Tag Archives: Raga-sanchara

Sri Shyama Shastry (1763-1827) – Part Eight

Continued from Part Seven

Sri Shyama Shastry – Music-Continued

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The Kriti is a composite Art form. A good Kriti is the sublime blend of the Mathu (Sahitya) and Dhathu, the Music and its rhythm. All the constituent elements (Angas) – the sentiment, the diction, the music and the  rhythm– that combine to form a Kriti, have to be in harmony, supporting each other; each helping the others to shine forth and to manifest in their best form. The Kriti is indeed a living, fluid, organic entity.

In the Karnataka Samgita, Mathu or Sahitya and the prosody (Kavya-lakshana) assume great importance. Raga, essentially, is a representation or an outpouring of the emotional content (Raga-bhava) of the Kriti, evoking a distinct feeling of happiness, sweetness (Madhurya) or poignancy (Karuna-rasa). But, Raga, by its very nature; is rather amorphous; and, truly having no physical or material existence. It does need a medium to articulate in a tangible form that draws the listener into the music; and to communicate with her/ him. It is only then there will be fulfillment (Dhanyata-bhava); and, music becomes a shared experience between the composer, performer and the listener.

And, even otherwise, the lyrics of a Kriti has its own importance. A composition is known and recognized by its Sahitya; particularly by it’s opening lines (Pallavi), than by the mere name of the Raga, which attires its lyrical appeal. There might be numerous Kritis in a particular Raga; but, it is its Sahitya that lends an identity to a given composition.

A well composed , expressive , lyrical beauty that blends amicably with melody and rhythm is a distinctly bright feature of the Karnataka Samgita. Perhaps no other system of music, anywhere in the world, can boast of such a wealth of exquisitely structured compositions set to music.

If an erudite composer also happens to be a gifted poet, endowed with innate poetic genius (Kavya-Prathibha), which is nurtured and developed through training Utpatti (detailed study of Grammar, the literary works and scriptures); and Abhyasa, Abhiyoga, Prayatna (constant practice) of composing poetry set to Music, then his Kriti will blossom into most delectable poetic presentation  adorned with enjoyable music and pulsating rhythm.

It creates an idyllic ambiance that is shared by the creator, the performer and the Rasika (enjoyer). It, somehow, touches the very core of our being. And, as Abhinavagupta says, it is a Chamatkara, which bestows on all an Alaukika Ananda, an out-of-the-world wondrous aesthetic joy. Thus, at the end, very little would separate the composer, the singer and the Sahrudaya, the well informed connoisseur.

In the traditional kritis, composing a Sahitya that conforms to the laws of the prosody (Kavya Agama) is very vital. All the renowned composers of the Karnataka Samgita were well learned in Vyakarana, Chhandas and other Prayogas of Padya Sahithya. Their Kritis show the remarkable mastery they had gained over the Alamkaras – literary embellishments—such as: Prasa, Yati, Yamaka, Gamaka, Svarakshara patterns and others.

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Prasa is a type of Sabda-alamkara, a literary ornamentation.  The term Prasa refers to the sound or the phonetic sequence. In a composition; similar sounds (Prasa) could be employed either at the commencement of each Paada (line) of the composition (Adi or Adyakshara-prasa); or as ‘Anu-prasa’ , where similar letters or sounds  recur repeatedly in the same Paada; or in the second syllables of each Paada (Dvitiyakshara-prasa); or in the concluding line where the rhyming occurs towards the ending (Antyakshara-prasa).  

And, Adi or Adyakshara-prasa, mainly, involves rhyming, where each Paada (line) starts with the same Akshara; or, where the first letter is repeated between the Avartas.   

Anu prasa is where similar letters recur repeatedly in the same Paada.

Dvitiya-kshara-prasa is the repetition of the second letter (Jiva-akshara) of the first Avarta in the same position in the subsequent Avartas, as well. This is concerned only with consonants, not vowels.   Such a Prasa can be for a single letter and also for a group of letters.

Antya-prasa is the repetition of a letter or group of letters at the end of the Avartas. It differs from Prasa; because, while the Prasa is confined to consonants, here the vowels are also included.   For instance, a word like Netram can have Antyaprasa only with words like Gatram, Sutram, etc., and not with words like Satrum, Atrim etc.

The Muhana is the repetition of the first letter between the Avartas. The Antya-prasa is the repetition of a letter or group of letters at the end of the Avarta.

Muhana is a type of Sabdalankara, in which the same letter as in the beginning of an Avarta or any of its substitutes should occur in the beginning of the second Avarta. For example,‘ Dinakara Kula dipa / Dhrita divya sara chapa!’

The term Antar+ukti, literally means the ‘in-between utterance’. The method of Antarukti is by way of inserting one or more syllables between two words.  It is done mostly for the sake of maintaining the flow of the Taala.


In his Kritis, many of which are technically classified as Telugu works, the essential and the prime body of the lyrics is in chaste, refined classical Sanskrit-based terms.

His Telugu words, though often are informal and colloquial expressions, are infused with emotion trying to express the natural feelings of tenderness, love and affection of a child reaching out to its Mother. Many of these songs are a sort of conversations, pleading with the Mother, questioning her why she is not paying attention to him, not responding to his desperate appeals and so on.

And, in such Kritis, though he has mostly employed the spoken form of Telugu language, either as verbs (Akhyata) – say like brovu, vinu, matladu etc. or for addressing (Sambhodana) the Mother Deity as Talli, Mayamma etc., the string of sweet-sounding names and eloquent, picturesque adjectives he uses for describing the beauty, splendour and the countless virtues of the Supreme Mother Goddess are all in delightful Sanskrit phrases.


Further, the nature of the Telugu- Sahitya of his Kritis markedly differs from the Sahitya of the Svarajatis.

The Telugu-Sahitya of his Svarajatis, in contrast, is more poetic; orderly and, is often  interspersed with philosophical expressions.


Sri Shyama Shastry has adopted the time-honored (Sampradaya-baddha) poetic traditions (Kavya-agama) followed in the ancient Prabandhas as also in the Kirtanas and   Kritis that came into being during the seventeenth and the eighteenth . Such essential poetic virtues (Kavya-guna) are found in the Kritis of the other Masters also.

Many of the Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry are adorned with the metaphors of Kavya-Alamkara and Sabda-Alamkaras, such as Anuprasa and Antya-prasa. And, Muhana (the first letter repetition between the Avartas) and Prasa (the second letter repetition) are also used. But, more Kritis are found with the Prasa-Yati. Sri Shyama Shastri used the method of splitting up the words i.e. Antarukti for introducing Prasa- Yati

Smt. Sharadambal explains :   with regard to the occurrence of the Prasa-aksharas in the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry, they can be divided into four categories,.

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

This KritiDevi nee paada sarasamule’ (Khambhoji); and, Mayamma (Ahiri) are cited as instances, where both the long and the short syllable are used in the Kriti


Sri Shyama Shastry used the Prasas like Adi-Prasa; Anu-prasa; Dvitiya-kshara-Prasa and Antya-Prasa.

For instance; the Sambhodana-vibhakthi, as an Adyakshara-prasa is used in Sri Shyama Shastry’s KritiEmani Migula’ (Todi).

Here, every Paada (line) of the second Carana commences with similar sounds, calling out to the Divine Mother:  O Janani Karuni….  Om Anina JanmaO Moha- vratulai O Rajadhi-rajendra.


Examples of alliteration of the first letter

Saroja-dala-netri (Shankarabharanam)

Saroja dala-netri Himagiri-putri nipada-mbujamule

 Sada nammina-namma subhamimma Sri Minakshamma

Mariveregati (Anandabhairavi)

 Madhura-puri nilaya vani rama sevita pada kamala

Madhu kaitabha bhanjani katyani marala-gamana


Sri Shyama Shastry has employed Anu-prasa (repetition of a vowel or consonant or both), in some of his Kritis. For instance; in the Kriti ‘Kanaka-shaila’ (Punnagavarali), the syllable ‘da’ is repeatedly used in the second Carana as follows:

Chanda-munda-kandana-panditesu;danda-kodanda-mandita-pani; pundarika  -nayana-archita-paade

In the Kriti Parvati Ninnu (Kalkada) the Anuprasa is seen in many places such as:

Anupallavi: Sangita-lole, Suguna-jale, and Jala- mele

Carana-1:Banda-daitya-Khandana-Khandala-vinuta-Mârthand-Neeraja-kshi Nikhila-sakshi

Carana(2):Indu-vadana-Kunda-radana-Sindura-gamana-makaranda-vâni,Nila megha-veni Girvani.


In the First Carana of the Kriti O Jagadamba (Anandabhairavi), the Dvitiya-kshara Prasa for the sound ‘Inna’ occurs in all the four Avartas, till the last line:

Kanna-talli;- Kannada-salupaga ;- Ninnu-ne; –  Anni-bhuvana ; – Prasanna-murti; -Vinna-pambu; Vipanna-bhaya


And , in the Kriti Meenalochana (Dhanyasi) the Dvitiya-kshara ’Na’ has been maintained in the Anupallavi and in  the First Carana as ; Meena; Gana; Kanna; Panna etc.

In the Anupallavi of the Kriti Saroja-dala-netri (Shankarabharanam), the letter ‘ra’ occurs as the second (Dvitiya) letter (Akshara) of its lines.

Paraku seyaka varadayaki nivale daivamu-lokamulo-galada

 Purani sukapani Madhukara veni Sadasivuniki rani


Sri Shyama Shastry  used the device of Antarukti for splitting up the words, for introducing Prasa-yati, in some cases.

In the Kriti O Jagadamba (Anandabhairavi), the Antarukti is used to bring the Prasa Yati.

Pallavi:  O Jagadamba nannu (Na…..- Antarukti Vujavamuna) brovumu …..
Anupallavi: Rajamukhi ……. (Suguna –Antarukti Rajarajita) Kamakshi


Antya-prasa is found in all the three Angas of Sri Shyama Shastry’s Kriti   Shankari Shamkaru (Saveri), where the Pallavi reads: ‘Akhilandeshwari–Vandite Gauri’.

That is followed by Anupallavi: Kalyani–Jagatjanani; and, First Carana: Jagadavanollasini—Kapaladarini sulini


Another type of Antya-prasa used by him was to repeat the same word at the end of all the Caranas.

For instance; the word ‘birana’ is repeated at the end of the Pallavi and at the end of the last line of all the three Caranas of the Kriti Brovavamma (Manji).

Similar is the case with the word ‘Na-talli’ in Devi brova samayamide’ (Chintamani) ; and , the word  ‘Brochutaku’ in the Kriti Ninnu-vinaga (Purvikalyani)

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Yati is a generic term, having different connotations in Kavya, Taala (Mrdanga) and in Music. In regard to the Kritis in Karnataka samgita, Yati is a Dhatu-Mathu-Samyukta Alamkara. This Anga is meant to decorate the texture of the compositions. Yati could also control the arrangement of various tempos.  It is, thus, an ornamentation that enhances the beauty of the Sahitya and the flow of the Musical presentation of the Kriti.

If the Yati is taken to mean the arrangement of Sahitya phrases along with its Dhatu, there would be different types of Yatis in music. Here the Sahitya phrases would be ingeniously arranged to form varied patterns, such as: Sama Yati, Gopuchcha Yati, Srotovaha Yati, Damaru Yati, Mridanga Yati and Vishama Yati.

Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar, in particular was a Master in crafting such various patterns of Yatis. And, some Yati-prayogas are also seen in the Kritis of Sri Thyagaraja.  But, Sri Shyama Shastry did not seem to have attempted Yati-prasa to that extent; except perhaps the Sama Yati, which is an even flow of the Sahitya phrases; and, follows a uniform length of lines (Sama). If two letters of Yati and Prasa are of one and the same character and magnitude, it is called as Sama-yati -Prasa.

According to Prof. Sambamurthy, alliterating the initial syllables or their sequence in Avartas could be taken as Yati. The purpose of the Yati is to create a pleasant musical resonance.

In Sri Shyama Shastri Kritis, the Dhatu as well as its rhythm are arranged; for example; in the Kriti Palainchu-Kamakshi (Madhyamavathi),  the phrase ‘Paalinchu Kamakshi pavani …..Paapa-shamanee‘, the appearance of the second Pa is called Sama-yati-Prasa.

In the Kriti Mayamma (Ahiri), the Yatis that occur are of the same character and magnitude.


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This is a literary beauty, where in the same word, will be repeated but with different meaning and sense. For instance; In the Anupallavi of the Kriti Mayamma (Natakuranji), the word ‘Ananda‘ is applied in many ways so as to give different layers of meaning (True bliss -Happy one – Eternally blissful -Blissful):

Saty(A)nandA – SAnandA – Nity(A)nandA AnandA

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The term Gamaka derived from the root ’gam’ suggests movement (Gamana, Gamya). Gamakas are graces or ornamented flourishes of the Svaras which characterize the gait of a Raga (Raga-sanchara); and, establish the melodic nature of the Dhathu of a musical composition (Raga-svarupa). They are the varied musical effects (Alamkaras) that can transform a plain note into something that is attractive, charming and pleasant on the ears (Gamakau–srotra-sukhadai-lalithair-asthu).

Gamakas  are executed in varied forms, such as: graceful turn, curve or sliding touch given to a single note or a group of notes, which animates Svaras to bring out the melodic character and expression (bhava) of a Raga. Gamaka-rendering is a highly individualistic and a specialized skill. Gamakas are very vital factors of Karnataka Samgita. I am not sure if any other system of music has a worthy equivalent to Gamaka of Karnataka Samgita.

Sarangadeva (11th Century) in his Sangita-ratnakara , enumerates fifteen (pancha-dasha) varieties of Gamakas – Tiripa, Sphurita, Kampita, Leena, Andolita, Vali, Tribhinna, Kurula, Ahata, Ullasita, Humpita, Plavita, Mudrita, Namita and Misrita

And, while describing the   virtues and the desired qualities of a highly accomplished singer (Uttama Gayaka) who belongs to a good tradition (Su-sampradayo) , Sarangadeva says, such a one should have the intelligence to improvise the Gamakas in all their movements (Sarva-sthanao-ttha-Gamake-sarva-kaku-vishesha-vit,-aneka-sthai- sancharah); and, in all the three registers (Sthanas)


The Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry are remarkable for their Gamaka Prayogas. His Kritis, set in leisurely Vilamba laya, excelling in Chowka kala, are ideal for illuminating and  elaborately bringing out the varied nuances of a Raga through the application of many improvised  Gamaka movements like Kampita, Jaru etc..

As a composer of great merit, Sri Shyama Shastry creatively transformed the traditional concept and application of the Gamakas. In his Prayogas, the Gamaka is not a mere ornamentation of a Svara; but, it is also a soulful means of expressing anguish, devotion, joy  and such other emotions. It lends a new color and a new dimension to both the Dhatu (Music) and the Mathu (Sahitya) of his Kritis. Sri Shyama Shastry was indeed a pioneer in delineating the Raga-bhava through Gamaka Prayoga.

Any number of instances could be cited in this regard. But, just to mention a few:

His different compositions in Anandabhairavi bring out diverse shades and aspects of the Raga. It could be either a simple delineation of the Raga as in his Kriti ‘Himaachala-tanaya’; or the Jaru Gamakas (glides) in the Madhyama-kala tempo in Rupaka Taala as in the Kriti ‘Pahi Sri’; or it could also be the Jaru Gamakas in Vilamba-kala set to Misra –Chapu-Taala as in the Kriti ‘Marivere’; and, finally, it could be an elaborate Raga portrayal in the Adi Taala , Madhyama gati,  in  the Kriti ‘O Jagadamba’.

The two varieties of Kampita -Gamaka are applied to the same phrase ‘Amba ni’ in the Kriti ‘Sari-evvaramma’ (Bhairavi) to express two different emotions. Similar features can be seen in his other Kritis also.

In the Kriti ‘O Jagadamba’ (Anandabhairavi), the opening exclamation ‘Oh’ is repeated thrice, with three different Gamakas. Initially, it is in a lower Svara, as an Etra-jaru (a glide from a lower Svara-sthana to a higher one). The second ‘Oh‘ is expressed through oscillations (Kampita) in higher notes, in a circling movement. And, the third ‘Oh’ is an Erakka-jaru (a slide from a higher Svara-sthana to a lower one).

In the Svarasahitya of the Kriti Kamakshi Bangaru (36-Varali, Misra Chapu), where the word ‘Mayamma’ starts with a Jaru (glide) from the Daivata; and, reaches Tara-shadja in the passage ‘Mayamma Vegame Karuna-judavamma’


Many examples of Gamakas can also be found in Sri Shyama Shastry’s Svarajatis. His Todi-Svarajati ‘Raave’ begins with a Mandra-sthayi-Dheergha-Dhaivata, which is sung with Kampita Gamaka (oscillations).

His very famous Bhairavi Svarajati ‘Kamakshi’ has eight Caranas starting in the ascending order, the Arohana, as ‘Sa RI Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa’. In the opening lines of the Pallavi, which are in Mandara Sthayi, in a contemplative mood, the Kampita (oscillation) and Jaru (glides) Gamakas follow in succession.

The Yadhukula-kambodhi Svarajati has many instances of Jaru Gamakas as well as the Pratyahata Gamaka (Sphurita in the descent, a Samabandha Gamaka produced from the higher note in a Janta svara prayoga), which is a characteristic of the Raga.


Even in his Varnas, there are many Gamaka-prayogas.

For instance; the Varna in Anandabhairavi, ‘Sami ninne’ not only begins with a characteristic Jaru Gamaka (s/s-d-p-m-g-m); but , it also appears at many other parts of the composition.

[For a detailed discussion on the Gamakas, please do read the Chapter 5 – Concept of Gamaka in the compositions of Syamasastriof Dr.Manju Gopal’s research paper.]

 [** Svarajati, as the name suggests, is a combination of Svaras (notes) and Jati (rhythmical sol-fa passages). Sri Shyama Shastry revised the form of the Svarajatis by eliminating the Jatis; and, letting the Svaras to arrange themselves into Jati-patterns. The Svarajati composition commences with a Pallavi; and, is followed by Carana/s. While rendering the Carana, the Svaras are sung first; and, then its corresponding Sahitya is presented.

The beauty of the Svarajatis composed by Sri Shyama Shastry is in its natural flow of the Taala, Laya and Svaras. ]



Taala and Laya

Taala and Laya, over which Sri Shyama Shastry had gained mastery, and their dexterous combination with the Sahitya are among the outstanding features of his compositions.

He had experimented with altering the sequence of Matras in the Misra Chapu, transforming it into its reverse, the Viloma Chapau.

He had employed various Grahas or Eduppus (starting Points) in his Misra Chapu Kritis


Sri Subbarama Dikshitar (on page 15 of the segment Vaggeyakara Caritam  included in his monumental work  Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini),  while writing a biographical note about Sri Shyama Shastry says;

Since his compositions are like ‘narikela-paka’ ”(as tough as breaking a coconut), with rich poetry, containing  Atita, Anagata Grahas , with beautiful words, some lazy musicians, who could neither comprehend nor had the mettle to sing them in the manner that pleased the audience, called them tough.


Sri Shyama Shastry’s expertise in Taala and Laya is very evident from his treatment of the Misra Chapu Taala.

[In regard to the Taala; Graha or Eduppu denotes the point within the Āvartanam of a Taala, when a composition or stanza in a composition begins.  Graha (Eduppu) can be two ways. One is Sama; and, the other is Vishama.

When a song begins at the first beat of a Taala it is Sama. And, when song begins either before or after the stroke of Taala it is Vishama.

Vishama is classified into two, as: (a) Athitha Graha: When the song begins first; and, it is then followed by Taala beat; and, (b) Anagata Graha is when a Taala begins first; and, the song follows it later.]

The Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry (like those of Sri Dikshitar) do not start on Athitha-Graha. But, this feature occurs within the body of the Kriti, perhaps to satisfy the requirements of prosody. Usually, the Pallavi and, at times, Anu Pallavi of his Kritis commence in Anagata-Graha; while the Anu-Pallavi and Carana begin with Sama-Graha.

For instance; the Kriti ‘Devi nee padasarasa ‘(Kambhoji) commences in Anagata Graha with ‘Pa’ as the Graha-Svara; while, its Carana begins in Sama Graha.

[ It is mentioned that in Patantara – the texts of the Kritis- that came into use after 1930, the construction of the musical elements; especially of the Eduppus changed much ; and the 4+3 format was not maintained throughout.

For instance; in the Kriti ‘Ninnu vina’, the Pallavi is framed as 2+2+3; the Anupallavi ‘Pannaga-bhushannudaina’ and the Carana ‘Parama-lobu-lanu’ are of the usual 2+7 Eduppu; not consistent with the 4+3 formation of the Pallavi.

For more on this issue, please see the extracts from the work of Smt. Sharadambal, given in later in this post]


An excellent feature of his Kritis is that the Sahitya is arranged in concordance (Samanvaya) with the Taalajatis (beats of the rhythm cycles).

Sri Shyama Shastri has used the different combinations of Svara syllables as well as Sahitya syllables to weave new patterns, within the framework of the Taala.

In his compositions, we find many words constituting of five syllables corresponding to the tâd-in-gina-tom in a natural way.

In the compositions as well as in Svara-Sahithya we find words as ‘Anu-dina-mu, Tarunamidi, durusu-ganu, kamala.mukhi, samayamidi and so on.

His compositions have plenty of Sahitya syllables, which are in the same time-units as the Dirgha-svaras and Hrasva-Svarâs, forming different patterns within the Taala structure


Another versatile feature in the Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastri, with regard to Taala, is that he has composed Kritis in Taalas and Gatis (sub-divisions of a beat in a composition) that are interchangeable.

He has composed a few Kritis suggestive of two rhythms. Here, one is the inherent rhythm (Sthapita-Taala); and, the other is the suggested rhythm (Suchita-Taala).

For instance; in the Kriti Shankari-Shamkuru (Saveri), Rupaka (1+1) is the Sthapita Taala; and Adi Taala (Tisra-gati, 3) would be the Suchita-Taala. The Pallavi and Anu-Pallavi, at the outset, are in Rupaka Taala; and, the Carana follows the Adi Taala (Tisra-gati).

And, similar is the case with another Kriti, Birana-varalichi’ (Kalyani) , which can be rendered in both Rupaka Taala (Chatursra- gati, 2+4) and also in Adi Taala (Tisra gati-3).

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Laya, Taala, Sruti and Kala are intricate concepts in Karnataka Samgita. They are as nebulous as one often flows into another.

Laya is commonly translated as tempo; which is inseparable from rhythm. And, rhythm is the ordered movement in time and space

 It is also said; Laya is the pulse of the rhythm, which has three major speeds: Vilamba (slow), Madhyama (medium or normal) and Dhruta (fast).

Thus, Laya is said to include both rhythm and tempo; which are measured by the uniform flow of the time-duration (Kala). With that, Laya is the ordered movement of rhythm in time.

Suffice it to say that Laya could be taken as rhythm.

And, rhythm in our music is two-dimensional; the one that is related to the pitch is termed Shruti-Laya; and, the other related to the time-units is called Taala-Laya.

[Dr S A K Durga explains ‘The Laya stands for the interval of time between the beats and movement in time. Thus the term “Laya” means both rhythm and tempo created by the even measured flow of the uniform duration of Kala (time).

Prof .P.S. Narayanaswami: Rhythm gives stability and form to music. It can be described as the tangible gait of any musical movement. In Carnatic music, this is referred to as Laya. The common fallacy is that rhythm or laya is confined to percussion instruments and the rhythmic patterns produced therein. But laya is not limited to just that. It is present not only in melodic compositions, which usually have a rhythmic metre in an apparent manner but also in the creative aspects, sometimes conspicuously (like in Neraval or Kalpana-svara) and subtly at others (Raga Alapana and Tanam)]


Laya, for all its beauty, is abstract. You need a device, which measures and monitors this abstract time-flow. And, that function is performed by Taala.

If Laya is the rhythmical movement, Taala is that which measures the tempo of that movement. So, Laya implies movement; and, it can be perceived when there is a motion.

Taala (derived from the root tada or tadana) signifies a ‘beat’. The time-interval between the beats and its movement could also be taken as Laya, the rhythm.

Taala is the measurement of time-units in our music. And, the degree of speed with which the time-units, in each division of a Taala-cycle, follow each other is termed as Kala.

{But, Kala is also used to indicate Laya; say, as in: Madhyama Kala, Chowka Kala etc.]

The structural units of a Taala are called Angas.  Such Angas are of different kinds.

Here, Anu-Dhruta (One Aksharakala) consists only the beat with palm. Dhruta (2 Aksharakala) is a beat followed a waving of hand. Laghu-Dhruta (4+2 Aksharakala) consists beat and finger counts (Laghu+Dhruta). And, Guru-Dhruta (8+2 Aksharakala) is rendered in Dhruva-kala and Patita-(Guru+Dhruta) wave to left and right or circle with thumb-up + beat with palm + turn (wave).

Anudruta Drutha Sankeerna Laghu

Taala, in turn, is reckoned by the finger counts, beats and wave of the hand. This manner of counting and keeping time is termed as Kriya. And, Kriya is the action of fingers, palms, hands, in order to keep track of the Taala-units.

And, when it is done without making audible sounds, it is called Ni-shabda-Kriya. And, when the beats are counted and played on cymbals etc., it is Sa-shabda-Kriya.

In the execution of a Taala, between two successive Kriyas, there is a period of rest or pause; and, that has to be maintained consistently.

The action of Kriya (manifesting as Taala sequence) and the interval between two elements of Kriya are interrelated. Further, each Kriya is an extension of its previous one. Here, the duration of such time-lag between two Kriyas assumes importance; and, with its increase or decrease, the Laya becomes faster or slower.


In Dhruta-Laya (fast), the Kriyas follow each other in quick succession, as the time-lag between them is very short. In Madhya- Laya or medium tempo, the Laya gets doubled; and, a further doubling of laya results in Vilambita laya.

This suggests; an increase in Laya results in decrease of the speed, i.e., the speed or tempo of a piece is inversely proportional to its laya.


The tempo of the musical composition in Indian Music is not marked by the composers as Indian music is learnt through oral tradition; and, the composers did not write their compositions with notation, unlike the composers of Western music. In Indian music , the compositions are performed in the tempo according to the Rasa and Bhava of the Raga and Sahitya, besides the performer’s own decision according to her/his  concept of aesthetics,  in the presentation



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

Though, most of the songs of Shyama Shastry are in slow medium tempo in Adi-Taala, there are some songs in fast and medium tempo.

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

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

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

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

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Pada-garbha / Arudi

Arudi or Pada-garbha is a pause that occurs in between the Taala- Avartas. Usually it occurs at the middle of the two Kalai Adi Taala or in the beginning of the next Avarta; or in the beginning of the third Avarta; or in Rupaka Taala or Chapu Taala.

The Kritis:  ‘Kanaka-shaila’ (Punnagavarali); ‘Mayamma’ (Ahiri), ‘Emani-migula’ (Todi), ‘Palinchu Kamakshi ‘ (Madhyamavathi); ‘Devi-ni-padasarasa’ (Kambhoji); ‘Devi-mina-netri’ (Shankarabharana );  ‘Devi brova’ (Chintamani ), in Adi Taala  two Kalai, all have the Pada-garbha exactly at the middle of the Avarta;  that is, on the first Druta.

Here, the pause occurs dividing the Avarta into two; and, after a pause for two or four or three Aksharas, the song proceeds further.

In the songs having two Avartas in the Pallavi, the Arudi occurs in both the Avartas. For instance; we find Pada-garghas in the two Avartas in the kriti ‘Mayamma’ (Natakuranji); one in the first Avarta; and, the second in the second Avarta.

Mayam | ma nannu | Brova vam || ma+ ma ha ma | ya …u | ma … ||

Similarly in the song ‘Saroja-dala-netri’ in Shankarabharana Raga, we find two Pada-garbhas for the pallavi

Saroja dala netri Himagiripu | tri … ni | padam
Sada nammina namma subhamim | ma …O Sri 

In    Adi Taala, this pause occurs at the beginning of the next Avarta as in the song ‘Karuna judu’ in Sri Raga

Karuna judu ninnu | nammina | va-duga ||
da …in ta | parake | lanamma ||

The kriti ‘Karuna-judu’ as rendered in Misra Chapu Taala, in the 4 + 3 gait, has the Pada-garbham at the beginning of the fifth Avarta in the word ‘ga’ 


The Kritis in Rupaka Taala and Chapu Taala have the Pada-garbham at the commencement of the third Avarta.

Ninne’ in Todi Raga and Chapu Taala’ has two lines of Sahitya; and; had pause for the two lines at the beginning of the third Avarta

Ninnenam || mi na ……… || nu ……… sa || da ……… ne ||
Vin na pa || mu vi ni || nan …… nu || bro ……vumu ||

The other examples are :Mina-locana’ in Dhanyasi Raga in Chapu-Taala and  ‘Nannu-brovu’ in Lalita Raga are in Chapu Taala; ‘Pahi Sri’ in Ânandabhairavi Raga  in Rupaka Taala;  ‘Karuna juda’ in Varali Raga in Chapu Taala; ‘Birana vara’ in Kalyani Raga in Rupaka Taala;  ‘Ninnuvina’ in Ritigaula Raga in Rupaka Taala


Pauses found in different places

There are some kritis, in which pauses occur in different places i.e. at the end of the pallavi; or  at the end of the first Avarta and so on.

There are kritis which do not have pauses in between the Avartas; but, pause occurs only after finishing the Pallavi at the end of the second Avarta.

For example; in the kriti ‘Durusuga’ in Saveri Raga, we find pause only at the end of the Pallavi, whereas in the kriti ‘Marivere’ in Anandabhairavi Raga, we find a pause at the end of the first Avarta itself in both the lines as

Marive ……| ……………re | ga ti ye vva | ram … ma ||
Mahilo ……| …………….I. | mahilo ….. | brocu taku ||

Similarly in the kriti ‘Janani’ in Saveri Raga  we find a pause in the beginning, but after that words follow without any pause up to the end and the pause occurs after the words as :

Janani ………… Nata | jana pari | pa lini …
pahivambhava | ni ……….| …………


In some kritis, pauses occur in the beginning; at the end of the Avartas in some; and,  in many places in some kritis ; whereas there is no pause at all in some kritis.

The kritis in Chapu Taala are found with fewer words; with more pauses occurring in different places.

In the kriti ‘Talli-ninnu’ in Kalyani Raga in Chapu Taala, a pause occurs at the end of the second Avarta;  and,  it is continued in the beginning of the third Avarta.

Talli | Ninnu nera | …………… nammi | na nu vino | ve ..

In the kriti ‘Ninnu-vinaga’ in Purvikalyani Raga in Viloma Chapu Taala, we find karvai at the end of the first and third Avarta. The karvai is found in the second line also.

Ninnu vina …… | …… ga mari | dikk-evarun ……| na ……ru ||

In the kriti ‘Brôvavamma’ in Manji Raga ,in Chapu Taala, pauses occur in many ; and, not at specified places.

Brova vam ……|……ma …… ta … | masa me ……| le … ………………| ………….
bi ……..| ra …………na …… || ……
Devita ………|…… la le ………| ne …………bi | ra …… na ……

Similar type of kriti is ‘Nilayata-kshi’ in Pharaz Raga. We can find pause here and there controlling the flow of the rhythm.

Ni …… la …… ya || ta ………kshi || ni …… ve …||
jagatsa ……kshi ||


In order to control the less number of words employed in an Avarta in the above mentioned kritis in Chapu Taala; Shyama Shastri might have used these pauses wherever necessary.


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Aspect of Laya

The advent of the Trinity with their compositions paved the way for a new era in the growth of Kriti. They gave importance not only to melody but also to the temporal aspect or laya.

Eduppu or Graha is the place where in the song starts in the Taala.  This plays an important role in the construction of a composition.

There are songs which start on Sama Eduppu; that is, the Taala as well as music start at the same time from the beginning of the Taala count.

There are some songs which start after the Taala begins. This is called Anagata Eduppu.

Some songs start before the Taala Avarta, that is in the previous Avarta itself; and, that is called Atitha Eduppu.

Usually in songs, the Eduppu will uniformly be the same in all the three Angas, either Sama or Anagata

We also find different Eduppus among the different sections within a song of Shyama Shastri.

There are some songs in which two Angas start on the same Eduppu; and, the other Anga has a different Eduppu. They are as follows:

1.Birana – Kalyani – Rupaka
2. Shankari – Saveri – Rupaka
3. Himadrisute – Kalyani – Rupaka
4. Devi-mina-netri – Shankarabharana – Adi
5. Devi-neepada – Khambhoji – Adi
6. Enneramum – Punnagavarali – Adi
7. Mayamma – Natakuranji – Adi
8. Karuna-juda – Varali – Chapu
9. Shankari – Kalyani – Ata


 The song ‘Birana Varâlicci’ in Kalyani Raga and the song `Himadrisute’ are with the same structure, but in Sanskrit, a special Eduppu is found in Rupaka Taala

The Pallavi and Anupallavi start after the first beat; that is, in the second beat or after four Akshra kaalas. The Carana of the song start after two Akshara Kaalas.

In this song, the Pada-garbham (Arudi) falls on the sixth beat; and, again the words start after a karvai of eight Aksharas.  This gives a grip to the song over the Taala.

Another song in which the Carana alone starts after two Aksharas, while the Pallavi and Anupallavi start on some Eduppu is ‘Shankari’ in Saveri Raga. These two Kritis belong to the group of Kritis prevailing since early thirties.


There are some Kritis, which figure only after 1930.

Among them, the two Kritis each in the Ragas Shankarabharana and Kambhoji alone figure in the notation of Shyama Shastri II; and, the rest figure in the books of others of the same period.

In the four Kritis in Adi Taala, mentioned above, either Sama or Anagata Eduppu is kept for one Anga; and, the other two Angas have different ones.

For example, in the song ‘Devi ni pada’ in Kambhoji, the pallavi starts after two Aksharas; while Anupallavi and Carana have Sama Eduppu.

In the kriti ‘Mayamma’ in Natakuranji Raga, this is reversed. Pallavi has Sama Eduppu; and the Anupallavi and Carana start after two Aksharas.

In the Kritis ‘Devi-mina-netri’ in Shankarabharana Raga and ‘Ennçramum’ in Punnagavarali Raga, the Pallavi and Carana start after four Aksharas; while the Anupallavi start on Sama.

In the kriti ‘Karuna juda’ in Varali Raga, Chapu Taala, the Anupallavi alone starts after one Akshara; and, the other two Angas start on Sama

 In the kriti ‘Shankari’ in Kalyani raga, Chatushra Atta Taala, the Carana alone start after one Akshara and the others on Sama.

There are some songs set in Misra Chapu Taala in the Krama order as 3+4; but, the Eduppu gives the impression as if the songs are sung in Viloma Chapu.

 The songs start in the last beat of the Taala; and so the structure is formed as 2 + 3 + 2. The Kritis ‘Nannu-brovu’ in Lalita Raga and ‘Talli-ninnu’ in Kalyani Raga and ‘Mina-locana’ in Dhanyasi Raga can be cited as examples.

The song ‘Ninnu-vinaga’ in Purvikalyani Raga  is the only song set in regular Viloma Chapu , which starts in the place Taka-dimi and then taki-ta follows as in HW of Shyama Shastri II, says S.Rajah.

In the HW of Shyama Shastri II , all the songs are written only in the form 4+3; but, the Eduppu alone is denoted either as 4+3 or 3+4 or 2+3+2 by an asterisk mark.

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The Taalas handled by Sri Shyama Shastry

Sri Shyama Shastri has composed Kritis and other compositions in various types of Taalas;  such as:  Adi, Rupaka, Misra Chapu, Mathya, Triputa, Jhampa and Ata Taala. All the Taalas come under the Sapta- Taala group.

[In the Karnataka Samgita concerts, the four Taalas that are commonly used are – Adi, Rupaka, Misra-Chapu and Khanda-Chapu.  And, most number of songs is in Adi Taala.

Popular Taalas

Adi Taala has several compositions, each in a different tempo and gait. These could be effectively used to bring out contrast within the concert. Variety can also be brought out by singing compositions with different starting points. For example, a composition can start at the very first beat of the Taala. Or it can start at the next beat or after a few counts within the beats. The starting point is known as Eduppu or Graha. – Dr. P S. Narayanaswamy]

As regards the number of compositions in each type of Taala:

each type

 (Source: Dr. Manju Gopal)

Adi Taala

Of the thirty compositions set in Adi Taala, as many as twenty-seven are the Kritis. And the rest three are: a Gita (Santatam-Pharaju); a Varna (Dayanidhe –Begada); and, a Svarajati (Rave Himagiri –Todi).

All the Kritis are of the Eka Kala and Dvi Kala type.  The Laya is Vilambita in most cases. Sometimes the Madhya Laya is also used.

Of the thirty compositions in Adi Taala, as many as twenty-three start on Sama Graha; and , seven on Anagata Graha (half Eduppu).

 For the three Kritis: Karuna-nidhi-ilalo (Todi); Shankari Shamakuru (Saveri) and Parvathi ninnu ne (Kalgada), the Tisra Gati is employed.  In Tisra -Gati, each unit of the Taala will be counted as ‘ta-ki-ta’ (a unit of three Aksharas)

The variation in the Akshara-kala of each count of a Taala (Gati-bedha) is another feature here.

It is said; the compositions in Tisra Gati –Adi- Taala (with a total Akshara kala duration of 24) could also be rendered in Rupaka Taala (12  Akshara kala duration).

Following that; the Tisra Gati Kritis in Todi and Saveri Ragas are sometimes sung to Rupaka Taala.

And in the other way; the Rupaka-Taala-Kritis – Ninnu-vina (Ritigaula) ; Birana Varalichi (Kalyani) ; and , Himadrisute (Kalyani) can also be sung to Tisra-Gati-Adi -Taala.


Chapu Taala

It is a very common saying that among the Ragas, the Anandabhairavi; and, among the Taala, the Misra Chapu Taala are the favorites of Sri Shyama Shastry. He did, indeed, pay special attention to these two; and, transformed their modes of presentation.

The Chapu Taala is believed to have originated from the folk tradition; and, it was much used in the Bhagavatamela plays, which Sri Shastry as a youngster loved to watch while his family was Thiruvarur.

The beat (ghata) is the only kind of Kriya used in the Chapu Taala; and, there are no other Angas here such as Dhruta or Laghu etc. And, its Kriyas are not of uniform duration.

The Chapu Taala (which is said to be an abbreviated form of Tisra-Jati-Triputa-Taala) has four variations:  Tisra-Chapu (1+2=3) ; Khanda-Chapu (2+3=5); Misra Chapu (3+4=7) ; and, Sankirna-Chapu (4+5=9).

Of these variations, Sri Shyama Shastry adopted the Misra Chapu of seven Akshara kala duration  for many of his compositions.

As said; Misra Chapu has two parts. The first part (3) is three-fourths the duration of the second (4). In sum, it would be reckoned as having two beats (3 and 4). But, in practice, it is played in two beats. And, sometimes, instead of the first beat, the Taala would commence with a wave-motion (Visarjita).

Sri Shyama Shastry revised the mode of rendering the Chapu Taala ( 3+4) by reversing the  sequence of its beats and transforming it into Viloma Chapu Taala (4+3). And, this became a hallmark of his preferred Taala structures.

The following are the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry set to Misra Chapu and  to Viloma Chapu

Misra Chapu

Among the eleven compositions in Misra Chapu Taala, five compositions viz.,   the two Svarajatis; the two Kritis in Varali; and one Kriti in Anandabhairavi, all start with Sama Graha . And, the rest six, start in Anagata Graha.

Viloma Chapu

Of the seven Kritis in Viloma Chapu Taala, the two Kritis Trilokamata (Pharaju) and Ninnu-vinaga-mari (Purvikalyani) start on the Sama Graha. And, the other five Kritis start on Anagata Graha, on the second beat. [The Kriti Karuna-judu (Sri) is sung by some in Adi Taala.]


Triputa Taala

There are nine compositions set in Triputa Taala; and, these include three Gitas.

Of these nine compositions: three Gitas – Kamakshi (Pharaju); Kamakshi (Madhyamavathi); and Sarasakshi (Saveri); as also the three Kritis – Paramukha-melanamma (Kalyani); Palayasumam (Arabhi) and Nilayatakshi (Pharaju) – all start Sama Graha (Eduppu).

The other three Kritis in this group: Nannubrova (Janaranjani); Adinamu-ninchi (Ananadabhairavi) ; and, Ennerum (Punnagavarali) – start on Anagata Graha (half Eduppu).


Other Taalas

As regards the compositions in other Taalas

other Taalas

In the case of the Taalas of the twenty compositions, the Akshara value, in each case, amounts to 7 or to multiples of 7.

The Taalas that are involved here are: Tisra-Jati-Triputa (7 Aksharas); Misra Chapu (7 Aksharas); Khanda-Jati-Ata (14 Aksharas); and, Viloma Chapu (7 Aksharas).

Of such twenty compositions, 9 are in Tisra Triputa; 12 in Misra Chapu; 7 in Viloma Chapu; and 2 in Khanda Ata. (Source: Dr. Manju Gopal)


Of the 72 known compositions of Sri Shyama Shastri, 47 start with Sama Eduppu; and , 25 compositions with Anagata Eduppu.

Examples of Sama Eduppu are: Emani migula (Todi, Adi Taala); Palayasumam (Arabhi, Triputa Taala); Sari evvaramma (Bhairavi, Khanda Jhampa Taala); and Shankari-Shankari (Kalyani, Khanda Ata Taala).

Examples of Anagata Eduppu are: Palimpavamma (Mukhari , Adi Taala , half Eduppu); Birana Varalichi (Kalyani,  Rupaka Taala,  Eduppu in the second beat); Nannubrova (Janaranjani, Triputa Taala, half Eduppu); Talli-ninnu (Kalyani, Viloma Chapu- Eduppu on the second beat)


Though there are no compositions among Sri Shyama Shastry’s creations, that explicitly commence with Atitha Eduppu, shades of this feature can be noticed in some of his verses. For example, in Mayamma (Ahiri, Adi Taala), the Carana of which reads:

Sarasija-bhava Hari-Hara-nuta sulaita nee/ Pada-pankaja-mula-sthira-mani Nammiti -Nammiti -Nammiti ni

Here, the portion from ‘pada pankaja’ is said to start with the last count of the previous Avarta. This could be taken as Atitha Eduppu.


A unique feature of the compositions of Sri Shyama Shastry is the modulation of the rhythm (bigu-sugu), which emphasizes certain notes and stretches them.

Another noticeable feature is the rhythmical improvisations (Laya, Taala) do not in any manner hamper the melody (Dhathu) and the consistency of the Sahitya.

In the Kritis and Svarajatis of Sri Shyama Shastri, the Sahitya phrases and the sequence of rhythmic patterns (Taala Jati) blend harmoniously.  The long Sahitya syllables are matched by long (Dheerga) Svaras; and the short ones are in tune with the short (Hrasva) Svaras.

 For instance; the sequence of the units of Akshara kala (of three different kinds- 5, 7 and 9) combines well, in each case, with the corresponding flow of the Sahitya.

In each case, the Sahitya segment is broken up into the number of units of its Taala.



 We shall talk about the Languages of the Kritis of Sri Shyama Shastry

as also about his other types of Compositions



The Next Part

Sources and References

All images are taken from Internet

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Music of India – a brief outline – Part Seventeen

Continued from Part Sixteen – Lakshana Granthas– Continued

Part Seventeen (of 22 ) – Lakshana Granthas – Continued

10. Pundarika Vittala

Perhaps the first Musicologist who applied Ramamatya’s system of 19 Mela (basic scales) to North Indian Music was Pundarika Vittala (16th century).

Till about the late 16th century both the South and North traditions followed the same set of texts.  Then, Pundarika Vittala a musician-scholar from Karnataka  , Karnata Desiya , (from Sathanur , around Shivaganga Hills about 50 KMs from Bangalore), of Jamadagni gotra, who settled down in the North under the patronage of Muslim King Burhan Khan  in Anandavalli  (near Nasik) in the district of Khandesh, wrote a series of books concerning Music of North India.

(Karnate Shivaganga abhidana giri nikate, Satanur-hrudaye yo gramasta janma pravarasunikarath Jamadagni yo asmita vamsa)

While in Anandavalli during 1560-1570, Pundarika Vittala wrote his famous Sad-raga-chandodaya having three Chapters: Svara-prasada, Svara-mela prasada, and Aalapi-prasada.  In this text, he introduced Ramamatya’s Mela system to the North Indian Music. He almost adopted Ramamatya’s 19 Mela (as in Svara-mela-kalanidhi)   . But, he changed the names and scales of several Melas.

Of the 19 Melas listed by Pundarika Vittala, 11 are identical with those mentioned by Ramamatya:  Mukhari, Malavagaula, Sri, Shuddhanata, Desaksi, Karnatagaula, Kedaragaula, Abhiri, Shuddhavarali, Shuddharamakri and Nadanamakri.

AS regards the other eight Melas either their notes are different or their names as well as their names are different (few of them have only one note different).  For instance; Ramamatya‘s Hejuri becomes Pundarika’s Hijeja; Similarly Vasanthabhairavi becomes Todi, and Saranganata becomes Saranga.

The Hindola Mela is entirely different in both the systems.

In his Sad-raga-chandodaya, Pundarika Vittala says that due to different application of a Svara in different Ragas, different Sthana (positions) of the same Svara in different ragas occurs. He further says that it is important to know the exact structure of Raga,

Later, when he moved to the court of the Prince Madhavasimha and Manasimha who ruled from Jaipur as the feudatory of Akbar, Pundarika Vittala wrote Raga Manjari. In his writings, Pundarika Vittala carried forward the work of Gopala Nayaka (14th century) of grafting Karnataka music on to the newly evolving North Indian music.  Raga Manjari shows a further leaning towards North Indian Music, although the set of twenty Melas is the same as in his earlier Sad-raga-chandrodaya. He adopts the typical North Indian classification of Ragas as: Male (Purusha), female (Stri) and infant (Putra) Ragas. However, in both these works as well as in the third treatise named Ragamala written in 1576 (which he says was written for one Kapila muni- Srimath Kapilamuniyarthe  kriyate Raga –maalikah) , Pundarika Vittala uses for his Shuddha scales, the notes of the South Indian Mela Mukhari 0r Kanakangi scale .

According to the great  Scholar Pandit VN Bhatkhande, : The Ragamala distinctly shows that Pundarika Vittala had come into contact with the music and musicians of North India ,perhaps   in  Delhi or Agra, because the names of Ragas  he mentions , like Chaiiri, Gowdi, Musali, Iraq, Bakharej, Yemen, Husaini, and Tirban distinctly belong to that region.

Ragini samgita border

[Prof. O C Ganguly in his Raga and Ragini (Nalanda Books, 1935; pages 54-57)  and also Chapter II Pundarika Vittala of Shodhganga   ( which is a part of  a thesis titled – The Study of Pundarika Vittala’s Treatises with Reference to the Systems of Raga Classification in Post Ratnakara Period by  Dr.Padma Rajagopal) give details of the three works that Pundarika Vittala wrote under the auspices of three successive royal patrons: (1) Sadraga-candrodaya written under the service of the Faroqi Prince Burhan Khan of Khandesh; (2) Ragamala, written probably under the patronage of the Jaipur prmces, Madho Singh and Man Singh Kacchwas; and, (3) Ragamanjari, probably composed under the patronage of Raja Mansingh Kacchwa

1. Sadraga Chandrodaya

The first one Sadraga-candrodaya was written some time between 1562 and 1599 under the service of the Faroqi Prince Burhan Khan of Khandesh which was incorporated in the Mughal empire after the seige of Asirgarh in 1599.

It is a very extensive text covering almost all the aspects of Music . It is spread over three Chapters ( Prasada) , titled as : Svara Prasada; Svara Mela Prasada; and, Alapti Prasada.

In the first chapter (Svara Prasada) Pundarika briefly describes the music-terms , such as  Nada, Sruti, Svara (defines suddha, vikruta, vadi, samvadi etc),  Grama, Murhcana, Tana prastara etc.. He also briefly discusses about graha, amsa, nyasa, apanyasa vidari, sadja as universal graha. Then he takes up various alankaras, sthaya, aroha, avaroha varieties of alankaras, etc.,

The second chapter, Svara Mela Prasada, has two sub-sections. In the first  (Svara prakarana ) Pundarika discusses about arrangement of frets on theVeena; and then, in the second section (Mela prakarana )  he takes up the description of Mela formation (paryayavriti) and number of melas formed when two, three, four and five svaras are made vikruti (mela prastara) totaling 90 melas.  In the Mela prakarana, he provides a list of 19 Melas   and their deravatives. For more on that – please click here.

In the third chapter – Alapti Prasada – Pundarika,  first describes different types of Gamakas totaling 15; and , then dicusses different varieties of sthayas and alapti, when playing of a raga on Veena.

 In this work, Pundarika deals with both the Southern and Northern systems of ragas and classifies them under nineteen Thats or parent scale, viz.: Mukhari, Malava-gaula, Sri, Suddha-natta, Desaki, Karnata-gauda, Kedara, Hijeja, Hamir, Kamode, Todi, Abhiri, Suddha-varati, Suddha-ramakri, Devakri, Saranga, Kalyana, Hindola and Nada-Ramakri. Out of these nineteen original (Mela) ragas, he attrIbutes to five of them their respective derivative forms (janya-raga).

Dr. Padma Rajagopal observes:

In Sadraga Chandrodaya he gave only 19 melas his explanations resemble those of Ramamatya, but only the names of the svaras differed. For example, Pundarika Vittala  explains the raga Kamata Gauia’s svaras as after Sa, the first svara occurs on the 6th sruti, it is in the realm of Ga, it means that suddha Ga is on the 5th sruti and the 6th sruti is sadharana Ga. The second svara occurs on the 12th sruti, he calls it as lagu Ma, but it can be also taken as one of the varieties of Ga. (he himself says that lagu Ma represents antra Ga). So he explains both svaras as Ga. But Ramamatya explains Kamata Gaula as having the same svaras, but after Sa the first svara on the 6th sruti he calls it as shatsruti Ri, the svara on the 12th sruti. Ramamatya calls it as chyuta madhyama gandhara.

As Prof. Bhatkhande remarks, “the Hindusthani musician will find this classification very interesting. He wIll find many of his own ragas in the list. Some of these latter seem to have retained their original svaras (notes) to this day.”

The work, is, therefore, of great significance for the data provided for the hIstory of the ragas. It is noteworthy, that when the author composed his works, the recognized melodies in the north far exceeded the limits of an exhaustive enumeration as is evident from the author’s remark: “Owing to the ragas being innumerable it is impossible to describe each individual one, I am reciting, here, some of them, following a particular school.”

Anantatvattu raganam pratyekam vaktumakrmah / Kesaacin-matam ashritya kati ragan vadamyaham //


In his next treatise Ragamala, written probably under the patronage of the Jaipur prmces, Madho Singh and Man Singh Kacchwas, Pundarika Vittala classifies the Ragas (Raga-Ragini Parivara) under six male ragas, and attributes to each, five ‘spouses’ (bharyyas) and five ‘sons’ (Raga putra). He also gives the details related to their Svaras, such as:  graha, amsa, nyasa etc.  He also explains the Raga structures in terms of:  nada, sruti, svara, sthana, grama, murchana, tana, etc.

In all, he covers six  Male Ragas-  with five Raginis and five Putra (sons) for each Male Raga- totaling 66 Ragas.

Male Raga: Suddha Bhairav

First Ragini: Dhannasi; Second Ragini: Bhairavi ; Third Ragini: ; Fourth Ragini: Maravi ;  and, Fifth Ragini: Asaveri .

First Son: Bhairava; Second Son: Suddha Lalita; Third Son: Panchama ; Fourth Son: Paraj ;  Fifth Son: Bangala.

Male Raga: Hindola

First Ragini: Bhupali; Second Ragini: Varali; Third Ragini: Todika; Fourth Ragini: Pratama Manjari; and, Fifth Ragini: Yavana Todika .

 First Son: Vasanta; Second Son: Suddha Bangala ; Third Son: Syama ; Fourth Son: Samantha ; and, Fifth Son: Kamoda.

Male Raga: Deshikar

First Ragini: Ramakri ; Second Ragini: Bahuli ; Third Ragini: Desi ; Fourth Ragini: Jayatasri ; and, Fifth Ragini: Gurjari .

First Son: Lalita; Second Son: Bhibas; Third Son: Saranga; Fourth Son: Ravana; and, Fifth Son: Kalyan

Mela Raga: Sri Raga

First Ragaini: Goudi; Second Ragini: Padi ; Third Ragini: Gunakri ; Fourth Ragini: Nadaramakri ; and, Fifth Ragini: Gundakri .

First Son: Takka; Second Son: Devagandhari; Third Son: Malava; Fourth Son: Sudhagouda; and, Fifth Son: Karnata Bangala.

Male Raga: Suddha Nata

First Ragini: Malava Sri; Second Ragini: Desakshi; Third Ragini Devakri; Fourth Ragaini: Madumadhavi; and, Fifth Ragini: Aberi.

First Son: Jijavant; Second Sons: Salanga Nata; Third Son: Karnata; Fourth Son: Chayanata; and, Fifth Son: Hamir Nata.

Male Raga: Natta Narayana

First Ragini: Velavali; Second Ragini: Kamboji ; Third Ragini: Saveri ; Fourth Ragini: Suhavi ; and,Fifth Ragini: Sourastri .

First Son: Malhara; Second Son: Gaunda; Third Son: Kedar; Fourth Son: Sankarabharana; and, Fifth Son: Bihagada


He mentions that Suddha, Chayalaga and Sankirna ragas were analysed as ragas and putras. He also gives a natural explanation to the classification. He introduced a new concept ‘gathi’ in the book, which meant movement of svaras from one sruti to another. He gives for all these ragas their svaras, colour of the body, colour of clothes, ornaments worn, tilakas in the forehead, time of the day, season for singing these ragas.

These 66 ragas probably represented the then current melodies as Pundarika Vittala found them in Northern India when he sat down to compose his work. But the Ragamala, from our point of view, is the most important document, as it is in this work that we come across for the first-time descriptive verses, actually giving the visual pictures, along with the component notes of the melodies, and also an indication of the time allocated to the singing of the ragas.

 (Please refer to Dr. Padma Rajagopal’ paper for a detailed discussion on the Raga-Ragini system of Raga classification, Please also see the Appendix : List of Raga-Ragini Parivar Ragas , according to different authors)

Further, as regards  the treatment of the Mela system in two  of Pundarika’s works – Sadraga Chandrodaya and  Ragamala – Dr. Padma Rajagopal mentions :

The difference in mela details between Sadraga Chandrodaya and Ragamala were: (1) in Sadraga Chandrodaya he gives 19 melas and in Ragamala he gives 20 melas; (2) in Sadraga Chandrodaya he introduced a new term lagu sadja, lagu madhyama, etc. and also used the conventional terms sadharana gandhara, antra gandhara, kakali Ni and Kaisiki Ni. In Ragamanjari, he introduced the new turn gathi while explaining the ragas. He clearly mentioned chatuscruti rishabha and dhaivata and suggested dvisruti rishabha and dhaivata which later on became komal. May be from his period only the fourth sruti Ri was considered as suddha for the musicologists of the north, and in the South, they considered dvisruti as suddha svara.

The details of the Mela system discussed in Sadraga Chandrodaya and in Ragamala are provided in Chapter VIII of Dr. Padma Rajgopal’s thesis

3. Ragamanjari

The third treatise, Ragamanjari, was probably composed by Pundarika Vittala under the patronage of Raja Mansingh Kacchwa and after he was introduced to the Imperial Court at Delhi. In this work, he cites twenty Melas as parents of the 64 derivatives (janya ragas). First, he gives the svaras of Mela ragas; and, then the derivative ragas. The twenty Melas are as follows: Mukhari, Soma-raga, Todi, Gaudi, Varati, Kedara, suddha-niata, Desaki, Desi-kara, Saranga, Aheri, Kalyana, Kamoda, Hijeja, Rama-kri, Hindola, Karnata, Hamira, Malav-kaisika, and Sri-raga.

But the interesting feature of this work is the recognition of the place of as many as sixteen Persian melodies ; and,  relating them to the Indian Ragas by their nearest equivalents.

Most probably, these imported melodies had already obtained a place in current Indian music of the North; and, the author only confirmed the practice by including them in his work and by indicating their characters by assigning them to their places in relation to the Indian models.

As Professor Bhatkhande remarks that the use of the locative case termination of the Indian ragas named “is intended to show that the Persian melody is not exactly the same as the Indian but that the two are founded on the same scale.” He accepts them as part of the Hindusthani system though he characterized them as “Persian” and recognized that they are “the gift from others” (parada). They are sixteen in number and are known as: Rahayi, Nisavar, Mahura, Jangula, Mahang(?), Vara, Sunhath, Iraya, Huseni, Yaman, Sarpharada, Vakhreja, Hijejaka, and Musak.

It is significant that Turuska Todi, which must have received an earlier affiliation is not mentioned in this list. On the other hand, Sarparda, which is ascribed by tradition to Amir Khusrau, is here enumerated as a new-comer… By this time, the melodies had too far exceeded in number to be confined within the limits of the six ragas and their wives.]

Together with Ramamatya’s tuning of Shuddha Mela Veena, which corresponds to the Hindustani Been (Rudra Veena), Pundarika Vittala adopted Ramamatya’s 12 semi tones (Sruti). However, in his description of the Melas, he uses more than 12 Svaras. In his works Ragamala and Ragamanjari (a small work in two Chapters : Svara and Raga)  he develops a system of 18 micro intervals, the application of which was however restricted to middle octave (madhyama saptaka).

While discussing the 18 Sruti positions, he says that the octave contains 22 theoretical Sruti positions. However, 4 of which (that is: between Shuddha Sa and Shuddha Ri , and between the notes Shuddha Pa and Shuddha Dha) should not be used in practice.  Later, Somanatha in his Raga-vibodha adopted this system of 18 notes, omitting only one note (ekagatika Madhyama) and changing the name the Vikrta notes.

[Even as late as in the 16th century, the texts usually began with the traditional description of the scales in terms of the 22 Srutis. But, in actual practice (application), the octaves seemed to have been composed of 12 basic Srutis. In Sad-raga-chandrodaya, for instance, the octave is said to contain 14 notes. But, in his description of the fretting of the Veena, Pundarika Vittala locates only 12 frets, because, he says, the other two notes would be too close to their adjacent frets on the finger board. He adds, if these two frets should be needed in any Raga, the adjacent higher fret would be acceptable, as the difference of one Sruti will not make much difference in the general effect on the Raga.]

Pundarika’s system was later adopted by the North Indian musicologists. It is likely that Somanatha’s Ragas which reflect Pundarika’s theories mostly correspond to modern Hindustani Ragas, while the Karnataka Ragas of the same name developed along different lines.

Apart from Music, Pundarika Vittala was well versed in Sanskrit literature. He is credited with compiling two lexicons: Shigara-bodhini Namamala and Dutikarma Prakasha.

Besides the above mentioned works, Pundarika Vittala may have written the following treatises the chapters of which are available in the Tanjore Sarasvathi Mahal Library: Nartana-nirnaya (written to please Akbar – Akbar-nrupa-ruchyartha krutamidam); Sangita-vrtta-ratnakara; and Vittaliya.

[ I would like to post here a short Note on Pundarika Vittala’s  Nartana-nirnaya based mainly on the work of Dr. Mandakranta Bose.


  Regarding Nartana-nirnaya

The fame of Pundarika Vitthala rests mainly on the texts he compiled on the subjects related to Music. But, his work on dancing and dramaturgy, the Nartana-nirnaya, written in the sixteenth century, while was in the Mughal Court, is no less significant.  It is indeed a major work that throws light on the origins of some of the dance forms – particularly Kathak and Oddisi – that are prevalent today. But, it is sad that Nartana-nirnaya has not received the level of attention and depth of study that it rightly deserves.

By the time of Akbar, the Persian art and music had vastly influenced the cultural life of India, particularly the milieu surrounding the Mughal court. Though the regional traditions did exist, the Persian tradition was the dominant one.

Pundarika Vitthala, while in the Mughal Court, had the opportunity to watch. appreciate and enjoy excellent presentations of the Persian oriented dance and music. He also had the privilege of discussing varied issues related to art with the Persian scholars and connoisseurs attached to the Royal Court. 

Citing the circumstances that prompted him and that led to his writing of Nartana-nirnaya, a text about dance, Pundarika Vitthala states that he wrote the book in order to please the Emperor Akbar

Akbar nrupae icchartha bhuloke sangitam / krutamidam bahu tara bhedam sah-hrudam hrdaye sukam bhuyath // N N 53 b //.

 In the world, this simple Sangita is created with a lot of varieties in order to please the king Akbar. May it please the heart of the goodhearted ones.

The Nartana-nirnaya, an authentic text on dance and dramaturgy, written in a variety of metres (chhandas), has four chapters, one each on, rhythm (259 verses); drum (116 verses); vocal music (579 verses); and,  on dance (the largest, with 916 verses).

And, at the outset, Pundarika states that along with the various regional styles of dancing he would be describing the dance of the Yavanas, (meaning, the Persians).

In his work, Pundarika Vitthala does not confine only to the traditional dances of India and Persia; but, he also describes the various dance traditions of the different regions of India that were practiced during his time. The information he provides on regional dance forms is quite specific, in the sense that he points to the part/s of India from where the particular style came from, the language of the accompanying songs and the modes its presentation. The Nartana-nirnaya is, therefore, an invaluable treasure house on the state of regional dance forms as they existed in the sixteenth century India

Dr. Mandakranta Bose, in her very well researched paper ( The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition )  stresses the historical importance and relevance of Nartana-nirnaya; and , states   :  This text ,thus, offers us a major breakthrough in understanding both the evolution and the continuity of the art of dance;  because , it enables us to reconstruct the styles prevalent at a transitional period in the cultural history of India.

Thus, Nartana-nirnaya serves as a bridge between the older and present-day traditions of classical Indian dancing.


While explaining the title of his work (Nartana-nirnaya); and the use of the term Nartana, generally, to mean ‘Dance’, Pundarika said that by Nartana he meant it to be a general class name for Dance. And, that the term Natrana would cover the three forms of Dance: Natya, Nrtya and Nrtta. The last (Nrtta) would again be subdivided into three other types:  visama (acrobatic), vikata (ludicrous) and laghu (light and graceful), identified respectively as rope-dancing, a comic dance, and a dance based on easy karanas.

Thus, it seems, while Nartana stood for the general class name; the other three were its sub-divisions.


As rgards the definition of these terms, Pundarika said he would be adopting those offered by Sarangadeva (11th century).

And, Saragngaseva had, in turn, followed the explanations given by the earlier writers like Somesvara, Dhananjaya and such others (perhaps from Nadikesvara too?)

According to those explanations, generally (although there were some slight variations among them):

Natya: refers to an art form that gives forth Rasa (ultimate aesthetic enjoyment) ; and, is based in Rasa – Natyam rasam-ashrayam (DR.I. 9). It gives expressions to the inner or true meaning of the lyrics through dance gestures – vakyartha-abhinayatmaka.

Nrtya: is a means of putting forth different aesthetic moods or bhava (bhavahetu or bhavashraya) or giving expression to individual words of the song through appropriate gestures and/or facial expressions  pada –artha-abhinayatmaka

Nrtta: are  display of smart looking (shobhahetu) limb movements,  in  tune with attractive and catchy Taala (rhythym) and Laya (tempo) – Nrttam Taala Laya ashrayam (DR.I. 9). But, in itself, it is devoid of meaningful content; and, is valued for its mere visual beauty of  body movements (gatrasya viksepaha).


Nandikeshvara (Abhinayadarpana. 1. 15-16) distinguished Nrtya from Nritta, thus:

Bhavabhinaya-hinam tu nrittamitya-abhidhyate | Rasabhava-vyanjana adi yuktam nrityam ity uchyate

And, Sarangadeva said that Nrtya and Nrtta can both be of two kinds –Tandava and Lasya (SR. 7. 28); and, while Tandava is uddhata (vigorous), the Lasya is of Lalita (delicate) movements (SR. 7. 29- 30).

But, Pundarika, in his Nartana-nirnaya, throughout, uses the terms Nrtta and Nrtya interchangeably, perhaps, because, both those dance forms involved, in some measure, the elements of abhinaya or interpretative movements.


But, the more significant theoretical aspect of Nartana-nirnaya is the adoption of the two sets of concepts to classify the dance forms.

Pundarika adopts Marga and Desi class  concepts into the Lakshana and Lakshya (theory and practice) of Dance, for classifying its  forms.  

And then, he introduces a novel feature (hitherto not tried by anyone else), which is the principles of Bhaddha (structured) and Anibhaddha (neither bound nor structured) for stratifying the dance forms into two separate classes.

(1) Pundarika carried forward the practice of the earlier scholar-writers who distinguished the dance forms along the lines of Marga and Desi. The term Marga (literally ‘of the way’ or ‘path’) refers to those arts that adhere to codified rules; while Desi is understood as the unregulated regional variations.   

The concepts of Marga and Desi were originally introduced into Music by Matanga in his Brhaddeshi (around seventh or eighth century) to distinguish the pure and well-structured Music (Marga) from the innovative regional melodies (Desi).

As regards the dance forms; by about the eleventh century, Somesvara adopted the Marga-Desi classification to categorize the then existing Dance forms. Later, around the same time, Sarangadeva, in his Sangitaratnakara, systematically presented the Marga and Desi forms as distinct styles of dance. 

Here, in these texts, the classical style, that is the one codified by Bharata in the Natyashastra; and, acknowledged by tradition   as the core of classical art was regarded as the Marga.  The Nrtya, for instance, was classified under Marga form of dance.

The regional and popular dance styles, with easy movements, that allowed more freedom free improvisation within the given framework were classified under Desi. Nrtta, for instance, was treated as a Desi form of dance.

Pundarika Vitthala, in his Nartana-nirnaya, also adopted the Marga-Desi classification to categorize the different dance forms. Nartana-nirnaya describes several entirely new dance forms that were popular at that time.

(2) Matanga had classified Music  into two classes – Nibhadda and Anibhadda – the one that is regulated and structured with Dhatus (elements) ; and , the other  that is not structured (un-bound).

According to Matanga’s classification:  Anibaddha Gita is free flowing music that is not restricted by Taala; it is also   free from disciplines of Chhandas (meter) and Matra (syllables); and, it does not also need the support of compositions woven with meaningful words (Pada or Sahitya). In fact, not one of these – neither Taala, nor Grammar, nor lyrics – has a role to play in the Anibaddha Samgita. Sarangadeva explains Anibaddha as Aalapa which is not bound or which lacks rules (bandha-hinatva) – Alapir bandha-hinatvad Anibaddham itirita (Sangitaratnakara: 4.5).

And the Nibaddha Gita, in comparison, is a rendering of a pre-composed structured musical composition that is governed by Chhandas and Taala; and has words (meaningful or otherwise); as also has a definite beginning and an end. In short; it is a composition (like Prabandha, Giti, and Kriti etc.)


Pundarika was the first scholar to apply the Nibaddha – Anibhaddha type of classification to Dance forms. That is to say; almost 1500 years after these terms came into use in music, Pundarika Vitthala’s work applied them to Dance forms in order to segregate well-structured dance forms from rather free flowing regional dances.

 While both parts followed certain rules of structure and of exposition, Anibaddha was comparatively loose in its construction since it was free of the regimen of Tala. Anibandha-nrttas are, thus ,  flexible in both form and content , within the broadly specified aesthetic frameworks .

Dr. Mandakranta Bose observes:

It would seem that the Anibandha nrttas were unlike any other dance pieces described in the literature before the Nartana-nirnaya.   The Anibandha-nrttas seemed to be short dance-sequences, using which a dancer could choreograph her own piece. Thus, they have the same function in the dancer’s choreographic design as the karanas of the Marga tradition. But, their structural principle is entirely different from that of karanas in that they are entirely flexible as to their components and structure while karanas are of course rigidly set structures.

Roughly, it would seem Bandha-nrttas denoted dances for which there already were prescribed rules; and, the Anibandha-nrttas denoted dances for which there were none or minimal.

In contrast, Bhaddha-nrtta was more rigorously constructed, bound as it was by the constraining patterns of Tala; and, was performed by dancers who were appropriately trained; and, who could interpret a composition perfectly, executing all the movements in detail and precisely as per the prescribed sequence.

Pundarika grouped under the Bandha-nrtta class those dances that were characterized by yati, tala, laya, sthana, carl and hasta etc. as prescribed in the Sastras. He enumerated twelve varieties; and, described in detail their specific movements, their structured sequences, including karanas (N2V.43a-45b)

All the other dance forms were drought under Anibandha dance form. In the Nartana- nirnaya, the Anibandha dances are described in two parts; the first consisting of twenty-one Anibandha urupas (denoting  a broad category of dance sequences formed with the karanas); and, the second consisting two Anibandha-nrtyas. Of the two Anibandha-nrtyas, one comes from Persia and the other is Raasa, which includes the form called Dandarasa (NN. 53a-b). Raasa is the only dance recorded by Pundarika which seems to have continued over centuries and is found even today in at least two regions of India, Gujarat and Manipur.

In the later times, many works on dancing followed the Nartana-nirnaya’ s approach to the categories of dance; and, that eventually became part of their conceptual framework.


Now, as regards the historical significance of Nartana-nirnaya; many scholars, after a deep study of the text, have observed that there is enough evidence to conclude that the text marks the origin of two major styles of India today, namely, Kathak and Odissi. Dr. Bose also concurs that such connection seems highly plausible. The text was part of the same cultural world of the Mughal court that nurtured Kathak.

 She points out that several technical terms used in Nartana-nirnaya match those used in Kathak today. And she goes on to say:

When we look closely at the technique of the dance described under the Anibandha category, we begin to see certain striking similarities with the technique of Kathak. One cannot say that the style described in the Nartana-nirnaya matches Kathak in every detail.  but one may certainly view that style as the precursor to Kathak; but the descriptions and the similarities in their techniques clearly show it to be the same as what we know today as Kathak.

The Nartana-nirnaya seems, thus, to be the proper textual source for Kathak. This claim becomes stronger still on examining points of technique, ….


As regards Odissi, Dr. Bose observes that the Bandha-nrtta as practiced in the Odissi style is very similar to the descriptions given in the Nartana-nirnaya.  And, the basic standing postures prescribed in the Odissi style: Chauka and Tribhangi  . (Chauka and Tribhangi are the two main basic stances in Odissi. Chahka is a stable-wide  stance, with weight of the body distributed equally on both the sides; and, the heels facing  the center. It is said to be a masculine posture.  Tribanghi, is a graceful feminine posture, with the body bent in three-ways) . These are comparable to vaisakha-sthana and Agra-tala-sanchara-pada of the Nartana-nirnaya.  Further, some acrobatic postures still in use are: danda-paksam, lalata-tilakam and nisumbhitam (the foot raised up to the level of forehead),  and several others are found both in Odissi and in Chau dance of Mayurbhanj region of OrissaFurther, there is in the Nartana-nirnaya, the description of a dance called Batu involving difficult poses; and it is very similar to the Batunrtta, a particularly difficult dance in the repertory of Odissi.

For more on Nartana- nirnaya and other texts on Dance forms ; as also  for the details of the few mentioned here , please do read  Dr. Mandakranta Bose’s research  paper ( The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition

[Ref: Pundarika Vittala by Dr. Padma Rajagopal; Musicological Literature by Emmie te Nijenhuis; Dr. Mandakranta Bose’s research  paper ( The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition]

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11 . Raga-vibodha of Somanatha

Raga-vibodha of Somanatha (1610 A.D) is an important text in many ways. It is also an interesting link between the Karnataka Sangita of the South and Hindustani Music of the North.

Pandit V. N. Bhatkhande in his ‘A Short Historical Survey of the Music of Upper India’ writing about Ragavibodha of Somanatha says:

The date of Raga Vibodha appears to be the 3rd Asbvin Shuddha, Shaka year 1531, i.e., A.D. 1610- as given by the author.

The work clearly shows that the author had himself come under the influence of the music of Northern India. He uses in the Raga Vibodha the svara—names of both the Southern and the Northern systems of music. It is; impossible to say whether he had obtained a copy of the Raga Tarangini because the only names of his predecessors he refers to in his book are Hanuma, Matanga and Kallinatha. His use of the svara names as Tivra, Tivratara and Tivratama; and the term ‘Thata’, as a synonym for “Mela,” will also show that he had come into contact with Northern music. Somnatha Pandit, unlike the writers of his time, makes use of the Svara names Mrudu-Sa, Mrudu-Ma, and Mrudu-Pa to denote the sounds of the third Shruti of each of the notes Sa, Ma and Pa.

Ahobala in his Parijata refers to these notes  and follows Somanatha. Their works may safely be cited as instances of the tendency of those times to establish! good musical relations between the North and the South.


Apart from discussing theories (Lakshana) of Music, the Raga Vibodha pays special attention to practical (Lakshya) aspects of music performance. It deals elaborately with the Gamakas and Alamkaras (graces and ornamentation) that adorn and enhance the beauty of music-presentation. Though his exposition is based on the vocal styles of Gamakas and Sthaya (a characteristic phase of a song) , Somanatha excels in offering varieties of  left and right-finger-techniques for  playing on stringed instruments (Veena) –Vadana bedha –  such as, deflections , slides  and others that help to explore the limits of the subtleties that the instrument is capable of.  Veena occupies an exalted position in Raga- vibohda.

Raga-vibodha of Somanatha closely follows the Svara-mela-kala-nidhi of Ramamtya. The author himself has written a detailed commentary (titled Viveka) on his work.

The Raga-vibodha is made of five Chapters.  The first chapter deals with Sruti and Svara-s; the second with Veena; the third with Mela; the fourth with Raga; and, the fifth with Raga-rupa (structure of the raga). There are 83 verses in the First chapter; 53 in the Second; 61 in the Third; 48 in the Fourth; and, 225 in the Fifth.

 Somanatha mentions that, in his work, he has adopted the Arya Chhandas (meter) throughout, as it is the only meter that  provides the facility to express short syllables  like Sa, Ri, Ga and Ma in quick succession.

 [For a complete text of Raga-vobodha of Somanatha along with his own commentary thereupon (Viveka) as edited and translated by Pandit M Subrahmanya Sastry (Adyar Library; 1945), please click here.

 Please also do read the scholarly explanations provided by Dr. C . Kunhan Raja in his elaborate introduction to Pandit Subrahmanya sastri‘s edition of Raga-vobodha. He covers a number of technical aspects such as Sruti-s- Svara-s; Shuddha Svara; Vikrta Svara-s; their respective positions; Murchana-s; varieties of Alamkara-s etc. He also discusses the differences in the treatment of these concepts by Sarangadeva and Somanatha .

Dr. Raja explains the concept of Alamkara ; and how different Svaras are indicated in the text through notations by placing a dot or a vertical line above :

Ragavibodha Alamkara , notations

Ragavibodha notations


While discussing the technical aspects of music and particularly Veena, Somanatha, in his commentary, offers lucid explanations and also quotes many previous authorities. He quotes mainly from Sarangadeva’s Sangita-ratnakara together with its commentary by Kallinatha. The other authorities, ‘sources’ mentioned by Somanatha include ancient Masters such as Kohala, Matanga, Hanuman and others.

 In the process, Somanatha presents the details of Art as it was practiced during his time, in comparison with what was in vogue in the earlier periods. Thus, Raga-vibodha, apart from its own merit, also serves as a valuable source-book on the history of Indian Music. Further, its Chapter Four would be of particular interest to those studying   the history of musical instruments in India.

The Raga-vibodha, a distinctive text, serves as a bridge between the music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and that of the present-day. Somanatha is, therefore, regarded by many as the most important and the most original of all the sixteenth and seventeenth century Musicologists.

Somanatha makes a very valid observation that the Shastra-s (texts on technical subjects) should present and explain the facts as they really are; and, should never twist the facts to suit it’s own views and pet opinions.

Shastranam laksha-anugruhaya pravrutvat yatra tayo viruddhah tatra shastrasya niryamitasyapi arthasya upa-lakshana-tvadina  prakarantarenaapi gatihi kartavya  I  Na tu lakshyam upekshyam I

Raga-vibodha deals with the Marga and the Desi streams of classical Indian Music. Following the earlier tradition, Somanatha describes Marga Music as that which was sought for (from the root Mrg, to search) by the gods; And, as the pristine Music that was practiced by Bharata and other sages  in the presence of Shiva . Marga, therefore, he says, is worthy of veneration.

 Margaha sa yo viricchadyoh   anvistau Bharatadi Shambhor-agre pratyukto-acharyah II 1.6 II

[Somanatha brings in the concepts of the Tantra School to explain how the sound is produced within the body-mind complex; and , is put out ( 1.10-13) : ‘ The urge to speak excites the mind; the mind strikes fire in the body ; this , in turn , sets in motion the air that resides in Brahma-granthi. This air raises up through the navel, the chest , the throat , the head and the mouth producing sound. It is only the sound which passes beyond the chest, the throat and the head that can be used for singing.

Raga Vibodha extract

About the organs of speech; and, the differences in the pitch of the sound: the twenty-two Naadi-s in the chest , produce twenty-two Sruti-s; each successive Sruti being higher in pitch than its preceding one. A similar arrangement exists in the head and the throat.

raga vibodha extract 2


Somanatha (1610 A.D – Ku-dahana-tithi-ganita-Sake 1531)) a musician scholar hailing from Andhra Desha, son of Mudgala Suri a versatile scholar in all arts (sakala kala) , was perhaps the earliest musician-scholars to introduce the system writing notation (Raga-sanchara) to music passages in a systematic manner. Some say that Raga-vibodha is perhaps the only example before the modern times of any Indian Music using Notations. That may not be entirely correct.

[Examples of early Indian Melody in Notation occur in the 7th century Kudumiyamalai Inscriptions, the Brihaddesi of Matanga, and Sarasvathi-hrdaya-alamkara-hara of Nanyadeva of 10-11th century. Nanyadeva the ruler of Tirhut in Nepal is cited as an authority by Sarangadeva . His text not only includes descriptions of several Ragas but also about 15 examples of compositions ( called Panikas, which are of lighter nature might have been used for dancing as also for singing in groups)  with notations  for vocal rendering. The Panikas belong to a genre of music forms called Gitakas or Prakaranas of varying rhythmic patterns ( as opposed to the modern compositions set to a particular Taala). These are no longer in use. Each rhythmic suit is identified by the number of  matras (time units) , by claps and gestures to measure the time of the beats.

The Notation used by Nanyadeva are simple pitch notations by numbering the Svaras (Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni). However no distinction is made between Shuddha Ga and Antara Ga; or between the standard Shuddha Ni and Kakili Ni. Some notations are indicated by placing dots as superscripts. In some cases it is not clear; as it appears the copyists might have got confused.

For more on Nanyadeva and notations on Panika songs please the remarkable study made by D.R .Widdess in his paper :Tāla and Melody in Early Indian Music: A Study of … – jstor]

Somanatha also scripted Dhyanas the pictorial or iconographical descriptions of certain Ragas. He also outlined the norms regarding the preferred time of performance, the special characters (Raga-lakshana) or the atmosphere in regard to some 27 Ragas. Somanatha improved upon the traditional themes associated with Ragas as in the Dhyanas of Sudhakalasha and Kumbha and of the later scholars Damodara, Shubhankara and Srikantha; and, he diversified Dhyanas by relating Ragas to deities, human characters, seasons etc.

It is sad; Raga-vibodha did not get the level attention it deserved from merited composers and musicians of Karnataka Sangita. Further, the system of musical notations that Somanatha introduced was not followed upon; and it is now almost completely lost. Similarly, the Dhyanas, the ancient system of aesthetics that characterized the Ragas, were totally by  passed in Karnataka Sangita, though some norms regarding the time of performance or the special character or atmosphere of some Raga still lingers on in the Hindustani Sangita.

Somanatha largely adopted  Ramamatya’s Mela system and his Veena techniques, as also the theoretical aspects of Music as in the works of Pundarika Vittala.  His Raga-vibodha, spread over five Chapters, also follows the general plan of Ramamatya’s Svara-mela-kalanidhi and Pundarika Vittala’s Ragamanjari.

The first Chapter of Raga Vibodha closely resembles the first Chapter of Pundarika Vittala’s Ragamanjari. It summarizes the ancient terminologies in the same order. Somanatha starts in Chapter Two a discussion on tuning of the Shuddha and Madhya-mela Veena, which resembled Hindustani Bin (Rudra Veena). This Chapter corresponds to Chapter 3 of Svara-mela-kalanidhi of Ramamatya.

In Chapter Three, Somanatha mentions eleven Persian modes, just as Pundarika Vittala did at the end of his Ragamanjari. The seven out of Somanatha’s eleven names for Persian Maqamat are mentioned: Irakha, Huseni, Musali, Vakhareja, Hijeja, Puska ( or Muska) and Saraparda.

The Chapter Three of Raga-vibodha again corresponds to Chapter Four of Svara-mela- kalanidhi; of Ramamatya; and, it deals with Melas. Here, Somanatha added five  more Melas  (Bhairava, Malhara, Kalyana, Suddha-vasanta and Hammira ) to the 20 listed by Ramamatya  and deleted two Melas  ( Hindola, and Hejujji ) to bring up the net number of Melas to 23. (In this list ,  Malava-gauda  is sometimes accepted in place of Bhairava).

Somanatha’s  arrangement of 23 Mela (scales) is based on the division of the Octave (Saptaka) of 17 notes, some of which bear two names. Therefore, the 22 (theoretical) names of the notes cover only 17 actual Srutis.

Out of these, thirteen Melas are identical with Ramamatya’s Melas; and, three (Shuddhavarati, Sriraga and Karnatagaula) are slightly different from their equivalents in Ramamatya’s system.

Out of the remaining Seven Melas, three (Todi, Hammira and Saranga) corresponds to the Melas of the same name which Pundarika Vittala describes in his Ragamanjari.  Of the other four, Somanatha’s Kalyana has its equivalent in Srikantha’s system. And, Somanatha’s Mallari, Bhairavi and Vasantha Melas are not found in any of the works of his predecessors.

In Chapter Four, which corresponds to Chapter Five of Somanatha’s Svara-mela-kalanidhi, describes the individual characteristics (Lakshanas) of the Ragas. Here, after giving the division of the Ragas according to the different standards, their structure in terms of Graha, Amsa and Nyasa are presented.

Somanatha in his Raga-vibodha mentions 51 Ragas, of which 29 are used in the Music of the present-day: 17 in Karnataka Music, 8 in Hindustani and 4 in both the systemsSome scholars surmise Somanatha’s Ragas mostly correspond to modern Hindustani Ragas; and, though the names of some his Ragas resemble those in Karnataka system it is likely they developed along different lines.

Chapter 5 which is the last Chapter is the most valuable part of Raga Vibodha. Following his processor Srikantha, Somanatha gives the pictorial descriptions (Dhyana) of the Ragas and specifies their appropriate times of performance.  But, in Somanatha’s opinion a mere abstract, aesthetic picture (Devamaya rupa = Divine form) of the Ragas would not suffice. He therefore presents their sound-pictures (Nadatmaka rupa) as well through musical notations.

Thus, Somanatha has presented most interesting music examples of the history of Indian Music.  In contrast to the ancient and almost forgotten music-examples of Jati and Gramas as in the older treatise, Somanatha’s music-pictures give an insight into contemporary music practices. The notations he provides indicate various musical ornaments (Gamakas) that were played on the Veena.

The notations

Somanatha’s work is unique because right from the older times Music compositions have come down to us through Oral traditions; and,   no composition could have had musical notations. And, where their lyrics (Sahitya) were written down, they were, sometimes, marked at the top with only the names of the Ragas and Taalas in which the song was set.  Even in the case of  the Music-texts (Lakshana granthas) that described various concepts and  theories and provided illustrations ,  they  merely discussed   the Lakshanas, Svaras, of the basic scale.

However, Somanatha’s music illustrations offer more details. They not only illustrate the scale (Mela) and the modal character (Lakshana) of the Ragas but also indicate the musical ornamentation (Gamaka) and special ways of playing Veena, the left and right hand techniques, by means of particular notation symbols or signs. Since no Taala is involved in these examples, Somanatha’s explanations virtually represent written guidelines outlining    Raga Alapana and other modes of elaborations i.e. a map for improvised explorations in freestyle.

Although Somanatha’s system of notations was not generally accepted and did not lead to a common system of Gamaka-notations, his explanations and his application of various types of ornamentation (Alamkara) to Veena playing (Vadana-bheda) are indeed highly interesting. Somanatha has described twenty Vadana-bhedas plus three other terms to indicate (1) specific registrar positions (Sthana) of the Svaras and (2) phrase endings. His Vadana-bheda techniques roughly fall into four categories: (1) fingering, (2) deflection, (3) slides and (4) others.

Gamakas and Notations


The Veena techniques (Vadana-bheda) expounded in Somanatha’s work generally follows the traditional pattern. Some of Somanatha’s terms referring to the techniques have equivalents in the ancient Gamakas mentioned in Matanga’s Brhaddeshi and Sarangadeva’s Sangita-ratnakara.

Matanga, in his Brhaddeshi, while discussing about Raga-giti , one of the seven charming song-forms, he mentions that Ragagitis should be rendered with varied delicate Gamakas (lalithau–Gamakau-vichitrau); and should be adorned with Svara pronunciations, lucid, powerful and even (300); and that the Vibhasha–giti should be sung blending in the Gamakas that are pleasant on the ears (Gamakau–srotra-sukhadai-lalithairasthu) and are also delicate , according to the will of the singer (yadrucchaya samyojya)   to the delight of the people (lokan-ranjathe)- (308).

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

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

Sarangadeva in Chapter three: Prakīrņaka-adhyāya of his Sangita-ratnakara treats Gamaka in greater detail. He lists fifteen types of Gamakas (Panchadasha Gamaka): the various kinds of shake or oscillations that Svaras can be endowed with.

Narada in Sangeeta Makaranda describes nineteen Gamakas; and, Haripala in Sangeet Sudhakar describes seven Gamakas.


Prof. Ranganayaki Veeraswamy Ayyangar, University of Pennsylvania , (who has studied, edited and translated the manuscripts, lithograph versions and printed versions of Raga-vibodha),   in her Gamaka and Vadanabheda: a study of Somanatha’s Ragav- ibodha in historical and practical context, mentions:

among the many music treatises that describe the Gamakas, Somanatha’s Raga-vibodha is the most important because it is the only text that has an entire chapter on ornaments. Somanatha has called these ornaments vadana-bheda; and, has created notational symbols for them after having described, in detail, their realizations on the contemporaneous fretted instrument, the Rudra Veena. Further, he has exemplified the vadana-bhedas by incorporating them in his extensive music examples. Somanatha has acknowledged that his vadana-bhedas were based on the Gamakas and Sthayas (components of a raga) encountered in the Sangita-ratnakara (13thc. A.D) and  other earlier texts.

Somanatha has described twenty vadana-bhedas plus three other terms to indicate specific registral positions of the scale degrees and (phrase endings. A study of the vadana-bheda techniques indicates that most of them fall roughly into four categories, namely, (1) fingering, (2) deflection, (3) slides and (4) others… An analysis of the distribution of the various types of the vadana-bhedas in the musical illustrations in Raga-vibodha indicates that there are in each of the first three categories, at least one type that is widely distributed either singly or in combination and some that occur rarely, again either singly or in combination. Further, it also indicates that some combinations are widely distributed, whereas some others are narrowly restricted….

It is important to reiterate that Somanatha was the first theorist, in the descriptive tradition, to attempt to describe in his Raga-vibodha, instrumental vadana-bhedas based on vocal Gamakas. He was also the first to describe, with adequate notation using these vadana-bhedas, actual music of his time through extensive music examples.


Somanatha while describing the Veena techniques employs terms that are equivalents to the Gamakas mentioned by Sarangadeva   (Spurita – Pratihati; Kampa-Kampita; Kurulu-Parata; Uchata- Ahati; Ahota- Ahuti; Ulhasita-ghasana; Plavita-Gamaka ).

Dr. Ramanathan the noted Musician-scholar explains Somanatha’s Pratihati as equivalent to the present day Spurita. Similarly Somanatha’s Vikarsa, Dolana, Gamaka and Kampana , he says, are comparable to four types of modern Kampita: (1) Vikarsa : single deflection of the string , pulling it away from Veena fret; (2) Dolana : deflection and release allowing the string to assume its original position; (3)  Gamaka: number of slow oscillations – prolonged Kampita; and (4)  Kampa: small number of fast oscillations .

Somanatha’s Garshana is equivalent to Hindustani Ghasit and Karnataka’s ekku or erra and downward (digu) slide (jaru). Pida, heavily stressed (pressure by left hand) is Khandimpu. And, Naimnya, a heavy pluck of the string, is periya-mittu.

Dr. E. Te Nijenhuis, in her the Ragas of Somanatha, observes that Somanatha was well conversant with both the Karnataka and Hindustani systems of Music. And, eight of the twenty-nine Ragas that he dealt with in his work, are exclusively Hindustani Ragas that are still current. She also mentions that the notation systems adopted by Somanatha are admittedly more precise than most of the others in vogue; and, definitions and signs for various types of ornamentation are indeed distinctive.

Dr. Ramanathan , however, observes: It is doubtful if the Notations of Somanatha were ever used by the practicing Musicians. That is perhaps because; the Musicians of India had not felt it necessary to develop an elaborate system of notations as in the West. Up to the present day in Indian Music a great freedom is left to the performing artist in the form of Raga improvisation. In the South it might be Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi; and in the North Aalap, Jor and Gath. Even in the pre composed forms of the South (Kriti, Varnam and Padam) and of North (Drupad, Khyal and Tumri) are always rendered with improvised and elaborate ornamentation and figurative variations adorned with Gamaka (grace notes), Sangathi or Tans ( melodic variations) , Svara vistara or Sargam (sol-fa) and improvised preludes (Alapana) .

And, even in modern times, the Notation system did not come into use until the end of 19th century when the first printed books on Music of South India appeared. But at that time there was no uniformity, with each composer or editor developing his own system.

[As regards the use of staff notations for recording the classical Indian Music, the noted scholar Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (in his introduction to Sir Ernest Clements’ work the Introduction to the Study of Indian Music; Published by Longmans, Green & Co., London – 1913), observed: the publication of Indian music in staff notation, without warning that the scale is other than that usually implied by that notation, tends to the destruction of the character of that music… It is far better that the method of oral transmission should be maintained. That is because, this is the true method of learning for an artist; because , every singer so taught must be in some degree a composer (he is taught, not merely to repeat a given song, but to sing in a given mode and mood); and because, it is so great an advantage for the true musician to need no external aid to memory, such as a printed score.

Indeed, I suppose that even if we succeed in recording the greater part of Indian music as it still survives, the music itself cannot persist as a part of everyday life unless it is thus handed on as a sacred tradition.]

The Dhyanas

As regards the Dhyanas, although the earlier musicologists like Damodara, Shunamkara and Srikantha had presented Dhyanas, their descriptions seemed to have bypassed the traditional themes associated with Ragas. They switched on to Nayaka-Nayaki dramatic situations, personifying the Rasas (aesthetic experiences) particularly of Srngara (erotic) Rasa.

Somanatha obviously considered Rasa personification an important aspect of pictorial Raga description since he himself refers to eight types Nayaka-Nayaki situations or eight different states (avastha)of  Nayika in Nayaka-Nayaki relationship. Somanatha relates Abhisarika Nayika (eager to meet her lover) with Raga Bahuli; Vasakasajja Nayika (dressed up for the meet) with Raga Bhupali; and Proshitabhartruka Nayika (proceeding to meet the lover) with Raga Dhanasri. Similarly, he relates Khandita Nayika ( angry with the lover) with Raga Lalitha ; and Abhisarika ,Vasakasajja and  Uktha Nayika  with the Ragas Saurasri. He relates Dakshina Nayaka with the Ragas Hindola;  and the Proshitabhartruka  Nayika  (sojourning with lover)  with Raga  Kamodi .

Some of Somanatha’s Dhyanas resemble the ancient iconographical Raga descriptions which relate to gods. The Dhyanas of Raga s Bhairava, Kedara and Shankarabharana, for instance, refer to Shiva; the Dhyanas Natanarayana to Vishnu; the Dhyanas of Hindola and Pavaka to Krishna; the Dhyanas of Mallari to Vishnu-Krishna; the Dhyanas of Ragas Adana, Paraja and Vibhangada to Kamadeva; and the Dhyana of Vasantha to god of spring Vasantha.

Besides, Somanatha presents some very vague descriptions which do not refer to any particular deity, human character or state of mind. For instance; in the Dhyanas of the Ragas Dhavala, Gauda , Gaudi, Hammira and Pauravi.

There is an interesting Dhyana which refers neither to a deity nor to a human character. It is the Raga Chaity which personifies the month of Chaitra. This perhaps was the forerunner of the Barahmasa poetry and paintings.

One of the illustrations provided  in Chapter Four of Raga-vibodha describes Raga Abhiri (equivalent to Abheri as it is known now) as a woman (Abhira) , dark in complexion , wearing a black dress adorned with a garland of fresh flowers around her neck, attractive ear ornaments. She has a soft and a tender voice; and, wears her hair in beautiful strands. Abira is idealized as a pretty looking Gopi of the Abhira tribe of Mathura region. She is an attractive looking dark complexioned tribal girl.  In the traditional Indian Music , dark complexion of the Ragini and her  dark clothes correspond to the predominant note (Amsa) Pa

As Emmie te Nijenhuis remarks: Apparently, the ancient Indian aesthetics had already fallen into disuse. The ancient Dhyanas which associates Svaras with particular deity deities, social class, animals, sentiments, colors etc – the system reflecting the ancient Indian mystical view of life – became rather irrelevant, when in the course of time, musicians changed the modal characteristics of Raga.

After Somanatha, the ancient system of aesthetics which was already on decline was completely forgotten in the South. Modern Hindustani Music however has preserved something of this ancient system. Its rules regarding the time of performance or the special character or atmosphere of some its Raga still remind us of the ancient Indian aesthetics.

[Ref: The Rāgas of Somanātha: Musical examples. Part 2 by Emmie te Nijenhuis; Musicological Literature by Emmie te Nijenhuis; DR. S Ramanathan on Raga-vobodha

For a complete text of Raga-vobodha of Somanatha along with his own commentary thereupon (Viveka) as edited  by Pandit M Subrahmanya Sastry (Adyar Library; 1945), please click here ]


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Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Music, Sangita


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