Prof SR Janakiraman held his audience spellbound at the Music Academy for an hour and a half this morning. Assisting him in his singing were Ashwin and Rohin (announced as Ashwini and Rohini and leading me to expect two young girls), both from Canada.
The Prof prefaced his presentation with the remarks that Tyagaraja was not alone in Eka Kriti Ragas. He said the composer’s disciple Manambucchavadi Venkatasubbayyar was also one, as he had handled raga Pravalajyothi, setting one song Parabrahmamu Ravi Kula Tilaka in it. He said that this raga is often handled erroneously leading to Budha Manohari. (How does this happen I am not sure). He also said that Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar also handled rare ragas.
The Eka Kriti Ragas of Tyagaraja were then taken up. The prof based his references on ragas to works dating from 1750 to 1920.
1. Supradipam- The raga was first quoted in the 18th century and the earlier Kanakangi Ratnangi nomenclature had it as the 17th melakarta. The Kanakambari Phenadyuti names it as Chayavati. The later Kanakangi Ratnangi scheme places it as a janya of the 17th mela Suryakantam. It is known for its vivadi swaras. The song Varashiki Vahana, one of two songs by Tyagaraja on Subrahmanya was then rendered.
2. Vijayavasantam-This raga is not found in either the Sangraha Chudamani or the Sangita Saravarthasara Sangrahamu. Prof SRJ says that the first time that a Tyagaraja kriti is listed in this raga is in Pudukottai Narasimha Bhagavatar’s book Tyagarajaswami Kirtanalu, published in 1908. The author belonged to the Tillaisthanam parampara. Today the raga is classified as a janya of the 54th mela, Viswambari. The nishada is a very important note in this raga (why?). The song Ni Chittamu was then rendered.
3. Dundubhi – Belonging to the 48th mela Divyamani, Prof SRJ said that Tyagaraja’s song Lilaganu Juche is erroneously classified under Divyamani when it should be sung in its janya Dundubhi or Dundubhipriya as referred to in some works. The Shatshruti dhaivata is an important note in this raga. The song was learnt by Prof SRJ from Maruthuvakudi Rajagopala Iyer who belonged to the Umayalpuram parampara. Prof SRJ sang from phrases from how Tirupamburam Swaminatha Pillai handled this raga.
4. Dipakam – Proof of the raga first comes from Ramamatya’s Swaramelakalanidhi of the 1550s which first lists 20 mela ragas and 64 janyas. This raga was classified as a janya of Shuddharamakriya whch is today’s Kamavardhini. Prof SRJ decried the later tendency to refer to this raga (Kamavardhini) as Pantuvarali. He also said that several songs of Tyagaraja now being sung in Pantuvarali were earlier listed under Shubhapantuvarali (the 45th mela) in Narasimha Bhagavatar’s book. The song Kalalanerchina was then rendered. During the rendition, Prof SRJ stopped and highlighted certain aspects of the sahitya – Vibhishana’s(referred to as the enemy brother -vairi tammudu) inability to take the Ranganatha idol to Lanka and also the episode of Singili Muni (this was later explained in detail by Dr Pappu Venugopala Rao) who having pulled a mountain of food, could not eat it. Prof Janakiraman pointed out that GNB made this song famous. He also said hat the antara gandhara in this raga is important. He said that the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini has two ragas, Dipakam and Kumudvati classified under Pantuvarali and this reference was erroneous (I must check this and see if I got it right).
5. Kaikavasi- All treatises mention this raga which is classified under the mela Nitimati. Tiger Varadachariar (SRJ’s guru) apparently used to extol the rendering by Mukkai Ganapati Bhagavatar of Tyagaraja’s kriti in this raga – Vachamagocharame. Prof SRJ said that Tiger however did not teach this song, but merely would demonstrate how it was sung by the Bhagavatar.
6. Vardhani – Put under mela 11- Kokilapriya, it could also be classified under Gauri Manohari (mela 23). The song Manasa Mana Samarthyamemi was sung.
7. Ganavaridhi – Classified under mela 35, Sulini, all treatises mention this raga. Prof SRJ recollected how well Mudicondan Venkatarama Iyer would sing the composition Daya Jucutakidivela.
PS Narayanaswami complimented Prof SRJ on his presentation. Dr N Ramanathan asked a few questions.
1. How different is Vamsavati to Vijayavasantham? The avarohanam which was traditionally held as Sa Ni Da Ni Pa Ma Ga Sa later changed to Sa Ni Pa Ma Ga Sa. How is this valid?
2. If the daivatam in Kaikavasi is an alpa swara, how different is Urmika which leaves out the daivata altogether?
3. Has not the characters of Dipakam changed owing to it being classified today undr mela 51 and not mela 45?
Prof SRJ, who was conscious of the Academy’s adherence to time felt this could be discussed later. But Sangita Kalanidhi designate AKC Natarajan in his summing up felt that the questions needed to be answered then and there. Prof SRJ felt that the traditional avarohana of Vamsavati was the correct way. Unfortunately the other questions were not taken up mainly because conversation became general by then. AKC said that the Kaikavasi learnt by him had Kakali Nishada and said that seniors like SRJ should record their version of ragas so that they become available to posterity.
Listening to Prof SRJ is an experience by itself. His erudition in English matches his boundless knowledge of music. He used some wonderful expressions and at the same time brought in his penchant for the pun without which he said there is no fun!