian Maid” by Thomas Moore
04 Peetavarnam Bhaje Persian verse “taza ba-taza nau ba-nau” which B. H. Palmer and Gertrude Bell made into pleasant English jingle.
05 Jagadeesa guruguha “Lord MacDonald’s Reel”
06 Subramanyam Surasevyam the regimental march of the Grenadiere guards, the senior foot guards regiment of the British Army-“British Grenadiere”
07 Kancheesam Ekambaram “country dance”
08 Ramachandram Rajeevaksham English song “Let us lead a life of Pleasure”
09 Sakala suravinuha tune of “Quick March”
10 SakthiSahitha Ganapathim song “Voulez Vouz Dansers”
11 Sowri Vidhinute English song “oh Whistle and I will come to you, my lad.”
12 Kamala Vandita Playful tune of ‘Galopede’ folk dance where men and women in two lines dance briskly
13 Shyamale Meenakshi Nursery rhyme ”Twinkle twinkle little star” based on French tune Ah! Vous dirai-je

Madra East India Co 1639 by William Simpson

Madras East India Co.1639 by William Simpson

As regards the  rest of the songs composed by Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar, they were all based on the Western scale of C Major, which corresponds to the scale of Shankarabharanam of Carnatic music and Bhilaval that of Hindustani music. [The songs were not, however, in Shankarabharanam or Bhilaval per se.] These were independent works based on western notes; and were not replicas of European tunes.

All the forty or more  songs were set to Tisra Eka Tala (three units) or Chaturasra Eka Tala (four units) which corresponds to ¾ and 4/4 timings of the Western Music. The range – Shruthi – of these songs is generally in middle octave.

[ Please click here for the texts of the Nottu-svara songs

Please click here for the Notu-svarams along with Notations for thirty three songs composed by Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar ]

The songs were written in Telugu script. The preserved manuscripts  of the songs were, years later (around 1832), presented by the well-known musicians of that period Kuppaiah and Seshaiah to Charles Philip Brown (an officer of the East India Company, who did remarkable work in classical Telugu literature) while he was at Madras. They were called a collection of “Jathi_swaramulu”. It appears those songs were, at the time, used as lessons for the beginners. One of them was the popular Sanskrit song “Vara Veena Mrudu Pani” in Raga Mohanam which was converted into a Gitam. The song is practiced as Gitam by all beginners, even today.

Madras Govt House Fort St George

A manuscript preserved in the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Chennai, labelled as Manuscript no. D. 2536  contains twenty of such songs of  Dikshitar, written in Telugu script. Of these, twelve are composed in Sanskrit language and the other eight are composed in Telugu language. The Sanskrit songs which were the replicas of the European Airs carry English captions and bear the mudra as “Guruguha”.

Smt. S A K Durga, Professor Emeritus at the University of Madras, writes in the Journal of the Indian Musicological Society  (January 1, 2011):

A study of the melodic content of the European airs in those composition shows that a few melodies are reels and jigs from Irish folk tunes, since in the Western band at the Collector’s Office there were Irish musicians at that time… There are some changes from the original European melodies and the melodies of Nottuswara Sahithyam compositions in European airs, for example the one in Castilian mode, a folk tune that was transcribed by Benjamin Carr (1768-1831). In his book, the composition appears notated in 3/8 meter (Carr’s musical miscellany in occasional numbers, 1812). The song in Lord McDonald’s reel, Jagadeesa Guruguha, has two sections. The original A and B lines are switched with an additional word to pick up to the first beat of the song. One finds that these compositions are not a homogenous collection of British airs but there is diversity in their melodic content from the original tunes.

These earlier compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar also throw light on his mastery in synthesizing two different music cultures. .. His compositional attitude in worshiping the different deities at different shrines is also revealed in his Nottuswara Sahithya-s. The choice of the Sanskrit language for these compositions reveals his spirit of national integration.

madras fort st george

Although written by Muthuswami Dikshitar in the late 18th century when he was in his teens, before he started to compose   kriti-s, a few of these songs were first published as Nottuswara Sahithya in Sri Manali A.M. Chinnaswami Mudaliar’s work “Oriental Music in Staff Notation” (1893), that is  nearly   sixty years after Dikshitar’s death (1836) .  In their first appearance in print , the songs were published  without any caption. The text was printed in English, Telugu and Tamil characters.

After this, Sri Subbarama Dikshitar, the grandson/ the adopted son of Baluswami Diksihtar, published these in his Prathamabhyasa Pusthakamu in 1905. (Later, there appeared  a few more publications with notation.)  The book contained both theoretical and practical aspects of elementary teaching methods; and is relevant to the music field even to this day.

In this book , Sri Subbarama Dikshitar included thirty-two compositions, under the title “Nottaswara sahithyamu” with Swara-notation, as technical compositions/lessons  for beginners (Abhyasagana). He did not however mention the titles of the European Airs which served as the models for some of the songs. It is likely that these songs were practiced, not as songs adopted from the Western style , but  as simple Karnatak melodies composed with the scale of Sankarabharanam, without any microtonal ornamentation .  During the late 19th and early 20th century, these songs meant  for the beginners were taught in place of Gitam, to fameliarize  the young learners with melodic movements or phrases in the scale.

Subbarama Dikshitar’s monumental compendium Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini, published in 1904, also contains references to the Nottuswara Sahithya.

Some scholarly articles have been published on the subject. For instance, Prof. P. Sambamoorthy has published an article in the Journal of the Music Academy, 1951, and Dr. V. Raghavan has contributed another article on “Nottuswara sahithyam” of Muthuswami Dikshitar in 1977 in the Journal of the Music Academy . I  wish these were put on the net for the benifit of a larger number of  music lovers and general readers .

Chitraveena N Ravikiran remarks that while referring to the influence of Western music many talk only of his “English note” compositions; but few realize that its influence is more pervasive and is subtle. One can notice it in the way the movements of the song proceed, he says.

Plan of the Town of Madras and its limits, published in 1834

Plan of the Town of Madras and its limits, published in 1834 -by Courtesy of Philip Jagessar

Fort St George on the Coromandel Coast.  Belonging to the East India Company of England

Fort St George on the Coromandel Coast. Belonging to the East India Company of England

Continued in Part Three

Sri Dikshitar and Hindustani music


Homage to the Great Composer – Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar by– Dr.S.A.K.Durga

All pictures are from internet



Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Music, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Sri Vidya


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Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Vidya (1 of 8)

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar- a life sketch

sri mutthusamy dikshitar

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar ( 1775 (?) – 1835), one of the trinity of Carnatic Music, was a complete musician; a scholar and a Sadhaka, the one who attained his goal . The genius of Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was that he was a remarkable synthesis of a versatile composer adept in several distinctive forms of music; of a towering scholar in Sanskrit, which adorned his music with grace, dignity and tranquility; and , of a Sadhaka steeped in devotion and good tradition (Sampradaya vit).

Each of his compositions is unique; brilliantly crafted and well chiseled work of intricate art. The most fascinating aspect of Sri Dikshitar’s songs is the grandeur and majesty of his music; the intellectually sublime lyrics;  and,  the overall tranquil joy.

There is hardly a composer comparable to Sri Dikshitar, in versatility, in enriching his work with such poetic imagery, technical sophistication; and, above all in permeating his compositions with soulful repose.

sri mutthusamy dikshitar 2sri mutthusamy dikshitar 1


Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was the son of Sri Ramaswami Dikshitar (1735 – 1817), a well-known scholar – composer- musician of his time.

Ramaswami Dikshitar is described as the son of Bhagirathyamma and Vekateshvara Dikshita, a Dravida Brahmin belonging to Auttara Kashyapa Gotra, Apastamba Sutra. Ramasvami Dikshita was born in the Saka-samvathsara 1657 (1735 AD) at Kanchipuram.

When he was of about seven years of age, his parents moved from  Virachipuram (?) or Kanchipuram to Govindapuram, near Tanjavuru. In order to pursue his interest in music, Ramaswami Dikshita is said to have stayed as an Ante-vasin, a resident student, for a period of about two years,  with the famous composer-musician of those times –  Meratturu Veerabhadrayya of Tanjavuru; and , learnt Kritis composed by  him in Rakthi and Desi Ragas. He also learnt to sing, with ease and understanding, the Svaras, Alapana, Pallavi and the Svara-kalpana.

Thereafter, he studied further under Venkata-Vaidyanatha Dikshita of Madhyarjuna (maternal-grandson of the Great Venkatamakhin). Here,  for one year he learnt Veena; and, followed it up with the study of Venkatamakhin’s Chaturdandi Prakashika with its Raga, Upanga, Bhashanga Ragas, Gitas and Tala-lakshanas.

And, much later, at the instruction of his guru Yogi Chidambaranatha, Ramasvami Dikshita shifted his family from Govindapuram to Thiruvavur in the Tanjavuru district. He settled down in Tiruvavuru having gained reputation as a much learned scholar, composer and musician.

tiruvarur_temple (1)

Ramaswami Dikshitar had to his credit a large number of Tana varnas, Pada varnas, Darus, Ragamalikas and Kirtanas. His Mudra, signature, was ‘Venkatakrishna‘.

[For details of the compositions credited to Sri Ramaswami Dikshitar, please check page 11 of Chapter Two of Dr.  R K Dhanya ‘s research paper ]

His Ragamalika composed in 108 Ragas and set to different Taalas (Ashtottara Shatha Raga Taala Malika) was an outstanding composition, not merely for its sheer size but also for its melodic charm and rhythmic patterns; and , for deployment  of some uncommon Ragas and Taalas.

Please click here for the available text of the Ashtottara Shatha Raga Taala Malika

The Raga- Tala- Malika, composed in the Telugu language, employs all the Ghana Ragas (Nata, Gaula, Varali, Shri and Arabhi), as also, many important Mela Ragas (e.g. Todi, Mayamalavagaula, Shankarabharana, Kalyani, Pantuvarali, and Gmakakriya).

In addition, many   Upanga and Bhashanga Ragas are employed (e.g. Sama, Mohana, Manirangu, Bilahari, Saveri, Punnagavarali, Kuranji, Surati, Begada and Devagandhari). The Prati-madhyama Ragas used are Ramakriya, Kalyani, Saranga, Yaman and Gamakakriya.  

 Dr. Dhanya writes : The first 7 sections of this composition are in the Suladi sapta Taalas and the remaining in the I08 Taalas. Rare Taalas like Lali, Lakshana, Srimatkirti, Simhavikrama, Rarigalila, Kavilokita,  Akshara, Kala and Sri are used in it. This is a rare composition in Carnatic music for its style, extent and virtuosity . But , unfortunately, its complete text is not available ; and, only 61 Ragas and Taalas now exist.


Two other remarkable creations of Sri Ramasvami Dikshitar are:  

:- the Anuloma ‑ pratiloma- Daru composed in the rare Raga Ganga-tarangini, the lyrics (sahitya), of which can be read in normal order (anulomam}, as also in the reverse order (pratilomam); and, in either case it yields the same text.

:-  a Svara-sthana-pada-Varna  in Todi Raga, where its lyrics in  Telugu skilfully uses only the seven of its letters:  Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma , Pa, Dha, and   Ni. The Telugu words in the Sahitya of this Pada Varna are skilfully constructed using these seven lettersFor instance; its Charanam reads:

marimari ganisaga nipani dagadani  / maniganiga nimmanigada / mari ni pathama manigA marIniga\\

(Source; Grateful thanks to the scholar Shri P P Narayanaswami)


Sri Ramaswami Dikshitar also gained fame through his improvisations of the popular melody, the Raga Hamsadhvani. He is said to have composed a Lakshana Prabandha, in this Raga, beginning with the words ‘Chandaseya aurunda maladharadedicated to Lord  Nataraja of Chidambaram. This is said to be the  very  first composition set in Hamsadhvani

Thyagarajasvami and his consort Nilotpalamba

Sri Ramaswami Dikshitar , for a major part of his life, lived during the reign of Tulaja II , Amarasimha and the early Sarabhoji period. His other patrons were Manali Venkatakrishna Mudaliar and his son Chinnayya Mudaliar.

It was at Thiruvavur that Ramaswami Dikshitar, just past forty years of age; was blessed with a son ; who , it is generally beleived  was born on March 25th, 1775 in the Manmatha year, Phalguna month , under the Krithika nakshatra , just as the annual Vasantotsava was being celebrated in the temple of Sri Tyagaraja Swamy and Sri Nilothpalambika.

[ There is an alternate version; according to which : Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar was born on  Sunday, March 24, 1776 , Rohini Nakshatra, Vrshabha rasi

Another version mentions that Sri Mutthuswamy Dikshitar could have been born between 9 A.M on 23rd March 1776 to 8 A.M. 24th March, Phalguna Masa,  under  Krittika star )


He named the baby boy as Muthuswami  after his protecting deity Karthikeya. Following Muthuswamy, two sons – Chinnaswamy (formally – Venkata-vaidyanatha Sharma, named after his Guru) – (17781823) and Baluswamy (formally Balakrisna Sarma) – (17861859) ; and , a daughter – Balambika or Balambal – were born to Ramaswamy Dikshitar and Subbalakshmiammal . (According to some, Chinnaswamy and Balambal were twins)

Dikshitar Family tree

[ for more details on family history : please  check : ]

[Unlike in the case of Sri Thyagaraja, the Shishya-paramapa (the line of disciples) of Sri Dikshitar was, mainly, his descendants. According to Dr. V. Raghavan, in his book entitled Muttuswami Dikshitar, published by the National Center for the Performing Arts, 1975 :

The main line of Dikshitar’s pupils is represented by his own family. After Baluswami Dikshitar, there was the great Subbarama Dikshitar…. His son was Ambi Dikshitar (full name: Muttuswami Dikshitar) who succeeded him as court musician at Ettayapuram; and, stayed there for a long time. Late in life, he migrated to Madras where he lived for the rest of his life.

While in Madras he built  a school around himself; and, it was the starting point of a strong and fruitful movement. The well-known Vedanta Bhagavatar of Kallidaikurichi, who also happened to live in Madras at that time, threw himself enthusiastically into this active propagation of Dikshitar Kritis.

There were two young Veena brothers of Tirunelveli, Anatakrishrna Iyer and Sundaram Iyer, who made copies of Dikshitar kritis from the manuscripts of Sri Ambi Dikshitar. These formed the basis on which they propagated Dikshitar kritis……

Of Dikshitar’s own direct line, Sri Ambi Dikshitar’s son Tiruvarur Baluswami Dikshitar is the present living representative. (Note: this article was written earlier to 1975)

It was mainly due to the devotion, dedication and efforts of Sri Ambi Dikshitar, while he was in Madras, the musical heritage of Sri Muttuswami Dikshitar came to be extended outside of the family.

In the early years, the disciples of Sri Ambi Dikshitar such as Smt. D.K.Pattammal and Justice T.L.Venkatrama Iyer did loyal service, with great enthusiasm, in popularizing the compositions of Sri Muttuswami Dikshitar.

Please also check this article.]


Apart from the traditional education in Veda and Vedangas, the boy Muthuswami received training in the lakshana and lakshya (theory and practice) aspects of Karnataka Samgita. The lakshana geethas and prabandhas of Venkatamakhin formed an important input of his training . He gained proficiency, in Veena and in vocal music as well.

He also gained training in Vyakarana (through a text named Kaumudi – it could be either Siddhānta-Kaumudī by Bhaṭṭoji Dīkṣita or its abridged version Laghu-kaumudi by his student Varadarāja), Kavya, Nataka, and Alamkara aspects of poetics.

By about the age of sixteen, Muthuswamy had gained familiarity with Jyothisha, Ayurveda and Tantra.

Muthuswami was a studious lad; rather absorbed in himself . Concerned with the boy’s detached attitude; his parents got him married at an early age. That didn’t seem to change the young man’s attitude; and, therefore he was married the second time.

At the invitation of Muddukrishna Mudaliyar, Zamindar and an art connoisseur, Ramaswami Dikshitar moved his family to Manali, a Zamindari near Madras. Muddukrishna Mudaliyar was a Dubash (interpreter) closely connected with the East India Company. He was succeeded by his son Venkatakrishna Mudaliar, who continued the patronage to the Dikshitar family.

Venkatakrishna Mudaliar (sometimes referred to as Chinnaswami) was also a Dubash of the East India Company; and , in that capacity  he used to visit, quite often, Fort St George, the official seat of East India Company in South India. He would often take Muthuswami and his brothers to Fort St. George, to listen to ‘airs’- Western Music played by Irish men in the British band. It was here that Muthuswami Dikshitar gained familiarity with Western music.

Madras St. Thome Street, Fort St. George, Madras - 1804

It is said ; at the suggestion of Col. Browne who was in the service of the East India Company, Dikshitar composed the text in Sanskrit and Telugu for well known Western tunes. He also composed songs in Sanskrit and Telugu based on Western notes. The collection of these compositions , numbering about forty , later came to be known as “Nottuswara Sahithya“.

Another significant fallout of the Dikshitar family association with the court at the Fort St. George was that Baluswami, the younger brother of Muthuswami became fascinated by an instrument called Fiddle whose well tuned sounds seemed to approximate human voice. Baluswami learnt the Fiddle from an Irish musician; and, soon became quite an adept in playing Carnatic music over fiddle. And , thereafter  the family wondered why it could not replace traditional Veena as the accompanying instrument. They tried it out ; and, it worked very well. Since then Fiddle (Violin) has become an indispensable accompaniment for a Carnatic music concert.


[ About his  uncle Cinnasvami Dıksita  and his  adopted father  Balasvami Dıksita, Sri Subbarama Dikshitar writes in his Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini:

38. Cinnasvami Dıksita (Venkata-vaidyanatha Sharma)

He was Muddusvami Dıksita’s brother. He was well educated in Sanskrit and Telugu. He was an expert in music. He was a great veena player. He was a great soul who possessed expertise in vocal as well as in instrumental music. He was felicitated in the courts of Manali Cinnaya Mudaliyar, and in the court of other kings.

He composed two krtis, on Narada. One was Ganalola karunalavala, in the Raga Todi; and, the other was Narayanananta in the Raga Kalyani. He went to Madurai along with his younger brother, and passed away in his forty-fifth year.

39. Balasvami Dıksita (Balakrsna Sarma)

He was born as the third son of Ramasvami Dıksita in the Saka year 1708 (1786 A.D) in the year of Parabhava, in Mithuna rasi, Asvinı naksatram and in Kanya lagnam. He was the younger brother of Muddusvami Dıksita. He was named Balakrsna Sarma. He was an expert in Telugu and very well versed in music. He was an expert in playing the instruments such as Veena, Svarabat, Fiddle, citar (sitar) and Mrdangam . He knew the intricacies of musical laksya and laksana.

Even when he was very young, Cinnaya Mudaliyar at first arranged for him to learn violin from an English man. He learnt western music as well as Hindu music for three years and played very well in front of Manali Mudaliyar and other music-lovers. During his childhood, one day in a gathering of Mudaliyar,  Sonti Venkatasubbayya played the Gıta, and Taana  in the Raga Takka, looked at the Mudaliyar and told him that that Raga is known only in their family. Immediately, the young Balasvami Dıksita looked at the Mudaliyar and told him that he was going to sing that Takka Raga Gıta; and, to listen. As he sang it as, Aramajju aparadha, he was felicitated with a pearl necklace and a pair of earrings.

Afterwards, he along with his intelligent brothers lived in Kanci and other holy places ; went to Tiruvarur;  and lived there for some time. Then, with a disciple called Hari, who was with him since his childhood, and with his second older brother he went to Madurai and lived there for some time. When his brother passed away, he went to Setu with Hari and from there reached Ettayapuram and visited the Maharaja.

There, when he played Fiddle, the instrument that was new for those times, the Maharaja was very pleased and felicitated him greatly. He also recognized his talents in laksya and laksana, and his delicate playing on the Veena. The Maharaja also built a house for him, made him the court musician and got him married a second time.

The oldest son of the then Maharaja, Kumara Ettappa Maharaja (who was later coroneted) , learnt laksana and laksya of music from him. For the krtis he had composed in Sanskrit, in many Ragas following the patterns of Varnas, he (Balasvami) composed Muktayı svaras with intricate innovations, which pleased the Maharaja. Apart from that, he composed Kırtanas in Telugu on Srı Grdhracala Kartikeya in the Ragas Saranga, Darbar, Kannada and Rudrapriya.

With the permission of Kumara Ettappa Maharaja, who was well versed in astrology, he took me under his wings as his grandson, and initiated me to Brahmopadesa, taught me Veena and educated me in musical laksya and laksanas. He composed an Atta tala Varna in the Raga Naata, and made every Svara in that Tana Varna shine magically and in the last four Avarta Svaras he embedded the four Jatıs,  one in each of the Avarta. After hearing this Tana Varna, the Maharaja felicitated him with a pair of todas (bangles), which were valued at one thousand gold coins and which were adorned with rubies and the face of lion. He also presented him with a pair of valuable (shawls) cloths. He also rewarded the disciples who sang the Varna.

After that Maharaja, his brother was crowned; and, he too learnt music from him. He composed Darus on Venkatesvara Ettappa Maharaja, who was the embodiment of music, in the Ragas Rudrapriya, Darbar and Vasanta, with Muktayi svaras with paatava. After listening to them, the Maharaja felicitated him by presenting him with two shawls and thousand gold coins for each Daru. He used to sing Gıtagovinda (Astapadi) ; and chant the name of God on every ekadasi day without fail. As the days passed thus, in the Saka ´ year 1931 (1859 A.D) in Pingala year and on Kumbha Rasi, Shukla trtıya day, he attained the heavenly abode.


Balasvami Dıksita adopted his  youngest daughter’s son  –  Subbarama Dikshita , the author of the monumental Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.

[ please click here for more on Dishitar Parampara ]

 Sri Subbarama Dikshita writes about himself:

72 . Subbarama Dıksita

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

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

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

[Please also read the analysis , made by Sri Vishnu Vasudev,  of the life of Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar based on his biography by  Justice T.L. Venkatarama Aiyer, in a series of posts (parts 123 and 4)]

lotus design

When Muthuswami was about 25 years of age, he accompanied his family guru Yogi Chidambaranatha to Varanasi, in obedience of  the guru’s wish.  Muthuswami’s wives too followed their husband. Muthuswami spent seven fruitful years in Kashi. Those were his most wonderful and educative years ; and , left a lasting influence on his life and works. A whole new world opened to Muthuswami at Kashi. During this period, Dikshitar acquired a wealth of knowledge under yogi’s tutelage. The yogi taught him Advaita Siddhantha, Tantra; and , also initiated him into Sri Vidya Upasana.

[ It is said; upon his initiation into Sri Vidya Upasana , Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar was assigned the ordained name ‘Chidananda-natha‘.

In the Pallavi of his first Kriti ‘, ‘Sri Nathaadi Guruguho Jayati,’ he refers to himself by his Diksha-name (rahasya-nama) as : ‘Sri Chidananda Naathoham iti’- श्री चिदानन्द नाथोऽहमिति.

The noted scholar , Dr. V Raghavan , in his Sanskrit Mahakavya devoted to  Sri Muttuswami Dikshitar (chapter 8) mentions : “dadau yathavad vara sakta-deekshaam sakam Chidaananda rahasya-namna.”]

During these years, while in Kashi, Dikshitar visited several holy places in the Himalayan region – such as , Badrinath, Kedarnath and Pashupathinath; and , worshiped the deities in those shrines.

Badrinath temple, Uttaranchalkedarnath evening

During his stay at Varanasi, Muthuswamy Dikshitar had splendid opportunities to listen to Hindustani music in its pristine forms. He seemed to have been greatly impressed by the ancient Drupad form of singing and of playing the string instruments; particularly by its elaboration of Raga (Aalap), the measured tempo and the structure of the lyrics. This had a profound influence on his creative genius; and, apparently on his portrayal of Ragas in general ; and, in transforming the Hindustani Ragas into their Carnatic form, in particular.

[ It is said that while in Varanasi , Sri Dikshitar stayed with his Guru Sri Chidambaranatha yogi in a house situated in one of the lanes near Hanuman Ghat. Attached to the house is the temple of Sri Chakra Lingeshwara worshiped by Sri Dikshitar and his Guru. The  temple had fallen into ruins for many years. In the year 1936, when Kanchi Kamakoti Maha Periyava Sri Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Swamigal visited Varanasi , he identified this temple and arranged for its restoration. Thereafter. Sri T M Arunachala Sastrigal of Tanjore  and his descendants devoted themselves  for the worship and maintenance of the temple.

Sri Chakra Lingeshwar where Dikshitar stayed with his Guru

The remarkable feature of the Sri Chakra Lingeshwara is that the Linga  is embedded with Sri Yantra.

chakra lingeswara varanasiSri Chakra Lingeshwar

Next to the Linga is the image of Sri  Dakshinamuthi swaroopa Ardhanarishwara    worshiped by Sri Dikshitar.

Dakshina murthi as Ardhanarishvara

The  image panel on the temple wall includes a portrait of Sri Dikshitar.

Mutthuswamy Dikshitar’s idol sculptured on the walls of the temple.Mutthuswamy Dikshitar’s idol  on the walls of the temple.

[Source : I gratefully acknowledge the web-page of  Dr Meera Rajaram Pranesh  at ]

At the end of the seven years, Yogi Chidambaranatha advised Muthuswami to return to South; and, to commence his music and spiritual career with the worship of Karthikeya on the hills of Tiruthani. Soon after that, the Yogi attained his Samadhi. Dikshitar performed the final rites of his departed guru and left Varanasi.

Chidambaranatha yogi samadhi

Yogi Sri Chidambaranatha’s Samadhi is located within the temple near Hanuman Ghat on the banks of the Ganga.

chidbambaranatha chidbambaranatha2

The family at Manali, in the meanwhile, had fallen on bad days. The life there was becoming increasingly difficult ; and, Ramaswami Dikshitar too was in poor health. The family therefore, decided to return to Thiruvarur. After making arrangements for the family’s return to Thiruvarur, Muthuswami headed straight to Tiruthani as ordained by his Guru.

It is said; immediately after being blessed by the Lord there , Dikshitar started composing kritis. The first kriti he composed was Srinathadi Guruguho jayathi in Raga Mayamalava-gaula. His first group of kritis called Guruguha vibhakti krithis were also composed in Tiruthani. It was here that Dikshitar became a proper Vak-geya Kara, the composer who sets his lyrics to music. The Mudra, his signature to his creations was Guruguha, which approximates to ” the Guru dwelling in the cave of my heart”. Dikshitar was then around 33 years of age.

Manasollasa (also called Abhjilashitarta Chintamani) ascribed to the Kalyana Chalukya King Someshwara III (1127-1139 AD) is an encyclopedic work, written in Sanskrit, covering a wide range of subjects.  Its Chapter Three: Prakirnaka: deals with topics such as: Guna–Dosha (merits and de-merits) of Vak-geya-kara (composers who set  songs to music). The text grades the composers (Vak-geya-kara) into three classes. According to its classification,  the lowest is the lyricist; the second is one who sets to tune the songs written by  others; and, the highest is one who is the  Dhatu Mathu Kriyakari – who writes the lyrics (Mathu), sets them to music (Dhatu) and ably presents (Kriyakari)  his compositions.

Sri Dikshitar was indeed an Uttama-Vak-geya-kara of the highest order.]

On his way back home to Thiruvarur, Dikshitar stayed for sometime with a Yogi , Sri Ramachandra Saraswathi, popularly known as Upanishad Brahmendra who lived and taught in Kancipuram.

[Incidentally, Sri Upanishad Brahmendra  was also an early teacher of  Sri Tyagaraja , the great composer musician.]

During his stay in Kanchipuram, Dikshitar set to music “Rama Ashtapadhi” a collection of stanzas composed by Sri Upanishad Brahmendra. Dikshitar returned to Thiruvarur in the year 1809. The Ashtapadi , sadly , is no longer available.

The years at Thiruvarur were very productive. Here, Dikshitar composed sixteen Kritis on the various attributes of Ganesha; eleven Kritis of Navavarana group on Sri Kamalamba; and, a set of Kritis on Thygaraja and Nilothpalambika the presiding deities of the town. The Nilothpalambika set of krithis enlivened certain rare Ragas like Narayanagowla that were almost fading away.

Three years after Muthuswami returned to Thiruvarur (1814), his father Ramaswami Dikshitar, at the age of eighty-two, passed away in  Saka-Dhatu-Nama- samvathsara  1739 (1817 AD) in Magha-masa on the auspicious Shiva-rathri night.

Further, it was becoming increasingly difficult to carry on life at Thiruvarur. The Dikshitar brothers , therefore , decided to move to Tanjavur in search of a living. Tanjavur, in those days, was relatively peaceful, secure ; and, was a center for culture and learning, while most of the Southern regions was under the threat of the Sultan.

[ It is said that at Thanjavur,  the Dikshitar-brothers met Sri Shyama Sastry, another of the Trinity; and,  the four , together, composed/completed a Varnam. It is said ; that the Chowka Varna, ‘Sami ninne kori‘, in Sriranjini Raga composed by Sri Ramaswamy Dikshitar, had only one Svara passage. And, to that Sri Shyama Sastry added by composing  the second chararna-svara; while Sri Chinnaswami Dikshitar added the third charana-svara; and, Sri  Muthuswamy Dikshitar contributed the fourth.  (please check page 47 of Justice venkatarama Aiyar’s biography of Sri Dikshitar)

The association of Sri Shyama Sastri and Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar in Thanjavur is indeed one of the most fascinating aspects in the history of South Indian Music. ]


At Thanjavur,  the Dikshitar-brothers , in order to earn a living, began to accept students interested in learning music. They were then approached by one Mahadeva Annavi (Subbarayan), a Veena player  and a dance-master (Nattuvanar) to teach his sons. His four sons who became disciples of Sri Muthuswamy  Dikshitar and propagated his musical compositions  –  Chinnaiah Pillai (1802-1856); Ponnayya Pillai (1804-1864); Sivanandam Pillai(1808-1863) and the legendary Vadivelu Pillai (1810-1845) – gained great fame as Thanjavur Quartet. Of these , Chinnaiah and Sivanandam were Bharatha_natyam masters and composers of some popular Tana Varnams, Pada Varnams, and Thillanas etc. 

Mahadeva annavi0007

They were the pioneers of  the Bharatanatyam Margam as we know it today. This Margam includes Alarippu, Jathiswaram, Shabdam, Varnam, Padam/Javali, Tillana and Shloka. Many of these dance items were composed specially by Ponnaiya Pillai, As he was a musician, the names for the dance items follow their musical forms. 

Mural at the Big Temple - The quartet

Chinnaiah , the eldest of the four, was a great teacher of dance; and, he later moved to the Mysore court of Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar III  (1794-1868) who was a great patron of art and literature ; and , who was himself a poet and an author of many works . Some of Chinnaiah’s compositions are dedicated to Wodeyar. He also wrote a Telugu work  called Abhinaya Lakshanamu, a version of the reworked  Sanskrit text  Abhinayadarpana of Nandikeshvara .

Ponnaiah was a composer of great merit. Several of his kritis , including Ambaneelambari’  (Neelambari),  ‘Satileni’ (Poorvikalyani) and Tillanas as also other Nrtta compositions (Jatisvarams and Thillanas),  are  popular among musicians even to this day.

During their stay at King Serfoji’s Durbar in Tanjavur, they brought into  use western musical instruments such as  violin and clarinet , as an accompaniments for Carnatic music and performance of dance. Sivanandam , in particular, is credited with introducing the clarinet to Carnatic music.

Vadivelu Pillai, the youngest, was a virtual genius , praised by Dikshitar as eka-sandhi-grahi , one who grasps immediately after just one listening. Vadivelu contributed significantly to Dance also. The great Tyagaraja too admired Vadivelu’s musical skills. A Lutheran German protestant missionary Frederick Schwartz is said to have taught violin Ivory vio;in presented to Vadivelu by Maharaja Swati Tirunalto Vedanayagam Shastriyar; and, he, in turn, taught the instrument to Vadivelu. Thereafter, Vadivelu popularized violin among the Carnatic musicians.  He soon became  a favorite of Swathi Thirunal Maharaja who appointed him his Court Musician. It is said ; in 1834,  Swati Thirunal  Maharaja gifted him a rare Violin made of ivory (which is now said to be placed in  the Quartet’s ancestral home at 1818, West Main Street, Behind Brihadeswara Temple). Both these geniuses, sadly , died at their young age – Swati Thirunal at 34; and, Vadivelu at 35.


The brothers propagated the famed Pandanallur style of Bharata Natyam.  The renowned Nattuvanar Sri Meenakshisundaram Pillai descended from the Thanjavur Quartet.


Smt.  Nandini Ramani writes :

They were the first to formalize the performance pattern of Bharatanatyam, and codify lessons called Adavus (basic steps and the different categories of rhythm patterns) required for the same. They were the ones to plan and set the order of the different items of the repertoire in performance. The order they set is as follows. 

Melapraptialarippujatiswaramsabdamswarajatichaukavarnamragamalikapadamjavali, and tillana.

They also composed several pieces for each category set to different ragas and talas (rhythm structure). The compositions were in Telugu, their mother tongue, and they addressed their family deities, Sri Brihadisvara and Brihannayaki, as well as the kings and ministers who patronized them and also the different deities whom they worshipped during their travels. All of these were presented by them in the performing art tradition, earning wide fame and reputation. They were invited by the royal patrons of Thiruvananthapuram and Mysore, as sitting doyens of art, to spread the art in those regions, while the king also popularized it by arranging performances in all the temples.


[Souurce :]


Sri Dikshitar during his stay in  Thanjavur composed a number of Samasti Charana Kirtanas.

[A kriti generally follows a certain structure: Pallavi the opening passage of two lines is followed by Anupallavi. Raga is introduced with the cyclical rendition and improvisation of Pallavi and Anupallavi. The body of the kriti is its Charanas. Each Charana usually has four lines. The final Charana contains the Mudra or the signature of the composer.

However, certain kritis of Dikshitar have only two segments Pallavi and Anupallavi, where the latter acts as the Charana. Such kritis are called Samasti Charana Kritis. They perhaps represent a stage in the evolution of the kriti format. E.g.Anandamritakarshini (Amritavarshini); Hari Yuavatheem Haimavathim (Hemavathi) etc.]

Dikshitar brothers stayed in Thanjavur for about three years (about 1817 -1820).

Baluswamy who was proficient in Veena, Swarbat, Sitar and Mridangam, along with his brother  Chinnaswami joined the court of Venkateshwara Eddappa I [1761 – 1839] the Raja of Ettayapuram (Tirunelveli district) , as Asthana Vidwans of Ettayapuram Samsthanam.

Soon after that, Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar too left Tanjavur; and, he went on a virtual pilgrimage visiting a number of temples; and composing kritis in honor of the deities he visited. In a way of speaking, his life was a long pilgrimage.

Please click here for a map of his probable temple visits.

[Please click here for the lists of about 150 temples/deities featured to in Dikdhitar’s kritis]

Years later, Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar also settled down in Ettayapuram at the request of the king. A few years later , Dikshitar’s both wives passed away. Some sources mention that Dikshitar had a daughter and she lived in Tiruchirapalli; but, not much is known about her.


Dikshitar comes through as a very astute scholar-devotee, a Sadhaka. He was a viraktha, unattached to possessions, to places or to emotions. He was voluntarily poor and accepted his poverty with equanimity. He did not seek favor or patronage from anyone. He was an intense devotee ; but, was  undemonstrative. In his compositions, you never find despondency, helplessness or begging for divine grace or intervention. There is certain composure, measured grace, dignity and a mellow joy in his works as in his life. He was solely devoted to Sri Vidya Upasana and to his music which was his medium of self-expression. His works exude serene contemplation and soulful joy.

It was on Naraka Chaturdasi ,the fourteenth day of the lunar calendar, in the month of Ashwija, the day preceding Deepavali (October 18th, 1835), Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar performed Parva Mandala puja to Devi and sang Ehi Annapurne (Punnagavarali). This was Sri Dikshitar’s last composition. Thereafter, he asked his disciples to sing Meenakshi mey mudam dehi (Purvi Kalyani) . When they sang the Anupallavi , he asked them to repeat the phrases Meena lochani pasha mochini. As they were singing, Muthuswami Dikshitar uttered “Shive pahi, Shive pahi, Shive pahi” and breathed his last , like a true yogi.

dikshitar sketch

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar had been yearning for Videha Mukthi. For instance; in the Kriti Sri Rajarajesvarim (Madhyamavati), he requests the Mother to protect him by granting the Videha-mukthi [videha kaivalyam aasu ehi dehi mam pahi – विदेह कैवल्यं आशु एहि देहि मां पाहि] ] . He beseeches the Divine Mother repeatedly and addresses her as the one who grants Videha mukthi (Mamaka videha mukthi sadanam– Ranganayakam-Nayaki); the bestower of videha mukthi (vikalebara kaivalya danaya-Guruguhaya-Sama); and , at times, he feels he is nearing videha mukthi (Videha kaivalyam yami-Tyagaraje-Saranga).

Videha mukthi is a concept of the later Advaita schools. It believes, one can attain liberation (moksha) from attachments even while still encased in a body. Such an attained one is a Jivan Muktha. The body continues to function till its Prarabdha Karma is exhausted; thereafter, the mortal coils fall away. Videha mukthi , that is to say , is shedding off the body by a Jivan muktha, the one who has already attained liberation.

In the Sri Vidya tradition, a jivan muktha is a devotee, a Bhaktha as well as a Jnani the wise one. Here, the wisdom consists in realizing his identity (sva svarupa prapti) with the Mother goddess. It is this wisdom that liberates him (jivan Mukthi). This liberating wisdom is granted to him by the Mother out of pure love, when he completely surrenders to Her in absolute faith and loving devotion.

Jivanmukthi, emancipation while yet alive, is also a concept of the Tantra Siddantha which believes that it is possible for a person to transact with the world without getting involved in it. In other words; one lives on actively and cheerfully, amidst distractions and confusions of the world without letting his self reflect them. His moorings in the phenomenal world have withered away; and,  his instinct of self-preservation and insecurity has  minimized. He is alive only to essential thing , the very source of life. The real world continues to exist for him; but, he does not rest in the world; instead, he rests in himself (Svarupa pratishta). Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar, either way, was a jivan Muktha.

The king and Baluswami Dikshitar performed the last rites of the departed genius. The Samadhi of Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar is at Ettayapuram;  but, it appears to be in a rather poor condition. In a petition submitted to Shri. Abdul Kalam then president of India, the petitioners submitted

“It is the fervent desire of all music lovers as well as all lovers of Indian culture across the world that this Samadhi be declared as a heritage site and treated as a National Monument, ideally with a beautiful museum. We are extremely concerned that there has been a move made to demolish this important cultural and artistic memorial.”

mutthuswami dikshitar stamps

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was a many splendored genius. He redefined the paradigm of Carnatic music. Each of his compositions exemplifies the essence of Raga Bhava and captures the depth and soulfulness of the melody. His vision of some of the Ragas and their structure is sublime. He achieved what the revered Venkatamakhi, at one time, thought was not possible; he gave form and substance to all the 72 Melakarta-ragas. Besides, he breathed life into several ancient Ragas that were fading away from memory. His compositions are crisp and well chiseled. His Sanskrit is delightfully captivating. His synthesis of Carnatic and Hindustani Music systems is creative and original. His kritis replete with soothing, graceful Sanskrit lyrics, many with winsome Samashti Charanams, comparable to the Dhrupad stanzas, occupy an exclusive niche in the world of Indian Music. The technical sophistication, intellectual brilliance and the majesty of his music is unsurpassed. Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar is indeed a crest jewel of Indian music and spirituality.

Dikshitar's idol with the veena he used in the forefront.


Continued in Part Two:

Sri Dikshitar and Western Music


Map: courtesy of

Biography by Justice Sri T L  Venkataramayyar

I gratefully acknowledge Shri S Rajam’s paintings of Shri Dikshitar’s life-events

All other pictures are from Internet


Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Music, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Sri Vidya


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The varieties of human expressions are almost infinite. There are the bodily expressions through face, eyes, limbs, fingers etc. There are also the expressions through voice such as talking, shouting, crying, singing etc. There is another whole range of expressions through dancing ,  writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, etching, weaving, building, crafting; and through various types of instruments and also through light and shades etc. In addition, there is the complex and exaggerated forms of expressions that combine a variety of these art forms, in an ingenious manner, to produce a sensitive or a stunningly spectacular , mammoth art or a commercial expression, whichever way you choose to look at it.
I am talking about theater or opera productions and films.
Each of these carries its sub-forms. It is virtually impossible to enumerate all the modes of human expressions. Most of these expressions have flowered into valid art forms. What I do not know of each of those can fill several Universities
As one who had to produce words to make a living, I strived at writing a passably good prose in order to make myself understood. I am aware my prose does not measure up to “industry” standards. Poetry interested me a great deal, though I was incapable of writing any sort of poetry. Poetry appealed to the other side of my mind that longed to be lost amidst the flights of fantasy or loved to scale the peaks of idealism or to caress the tender graces of love. Listening to music was of course an experience of wandering in the land of delight. It is an art and an entertainment; closer to my heart.
As the years progressed, I realized there was another form of sublime expression that I had not meaningfully cultivated ; and , it was ideally suited to exploring the Self. I am talking about silence. It is the silence of a kind I had not known before.
I realize Prose is the language of the mind, while poetry is the heart speaking through the medium of mind. The music, on the other hand, is the language of the heart. It emanates from heart and reaches the heart of the listener. These forms of expressions relate to the instruments of mind and heart. There is the human mind; the earth bound mind; ever  judging and doubting the reality in others. But, we have also the loving and the aspiring heart; free from insecurity, eager to establish oneness with the rest of the world. Both of these – head and the heart – explore the known and the unknown, in their own way.
Silence of course is the most sublime and the ultimate form of expression. It transcends the limitations of the mind, thought, voice and the heart. It encompasses in itself all other forms of expressions. It is the language of the Soul.
Let us briefly talk about forms of expressions in prose, poetry, music and silence.
Here is the essence of mankind’s creative genius:
Prose is the lifeblood of the day to day living. It has the ability to produce concise descriptive expressions, to make life possible among our fellow beings. With the use of language and prose we grope toward understanding; and to  , some degree , intelligently respond to what meets us in the lived world. But since we live more deeply than we can think, we are always short of appropriate expressions. That forces us to improvise,to  innovate and to coin, each day, a new term to keep pace with the world streaking past us at breakneck speed. Keeping pace with the times is surely a true sign of a living and a dynamic language.
The growth of the language , however , is always regulated and governed by its grammar. The rigidity of grammar, the orderly structure and its disciplines are essential to preserve the identity and the purity of a language and its form.
A good prose aims at full expression within the limitations set by the grammar. Within that approved format a sentence is born of two elements: a thought and then a structure chosen out of an infinite number of possibilities which express the thought. It tries to present the ideas with lucidity and with slight ornamentation; to say it clearly and to make it beautiful, no matter what.
The test of a good prose is its ease and its readability; leading you on from each sentence, paragraph and page to the next; not letting your interest wane. It not merely expresses a thought or a feeling that captivates you; but, it also succeeds in evoking a cascade of thoughts and emotions.
For that reason, a good prose is comparable to music. A good book is worth reading not merely for the thought it contains but also for the thought which it inspires; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts. Inspire (from the Latin inspirare) means to breathe life into another. As Gass once said, “Language serves not only to express thought but also to make possible thoughts which could not exist without it.”
Once you have learned to trust your own voice and allowed that creative force inside you to come out, you can direct it to write short stories, novels, and essays and so on.
A good prose is essentially giving a lucid expression to a well composed mind. Prose is the language of the mind.
Poetry is a more liberated form of expression, as compared to prose. One cannot easily define poetry. As Dr. Johnson exclaimed “Sir, what is poetry? Why, Sir, it is much easier to say what it is not. We all know what light is; but it is not easy to tell what it is.”
Poetry discards the rigidity, the disciplines and the correctness of the structure prescribed by the grammar. Poetry enjoys the voluptuous malleability and freedom with words and sounds; it bends and twists them in any number of ways. Its concern is not so much with the correctness of form than with the sensitivity, refinement and brevity in expression of a range of thoughts, feelings as also  human emotions of joy, sorrow, grief, hope, despair, anger and fulfillment.
Poetry  has the soft power to compress lengthy passages of prose into a few lines of wit and wisdom. That is the reason why some call poetry, life distilled.
Poetry can be subtle and suggestive. The imagery that poetry evokes can hardly be captured in words. What is unsaid in poetry is more evocative than the explicit. “Poetry is the opening and closing of a door leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment” as Carl Sandburg said.

[ Poetry, in the Indian traditions, is often called ‘vyakaranasya puccham’ – the tail piece or the appendix of Grammar. The Grammar determines the correctness of the words and their arrangement within a sentence. The poetry is however more concerned with the appropriateness and mutual relations among the words.  The poetry, as far as possible, follows Grammar. But , when it finds that the rules of Grammar are too constrained or suffocating , it switches over to other means of expressions that are more appropriate or conducive to its natural flow; or , it invents its own means. At times, when those inventive expressions of poetic suggestions are so charming and become so popular, they walk into Grammar per se.  Scholars like Nagesha Bhatta say that Grammarians must necessarily accept (svikara avashyakah) the power of suggestion (Dhvani) that poetry alone can display – vyakarananamapi etat svikara avashyakah).

It is, therefore, often said that the poets enjoy a rare privilege; and a certain liberty that others cannot claim. They seem to have the license to wield the language in any manner they choose, appropriate to their work. In a way of speaking; a poet can typically write ‘against the natural language’; breaking conventions, transgressing grammatical rules, and saying what could not have been said ordinarily.]

Poetry , thus, has the power to set us free from the limited confines of our regimen, existence and personality. It is the language in which man explores his own amazement. Poetry represents the world as a man chooses to sees it, while science represents the world as he looks at it. It is the difference between seeing with the heart, and looking at the world unfeelingly. Poetry is Truth, but not necessarily reality.
Poetry is a search for syllables to express an unknown. It is direct and universal. It appeals to the heart. It finds its echo in another heart. Poetry is the heart talking through the mind.
Music is surely the most basic of human expressions and predates the written word. The melodic and rhythmic patterns are natural to humans and are tied to the unique expression of their various cultures. Music and man have influenced each other in a variety of ways, over the ages. Music and sound have infiltrated society on many levels, from sinister use in propaganda to simple listening pleasure. Our actions and emotional responses are greatly influenced by what we hear.
Music does not need a specific language ; and, its sounds need not carry meanings to be enjoyed as such. Music is the language of languages; and, is the universal language of mankind. Music is the vernacular of the heart.
It can be internal and personal, or uniting and widespread. Everyone can and does participate in music; whether it is creating, listening, or simply singing or humming a tune. From an entire orchestra to a single whisper, memories, new ideas and a whole spectrum of feelings can be roused. Music may produce expressions of various emotions – peaceful, relaxing, exciting, festive, boring, unsettling, unstimulating, invigorating … and so on. We can close our eyes to escape from the visual world; even in silence we can hear breathing and the heartbeat, keeping the sense of rhythm that marks the progression of time.
Music is an extremely versatile medium of human expression. It is capable of exploring all the features that are used in verbal communication; and can go beyond. Its sounds carry no meaning; yet, give expression to sorrow, joy, peace and prayer in a manner the words are incapable of achieving.
Music can express itself directly and does not need the aid of explanations to reach the listener. For instance, when one writes the most often repeated set of words ”I love you”, it carries with it an infinite shades of meanings. The author has to, each time, prop this term with additional words to provide explanations to clarify which one of those meanings, his set of three famous words meant to say. The mere words “I love you” when written could mean: I like you, I desire you, I want you sexually, or even to mean I hate you. It could be a barely audible murmur full of surrender; a wish for emotional gratification; a heartfelt admiration; a hope for love relationship; a request for intimacy; a submissiveness, a begging to be accepted; a longing for comfort and tenderness; a conquest; a dry meaningless repetition; a mockery or charade; a whiplash of cruelty; or it could a deceit or anything else.
Music can expresses all these and more, spontaneously, without external aid. When words fail to express the sentiments and finer emotions of the human heart, music takes the place of the sublimated language. Moreover, it does so in an explicit and structured way, which makes it an interesting window into human understanding, in general. There is none that more powerfully moves and touches consciousness, than music.
Music is so ideally suited to express the worlds beyond petty human concerns. It can say that which cannot be said and that on which it is impossible to be silent.. It emanates from the heart and the success of it is ultimately in the heart of the listener. Music is such an experience. It is the language of the heart.
After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
Silence is sublime; and is the ultimate form of human expression. It envelops within itself all other forms of expressions. Every thought and every word is born out of silence, dies back into silence; and, during its life span is surrounded by silence. Silence lends the voice a space for it to reverberate. In silence resounds a voice;and , in voice silence finds its existence. Silence endows identity to thought and sound. Poetry consists in turning the invisible silence into perception and voice.
One cannot understand the value of silence unless one respects the validity of language, for the reality that waits to be expressed in language resides in silence. It would be impossible to think of a voice without thinking of silence; the two are inseparable. Voice and silence coexist in ones heart. If noise is the inner chaos , silence is the inner peace. That peace cannot be attained by letting one fight against the other. Peace and silence has to be attained gradually through continuous self discipline. The purpose of silence is to be able to see and hear clearly.
The silence we are talking about is not just the absence of sound; but it is the very space of our being and is with us every moment of our life. It transcends speech and thought. Silence also means silence from thoughts. There is something beyond mind that abides in silence. Silence is a quality; it is an experience. A silent mind, freed from slashing waves of thought and thought patterns is a more potent medium of understanding than words.
All religious traditions therefore stress the importance of being quiet and still in mind .They tell us that when mind is still , the Truth gets a chance to be heard in the purity of silence. They ask us to let-go all attachments, rather than fight noise. We are asked to let go of our thoughts, emotions and everything; and see what is left. We are asked to watch for that imperceptible interval of infinitesimal duration between thoughts; and seize that silence, hold on to that minute fraction in space and time and let the mind stay open. If we could do that, we are told, we are awake, at last.
Silence stabilized is fulfillment. That inner silence brings us in contact with the reality. It is that state of silence, stability and openness which transcends speech and thought, which we call meditation. Zen Masters tell us that the essence of living dwells in visiting that infinitesimal zone of stillness and silence again and again; and enlarging it. “Silence is the essential condition of happiness” said a Zen Master.
At the core of Sri Ramana’s teachings is silence. He said the inner silence is ever speaking, it is the everlasting eloquence punctured by thoughts and words; and it is the best language (Para Vac). What exists in truth is Self which resides where there is no “I” ; and that is silence, he said.
Our sages’ right from Sri Dakshinamurthi to Sri Ramana Maharsi; and, from the Buddha to the Zen Masters imparted knowledge through silence. Their silence underlined the limitations of rational knowledge, futilities of the blind alleys of metaphysical queries and the frailty hollowness of words. Where silence reigns supreme, words are rendered redundant. The language of their silence helped dispel the doubts, the confusion and uncertainties in the minds of those around them sitting in silence. Silence flows from the transcendent Self and speaks best for the enlightened.
Silence is the language of the soul

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