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(This is the text of a speech I made this weekend at an event celebrating the composers from Karnataka. Throughout the article, the honorifics for all the composers and musicians are not mentioned. This is not to be treated as any mark of disrespect. A link to the speech is also provided at the end. I had to cut some parts while speaking because I was going over time! So the thought of sharing the complete script I made in preparation to the speech is posted here. Also, I have only mentioned a partial list of composers, due to the limitations on time, as well as my awareness)

Good afternoon rasikas.

It’s great feeling to be with the artists and the rasikas, celebrating the vaggeyakaras from Karnataka, here at the Livermore temple. I am sure you have all enjoyed the dance performances and are looking forward for the vocal and Veena performances. I am very pleased to share some of my observations with you all.

The term ‘vaggeyakara’ refers to someone who creates both the mAtu and dhatu, i.e. both the lyrical and musical content of a composition. It encompasses a larger meaning than the English word composer, which normally refers to the creation of the music part only. However, today I may use the word Vaggeyakara and composer somewhat interchangeably.

We can see indications of Indian classical music splitting into two streams by the 13th century.

The split probably started right after the time of Sharngadeva, who wrote his text Sangita Ratnakara. By the time of Pandarika Vithala, around 1600 CE, we can sense the split having been completed, making the two streams quite distinct and distinguishable from each other. The name Karnataka Sangeeta is a more recent entry though. One of the reasons that this stream was called Karnataka sangeeta seems to be the contribution of musicians,scholars and vaggeyakaras hailing from the Karnata samrajya or the Vijayanagara empire.

Throughout India’s history, there have been been different centers of music and culture. The contribution of musicians who hailed from current day Karnataka region is immense. The Vijayanagara kingdom, centered in current day Karnataka was a hub for arts and culture. Performing artists from various places made their way to Vijayanagara to get the royal support.

Sage Vidyaranya, who was instrumental in the establishment of the kingdom, was a musician himself and musicologist of merit. The first indications of classifications of Ragas in to melas (or groups) can be attributed to him. The latter day scholars and performers from Vijayanagara enhanced the textual framework of Vidyaranya. The Kalanidhi vyakhyana to Sangita Ratnakara by Kallinatha, the Swaramela Kalanidhi by his grandson Ramamatya give a good indication about the musical practices during the Vijayanagara times (14th to 16th century).

Music is a performance oriented art where shastra (i.e. theory) follows prayoga (or performance). New experiments happen all the time, and once they are accepted by rasikas, they get codified into texts and treatises. All these shastrakaras (i.e musicologists) could not have existed in vacuum. Those works became necessary to document what was going around them. While Indian classical music is manodharma or improvisation oriented, it is also true they need good compositions to anchor these improvisational ideas.

I wanted to clarify one thing — If the texts seem to come from royal patronage, it does not mean music was limited to royalty , but it only means that their patronage was necessary to write and preserve such works documenting the active music scene in the society of those times. The corpus of musical texts from the 15th/16th century Vijayanagara only confirms us that there was no dearth of performers or composers during this time, and it could not have been a limited royal engagement only.

Back in the 12th century, even before Vidyaranya, we have some indication that at least some vachans of shivasharanas of Karnatala were sung, from the internal evidence from vachanas of Akkamahadevi and Basavanna. But we absolutely have no idea about how they might have been sung. One or two centuries later, almost contemporary to Vidyaranya and Kallinatha, there were a host of Haridasas who revolutionized music as we know it. Unfortunately the original melodic structure of most Haridasa compositions is only known in their skeletal form, and the contemporary renditions of devaranamas are more modeled after much later compositions.

Haridasas introduced a lot of new types of compositions, including the Ugabhoga and Suladi.Starting off with Narahari tirtha, we later had Sripadaraya , Vyasaraya, Purandara dasa, Kanakadasa, Vijayadasa and a host of other haridasas who composed thousands of compositions from the 13th to the 19th century. Although we can’t say for sure, Sripadaraja was probably the first vaggeyakara who thought concepts like Ragamudre (raga signature), and sing a pada as a ragamalika. In a devarnama laali govinda laali, he has 3 charanas that indicate the rajamudra as devagandhara, ananda bhairavi and Kalyani.

The center of Karnataka sangeeta moved from Vijayananagara to Thanjavur after the fall of the empire. The beginning of the Thanjavur tradition can be traced back to Vijayanagara too. Thanjavur was given as a principality to Cevvappa Nayaka by Achyutaraya,the king of Vijayanagara. Ministers of The nayaks of Tanjavur such as Govinda dikshita and his son, the well known Venkatamakhi not only were able administrators but they were also expert musicians and musicologists.

We can easily say Venkatamakhi,who was also a Kannadiga, with his work Chaturdandi prakashika written around 1650 CE, sort of paved the way for new thinking in terms of the creation of new ragas in Karnataka sangeeta. In the 18th century, we know that haridasa compositions were very popular in Thanjavur. It’s well documented that Tyagaraja was very influenced by Purandara dasa’s devaranamas. Knowing that how the Karnataka Sangeeta trimurtis, Tyagaraja, Mudduswami Dikshita and Syama Shastry have influenced our music post 18th century, and the fact that the work of Venkatamakhi was instrumental in setting up them to do what they did with our music, tells a lot about the influence Venkatamakhi on Karnataka Sangeeta as we know it today.

With the taking over of Thanjavur by the British, the cultural hub again shifted to Mysuru. Now the Odeyars of Mysuru, similar to the Nayakas and Bhosales of Thanjavur, were not only patrons of music and arts, they were practitioners themselves. Mummadi Krishnaraja Odeyar himself was a compose of merit. Nalvadi Krishnaraja odeyar was trained in music too. And the last maharaja of mysore, Sri Jayachamaraja Odeyar could be called as the real jewel in the crown of this family. He has composed about a hundred kritis. Taking a cue from the style of Muthuswami Dikshitar in the usage of Samskrta as the medium for lyrics,use of madhyama kala sahitya etc, and on the other side following Tyagaraja in the choice of ragas, and also innovation in trying out unheard melodies, his compositions have become quite popular over the decades.

Of course the courts of Krishnaraja Odeyar and Jayachamaraja odeyar in the first half of 20th century encouraged and hosted a great many composers such as Mysore Vasudevacharya, Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar, Mysore Sadashivarayar & Veene sheshanna whose compositions are very well known and popular today.The influence of trinity is invariably seen in the compositions during Mysore court.

Even the composition type Javali, apparently came into vogue in the Mysore court post Tippu times. And,  although we normally associate Tyagaraja with the ‘invention’ of the new form of composition we call as kriti these days, almost 120 years before Tyagaraja, a poet called Govinda Vaidya, in one of his Kannada works talks about musicians singing kritis!

Veene Sheshanna (Image taken from Wikipedia)

Apart from them there were other composers like Veena Venkatagiriyappa,Veena Venkatasubbaiah , Veena Shamanna, Veena Subbanna, Bidaram Krishnappa , T Chowdayya, Veena Raja Rao, Belakavadi Srinivasa Iyengar and Veena Shivaramaiah. The last two are notable for having to have composed in all 72 raganga ragas.

By this time, it was the end of Royal Mysore but thankfully the vaggeyakara tradition has continued. N Channakeshvaiah and C Rangaiah, both disciples of Mysore Vasudevacharya composed many varnas, krtis, ragamalikas and tillanas. Sri D Subbaramaiah — and his disciples Smt Vasantha Madhavi and Sri Ramaratnam are both composers of their own merit. Ballari Sheshachar among the Ballari brothers also has many compositions to his credit.

Many current day performing artists hailing from Karnataka such as Nagamani Srinath, RN.Sreelatha and Padmacharan have composed many compositions. Other performers such as Tirumale Srinivas,R K Padmanabha and Nagavalli Nagaraj have set to music many haridasa and others songs. And Sri T K Govindarao, who has composed may of his own compositions as well as has set many haridasa compositions.

At this point we should also remember the Poet Pu Ti Na who was not a performing artist in the conventional sense but has composed many wonderful compositions in his musical plays such as Gokuka Nirgamana. Poet D V Gundappa also has suggested ragas to the poems in his work Antahpura geete, written about the various madanika sculptures in the Beluru temple. However, I am not sure if the complete melodic structure for the songs were suggested by him.

Thankfully, the trend is still continuing. Ashok Madhav, originally from Karnataka, and a long time Pittsburgh resident has composed several hundred compositions. Srikanth Murthy, from Karnataka, currently in UK has to his credit many compositions in Kannada, Tamizh, Samskrta and Sanketi languages. I am also very happy to say that with the encouragement of the artist community in the Bay Area, I have also had the fortune of composing about 40+ compositions, which include Varna, Swarajathi, Tillana, javali and ragamalikas.

When there are such great compositions of past masters, one may ask what’s the need for new compositions. In fact Sangeeta Kalanidhi Sri R K Srikanthan opined when there are hundreds of great compositions of the composers like Tyagaraja, which are not being sung, there was no need of new compositions as such. I am pretty sure many others would share that opinion too. However, I would like to counter that with this samskrta verse of Jagannath pathak.

कियद्वारं क्रौञ्चा इह न निहता व्याधविशिखैः

परं काव्यं रामायणमिदम् इहैक समुदितम् ।

स कर्ता कालोsसौ स च हृदयवान् सा च कविता

समेत्य द्द्योतन्ते यदि वलति वाणीविलसितम् ॥

Since the beginning of time

How many Krauncha birds have been felled by arrows?
But the Ramayana arose only once.

The concoction of time, a soulful poet and his words

With a touch of Vani’s grace

To brew the broth of heady poetry
(English translation by Suhas Mahesh)

What this verse tells about poetry is also true about a music compositions. We just don’t know when the right situations arise, along with the grace of Goddess Saraswathi. Just for a moment, consider what would have happened if Tyagaraja thought there were plenty of good compositions of Purandara Dasa, Ramadasa and Annamayya, and did not make any of his own! Think what would have happened if Balamuralikrishna and Lalgudi Jayaraman thought there were plenty of excellent compositions of the trinity and did not compose any of theirs! So it is all the more desirable to continue the quest for more and music.

I will conclude with a Kannada translation of the very Samskrta verse. I just replace the word KavitA with rachanA, to make it more generic.

ಕೊಂಚೆವಕ್ಕಿಗಳೆನಿತೊ ಸಿಲುಕಿವೆ ಬೇಡ ಹೊಡೆದಿಹ ಬಾಣಕೆ

ಮುಂಚೆ ರಾಮಾಯಣವು ಮಾತ್ರವು ಹುಟ್ಟಿತೊಂದೇ ಬಾರಿಗೆ

ಕೊಂಚ ಕಾಲವು ಒಳ್ಳೆ ಮನಸಿನ ಕವಿಯ ಪದಗಳ ಜೊತೆಯಲಿ

ಸಂಚುಮಾಡಲುಬೇಕು ಸರಸತಿಯೊಡನೆ ಸೊಬಗಿನ ರಚನೆಗೆ

I would like to thank the organizers for giving an opportunity to share a few things with you all. ಎಂದರೋ ಮಹಾನುಭಾವುಲು ಅಂದರಿಕಿ ವಂದನಮುಲು. ನಮಸ್ಕಾರ

You can also listen to the speech ( with a few sections missing from the text) if you prefer to do so:

Audio recording of the speech


This week, on the occasion of Shivratri, padyapaana asked it’s readers to write verses about the following picture of Raja Ravi Varma.


If you did not know already, the folks running Padayapaana, encourage versification in Kananda and Samskrta using traditional meters by posting a challenge every week. There are also lessons that help newbies understand the concept of versification and writing in such traditional style.

Here are my two attempts for this picture of Ganggavatarana by Raja Ravi varma:

In Bhamini shatpadi:

ಬಾನಿನಿಂದಲಿ ಬೀಳುತಿರಲಾ
ಮಾನಿನಿಯು ಹರಿಪದಗಳಿಂದಲಿ
ನೀನು ದಯೆತೋರುತಲಿ ಮುಡಿಯನು ಹರಡಿ ಲೋಕವನು
ಸಾನುರಾಗದಿ ಕಾಯ್ದೆಯೆನ್ನುತ
ಮಾನಿಸರು ಪೇಳಿಹರು ರುದ್ರನು
ನೀನು ಹೇಗಾದೀಯೆ? ಶಂಕರ ಶಿವನೆ ನೀನೆಂದು!

In mattEbhavikrIDita meter:

ದಿಗಿಲೊಳ್ ಬೇಡಿರಲಾ ಭಗೀರಥ ಮುದಲ್ ಶ್ರೀವಿಷ್ಣು ಪಾದಂಗಳಿಂ
ಭರದೊಳ್ ಬಿರ್ದಿಹ ಗಂಗೆಯಾರ್ಭಟಮನುಂ ಪರ್ಬುತ್ತೆ ನೀಳ್ಗೂದಲಂ
ಹಿತದೊಳ್ ಮಾಣಿಸುತಾಕೆಯಂ ನಲುಮೆಯಿಂ ಕಾಪಿಟ್ಟೆ ಮೂಲೋಕಮಂ
ದಿಟದೊಳ್ ಶಂಕರ ರೂಪಿ ನೀನೆನಿಸಿರಲ್ ನೀ ರುದ್ರನೆಂದೆಂಬರೇ?

The meaning of both the verses is approximately same: When Bhagiratha through his penance, brought the divine river Ganga to the Earth, to save the mankind from the deluge that may be caused by this mighty river, Lord Shiva stopped her and confined her in his long locks of hair. Hence it is befitting to call him Shiva or Shankara (doer of good deeds, blissfull) rather than Rudra  (terrible).

Happy Shivaratri to all readers of ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ!



Today is the ninth day of Navaratri, Mahanavami – 2015.

Mahanavami was a grand festival during Vijaya Nagara times. Even today you’ll see remnants of Mahanavami dibba, where the festivities would take place.
The traditions of Vijayanagara continued in the Tanjavur and Mysore kingdoms.
So did music and arts. We can’t forget the contributions of people who had origins in the Vijayanagara court to the development of what we call Karnataka sangeeta today.

It’s a common occurrence that ragas go out of vogue and new ragas become popular. Similarly new types of musical compositions also come into the scene. Thus we several new classes of musical compositions starting in the 17th-18th centuries and one such is the Swarajati.

Many a times performed on the stage by dancers as well, a Swarajati is a composition that is primarily made of swaras, and which may or may not have lyrics to go with it. Many swarajatis are taught in the early training for music while some swarajatis (such as those of Shyama Shastri) are very elaborate compositions, in line with the Ghanaraga pancharatna kritis of Tyagaraja.

On this day, I am very glad to present one of my compositions -, a swarajati, in the raga Ramakriya. (This is a traditional, slightly older form of what we call as Kamavardhini/Pantuvarali).

You can listen to the complete swarajati here:

The lyrics are by Ashtavadhani Sri Mahesh Bhat and the vocalist is Vidushi Ragini Sanat.

Happy Vijaya dashami to all visitors of “ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ”.


Today, September 24th, 2014 is the first day of Navaratri – The Festival of Nine Nights. Navaratri, also known as Dasara in many parts of India, is a good time for classical music listeners – The music festival at Navartri Mandapam in Thiruvanantapuram and at Mysore Palace are well known. In some of the earlier years (2007, 20082010… ), I have written about some musical compositions that are dear to me during the this ten day festival.   I thought of reviving this tradition and make a few posts during this year’s Navaratri as well.

Since Navaratri is a celebration of the various aspects of Devi, I will confine to the compositions to those that are about Goddesses such as Parvati, Saraswati, Durga etc who are worshiped during these Nine Nights. Also, as a way of remembering the recently-departed ‘God of Mandolin’, U Srinivas, I will confine to only instrumental renditions of such compositions. I will try to point out to some interesting tit-bits about those compositions too.

First a couple of words about U Srinivas – I think we were plain lucky to have lived in the same time as this artist, who brought in an alien instrument and turned it into our very own, as far as Indian classical music is concerned. If you ask me, it is high time we call this instrument as Sri-Veena 🙂 . Although we tend to associate the word Veena with the Saraswati Veena (which is actually only as old as the early 17th century), the term Veena actually refers to a stringed instrument, with or without frets, which may be played using plucking or bowing etc. We have had Veenas such as Nagaveena, Dhanurveena (which were played using a bow), just like a modern day violin. We have the Chitra Veena (a.k.a. Gotuvadya), Rudra Veena and the like. Guitar which has been adapted for Hindustani music by Vishwa Mohan Bhat is being called as Mohana Veena, and why not call mandolin as Sri Veena ? Just a passing thought as I started out writing this post!

In the 18th century, Tanjavoor was a great center of music and arts. Syama Shastry, who is considered as one of the “Trinity” of Karnataka Sangeeta  lived in Tanjavoor city. His compositions bear his signature  as ‘Shamakrishna’. He was the priest of Bangaru Kamakshi temple in Tanjavoor, and often addresses his favorite deity as  “Shamakrishna sodari” – the sister of Shamakrishna (Vishnu).  Although numerically his compositions are lesser than those of Tyagaraja or Muttuswamy Dikshita, each of his compositions is indeed a gem.

During Sharabhoji’s reign (1777 AD – 1832AD),  a musician named Bobbili Keshavayya, visited his court. Keshavayya was well known for challenging musicians. Since no other musician in Tanjavoor court were ready to face Keshavayya who was known for his expertise at singing pallavis with extremely complicated rhythmic structures, the responsibility fell on Syama Sastry.


(Picture courtesy: The Hindu,

In the music-duel that followed,  Keshavayya sang a pallavi in Simha nandana tALa, which Shama Sastry comprehended and reproduced. Now, it was Shama Sastry’s turn to challenge Keshavayya next day. That night during his prayers to Goddess Kamakshi, Syama Shastry sang a new composition in a brand new raga – Chintamani, pleading her to protect him at this critical moment  (dEvI brOva samayamidE ati vEgamE vacci).

For the first day of Navaratri, the composition I want to share with you is this – “dEvi brOva samayamide” in Raga Chintamani, played on the mandolin by, who else but U Srinivas, and U Rajesh?

Wishing everyone a very happy time during this Navaratri.


Yugaadi marks the beginning of the traditional lunar new year celebrated in several states of India such as Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. Literally, Yugaadi means Adi – “the beginning of” and  yuga – “an era”.  As per current understanding, a yuga  is a measure of time, associated the term with long periods – as in Krta, Treta, Dwapara & Kali yugas,  each spanning thousands of years.

However, if we go back in time for about thirty five centuries, we find Indians had a very different interpretation of the term yuga. Vedanga Jyothisha  compiled by Laagadha  around ~1400BC very clearly defines a yuga as a period of five years. The very opening verse of Vedanga Jyotisha has the following verse:

pa~ncha saMvatsaramayam yughAdhyakSham prajApatim |

dinartvayana mAsAngaM praNamya shirasA shuchih ||

which approximately translated to the following:

“I bow to thee, Oh Prajapati, one who has the day, season and the half-year as limbs,   the over-seer of the five-year long yuga”

Vedanga Jyotisha also tells us when the five-year yuga began based on the alignment of the Sun, Moon and stars (specifically both meeting at the star Shravishta) in the sky.  Also, according to the text, five years of a yuga were called samvatsara, parivatsara, idaavatsara, anuvatsara and idvatsara. Incidentally, this beginning of a new yuga took place at winter solstice, and not at (or close to) Vernal equinox as the current yugaadi is.

Things change over time. Now, we call every year a samvatsara, and the five-year long yuga is almost unknown to most people! If you are more interested on this topic, I suggest you to read this paper by B.N.Narahari Achar is a good resource.

Wishing a very happy Yugaadi to all visitors at ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ!



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My book “Hamsanada” for iPad, iPhone or iPod

A Collection of  Samskrta Subhashitas, translated to Kannada

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My Book Hamsanada, on Google Play

My Book Hamsanada, on Google Play

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ಅವಧಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಹೀಗಂದರು:

"ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ…ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಬಂದೆ ಸುಮ್ಮನೆ… ಎಂಬ ಘೋಷ ವಾಕ್ಯದೊಂದಿಗೆ ಬ್ಲಾಗ್ ಮಂಡಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಕಾಣಿಸಿಕೊಂಡವರು ನೀಲಾಂಜನ. ಅಲ್ಲಿದೆ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನೆ ಕನ್ನಡದ ಪರಿಮಳವನ್ನು ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಷ್ ನಲ್ಲಿ ಹರಡುತ್ತಾ ಇದೆ. ಕನ್ನಡದ ವಚನಗಳು, ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತ ಸುಭಾಷಿತಗಳು ಜೊತೆಯಲ್ಲೇ ಸಂಗೀತ ಹೀಗೆ ಹಲವು ಲೋಕವನ್ನು ಈ ಬ್ಲಾಗ್ ಪರಿಚಯಿಸಿದೆ." ಅವಧಿ, ಮೇ ೧೫, ೨೦೦೮
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