Today is the sixth day of Navaatri. We are halfway through the ten day festival. In many parts of Karnataka, Saraswati pooja is performed on the day when the Moon is near moola nakshatra (Lambda Scorpii). This generally falls on the sixth or seventh day of Navaratri. There is also another tradition of performing Saraswati pooje on the 9th day on Maha Navami too.
The elaborated composition you’d listen to if you went to Navaratri Mandapam in Thiruvananthapuram is about Saraswati, starting with the words ‘Saroruhasana jAye’ in raaga kaamavardhini. This raaga is also known by the name Pantuvarali. The composition is in praise of Goddess Saraswati. Listen to a rendition of this composition by Rama Varma who comes from the lineage of Swathi Tirunal who ruled Thiruvanathapuram, at his performance at the Navaratri Mandapam concert.
Students of Karnataka sangeetha typically start learning music with swara exercises in MayamalavagouLa raaga, and then go to learn simple songs called ‘geete’s. After that they learn some jatiswaras/swarajatis. After that they start learning varNas.
The word varNa means color. It can also mean a letter of the alphabet. One could easily say varNas showcase the hues of a raga clearly, but very concisely. In a normal performance, you might see a varNa sung at the beginning, but not as a rule. But for music students, a varNa is avery important instrument in raaga learning. Just like a foundation in grammar is required to write a good essay, learning many varNas is recommended for any music student. Varnas generally have very less sahitya, and follow a very structured pattern.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I have chosen a varNa today – composed by Dr Balamuralikrishna in Gambheera Nata raga. Balamuralikrishna is one of the most well known 20th century composers of Karnataka sangeetha. His varnas and tillanas have become very popular. He has also composed hundreds of compositions in Samskrta, Telugu and Tamizh. He has also translated a number of Purandara dasa compositions into Telugu too.
The sahitya of the varNa is in Telugu, and describes Parvati as the manifestation of Omkara.
Listen to ‘amma Ananda dAyini’ in gambhIra nATa, sung by Nagavalli Nagaraj & Ranjani Nagaraj.
Tomorrow, let us meet with another charming composition.