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Today, 10/2/2010 is the ninth day of Navaratri, which is celebrated as Mahanavami. The first eight days of Navaratri, the music compositions I posted were all about Parvati (or one of her forms). Since, Mahanavami s also the day when many people perform Saraswati pooja, I thought it would be very appropriate to share composition about Saraswati today.
The Sharada shrine in Shringeri, which dates back to Adi Shankara’s days is one of the most famous shrines of Saraswati. The temple is known for it’s grand celebration of Navaratri.
In one of my earlier posts this series I had mentioned how the term Veena was a term used to indicate any string instrument. Some sculptures of Saraswati show her playing a fret-less string instrument. The music compositionI am sharing today is also played on a Veena without frets. Known as Gotuvadya or Chitra Veena, this instrument is a close cousin of Vichitra Veena and Rudra Veena which are used in Hindustani system.
The composition starts with the words “Sarasiruhasanapriye” and praises the Goddess as one who is delighted by singing and Veena playing. It is a composition of Puliyur Doreswamy Iyer, a post Trinity composer ( and father of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer and Ramaswamy Shivan).
This composition is in rAga nATa, which has been a popular raga for several centuries, and particularly considered an excellent raga to play tAna. No wonder the artist has preceded the composition with a short Alapa and tAna.
Today, 10/1/2014, is the eighth day of Navaratri. This is celebrated in the name of Durga, and so the festival is called Durgashtami. While the Bengal region is known for it’s Durga puja, in Karnataka Navaratri is celebrated in the name of different forms of the Goddess.
In the first seven days of the festival, I wrote some some interesting bits about seven composers of Karnataka Sangeeta and their compositions – Syama Sastry (Devi brova samayamide) , Muttuswamy Dikshita (Meenakshi memudam dehi) ,Tyagaraja (Darini telusukonti) , Swathi Tirunal (Pahi jagajjanani), Muttaiah Bhagavatar (Sudhamayi sudhanidhi) , Lalgudi G Jayaraman (Tillana in Mand) and G N Balasubramanian (Ranjani niranjani).
Today also, I am planning to do the same – although there is meager information on the composer. I chose this song because of couple of different reasons, but let me do some history talking first.
The term used for “composer” in Indian music is Vaggeyakara – which implies that both the words and the music were created by the same person. Traditionally, Indian music was primarily to be performed vocally, and hence the necessity of having words. Therefore, unlike in western music, there were almost no compositions which were created for playing on instruments until very recent times.
But there have been instances when the lyrics are penned by one person and the music given by another. We have very limited view of our music compositions before the 16th-17th centuries. It may come as a surprise to a lot of people, but most of compositions of early composers such as Purandara Dasa (and other Haridasas) or Annamayya have been tuned by later day musicians. Only a few have retained their original form. There are also instances where in the lyrics were written by a person specifically to be given a musical form by another. I can cite the example of Devottama Jois writing the sahitya for the 108 compositions on Chamundeswari for Muttaiah Bhagavatar during his stint in Mysore as the Asthana Vidwan. Then there are cases of Swati Tirunal‘s compositions being re-fitted with music by Muttaiah Bhagavatar, and later by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. So in such cases, the role of Vaggeyakara is split between two people.
And then in some cases, compositions that were probably never set to music or sung before, are set to music by a musician, and they become popular as a “composition” of the person who wrote the sahitya lines, rather than the person who set music. The composition I am talking about is one such , which is set in multiple ragas.
Ragamalika (ರಾಗಮಾಲಿಕಾ, ರಾಗಮಾಲಿಕೆ) – is a type of composition that is quite popular in South Indian classical music today. As the name suggests, such a composition sung in multiple ragas, and so the name Ragamalika, i.e. “garland of ragas”. As a composition type, they seem to gained popularity from the early 18th century. Muttuswami Dikshita’s father Ramaswamy Dikshita, and his guru Veerabhadrayya are some of the earliest Ragamalika composers known. As I was telling earlier, several Purandara Dasa compositions that are sung as Ragamalikas, have been set to music by later day musicians, since we have lost most of original structure of haridasa compositions from the 15-18th centuries. And their ragamalika form is more than likely to be of recent origin.
There is some food for thought here. Why didn’t Haridasa’s who composed suLAdis , which are compositions in multiple tALas (tALamAlike), think of composing in multiple ragas? They my indeed have, but we can’t prove they did. As an aside I can cite a composition of Sripadaraya ( who composed several decades before Purandara dasa) – ಲಾಲಿ ಗೋವಿಂದ ಲಾಲಿ – in which three of the twenty three charaNas have names of the ragas embedded in the lyrics (Kalyani, Anandabhairavi and Devagandhara) giving us an opportunity to speculate that the composition indeed might have been a ragamalike, sung in those ragas for those specific charaNas ( because that’s how the raga signature is included in more recent ragamalika compositions). Yes, again, it remains only a speculation.
Today’s ragamalika, Srichakraraja simhasaneshwari, is said to be a “composition” of Agastyar – only means that someone with a pen name “Agastyar” wrote the sahitya, as the language and style look contemporary. This is set in four ragas, that are sung in madhyama shruti – Jhanjoti, nadanamakriya, Punnagavarali and Sindhubhairavi.
Now listen to a rendition of this composition by Aravind Bhargav, a worthy disciple of the Mandolin maestro Srinivas, who passed away recently. This is from a concert recently in memory of his guru:
The embedded video seems to start at the wrong time – Start from the 1hr 35m mark to listen to Srichakraraja simhasaneshwari in ragamalika. I recommend you listen not only to this composition (which is only about 5 minutes long), but the entire concert, which is excellent.
Today’s 9/27/2014. The fourth day of Navaratri. In the first three days of this Navaratri, I wrote about a music composition of Syama Sastry, Muttuswamy Dikshita and Tyagaraja, who are popularly called the Trinity of Karnataka Sangeeta and then shared with you links for those compositions being played on a “Veena”. And no prizes for guessing today’s post will be on similar lines!
In the 18th and 19th centuries, when the British had taken over most of the princely states under their arms, only two major kingdoms had remained, albeit under reduced strength. The Wodeyars of Mysore and the Kings of Travencore ( Thiruvananthapuram) continued to be great patrons of music, dance and other art forms. In some cases, the rulers were artists themselves.
Thiruvanathapuram is well known for the chamber concerts at the Navaratri Mandapam, adjacent to the famed Padmanabhaswamy temple. A special feature feature of these concerts is that unlike most other concerts, the main item presented on each day of the music festival is known in advance. The artist of the day elaborates a composition of Maharaja Swathi Tirunal from what is called the Navarati kritis. Each of these compositions is in Samsktra and set in rakti ragas such as Bhairavi, Shankarabharana, Natakuranji, Kalyani etc. I’d written about these compositions earlier during a previous Navaratri series. You can read them here.
Maharaja Rama Varma is better known by his star name – Swathi Tirunal, In a short span of 33 years (1836- 1846 AD) he accomplished a lot musically. He was a Veena player as well. Unlike other composers who had their students spread the compositions across the country, his compositions remained known only in Kerala for quite some time. Also, for some of his compositions nothing but the raga and tALa names were known, and were tuned by later day musicians. In the 20th century his compositions become popular outside Kerala, and now have become a part of the standard concert repertoire.
Swathi Tirunal adapted some Hindustani ragas into Karnataka sangeeta as well – and thus the Raga Hamsanandi was born from Sohini. The composition I’m sharing today, pAhi jagajjanani is in this raga – Listen to this played on electric guitar by Abhay. The Guitar, although a western instrument falls in the class of what has been traditionally called a “Veena” in India.
Interestingly enough, Guitar Abhay has not changed the way the guitar is traditionally tuned. He is a student of Mandolin Shrinivas whom we lost recently. It’s but a sad coincidence, both Swathi Tirunal and U Shrinivas had short lives , but they sure have touched many hearts in their lifetime and will continue to do so much beyond their life time.
Now over to Guitar Abhay’s magical fingers, playing pAhi jagajjanani in rAga hamsAnandi:
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, 2008, 2010… ), 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, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-fridayreview/carrying-on-the-legacy/article4463886.ece)
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.
I figure it is better to post the this video of Navaratri celebration at our home – since Deepavali is around the corner already!