On the way to work this morning,  I was listening to a show on raaga kalyAni on Stanford Radio at 90.1FM (www.itsdiff.com)  presented by Sri Ragavan Manian, an eminent musician of SFO bay area.

Kalyani, or yaman if you are from north of river Krishna, is a very captivating rAga indeed. I have rambled on it this rAga earlier, here and here. Today, it is the chance to write a bit more!

What if I were to be stranded in an island, and had only one rAga to listen to? Which rAga would I pick? Of course, kalyAni. Actually that reminds me of a comment made by one of the callers in the radio program this morning - “How can anyone in the right frame of mind NOT like kalyANi?” ;-) ?

Texual traditions place Kalyani to be an import from the music of the Middle-Eastern music. The word ‘yaman’ comes from ‘eman’ or ‘iman’ in Persian – which means “blessed”. When this rAga was adopted to Indian music, the name was indianized with the same meaning as ‘kalyaNa’, or ‘kalyANi’. This import should have happened sometime around 1400 AD (or before), since we have the name of the rAga mentioned in a composition of SripadarAya (1402 AD-1500AD).

Sometime back, the blog avadhi asked it’s readers to name their Top Ten kannada books. My list was published there too. Today’s  show on rAga kalyAni made me list my top ten favourite compositions, set in kalyAni rAga. 

Disclaimer: This order is not set in stone, and I will just say that it is today’s list; if I were to set to do the list another day I might come up with a slightly different order  :) :) :)

For those interested, I am pointing to some of my favourite audio links as well.

1. nidhi chAlA sukhamA :

One of the Kalyani gems composed by Tyagaraja. It was supposedly composed in response to the invitation of Serfoji (king of Tanjavoor) to Tyagaraja to become a court musician. He asks “Does wealth give you bliss, or  being close to Rama give you bliss”? You can listen to it here  sung by S Sowmya.

2. EtAvunnarA:  

Another grand kriti of Tyagaraja in kalyAni. Listen it here  on the Veena, by Eemani Shankara Shastry.

3.  sundari nI divya rUpamunu:

Yet another wonderful kriti of Tyagaraja in Kalyani. Tyagaraja visited Chennaipattanam (now Chennai) to visit one of his deciples. There he visited the temple at Tiruvottriyoor, on the northern outskirts of current day Chennai, and composed five compositions on the goddess Tripurasundari. These are termed as the “Tiruvottriyoor Pancharatna kritis”. This composition is one of those five. Listen to it  sung by Dr M Balamuralikrishna , unquestionably my personal favourite.

4. nija dAsa varada:

No wonder the first three were compositions of Tyagaraja. He has composed more than 30  songs in this rAga. And for the same reason, it seems Patnam Subramaniyam Iyer, who comes in the lineage of Tyagaraja did not compose anything in Kalyani for a long time because he felt that Tyagaraja had almost exhausted all the possibilities in kalyAni rAga. But finally he came up with a his own grand composition, to match those of the saint,  set slightly differently to showing his individuality. Listen to it on the nAdaswara by Namagiripettai Krishnan.

5. SringapurAdhIswari shAradE:

A very nice composition of Krishnamachar, popularly known as Padmacharan. Till recently I did not know this kriti – but once I listened to this the rasika forum (www.rasikas.org) (sung by M N Sriram, a fellow rasika on the forum) sometime back, this has  become one of my favourites!

6. nannu brOvamani cheppavE : 

I love the folksy touch given to this composition of Annamayya.   Listen to this song here sung by Dr BMK  . 

7. kamalAmbAm bhajarE :

Here comes the composition of Muttuswami Dikshitar (MD). This majestic composition is one of the Kamalamba Navavarana kritis. Listen to this played  by U Srinivas on the mandolin

8. bhaja rE chitta:

Another kriti of MD. Listen to this here  sung by Sanjay Subramanian

9. himAdri sutE pAhimAm :

A composition of Shyama Shastri. One of the few compositions that has two different set of words - one in Samskrita and one in Telugu (birAna varAlicchi brOvumu) . Here is the samskrita version from a kannada movie, Hamsageethe, by Dr BMK

10. shivE pAhimAm ambike :

While I could not locate the audio for this kriti, I wanted to list it here because this was the first Kalyani kriti I became aware of! This is a kriti of Tyagaraja, on Dharmasamvardhini, the diety of Tiruvayyaru, the hometown of Tyagaraja.

I wish I could add more compositions, but ‘Top Ten’s are supposed to be what they mean – Right? So even though I don’t want to add these to the list, I will just mention few other must listens  in this rAga -  kAru vElpu of Tyagaraja, abhayAmbA jagadambA of MD, kELano hari tALano or Purandara dAsa sung beautifully by BMK  for a kannada movie - gAnayOgi rAmanna ( Listen to it here)  and the ThAya mAlika tillAna composed by Dr MBK come to mind immediately. The last one definitely merits a post on it’s own. May be some other day!

-neelanjana

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