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Today is the tenth, and the last day of Navaratri – Vijaya Dashami. As per the Ramayana, this is the day when Rama defeated Ravana, and as per the Mahabharata, this is the day, on which Pandava’s ended their incognito. This is also the day on which Goddess Chamundeshwari slaying demon Mahisha.
Goddess Chamundeshwari, atop the Chamundi Hill at Mysore was the royal deity when the Odeyars ruled Mysore. The Odeyars of Mysore started the Dasara celebrations more than 400 years ago, which they had carried carried forward from the Kings of Vijayanagara.
The last ruler of Mysore, Sri Jayachamarajendra Odeyar was a musican and vaggeyakara himself and has composed about 100 compositions. His guru, Mysore Vasudevacharya is also one the most important composers of the 20th century. He composed more than 300 compositions – most of them in Samskrta and Telugu. He belongs to the musical tradition of Tyagaraja. Since Vausdevacharya’s compositions are very much on Tyagaraja’s lines, he is often called ‘Abhinava Tyagaraja’.
On this day when Goddess Chamundeshwari goes in the Dasara procession at Mysore, what could be better than listening to a composition about Goddess Chamundeshwari of Mysore, composed by Mysore Vasudevacharya, and played on the Veena by Mysore Doreswamy Iyengar?
Set in a bright and majestic raga, Bilahari, I think this composition the conclusion for the festivities of the season. Click on the image below, and enjoy this musical feast!
It was indeed wonderful to write the posts in the series “Veena Navartri” during Navaratri 2014, and in that process listen to some excellent music and become familiar with some new artists as well.
I wish all visitors of “ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ” for an year full of happiness and you the very best in your lives.
p.s: Generally, I am careful about giving image credits. However, for this “Veena Navaratri”, I could not do that and idid not cite image sources. Just wanted to acknowledge this fact, All images belong to their respective copyright holders.
Today, 10/1/2014, is the eighth day of Navaratri. This is celebrated in the name of Durga, and so the festival is called Durgashtami. While the Bengal region is known for it’s Durga puja, in Karnataka Navaratri is celebrated in the name of different forms of the Goddess.
In the first seven days of the festival, I wrote some some interesting bits about seven composers of Karnataka Sangeeta and their compositions – Syama Sastry (Devi brova samayamide) , Muttuswamy Dikshita (Meenakshi memudam dehi) ,Tyagaraja (Darini telusukonti) , Swathi Tirunal (Pahi jagajjanani), Muttaiah Bhagavatar (Sudhamayi sudhanidhi) , Lalgudi G Jayaraman (Tillana in Mand) and G N Balasubramanian (Ranjani niranjani).
Today also, I am planning to do the same – although there is meager information on the composer. I chose this song because of couple of different reasons, but let me do some history talking first.
The term used for “composer” in Indian music is Vaggeyakara – which implies that both the words and the music were created by the same person. Traditionally, Indian music was primarily to be performed vocally, and hence the necessity of having words. Therefore, unlike in western music, there were almost no compositions which were created for playing on instruments until very recent times.
But there have been instances when the lyrics are penned by one person and the music given by another. We have very limited view of our music compositions before the 16th-17th centuries. It may come as a surprise to a lot of people, but most of compositions of early composers such as Purandara Dasa (and other Haridasas) or Annamayya have been tuned by later day musicians. Only a few have retained their original form. There are also instances where in the lyrics were written by a person specifically to be given a musical form by another. I can cite the example of Devottama Jois writing the sahitya for the 108 compositions on Chamundeswari for Muttaiah Bhagavatar during his stint in Mysore as the Asthana Vidwan. Then there are cases of Swati Tirunal‘s compositions being re-fitted with music by Muttaiah Bhagavatar, and later by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. So in such cases, the role of Vaggeyakara is split between two people.
And then in some cases, compositions that were probably never set to music or sung before, are set to music by a musician, and they become popular as a “composition” of the person who wrote the sahitya lines, rather than the person who set music. The composition I am talking about is one such , which is set in multiple ragas.
Ragamalika (ರಾಗಮಾಲಿಕಾ, ರಾಗಮಾಲಿಕೆ) – is a type of composition that is quite popular in South Indian classical music today. As the name suggests, such a composition sung in multiple ragas, and so the name Ragamalika, i.e. “garland of ragas”. As a composition type, they seem to gained popularity from the early 18th century. Muttuswami Dikshita’s father Ramaswamy Dikshita, and his guru Veerabhadrayya are some of the earliest Ragamalika composers known. As I was telling earlier, several Purandara Dasa compositions that are sung as Ragamalikas, have been set to music by later day musicians, since we have lost most of original structure of haridasa compositions from the 15-18th centuries. And their ragamalika form is more than likely to be of recent origin.
There is some food for thought here. Why didn’t Haridasa’s who composed suLAdis , which are compositions in multiple tALas (tALamAlike), think of composing in multiple ragas? They my indeed have, but we can’t prove they did. As an aside I can cite a composition of Sripadaraya ( who composed several decades before Purandara dasa) – ಲಾಲಿ ಗೋವಿಂದ ಲಾಲಿ – in which three of the twenty three charaNas have names of the ragas embedded in the lyrics (Kalyani, Anandabhairavi and Devagandhara) giving us an opportunity to speculate that the composition indeed might have been a ragamalike, sung in those ragas for those specific charaNas ( because that’s how the raga signature is included in more recent ragamalika compositions). Yes, again, it remains only a speculation.
Today’s ragamalika, Srichakraraja simhasaneshwari, is said to be a “composition” of Agastyar – only means that someone with a pen name “Agastyar” wrote the sahitya, as the language and style look contemporary. This is set in four ragas, that are sung in madhyama shruti – Jhanjoti, nadanamakriya, Punnagavarali and Sindhubhairavi.
Now listen to a rendition of this composition by Aravind Bhargav, a worthy disciple of the Mandolin maestro Srinivas, who passed away recently. This is from a concert recently in memory of his guru:
The embedded video seems to start at the wrong time – Start from the 1hr 35m mark to listen to Srichakraraja simhasaneshwari in ragamalika. I recommend you listen not only to this composition (which is only about 5 minutes long), but the entire concert, which is excellent.
Today is 9/30/2014, the seventh day of Navaratri. In yesterday’s post, I wrote about a composition of a 20th century composer. Today also, I am thinking of sharing a composition from another 20th century musician.
It’s often said that the ragas are infinite – “ananta”. Practically speaking, there are only a few hundred ragas that are in currency at any point in time. But due to many reasons, some well known ragas go out from circulation and some ragas considered rare become very famous at some other point of time. This cycle has repeated in the past millennium, and I guess the trend will continue to the next as well.
Right from the 14th century there were attempts at classifying ragas into different groups, based on the notes used in those melodies. This is very similar to how elements (and their compounds) are organized in the Periodic table. This method helps to understand similarities, differences etc, There were many such systems of classification, the last of which came in around 1650 AD. In this classification, Venkatamakhi not only did classify the ragas that existed at his time, but also built a framework for classifying such ragas that were yet to be invented at that time. This framework is known as the 72 mELa scheme. A mELa is a collection of notes, and does not become a raga by itself; but it is possible to create a raga by building around these notes.
This scheme paved the way for later day composers to experiment with notes and come up with newer melodies. For example, Muttuswamy Dikshita composed in all the 72 mELa rAgas postulated as possible by Venkatamakhi. Tyagaraja composed in most of these 72, and he also came up with some more with some permutation and combination of notes used, by dropping notes. This method was a bit different from earlier times, when a raga was defined by the form and phrases used rather than just from the notes and the order of the notes that occur in.
In general, when a raga is solely defined by the notes it uses and skips and the order of those notes, it offers less scope for elaboration. However, over time, such ragas also can develop their own character, and thereby become more expansive and can fire the imagination of more composers to come up with compositions. We can see examples this happening to many of the new ragas that were brought to life by Tyagaraja.
Ranjani is one of the ragas that were “created” by Tyagaraja. He composed only one composition in this raga. This raga is quite popular today, and many later day composers have also contributed to it’s popularity. One such composer is GNB.
G N Balasubramaniyan, better known as GNB was a star in the musical world of the 20th century. He was also a star on the silver screen, at a time when actors had to be good singers as well, and acted in several movies in the early 1940s. He has composed about 50 compositions and “Ranjani Niranjani”, praising the Goddess Parvati is one of his very popular compositions.
Now listen to this kriti played by Mandolin U Srinivas:
The composition ends at around time 28:00, but you you can’t stop there, you are not to blame! One can go on listening to the Mandolin magic no end!
Today’s 9/27/2014. The fourth day of Navaratri. In the first three days of this Navaratri, I wrote about a music composition of Syama Sastry, Muttuswamy Dikshita and Tyagaraja, who are popularly called the Trinity of Karnataka Sangeeta and then shared with you links for those compositions being played on a “Veena”. And no prizes for guessing today’s post will be on similar lines!
In the 18th and 19th centuries, when the British had taken over most of the princely states under their arms, only two major kingdoms had remained, albeit under reduced strength. The Wodeyars of Mysore and the Kings of Travencore ( Thiruvananthapuram) continued to be great patrons of music, dance and other art forms. In some cases, the rulers were artists themselves.
Thiruvanathapuram is well known for the chamber concerts at the Navaratri Mandapam, adjacent to the famed Padmanabhaswamy temple. A special feature feature of these concerts is that unlike most other concerts, the main item presented on each day of the music festival is known in advance. The artist of the day elaborates a composition of Maharaja Swathi Tirunal from what is called the Navarati kritis. Each of these compositions is in Samsktra and set in rakti ragas such as Bhairavi, Shankarabharana, Natakuranji, Kalyani etc. I’d written about these compositions earlier during a previous Navaratri series. You can read them here.
Maharaja Rama Varma is better known by his star name – Swathi Tirunal, In a short span of 33 years (1836- 1846 AD) he accomplished a lot musically. He was a Veena player as well. Unlike other composers who had their students spread the compositions across the country, his compositions remained known only in Kerala for quite some time. Also, for some of his compositions nothing but the raga and tALa names were known, and were tuned by later day musicians. In the 20th century his compositions become popular outside Kerala, and now have become a part of the standard concert repertoire.
Swathi Tirunal adapted some Hindustani ragas into Karnataka sangeeta as well – and thus the Raga Hamsanandi was born from Sohini. The composition I’m sharing today, pAhi jagajjanani is in this raga – Listen to this played on electric guitar by Abhay. The Guitar, although a western instrument falls in the class of what has been traditionally called a “Veena” in India.
Interestingly enough, Guitar Abhay has not changed the way the guitar is traditionally tuned. He is a student of Mandolin Shrinivas whom we lost recently. It’s but a sad coincidence, both Swathi Tirunal and U Shrinivas had short lives , but they sure have touched many hearts in their lifetime and will continue to do so much beyond their life time.
Now over to Guitar Abhay’s magical fingers, playing pAhi jagajjanani in rAga hamsAnandi:
Today is 9/26/2014 , the third day of Navaratri. In the posts I made on day 1 and day 2, I wrote about compositions of Syama Sastry and Muttuswamy Dikshita. Today, I am going to write about a composition of Tyagaraja, who together with the before mentioned two composers is generally referred to as the “Trinity” composers in Karnataka Sangeeta. Incidentally, all these there composers were born in the town of Tiruvaroor, in Tamil Nadu.
Tyagaraja spent most of his lifetime in a town called Tiruvaiyyaru on the banks of river Kaveri. He has composed about 800 compositions. His compositions were popularized by his disciples and his compositions have become the mainstay for any concert in Karnataka sangeetha. Since has a large variety of compositions, it would be quite easy to even have a concert
When Tyagaraja visited other places of pilgrimage, he often sang on the presiding deities in those places. When he visited his student Patnam Subramanya Iyer at Chenna Pattanam (now Chennai), he also visited some famous temples around there. One such was the Tripura Sundari temple at Tiruvottriyur, now in the northern part of the city.In that temple he composed five compositions on that deity, which have come to be known as Tiruvottriyur pancharatna. Among these, the composition Darini Telusukonti in raga Shuddha Saveri is well known for the intricate sangatis.
That was the time British had a strong presence in Chennai. If at all one good thing happened due to the British, it was the introduction of Violin into Indian music. Muttuswamy Dikshita’s family was associated with a wealthy man called Chinnaswamy Mudaliyar, who was a translator to the British at Fort St George. It was there Baluswamy Dikshita, younger brother of Muttuswamy Dikshita witnessed the band performances of British army and thereby tried to use the Violin to play Indian classical music. As they often say the rest is history – Violin has become an integral part of Karnataka sangeeta both as a solo instrument and as an accompaniment.
Although instruments such as Dhaurveena had existed in the past,which resembled the violin in the fact that they were played using a bow, they were not in practice in the 18th century and thus we have to be thankful for the British army musicians who were instrumental in creating the interest among Indian musicians of that age to experiment with this new instrument!
Now to end this post, listen to a rendition of Darini Telusukonti, on the violin by a young artist from Bengaluru, Apoorva Krishna: