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Karnatic and Hindustani Classical (Vocal) music

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2008 September 9 [Tuesday]


Renowned violinist Sri.KunnakudiVaidyanathan passed away on Sept08 :-( RIP

Shankarabharanam is a 29 dhira Shankarabharanam Melakarta Ragam with the same name in Dikshitar's asampoorna melakarta system. Its a sampoorna ragam with panchama chakram and Madhyama Bhana (see niraval for the meaning). In Hindustani music, its called the 'Bilaval thaat', one of the major building blocks of Hindustani musical system. Apparently its Western classical equivalent is C Major with the notes Doh, Re, Mi, Fah, So, La, Ti set to this raga. Interesting !!

Considering the Arohanam and avarohanam ...

Aa: S R2 G3 M1 P D2 N3 S

Av: S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

By definition, the Melakarta Ragams are symmetric with respect to going up in octave or down and technically speaking the Arohanam and the Avarohanam are simply reversed in Melakarta Ragams, hence called "Sampoorna (complete)" ragam. This raga has tremendous scope for elaboration and is very popular and a particular favorite of all singers in the Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi segment of a concert and is suitable for singing in the evening... yeah, karnatic music has time-based ragas too :)

Shankar+abharanam=Shankarabharanam, meaning the ornaments of Lord Shiva, symbolically associating swaras as the seven ornaments. 

Shankarabharanam has the largest number of Janya ragams (the janya entry is still under construction) viz. :: Arabhi, Athana, Bangala, Begada, Behag, Bilahari, Durbar, Durvanki, Devagandhari, Garudadhwani, Gaudamalhar, Hamsadhwani, Hamsavinodhini, Janaranjani, Kadanakuthoohalam, Kanada, Kannada, Kedaram, Kuranji, Maahuri, Navaroj, Nagadhwani, Narayani, Narayanadesakshi, Nilambari, Phalamanjari, Purnachandrika, Purvagowla, Sahana, Sama, Saraswatimanohari, Sindumandari, Suddha Vasantham, Suddha Saveri, Vasantha.

Hmm... there is so much more but the entry is long as is so let me stop the technical details for now or i shall never finish. I did want to mention that it is possible to compose sahityam in different talams and Muthuswami Diskhitar has composed around 40 songs in Sankarabharanam known as Nottu Swara sahityam. I have been learning ShyamaShastri's "sarojadaLa nEtri himagiri putri" set to Adi tala and the niraval explanation will be specific to this song.

For more musical entries, read http://svaksha.com/category/ART/Music

2008 September 1 [Monday]


Its been long since i wrote an entry on music, most of them are still in the learning/search stage but this entry is special.

Dear P, i am deviating from the norm here and am dedicating this raga entry to you on your big day :-) That you used to enjoy each raga was the common factor for me and I shall miss the passion you brought to music class. Most of all I shall miss all the leg pulling, laughter, secret signs, giggles, masti and hooliganism we indulged in class. This raga, especially  the song TAndanAnA ahi - BrahmamOkate, will always remind me of our practice sessions for our performance last year [and your dance (sorry, I had to say it ;-))]. Keep smiling, be happy :-) vid


Bowli is a madhyama-varjaya janyam of 15th Melakarta raga;mAyamALava gowLa janya. The scale is :

Arohan: s r1 g3 p d1 S
Avarohan: S n3 d1 p g3 r1 s

Talam : Adi

Here is another link for talam that has a good explanation about the theoretical bits.

Note that the Arohanam of Bowli does not have the Nishadha (N) which is left out making it a nishaada-varjaya in the arohana scaling. The most famous song in this raga is  "TAndanAnA ahi - BrahmamOkate", a fast paced telugu kriti (song) by Annamacharya.

Other songs in the same raga are :

0] anantAya sarvAya - HB

0] dIna janAvana - T

0] melukOvayya - T

0] parama purusha nirupamAna (also shhanmugapriyA) - AC

0] shambhO mahAdEva

0] shrIman nArAyaNa

0] tappulanniyu - HB

0] yOginI gaNasEvitE - HB

2008 July 26 [Saturday]


Uthukadu Venkatasubbaiyer was born in 1700 in the village "uthukadu" in Kerala, which was prefixed to his name "venkatasubbaiyer". His compositions were mainly on SriKrishna, his ishta devata but he did not incorporate any mudra or signature in his songs.

He did compose kritis on Ganesha (sri vignarajam bhaje | todi | sanskrit) and also a set of navavarna krithis. Composed in raga Kanada - 22 kharaharapriya janya, the sublime "Alaipayuthe" is set to Adi Talam in Tamil.

2008 July 25 [Friday]


The last I blogged about music was two months ago, around the time I had stopped attending class. Having resumed class few days ago, let me start out with the raga we had performed on stage : GambhiraNattai raga, a classic belonging to the 36 mela janyam with Arohan : S G3 M1 P N3 S and Avarohan : S N3 P M1 G3 S

SRI_VIGNARAJAM_BHAJE in KhandaChapu by SriUthukadu Venkatasubbaiyer in Sanskrit was the song but minus the jatis, which is partly due to lack of time and largely due to lack of listener interest. Our teacher keeps urging us to practice jatis on our own but half the time all we indulge in masti.

Music is one unspoken language and  does not need words, a glance, a half smile, raised eyebrow, change in pitch with the right nuance can convey a lot resulting in a burst of laughter. Here is a second song, a tillana "kALinga nartanam" (lyrics link) in the same raga "gambheera nattai" composed by SriUthukadu Venkatasubbaiyer in Sanskrit which is being performed by Sri. Aruna Sairam at the december festival.

2008 May 13 [Tuesday]


Raga: Yamunakalyani [65 mecha-kalyani janya] is a modern version of Yaman Kalyan of the Hindustani idiom. SubbaramaDikshitar classifies the raga as bhashanga and desiya.

The arohana/avarohana is given by:

A: S R2 G3 P M2 P D2 S

Av: S D2 P M2 P G3 R2 S

It is a sampoorna raga and the shuddha madhyama (M2) appears in vakra prayogas in the avarohana such as "g M r" and "g M g r s" but is often rendered in madhyama sruti.

[1] BHAVAYAMI_GOPALA_BALAM | khanda chapu | Annamacharya | Telugu |

[2] KrishnaNee BeganeBaro | khanda-chapu | Vyasaraya tirtha | Kannada (There is also a Tamil version which is what I learnt from my g'ma).

In his treatise, "Raganidhi", Subba Rao notes that there are two versions of this raga and the second does not employ the shuddha madhyama. It skips the nishada and the arohana/avarohana is "s r g p m p d s" - "s d p m s g r s".

There are many sanchari geethams and jathi swarams (the basics) in Kalyani raga.


When I started maintaining a series of notes (and I need to stop using paper) on the ragams learnt, i tried reading up on that particular composer and the composition in an effort to understand them better. Now i realise that this is not a small project and cross-checking books and online resources takes a helluva lotta time. Each composer deserves their own page instead of a scribbled one-liner amongst other notes, and there being just a handful of composers, this may not be a long series !

ANNAMACHARYA :: - He was the first to structure lyrics in the pallavi and charanam mode, of which 14,000 lyrics are available out of his staggering 32,000 compositions! He used the mudra (signature) "Venkateswara" with slight contextual variations but many were "Anonymous" with no signature. In 1922 the Tirupati Devasthanam authorities stumbled upon the copper plates on which the songs had been engraved by Annamacharya's grandson Chinna Tirumalacharya.

Annamacharya's lilting poetry also encompassed folk compositions but the most famous ones include “Muddu gaaru yashoda", "Ksheerabdi kanyakadu" and “Bhavayami Gopala Balam", which we performed earlier (twice to be precise), with its sonorous lines like “Ghati ghatita mekala Kachita mani ghantika...” and "Ksheerabdi" - which has a lilting melody and is best heard when you are lying on a swing .... guaranteed to send your brain into "relax" mode.

A king called Saluva Narasimha Raya, had demanded that Annamacharya compose similar erotic poetry glorifying him but the poet declined, saying his poetry and music were dedicated to the Almighty alone, for which he was imprisoned by the King. One cant blame the King as after listening to "Muddugaru" and "Ksheerabdi" you will never know that both belong to the same - kuranji raga composition. His compositions blend devotion with erotic love and include subtle Vedic, Tantric and scriptural references, whilst the initiated can decipher the mantras and astrology embedded in the compositions.

2008 May 8 [Thursday]


Kuranji raga is derived from the 29th melakarta Shankarabharanam. It is a sampoorna raga with vakra sancharas (needs a separate post) in the arohana and avarohana.

A: s r g m g m p d n s
Av: s n p n d d p m g r s
The notes taken by the raga besides Shadjam and Pancham are :: R2-Chatusruti rishabham, G2-Antara gandharam, M1-shudha madyamam, D2-Chatusruti daivatam and N2-kaishiki Nishadham. Jiva and nyasa swaras are G, P, N. The phrase "snNS" has N as tevra swara and the upanga raga has all the notes rendered with gamaka.

Since the svara sanchara is limited, it is sung in madhyama (slow tempo) shruti in vilambit laya to enhance feelings of compassion. Kuranji is actually a Tamil folk tune adopted into Karnatic music.

[1] Kshirabdi Kanyakaku | KhandaChapu (29MelaJanyam) | Annamacharya | Telugu |


ksheerAbdi kanyakaku Sree mahA lakshmikini
neerajAlayakunu neerAjanam

caraNam 1

jalajAkshi mOmunaku jakkuva kucambulaku
nelakonna kappurapu neerAjanam
aLivENi turumunaku, hasta kamalambulaku
niluvu mANikyamula neerAjanam

caraNam 2

pagaTu Sree vENkaTESu paTTapu rANIyai
negaDu sati kaLalakunu neerAjanam
jagati alamElu manga tsakkadanamula kella
niguDu nija SObhanapu neerAjanam

caraNam 3

charana kisalayamulaku sakhiyarambhorulaku
niratamagu muttela neerajanam
aridi jaghanambunaku ativa nijanabhiki
nirati nanavarna neerajanam

[2] Muddugare Yashoda | Adi | Annamacharya | Telugu |

29 shankaraabharaNam janya
Aa: S N3 S R2 G3 M1 P D2
Av: D2 P M1 G3 R2 S N3 S

Composer: Annamaacaarya


MuddugAre YasodA mungiti muthyamuvidu
DidderAni mahimala Devaki suthudu

caraNam 1

Anthanintha gollethala arachethi mAnikyamu
PanthamAdey Kamsuni pAli vajramu
KAnthula moodu lokAla Garudapachapoosa
Chenthala mAlonunna Chinni Krishnudu

caraNam 2

ratikeli rukminiki rangumovi pagadamu
mithi gOvardhanapu Gomedikamu
sathamye SankhachakrAla sandula vaidooryamu
gathiyai mammu gAche KamalAkshudu

caraNam 3

kAlinguni talapye gappina pushyarAgamu
yelleti Sri VenkatAdri Indraneelamu
pAlajalanidhilona bAyani Divya ratnamu
bAluneevale dhrigi PadmanAbhudu

For more musical entries, read: http://svaksha.com/category/ART/Music

2008 May 5 [Monday]


Chakravakam is a melancholy 16th Melakarta sampoorna raga and its corresponding Hindustani raga is Aahir Bhairav. The Arohan: S R1 G3 M1 P D2 N2 S , has vakra svarams and Avarohan: S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R1 S, which manage to evoke bhakti bhava in the listener. If the notes N2 and M1 are sung as S (Shadjam), a shruti bhedam occurs resulting in Dharmavati and Sarasangi ragam, respectively.

A number of bhajans are composed in this ragam and listening to either Aruna Sairam or Pandit Bhimsen Joshi render the popular abhang "Teertha Vittala, Kshetra Vittala", is very soothing and relaxing. 

Sri.SwatiThirunal had composed "Saroja Nabhada" in Sanskrit which is set to Adi Talam.  Kailasanadam, composed by Sri MuthuSwami Dikshitar in Sanskrit language was set to rupaka talam and referred to as raga Vegavahini. He also composed Gajanana Yutam in Sanskrit, set to Adi talam and Vinayaka Vignanashaka, also in Sanskrit, set to Rupaka talam.

Sri. ArunaGiri Nathar composed Apakara NindaiPat, a  Tamil Thirupugzal (Thirupugzal, composed in Tamil are hymns in praise of Lord Muruga) which was set to Chatusra Jati Jhumpa Tala (4+3).

For more musical entries, read: http://svaksha.com/category/ART/Music

2008 May 3 [Saturday]


Why not kick off the raga series with todi as the first raga !

In the Karnatic system, 'Todi' ragam is commonly referred to as "HanumantaTodi" and is placed as the 8th in the melakarta system and being an ancient raga it was called Janatodi.

Todi is a sampoorna raga, i.e. a raga with all 7 notes and perfectly symmetrical tetra-chords as swaras. It has S-shudha, R1-Rishabham, G2-sadharana gandharam, M1-shudha madhyamam, P-Panchamam, D1-shudha dhaivatam, N2-kaishiki nishadham and S.

The poorvanga (S to P) and uttaranga (P to S) are very balanced. The jeeva swaras of Todi are GMDN. Their usage in prayogas during raga aalapana of Todi brings out the beauty of this raga. Nyasa swaras are GMPDN. One can weave different patterns of notes centred around these notes, but some prayogas without panchama (P) sound very beautiful.

Todi lends itself beautifully for slow medium-paced kritis, varnams, tillanas, viruttham etc. For example, tAyE yashOdA undan | Adi | UttukkADu venkatasubbaiyer, from the movie Morning Raga. The swara kalpana's and the ragam-taanam-pallavi coupled as fusion music was simply fantastic and Era napai | Adi | Patnam Subramanya Iyer, is another varnam aptly suitable for ragam-taanam-pallavi, where all swaras should be handled softly and each note is suitable for Gamaka prayoga or oscillation.

This page has a composite list of all the Karnatic todi ragam songs. Looking at the "peculiar compositions" by Ramaswami Dikshitar (svarastAna pada varNam) and "Ma manini" Dr.MB.Krishna (which i remember partly, egad :-S), you will find them constructed without words. The whole song consisting of pallavi, anupallavi and charanam is composed with only the 7 swaras... WOW!!

Practically speaking, each of these songs in Todi, sounds different at first. The difference is not because of the lyrics, which albeit different, but look at the swara sthanas (hint: arohanam and avarohanam) which differ. Shruti-bhedam i.e. while singing alap, using tharasthayi R as S, makes Todi sound like Kalyani, but since it interferes with bhava (emotional flow of the raga) which should not be done extensively.

The composers have the liberty of starting off anywhere but are still bound within the raga metrics and that is their playground for creativity. Ofcourse each composition can have a different talas (beats) and no two songs of the same raga will sound alike, else your credibility as a composer is zilch. Duh, imagine the precarious position of the hindi film music composers(?), who are renowned for -copying- err.. being inspired .. *cough*.... by other peoples tunes frequently.

Now you must be wondering how a listener will know who is the composer of a particular song in say raga: Todi.

Simple.... Every composer had a signature embedded in the song he/she wrote, akin to the "comments" that programmers include in their programs. Some composers used a pseudonym/pen name and some their real names but they always inserted their names in the charanam (last stanza) of the song, never earlier. Humility matters :).

Legend has it that some not-so-famous students of famous composers in order to give credibility to their compositions used to pen them in their "famous composer teachers" names and bask in their shadowed glory. I am not sure how true this is and dont particularly care. Its more fun to enjoy the music!!

In Hindustani music there are quite a few ragas with the suffix Todi but sounds very different from the Karnatic HanumantaTodi. Example : The Hindustani Gurjari Todi, Mian ki Todi, Multani Todi etc., do not resemble the Carnatic Todi. This is true for many ragas which only share a common raga name.

There are many compositions in HanumantaTodi. Every southern Vaggeyakara has composed in Todi. SriThyagaraja has composed around 30 kritis and the speciality is that each one highlights a different nuance of the ragam.

1] The kriti 'Dasarathe' starts in mantra sthayee "D" and emphasizes the prayoga of gamaka-laden "D".
2] The kriti 'Dasukovalena' centres round Madhya sthayee "D".
3] The kriti 'Koluvamaregada' starts at Taara sthayee "S" and comes down the avarohana slowly. Shyama Sastri has done a slow vilambit kala kriti with Swarajati Raave, thereby bringing out the slow beauty of this raga.

TO-DO in Todi, including the derivative janya ragas are :

1] Venugana ramana | Mishra Chapu.
2] Dasuko | Misra Jhampa | Thyagaraja.
3] Koluvamaregada | Adi | Thyagaraja.
4] Rajuvedala (Srirangam Pancharatna) | Rupakam | Thyagaraja |
5] Sri Krishnam Bhaja (on Guruvayurapan) | Adi | Dikshitar |
6] Ninne Nammi | Misra Chapu | Shyama Sastri |
7] Raave (Swarajati) | Adi | Shyama Sastri |
8] Sarasija nabhada | Misra Chapu | Swati Tirunal |
9] Thamatham en | Adi | Papanasam Sivan |
10] Tanigai Valar-Khanda Chapu- Papanasam Sivan |
11] Kartikeya- Aadi- Papanasam Sivan |
12] Anjananandam | Adi |
13] Annaiyargal vanam nadi vandar | Adi |
14] Dasharathe dayanidhe | Adi
15] En inge vandu | Adi
16] Jatadhara shankara devedeva | Adi
17] Rasa loka vaibhoga | Adi
18] Tale sharanam amma | Adi
19] Tannam taniyaha senrale | Mishra Chapu
20] Urugada manam enna manamo | Adi
21] Vandavarai varum enrazhaittu mani polum | Adi

Janya (derivative) raga :

1] Bhuvana moha saundara sukumara | Dhanyasi | Adi
2] Nada nada nada krishna | Dhanyasi | Adi
3] Padmini vallabha dehi pradehi | Dhanyasi | Adi
4] Natajana kalpavalli | Punnagavarali | Adi
5] Nila vanam tanil oli vishum niraimadiyo | Punnagavarali | Adi
6] Na dhru dhim tadana tomtana (tillana) | Sindhubhairavi | Adi
7] Shen shiva jatadhara shambho | Sindhubhairavi | Adi

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