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Although raagas are said to be infinite (ananta), the fact is that at any point in history of music, only a few scores of raagas are popular. Although composers like Tyagaraja and Muttuswami Dikshita composed in well known and less known raagas of their times, it is a fact that all compositions are not created equal, and all raagas are not inherently equal in their scope of treatment.
If you have visited some of the internet fora on Karnataka sangeetha, you might be familiar with the term “Big Five”. I don’t know the origin of this terminology but looks like it is in vogue at least for the last couple of decades when folks on Internet discussion boards starred discussing south Indian music.
“Big Five” refers to five important raagas of Karnataka Sangeeta: tODi, bhairavi, kAmbhOji, Shankarabharana and Kalyani. Although not a rule, almost every good concert has at least one (if not more) of these five raagasa treated in detail. The first of the “Big Five” is tODi – when we go along the order of their position in the 72 mELakartha scheme that is in vogue today.
Todi of Karnataka sangeetha is a very specialized melody which has no parallels either in hindustani music or in other melodic music systems of the world. The elongated oscillations (kampita) on gAndhara, and nishAda in this rAga are the key signatures of this raaga. Now it is considered a sampoorna raaga, taking all seven notes both in ascent and descent – but several special phrases skip shadja and/or panchama.
Interestingly enough, a century or two before, panchama was almost always skipped, and gandhara and nishada were rendered somewhat plain compared to their treatment today. Sometimes, this version of the raaga now goes by the name “shuddha tOdi”.
Now, here is a wonderful example of Todi – a geete that tells the story of Ramayana – sung by Sri Neyveli Santana Gopalan (Courtesy Sangeethapriya.org). Images and artwork – various Internet sources.
A geete is generally a beginner lesson, that is taught to students when they are being introduced to different raagas. Todi, being what it is, the geete is also sufficiently involved :), but a very good introduction to “the first of the Big Five” I’d say!
If you did not know already, Sangeethapriya has a new website dedicated to Tyagaraja. Check it out!
You can listen to 393 of his ~700 kritis! I am sure many more will be added soon.
Jai Sangeethapriya :) and every one who has made this possible.
p.s: As of January 6th 2010, audio for 665 compositions is available.
Wikipedia, as we know, is a 21st century phenomenon. But in the world of Karnataka Sangeeta, I think the concept started little earlier. The 80′s and 90′s of the 20th century were witness to the growth of newsgroups, and other fora about Indian classical music (rec.music.indian.classical, and later other classical music portals such as www.forumhub.com, www.carnatica.net, www.rasikas.org, www.karnatik.com, and now defunct sangeetham.com) have been the happening places after the internet became part of everyone’s life after the mid 1990s.
One name has stood out during these last 10-20 years in these internet karnataka sangeetha circles. This is a name that has been the musical-sahitya-wiki for anyone who is looking for the lyric of a song. Did you catch a new song in a concert you attended? Do you want to know the composer of a kriti that you have learnt, but have no idea who the composer is? The answer is a few keystrokes away. All you need to do is ask this question in one of the music fora. Depending on where you are located on this planet you will get an answer within 12 hours. Who is behind it? Unlike the wikipedia where there are thousands of editors adding articles, this is work of a single man, who has collected lyrics of songs in several languages (like Telugu, Samskrita, Kannada, Tamizh, Malayalam, Hindi) that are performed in south indian classical style.
He is Lakshman. Lakshman Ragade. He is an one-man help-desk answering your questions about any song – it’s raga or lyrics, or composer, you name it. Do you need the notation for a song? He might give you that too. Today if there are websites such as www.karnatik.com, and http://www.rasikas.org/wiki/ hosting lyrics of hundreds of compositions, they owe a lot to this marvellouly helpful person called Lakshman.
That’s why I said at the beginning – Lakshmanam namaami rasikapriyam – “I bow to Lakshmana, beloved of conniosseurs of music“.
Over the last 12-15 years I have posted hunderds of requests about songs, and each time I have got what I wanted very quickly. So have hundreds of music lovers like me.
What do I know about Lakshman? Almost nothing. I beleive he lives somewhere in Cananda. May be in Toronto. I have never met him. I have not even seen his picture. And same is the situation with hundreds of rasikas like me. He has no personal gain from his service to other music lovers (except may be occassional corrections to the lyrics from people who speak a specific language, if there are any errors in the lyrics he has posted). But he has continued to do this service to music. Even when there are repeat requests I have never seen him to take offense to that.
So when I read the news few days ago that Sri Lakshman received the second annual Rasikapriya award from Sangeethapriya, another forum of lovers of south indian classical music (www.sangeethapriya.org), I can’t tell how overjoyed I was!(http://www.rasikas.org/viewtopic.php?id=4021). I am as happy as I would be if I bagged this award :)
I am sure I am not the only one to have these feelings towards Sri Lakshman. But I may be the first one to do a blog post about him :) . Like Lakshmana from Ramayana, who was a shadow of Lord Rama and followed him everywhere, I see Sri Lakshman as the unseen shadow following every rasika on the internet, and provide help whenever needed.
Once again, I have just one thing to say.
Lakshmanam namaami rasikapriyam!
ಲಕ್ಷ್ಮಣಮ್ ನಮಾಮಿ ರಸಿಕಪ್ರಿಯಮ್ !!
लक्ष्मणम् नमामि रसिकप्रियम् !!!