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2009 November 9 [Monday]


Revati can be:: the name of a person ; the wife of Balarama (elder brother of Krishna) ; or a Pisces nakshatra/lunar star ; but for me its Revati ragam in Karnatic music, which is the second ratnangi janya (argh, that is YAB entry sitting as a "draft" since months).

Tala: Adi | Composer: Dayananda Saraswati | Language: Sanskrit.

Arohanam : S R1 M1 P N2 S  || Avarohan  : S N2 P M1 R1 S

where, R1==shuddha rishabham, M1==shuddha madhyamam, and N2==kaishiki nishadham.

Pallavi: bho shambho shiva shambho svayambho
Anupallavi: gangadhara shankara karunakara mamava bhavasagara taraka
: nirguna parabrahma svarupa gamagama bhuta prapanca rahita | nija guhanihita nitanta ananta ananda atishaya akshayalinga ||
Charanam2: dhimita dhimita dhimi dhimikita kitatom tom | tom tarikita tarikitakita tom | matanga munivara vandita isha | sarva digambara veshtitha vesha | Isha sabhesha sarvesha||

So what is it about some ragas that have an attractive quality to them? Apparently listening (and performing?) this raga always evokes deep emotions and feelings. Hmm.... I've heard the same of raga Bhairavi but BHO SHAMBHO in Revati has a very important place for me. I had learnt this raga all by myself more than a decade ago...gee, i wonder how annoyed folks around me would been as i insisted on ghissa'oing the tape 24/7. Nothing else, just one raga months on end and a few months later when I heard CB render it with a plastic bucket as his modified tabla....absolutely mesmerising!! I had to ask him for a jam session and he helped me iron out my rough edges -- He had demoed some swara bhedams and I had no clue that I was making those errors in my niravals. See, now that is the difference between DIY effort and a propah guru to guide ya. Some years later, when I formally learnt it again from a guru, I was able to appreciate the raga more deeply.

Lastly a word on the composer, Dayananda Saraswati. He is the founder of Arya Samaj whose writings, rather commentary on the Vedic/Upanishad texts is very interesting. It has a lot of similarities to Gaudapada's karika on the Mandukya upanishad which inspired the sunyata nyaya. Yet another check in my pending ToReadList.

2009 March 1 [Sunday]


"Bhairavi" is another name for the goddess Shakti and is one of the forms of Kali. In Sanskrit, Bhairavi means "fierce" and frankly I've been trying hard to find those elements in the Bhairavi raga :) 

  • arohaṇa: S R2 G2 M1 P D2 N2 S

  • avarohaṇa: S N2 D1 P M1 G2 R2 S

The notes used are chathusruthi rishabham, sadharana gandharam, shuddha madhyamam, chathusruthi dhaivatham & shuddha dhaivatham and kakali nishadham. Notice that the two daivathams are used in the Arohana : chathusruthi (D2) and Avarohana uses the shuddha (D1) daivatham.

Considered to be an ancient raga its 15 centuries old and a hot favourite with all performers and teachers too. Heh, my teacher started out with this after my break and I desperately try to search for the fierce emotions whilst listening/performing this raga. Since summer has already started I do get hot under the collar but daresay that we cause more heat for others than anything else.

Older composers have numerous compositions in this raga which is a janya of the 20th Melakarta of Nataibhairavi. Surprisingly this fierce raga is well loved and widely used in both Hindustani and Karnatic padhattis and the Hindustani Bhairavi is, as usual, vastly different from the Karnatic Bhairavi, where the latter is a Sampoorna raga (scale of 7 notes) with two different dhaivatham's in its scale. That pushes it out of the Melakarta ragam classification, which is another blog entry sitting in the drafts folder ....sheesh !!

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 2 [Friday]


I had always wanted to record the kritis we had performed earlier on the basis of the ragam, rather than bifurcate it on the basis of the name of the song, composer or even language. That didnt seem very educative since the examinations are structured along those lines and its important to get the theory part correct. *sigh* now the word "theory" != "by rote".

Unless I understand the difference between a N2 and N3 and am able to distinguish that swara in the construction of the swara kalpana, i cant get the raga right, and therein lies the challenge. Classifying songs according to the raga is much more simpler and easier to understand since many songs can share the same raga and yet sound so different. Some brilliant composers literally play around with this aspect, including the language and speed. Teachers dont have the time to teach every song ever composed on a particular raaga, or they may not even know that many songs. So its upto the student to learn various styles, get a good grasp and try to extend their repetoire.

|| What is a RAGA? ||

A raga consists of 7 swarams and the sapta-swarams are :- SA - Shadjam
RI - Rishabham
GA - Gandharam
MA - Madhyamam
PA - Panchamam
DA - Daivatam
NI - Nishadham

Of these swarams, S and P are constant but R, G, D, and N have three variations.

R could be Shudha (R1), Chatusruthi (R2), or Shatsruthi (R3) Rishabham.
G could be Shudha (G1), Sadharna (G2) or Anthara (G3) Gandharam.
D could be Shudha (D1), Chatusruthi (D2)or Shatsruthi (D3) Daivatam.
N could be Shudha (N1), Kaishiki (N2), or Kakali (N3) Nishadham.
Any ragam that contains all seven swarams is called a Melakartha Ragam. The 72 Melakarta ragams are all sampoorna ragas which means they have all the 7 swaras in the arohanam and avarohanam. Ragams with less than seven swarams are derived ragas from one of the parent melakarta ragams. Here is a nice chart for calculating the Melakarta ragam.

Janya meaning "derived from" is a set of Janya Ragams derived from the 72 melakarta (sampoorna basic) ragams.

2007 December 15 [Saturday]


We did it...... after an anxious[0] morning and months of practice (...ok just 8 weeks), our ragitty troup managed to pull of an evening of karnatic musical performance. There was the usual excitement, anxiety (for the teacher), tears[1]. The juniors (kids really) started off before us and we observed that both instrumentalists (who were superb) hardly played as some kids were not able to keep the swara (tune). Thankfully by the time we started, the accompanists caught on very quickly and our hour long performance stretched out to a whole 90 min... and this without any tani avartanams (solo performances by instrumentalists). The major credit goes to our guruji's as they took a lot of trouble... no two students are the same, each of us has an individual way of learning, and yet they were able to acomodate us all with our individual uniqueness. In the past i had a teacher who took 4 months to teach one raaga, and needless to say i was not her student for long. Teaching is definitely an art ! Our team had girls with almost 10-20 years age difference between them and yet we sync'd well. Rather we were making such a ruckus backstage that the accompanists glared at us often, sometimes used the instrument to talk to us ...very interesting ;-)
Besides swara, in a duet or group, what is it that makes the team tick ? To me the most important thing is synchrony. Just as in a team, one person may have a strong voice, other shrill, yet another may have good gamakas, ..... so how do we keep all this in mind while performing as a team ?

SALT ...
Synchronise yourself to your team (members),
Adjust your voice/tone/pitch,
Learn to Listen ... i cant stress this enough and we all know how difficult that is in any situation ;-)
Train yourself to "Observe" the big picture (== the overall team output) and not just yourself.

[0] Most classical performances are impromptu, so no rehearsals with the accompanists (violin, mridangam, etc..]. The only time we will meet is on stage, for a live performance.
[1] A song was supposed to start on the 8th pitch, she could not and was upset when the audience spoke about it. Unlike western classical music, Indian classical/Karnatic music does not have written scale / musical notations .

2005 October 5 [Wednesday]

Debian has a Sanskrit locale

Finally the long nights of poring through the finer details of grammar for the SA (sanskrit) locale has paid off -- A bug report has been filed in debian to be included belocs-locales-data and package : locales (version: 2.3.5-6). It may take awhile to be included in the distro and flow into Ubuntu but I feel great just having done this. Thanks, Christian!

2005 October 2 [Sunday]

Sanskrit locale sponsored into Debian

Just finished a last minute correction on the SA (Sanskrit) locale. Too many long nights this past week reading about Unicode and Devanagari support, keymaps and key-bindings, on Linux. And as I write this, its past 2 am yet again.... Volunteering can cause insomnia and sleep deprivation.

UPDATE: My Sanskrit (SA) language locale package was sponsored into Debian by Christian Perrier on 03-Oct-2005, available as a Debian package “belocs-locales-data” and in package “locales (version: 2.3.5-6)”. It feels great to see my first technical contribution to Debian become a part of the larger FOSS ecosystem.

2005 September 25 [Sunday]

Sanskrit locale

Recently, I started working on the Sanskrit (SA) locale with Christian bubulle Perrier for Debian. I'm told it is a long process to get the locale package approved, but I have to write the locale first -- for this I have to also learn how revision control systems work, how and why the system needs a locale, UTF-8 and Unicode, and so much more. Hopefully, I will finish it soon and the next Debian release will include the Sanskrit locale that I am writing now.