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Dasara of 2012 is just over. In the past few years, I’d written series of music-based articles in my web spaces, in English, and in Kannada. This year, I was planning out another thematic series along the same lines during the festival but it ended up just being a plan. Or if I look at the brighter side, yay! it’s an opportunity for next year’s Navaratri!  Just the case of seeing the glass half-full or half-empty I guess 🙂

Last couple years, I also posted some of my musical compositions on my blog  around the Navaratri time. You can visit those posts from 2009 (Nasamani),  2010 (Ranjani) and 2011 (Bindumalini) by clicking the hyperlinks.

This year, I’m not posting a brand new composition, but am posting an updated one! Earlier this year,  I’d composed a swarajati in the rAga Kamavardhini (also called as Ramakriya and somewhat incorrectly as Pantuvarali).  You can listen to the swarajati here, sung by my friend “IndianMusicFan“.

Listen to the swarajati by clicking here

Thanks to the Samskirtam group on Facebook, I met  Sri Mahesh Bhat, who recently wrote a very beautiful lyric for this swarajati, just in time for Dasara 2012.  Here it goes:


तव मृदुलम् पदयुगलम् मम शरणम् शिवे जननि
तव मृदुलम् पदयुगलम् मम शरणम् परशिवे जननि
तव मृदुलम् पदयुगलम् मम शरणम् जय परशिवे जननि ॥ पल्लवि॥


कल्याणानाम् वितरणि पापे मयि ते करुणा भवतु ॥॥

चरण १:

ईशनायिके लोकपालिके इन्द्रवन्द्य पदसरसिज लसिते
दितिसुत गजगण विदलनचतुरे सदा निवस मम  हृदि गुहजननि ॥१॥

चरण २:

कुवलय  दलसम सुरुचिर नयने निरुपम परिमलयुत मधुचषके
अतिधवल – रजतगिरि – वरनिलये कलशजनुते मधुमथनसोदरि ॥२॥

चरण ३:

साधकजनतापरमशुभदे लोहितसुमनोनिचतेकलिते
पायसमुदिते मधुरहसिते  जनिमृतिहरसुधे कलिमलहरणि ॥३॥

चरण ४:

संसारे परमविषमे संतापो दहति हृदयम्
एहि त्वम् तुहिनगिरिजे तापम् मे शमय ललिते
नीरागमतिरायातु मयि वेदादिनय संस्तुत चरिते
नाकलोकशोकहारिसुबले चारुचंद्रभासमान चिकुरे!  ॥४॥

If you are interested in the notation along with sAhitya, click this link:  A Swarajati in Kamavardhini

Finally here is a video slideshow from the “Bombe Habba” at our home during Dasara 2012:

The background music for the slides is also played by IndianMusicFan,  the first part of a varna that I composed sometime ago. To listen to the entire Varna, click here: Kalyanimalaika Varna .



Yesterday, I wrote about the first day of Navaratri. Today is the second day the ten day festival. Navaratri is a  major festival in the state of Karnataka. The travelogues of French and Persian travelers describe the festivities during Vijayanagara times.  The Mahanavami dibba at Hampe stands today as a silent testimony to those wonderful times. It was not a coincidence that this tradition of Navaratri festival was carried forward by the Odeyars of Mysore.

The Odeyars of Mysore were in the forefront of the princely states when it came to supporting artists. So, Mysore was one of the favored destinations of artists in those days. One such artist who came to Mysore was Harikesanallur Muttaiah Bhagavatar.

There is an interesting story about Muttaiah Bhagavatar being appointed as the Asthana Vidwan at Mysore palace. Usually, visiting artists got a time slot to perform in the court. Unfortunately for Muttaiah Bhagavatar, he had a bad throat on that day, and the concert did not go as well as it should have. Krishna Raja Odeyar wasn’t very impressed, but the artist was  was duly honored as per palace traditions  and sent off. No need to say this  left Muttaiah Bhagavatar quite disappointed.

Few days later Muttaiah Bhagavatar payed a visit to the Chamundeshwari temple atop the hill, and was singing to himself when king Krishnaraja Odeyar walked in for a darshana of the Goddess. Impressed with Bhagavatar’s singing prowess, he requested him to be the Asthana Vidwan. This happened in 1927.  Later Muttaiah Bhagavatar spent several years as the court  musician.

During his tenure, the Krishnaraja Odeyar requested Muttaiah Bhagavatar to compose 108 compositions on Goddess Chamundeshwari. Another palace scholar Devottama Joisa composed the sAhitya, most of which were in Kannada language, and Muttaiah Bhagavatar gave them the form of  musical compositions.

Today the composition I have chosen is one from this series.  Bhuvaneshwariya nene mAnasave – is in Mohana Kalyani raga, set to Adi tALa.  Although this raga name appears in texts before his time, it was Muttaiah Bhagavatar who was the first composer to compose in this rAga as we know it.The raaga is named Mohana Kalyani, as it resembles Mohana in ascending phrases, and Kalyani in descending phrases.  Although the language of the song is Kannada, it is in a style that uses a lot of Samskrta words.

Listen to this composition sung by Smt Nagavalli Nagaraj.

In the 1980s, this song was also featured in a Kannada movie, ‘mareyada hADu’.

By the way, the second composition in the Navaratri Kritis of Swathi Tirunal, sung today at the Navaratri Mandapam in Thiruvanantapuram is “pAhi mAm Sri vAgIswari” in kalyAni rAga. You can listen to it by clicking here, sung by Trichur V Ramachandran.

Tomorrow,  let’s meet with another special composition!


October 8th, 2010 is the first day of Navaratri of this year. Navaratri signifies the conquest of the evil by the good.  In the old Mysore region of Karnataka,  Navaratri has been celebrated as a state festival for several centuries. Things such as the doll displays at homes, and  music concerts at temples make this festival make it more of a celebration than a mere ritual.

Thiruvananthapuram is another  city known for it’s special celebration of Navaratri. The  music festival at the Navartri Mandapam, next to the Padmanabhaswamy temple is unique, for its adherence to some traditional practices such as lighting up the place only with traditional oil lamps. During this festival, each night one composition from the Navaratri Kriti series of Maharaja Swathi Tirunal is rendered as the main item in the concert here at Navaratri Mandapam.

The kriti sung during the concert on first day of Navaratri at Navaratri Mandapam is “dEvi jagajjanani” in Shankarabharana rAga. Listen to this composition here:

Since various forms of dEvi are worshipped during Navaratri, listening to a composition or two that praise some form of dEvi each day, and writing a few lines about it during this Navaratri would not be a bad idea. So, here I go!

For the first day, my choice is Tyagaraja’s composition in Kalyani, “Sundari nee divya roopamunu”. Tyagaraja lived in Tiruvayyaru, near Tanjavoor in central part of today’s Tamizh Nadu. He visited Chennapattanam (today’s Chennai) on his desciple Veena Kuppaiyars invitation. During his stay at Chennapattinam, he visited the shrine of Tripurasundari at Tiruvottriyur (now in the northern part of Chennai). Tyagaraja composed five compositions on Goddess Tripurasundari at this shrine, which go by the name ‘Tiruvottriyur Pancharatna’.  This Kalyani composition is one of this set.

Goddess Tripura Sundari

Image source : )

Kalyani raga came into Karnataka sangeetha sometime during early 15th century, but somehow it did not make it’s deep mark felt for quite sometime. Haridasas of Karnataka (~1400 – ~1600 AD) have mentioned Kalyani raga by name in their compositions. However lakshanakAra Venkatamakhi (~1650 AD) says Kalyani is not fit for composing geeta or thaaya and says the rAga is liked by “Turushka”s indicating it’s relation with uttaraadi and Persian music.

However Kalyani took firm roots in Karnataka sangeetha and became the darling of many composers of later days. Tyagaraja has composed more than 30 kritis in Kalyani, of which Sundari nee is a very fine specimen. The composition is set to Adi tAla, and the sAhitya is in Telugu. Tyagaraja compares his opportunity to see Goddess Tripurasundari to a poor and distraught man begetting a fortune.

Now for a fabulous rendition of this composition, by none other than the mastero Balamuralikrishna:

Tomorrow, hopefully I’ll be back with some ramble about another composition!


On the way to work this morning,  I was listening to a show on raaga kalyAni on Stanford Radio at 90.1FM (  presented by Sri Ragavan Manian, an eminent musician of SFO bay area.

Kalyani, or yaman if you are from north of river Krishna, is a very captivating rAga indeed. I have rambled on it this rAga earlier, here and here. Today, it is the chance to write a bit more!

What if I were to be stranded in an island, and had only one rAga to listen to? Which rAga would I pick? Of course, kalyAni. Actually that reminds me of a comment made by one of the callers in the radio program this morning – “How can anyone in the right frame of mind NOT like kalyANi?” 😉 ?

Texual traditions place Kalyani to be an import from the music of the Middle-Eastern music. The word ‘yaman’ comes from ’eman’ or ‘iman’ in Persian – which means “blessed”. When this rAga was adopted to Indian music, the name was indianized with the same meaning as ‘kalyaNa’, or ‘kalyANi’. This import should have happened sometime around 1400 AD (or before), since we have the name of the rAga mentioned in a composition of SripadarAya (1402 AD-1500AD).

Sometime back, the blog avadhi asked it’s readers to name their Top Ten kannada books. My list was published there too. Today’s  show on rAga kalyAni made me list my top ten favourite compositions, set in kalyAni rAga. 

Disclaimer: This order is not set in stone, and I will just say that it is today’s list; if I were to set to do the list another day I might come up with a slightly different order  🙂 🙂 🙂

For those interested, I am pointing to some of my favourite audio links as well.

1. nidhi chAlA sukhamA :

One of the Kalyani gems composed by Tyagaraja. It was supposedly composed in response to the invitation of Serfoji (king of Tanjavoor) to Tyagaraja to become a court musician. He asks “Does wealth give you bliss, or  being close to Rama give you bliss”? You can listen to it here  sung by S Sowmya.

2. EtAvunnarA:  

Another grand kriti of Tyagaraja in kalyAni. Listen it here  on the Veena, by Eemani Shankara Shastry.

3.  sundari nI divya rUpamunu:

Yet another wonderful kriti of Tyagaraja in Kalyani. Tyagaraja visited Chennaipattanam (now Chennai) to visit one of his deciples. There he visited the temple at Tiruvottriyoor, on the northern outskirts of current day Chennai, and composed five compositions on the goddess Tripurasundari. These are termed as the “Tiruvottriyoor Pancharatna kritis”. This composition is one of those five. Listen to it  sung by Dr M Balamuralikrishna , unquestionably my personal favourite.

4. nija dAsa varada:

No wonder the first three were compositions of Tyagaraja. He has composed more than 30  songs in this rAga. And for the same reason, it seems Patnam Subramaniyam Iyer, who comes in the lineage of Tyagaraja did not compose anything in Kalyani for a long time because he felt that Tyagaraja had almost exhausted all the possibilities in kalyAni rAga. But finally he came up with a his own grand composition, to match those of the saint,  set slightly differently to showing his individuality. Listen to it on the nAdaswara by Namagiripettai Krishnan.

5. SringapurAdhIswari shAradE:

A very nice composition of Krishnamachar, popularly known as Padmacharan. Till recently I did not know this kriti – but once I listened to this the rasika forum ( (sung by M N Sriram, a fellow rasika on the forum) sometime back, this has  become one of my favourites!

6. nannu brOvamani cheppavE : 

I love the folksy touch given to this composition of Annamayya.   Listen to this song here sung by Dr BMK  . 

7. kamalAmbAm bhajarE :

Here comes the composition of Muttuswami Dikshitar (MD). This majestic composition is one of the Kamalamba Navavarana kritis. Listen to this played  by U Srinivas on the mandolin

8. bhaja rE chitta:

Another kriti of MD. Listen to this here  sung by Sanjay Subramanian

9. himAdri sutE pAhimAm :

A composition of Shyama Shastri. One of the few compositions that has two different set of words – one in Samskrita and one in Telugu (birAna varAlicchi brOvumu) . Here is the samskrita version from a kannada movie, Hamsageethe, by Dr BMK

10. shivE pAhimAm ambike :

While I could not locate the audio for this kriti, I wanted to list it here because this was the first Kalyani kriti I became aware of! This is a kriti of Tyagaraja, on Dharmasamvardhini, the diety of Tiruvayyaru, the hometown of Tyagaraja.

I wish I could add more compositions, but ‘Top Ten’s are supposed to be what they mean – Right? So even though I don’t want to add these to the list, I will just mention few other must listens  in this rAga –  kAru vElpu of Tyagaraja, abhayAmbA jagadambA of MD, kELano hari tALano or Purandara dAsa sung beautifully by BMK  for a kannada movie – gAnayOgi rAmanna ( Listen to it here)  and the ThAya mAlika tillAna composed by Dr MBK come to mind immediately. The last one definitely merits a post on it’s own. May be some other day!


Whenever I listen to certain Indian flautists (like Hariprasad Chaurasia or S Shashank),  I hear a thur-thur-thur sound in the way they blow.  This normally happens at the drut – or fast phrases. I have no better way of  describing it!   Listen to this short recording of Hariprasad Chaurasia on youtube. You can distinctly hear the sound I am indicating by the phrase thur-thur-thur at several places. As just couple of examples, I would mark around the the  2 min 25 second, and 5 min 6 second  mark, just to tell you what I am talking about.

I was thinking this was a  novelty of some flautists (because I don’t think every flautist uses such a technique).  That was only till I came across a song  that was written more than five centuries ago! Oh boy, How wrong our inferences could be!

This is a song written by Purandara Dasa, acknowledged as a pioneer in Karnataka Sangeetha. The title of this blog happens to be the opening line (pallavi) of one of his songs. It goes like

tutturu toorendu battisa raagagaLannu chittaja janaka tanna koLalallUdidanu

“Krishna, the father of Manmatha,  played 32 raagas on his flute with a sound of ‘thur-thur-thur’

Now do you see why I said this technique could not be all that new? Krishna is described by Purandara as playing his flue this way. Nobody has seen Krishna playing his flute. But Purandara must have see other flautists around his time ( 1480 AD – 1564 AD) producing such sounds on their flutes, and this of course, he has attributed to Krishna. So far so good.

But this song is also significant in other ways. Purandara dasa is said to have composed hundreds of thousands of compositions. Now, we have just over a thousand of his compositions available. Although Purandara Dasa is called as the “pitAmaha of Karnataka sangIta”, most of his original tunes are lost.  There is pretty little information available on how many of his compositions were sung. However, being the musician he was, some of his compositions talk about various musical aspects, although indirectly.  And this song, tutturu toorendu, is one of them.

For a long time, Indian music was supposed to have 32 major rAgas. This has showed up even prior to Purandara dAsa. Basavanna, a social reformer from Karnataka (1134-1196 AD) has this in one of his vachanas (saying):

ಎನ್ನ ಕಾಯವ ದಂಡಿಗೆಯ ಮಾಡಯ್ಯ
ಎನ್ನ ಶಿರವ ಸೋರೆಯ ಮಾಡಯ್ಯ
ಎನ್ನ ನರಗಳ ತಂತಿಯ ಮಾಡಯ್ಯ
ಬತ್ತೀಸ ರಾಗವ ಹಾಡಯ್ಯ
ಉರದಲೊತ್ತಿ ಬಾರಿಸು ಕೂಡಲಸಂಗಮದೇವ!

Here is the text transliterated:

enna kAyava daMDigeya mADayya
enna shirava sOreya mADayya
enna naragaLa tantiya mADayya
battIsa rAgava hADayya
uradalotti bArisu kUDalasangama dEva

And here it is translated:

Make my body the fretboard,
Make my head resonator
Make my nerves into the strings
Sing thirtytwo rAgas
Play intensely, Oh koodalasangama dEva*!

* : Koodala sangama – A place at the confluence of Krishna and Malaprabha rivers in Karnataka.

It is the same 32 raagas which Purandara dasa refers to in this song “tutturu toorendu’ too. – “Krishna played 32 rAgas”. (battIs = 32).  However, he does not list out all the 32 raagas in this song. How unfortunate for us?

First lets see what he says in one of the stanzas of tutturu toorendu:

ಗೌಳ ನಾಟಿ ಆಹೇರಿ ಗುರ್ಜರಿ ಮಾಳವಿ ಸಾರಂಗ ರಾಗ ಕೇಳಿ ರಮಣಿಯರತಿ ದೂರದಿಂದ

ಫಲಮಂಜರಿ ಗೌಳಿ ದೇಶಾಕ್ಷಿ ರಾಗಗಳನು ನಳಿನನಾಭನು ತನ್ನ ಕೊಳಲಲೂದಿದನು

gouLa nATi AhEri gurjari mALavi sAranga  rAga kELi ramaNiyarati dUradinda
phalamanjari gauLi dEshAkSi rAgangaLanu naLinanAbhanu tanna koLalalUdidanu

“When the maidens from listening from afar, the one with a lotus in his navel, played raagas like gouLa, nATi, AhEri, gurjari, mALavi, sAranga, phalamanjari, gouLi and dEshAkShi”

So, we have the following  9 distinct rAgas listed in this song. However, it falls  short of the required 32!

1. gouLa
2. nATi
3. AhEri
4. gurjari
5. mALavi
6. sAranga
7. phalamanjari
8. gouLi
9. dEshakshi

Luckily for us,  there are at least two other songs (that I know of) in which he lists out some of the raagas (melodies) that were vouge in his time.

Here is a stanza from another song that starts as ನಳಿನಜಾಂಡ ತಲೆಯ ತೂಗಿ – “naLinajANDa taleya toogi”:

ಮಾರವಿ ದೇಶಿ ಗುರ್ಜರಿ ಭೈರವಿ ಗೌಳಿ ನಾಟಿ ಸಾವೇರಿ ಆಹೇರಿ ಪೂರ್ವಿ 
ಕಾಂಭೋಜಿ ಪಾಡಿ ದೇಶಾಕ್ಷೀ ಶಂಕರಾಭರಣ ಮಾಳವ
ವರಾಳಿ ಕಲ್ಯಾಣಿ ತೋಡಿ ಮುಖಾರಿಯರಳಿ ವಸಂತ ಬೌಳಿ ಧನ್ಯಾಸಿ
ಸೌರಾಷ್ಟ್ರ ಗುಂಡಕ್ರಿಯ ರಾಮಕ್ರಿಯ ಮೇಘ ಕುರಂಜಿಯು ಪಾಡಲು ನೋಡಿ!

mAravi dEshi gurjari bhairavi gauLi nATi sAvEri AhEri pUrvi 
kAmbhOji pADi dEshAkSi shankarAbharaNa mALava 
varALi kalyANi tODi mukhAriyaraLi vasanta bauLi dhanyAsi 
saurASTra guMDakriya rAmakriya mEgha kuranjiyu pADalu nODi

Now, let me list out the rAgas from here, discounting the ones that have been listed before:

10. mAravi
11. dEshi
12. bhairavi
13. sAvEri
14. pUrvi
15. kAmbhOji
16. pADi
17. shankarAbharaNa
18. mALava
19. varALi
20. kalyANi
21. tODi
22. mukhAri
23. vasanta
24. bouLi
25. dhanyAsi
26. sourAShTra
27. guMDakriya
28. rAmakriya
29. mEgha
30. kuranji

Whew! We are so close to the magical number 32!

Now, to conclude, here is a stanza from the last song – which starts as ಅಂಗನೆಯರೆಲ್ಲರು ನೆರೆದು – ’anganeyarellaru neredu’

ಪಾಡಿ ಮಲಹರಿ ಭೈರವಿ ಸಾರಂಗ ದೇಶಿ ಗುಂಡಕ್ರಿಯ ಗುರ್ಜರಿ ಕಲ್ಯಾಣಿ ರಾಗದಿ ತಂಡ
ತಂಡದಲಿ ನೆರೆದು ರಂಗನ ಉಡಿಯ ಘಂಟೆ ಘಣ್ ಘಣ್ ಘಣ್ ಘಣಿರೆಂದು ಹಿಡಿದು ಕುಣಿಸುವರು

pADi malhAri bhairavi sAranga dEsi guMDakriya gurjari kalyANi rAgadi taMDa
taMadali neredu rangana uDiya ghaNTe ghaN ghaN ghaN ghNirendu hiDidu kuNisuvaru

If you look carefully, you’ll notice there is only one name that has not appeared before.

31. Malahari

So, the internal evidence from these compositions is giving a list of 31 rAgas (probably out of the legendary 32 – this is but my speculation) that were in vogue in the 15th-16th centuries. The set of 32 rAgas was not a static list, and over the centuries, new rAgas gained popularity, and some went outdated. The evidence from these three compositions also shows that the rAga kalyANi, was adopted by composers like Purandara Dasa , although the text writers continued to shoo it away because of its foreign origins, and kept saying that the rAga is not fit for compositions for another two centuries!

But the golden rule in Music is “If it is melodious, it stays“. Kalyani has passed the test of time. Composers who came in the 18th-19th centuries explored all facets of this rAga, and today it has became one of the major rAgas of Karnataka Sangeetha .



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