Whoever named raaga Hamsadhwani probably did not pay attention to the facts that Swans do not have an attractive voice! Take a look at the following videos to hear how exactly swans sound! Not very melodious!
But one good thing about raga Hamsadhwani is that unlike many ragas, its history can be traced quite accurately.
Ramaswamy Dikshita (1735AD-1817AD), father of Muttuswamy Dikshita is credited with the creation of this pentatonic raaga. However, this may be partly true. The Ragalakshana appendix to Chaturdandi Prakashike mentions Hamsadwani. Although the main text of Chaturdandi was composed by Venkatamakhi (~1650 AD), the Ragalakshana appendix was added by is grand-nephew Muddu Venkatamuchi couple of generations after Venkatamakhi. He describes Hamsadwhani as a pentatonic raga, born of Shankarabharana mEla omitting ma and da. (S R G P N S – S N P G R S). The current form of Hamsadwani is exactly the same.
This brings the time when Hamsadhwani first appeared around the beginning of 18th century. It is likely that Ramaswamy Dikshita was one of the early composers who popularized it, and hence the credit that goes in his name.I wonder why it took as late as 18th century to come up with this very attractive pentatonic scale. However, once it became popular, there was no going back!
18th century composers Tyagaraja and Muttuswamy Dikshita, each comosed two compositions in this raga. It can be safely said that the composition Vatapi Ganapatim Bhajesham of Muttuswamy Dikshita is the most famous composition in this raga. Listen to Dr M.Balamuralikrishna singing this compositon.
With this composition, Hamsadhwani raga became a natural associate of Ganapati, and there are a number of nice compositions in this raga with Ganapati as the theme. Vandenishamaham of Mysore Vasudevacharya, Gam Ganapate of Muttaiyya Bhagavatar, Vara Vallabha Ramana of GNB, Gajavadana Beduve of Purandara Dasa – all these come to mind. Listen here to – Gam Ganapate of Muttaiah Bhagavatar – This is from a concert here in the bay area (Veena-Jyothi Chetan; Mridanga- Ramesh Srinivasan)
During the 20th century saw many raagas from Karnataka sangeetha were adapted to Hindustani. How could they leave out a very appealing raaga like Hamsadhwani? Not only did they adapt the melody, but also the popular composition Vatapi Ganapatim Bhajeham!
Listen here to Rashid Khan, who sings a beautiful Alap followed by “laagi lagan”. You can’t miss the similarity to Vatapi Ganapatim Bhajeham.
For whatever reason, Hamsadhwani does not seem to have inspired kannada film music composers as much as some other raagas have. I can just think of a few Kannada film songs – ಇನ್ನು ಗ್ಯಾರಂಟಿ from ನಂಜುಂಡಿ ಕಲ್ಯಾಣ and ಮೀನಾಕ್ಿ ನಿನ್ನ from ರಣಧೀರ. If you are aware of any other songs, post a comment.