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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 19 [Monday]

Carnatic music, Chess, and Chocolate

Summer in India's Silicon Valley was enjoyed this weekend playing chess by candle-light munching on chocolate, interspersed with carnatic renditions learnt this weekend...thanks to Bescom/KEB.

My obsession with music over the last few weeks is the classic case of when you dont have something (in this case my voice thanks to a nasty cold for 2 weeks) and sitting in class whilst hearing others prepare for the May exams, while being unable to even croak is not much fun. Here is an analysis of the situation as i see it :

0] syllabi :

While our guruji has been (literally) rushing with syllabi, since there is very less time to complete the portion ~ ugh, how i hate that word "portion" and the crappy marks-oriented attitude parents bring and push their wards into ~which kills all the fun. Learning art should be a pleasure, not a competition to score more marks. *sigh*

Well, we have a syllabi of *just* around 50 ragas to be concluded within the next 11 months. *BIGGER sigh*. I have started the process of tracking and listing all the ones I have learnt over the years, but the worrisome part is not how much you know but how well you know... the classic, quality vs quantity.

[1] voice health:This is the most important aspect that i have been very careless about. Need to follow some of the tips from the doctors, especially voice rest. If the last few days condition were any indication i am in big trouble. Besides these restrictions, of which only #1 is a -wee bit of a- real challenge.

To recap, i have to say NO to :

~ imli, lime, juices, in short anything sour,
~ caffeine or lemon tea (warm milky tea is ok)
~ spicy or hot foods,
~ fried foods,
~ cold foods - kulfis, icecreams, cold coffee,
~ anything that can irritate the larynx.
which I know I am not gonna follow... bleh :-P

[2] examination :
Now, assuming i have 300 days to learn all 50 ragams, which gives me 6 days per raga for learning neravals, swara kalpanas, ... Gosh, what an impossible target... At the outset its tough to keep perfect health (no cold, cough, sick, etc...) for a whole year and life has a way of throwing a spanner in the wheel. Secondly, learning the theory part is fine (four 3hr papers over a week), but the execution matters the most because the practical examination is the toughest. The practical is by appointments with just 3 or 4 students per day so the panel of judges has hours at his/her disposal to grill students for all they are worth...and GRILL they do, to the point of being sadistic.

The usual method (I am told) is : Given a raga, do aalap, which can (and will) be cut short by one of the five panelists who will ask you to start a swara kalpana from the charanam of the raga and weave it into the next raga, cite similarities and demonstrate them with neravals, only for another panelist to verbalize few swaras and ask you to turn it into a bhashanga raga or something equally impossible. Sigh, i am so not looking forward to that and tbh, why do i need to go through the hassle when i dont need the formal certification, dont intend turning into a professional performing artiste, and certainly can do without the above rigorous torture regime.

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

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