akcnatarajanThere were two lec dems today, both dedicated to the memory of Karukurichi Arunachalam. Unfortunately, I could reach the Academy only by 8.40 am when the first lec dem on Bandishes of Pt. CR Vyas, presented by his son Suhas Vyas, was already halfway through. I therefore refrained from taking notes. This was more by way of a singing demo and mainly had songs with a few personal anecdotes in between. So I concentrated on sketching AKC Natarajan who has a very striking profile. This appeared to entertain the child sitting behind me and so the day’s good deed was also done. The sketch is attached. The music was good.

The second lecdem was by Sriram Parasuram and was on Hindustani Ragas and their adaptation into Carnatic Music. This was very good. Sriram began by stating that the first differentiation of Indian music into two streams, namely the North and the South comes only from the time of Ramamatya, who first defined music from a very South Indian perspective. From then on, a strong South Indian framework was created. It is very difficult to state categorically if the concept of raga came from the North or the South. Indian history wants in documentation and therefore there is no conclusive evidence. However, ragas have originated from various regions of the country. Some ragas specifically had their origins in North India and made the transition to the South. Today they are 100% Carnatic ragas and it is very interesting to see how they made their transition.

Sriram took five pairs of ragas for comparison.

Begada and Bihagda

Even before beginning his speech, Sriram sang Veena Kuppayyar’s varnam ‘Inta Chala’ in Begada and remarked jocularly that he was paying his respects to Dr Pappu Venugopala Rao (the varnam has the words Venugopala Dasa). The speaker then demonstrated by singing a bandish (?) “More madarva mein aaye nahin pritam pyare” in Bihagda. He drew audience attention to the phrase level and movement of vakra prayogas. He also showed how both ragas had the two nishadas as their hallmarks. However in ornamentation terms the two differ totally, each taking after its own tradition. Sriram recalled that his Guru (Pt. CR Vyas?) would call this raga Pyagda only, just as old musicians called it Pyagadai in the Carnatic stream. Structurally, Sriram said, even songs such as Vallabha Nayakasya, Shankari Nive, Kadaikkan Vaithennai and Tyagarajaya are similar to the Hindustani raga equivalent. He stated that the raga was of North Indian origin, but evidence for this specific claim did not conclusively come through.

Ramkali and Ramakali

Prefacing his treatment of these ragas with the comment that Carnatic Music lays great stress on defining the grammar of music while Hindustani looks more at it from an idea or concept point of view, Sriram stated that Ramakali came to Carnatic Music thanks to Muttuswami Dikshitar. He said that this raga uses both Madhyamas but the Prati Madhyama is more of a grace note in both Hindustani and Carnatic styles. Having demonstrated the Hindustani raga by singing a bandish (?) “Rama nama japa le man” Sriram said that most of the action takes place around the Panchama. He then sang “Rama Rama Kali Kalusha Virama” and showed how the Chittaswaram also had the Pa dominating. He however sang it only using the Shuddha Madhyamam throughout and said later by way of explanation that this was how T Viswanathan rendered it. He also demonstrated the pallavi of the song as it was sung using both Madhyamams. Sriram also added that the latter version was different from what appears in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini of Subbarama Dikshitar which also states that the Prati Madhyamam has to be sung in this raga.

Dvijavanti/ Jujavanti and Jayajayavanti

Sriram said that Muttuswami Dikshitar introduced this raga into Carnatic Music. He also speculated on whether the term Jay Jaya could have been changed by the poetic Dikshitar into Dvi Jay (two Jaya) resulting in its Carnatic name. He also showed how Dikshitar while building a Carnatic framework for this raga used other well-established ragas for bolstering it. Thus shades of Bhairavi, Sahana, Kedara Gaula and Yadukula Kamboji appear in the rendition of this raga. Most of the action in this raga happens between Ri and Pa and it is therefore  a Purvanga Pradhana Raga. The Hindustani and Carnatic versions both have subtle usages of the Komal Gandhara. Sriram sang “Mathe Jat Chanda” and followed it up with parts of “Cheta Sri”. He demonstrated how the line “Chintitartha prada charanaravindam” has shades of Bhairavi, “Kuvalayadi Paripalam” has shades of Sahana and “Guruguha Nuta” has Yadukula Kamboji. He compared the usage of other raga chayas to a child learning to stand with the help of its parents. A lovely imagery.

Bilahari and Bilaval

The etymology of this name said Sriram, could be traced to a tribe called the Velavulli who migrated from North to South. This mode was their prime melody. While traditionally Shankarabharanam is equated with Bilaval, the speaker felt it had more shades of Bilahari in it, especially when it comes to omitting Ma in the arohanam, the importance of Ga and Dha and the use of Ni in the descent. He said that there are ten types of Bilaval and the Alaiya Bilaval is the closest to Bilahari. Purists have questioned the use of a touch of Ni in the ascent, but even a varnam of Sonti Venkatasubbayya (early 18th century) has profound usage of Kaishiki Ni in arohana passages. (I have heard a recording of Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer where he uses the Ni in the ascent often. It can perhaps be best left to manodharma as long as it does not intrude too obtrusively. )

The Kanada Family of Ragas

In Hindustani music, this is a large family and the name probably comes from Kanhado which in Kutchi means Krishna. Among the various ragas of this family, the one unifying feature is that they all explore the space between Ri and Ma. In Carnatic music apart from Kanada, Nayaki, Darbar and Sahana also have the same characteristic. Sahana Kanada of the North is the closest to our Kanada. He sang a song in the Hindustani version of Kanada.

The speaker concluded by saying that this is a vast subject and there is enough material for a study on ragas that have migrated from South to North as well.


Prof SRJ felicitated the speaker.

N Ravikiran wanted to know if the Nayaks/Muslim/Maratha rulers had any influence on JayJayavanti becoming Jujavanti as he had seen in books (specific books not mentioned) the name Jayavanti also. Sriram said that such external influences are possible. Dr Pappu Venugopala Rao said that usage of Sanskrit in Carnatic raga names was also a very important factor to be considered and that the origins of raga names is a subject by itself.

Yours truly (with Dr Pappu remarking that one Sriram was asking another) had a comment and a question. The first was on the song Rama Rama. There is some dispute on it being a Muttuswami Dikshitar composition. Subbarama Dikshitar has claimed it as his in the Telugu SSP. In the Tamil version this was changed. The tendency to use the same word more than once, each time with different meanings is more of a Subbarama Dikshitar trait and the song begins with just such a usage.

Secondly, in the SSP, Subbarama Dikshitar while specifying the usage of Prati Madhyama does not say in the notation for the song where it should be used. Thus it is possible to sing the whole song using only one Madhyama. Does the speaker have a view on this given his strong Hindustani training?

Sriram answered by saying that even in the Hindustani style, there are various views. Bhatkhande has one, Subba Rao’s Raga Nidhi has another. Even Subbarama Dikshitar does not clearly define where the Prati Madhyama is to be used. The general view is that Prati Ma comes when Vakra praogas are there.

AKC was very quiet today. He did not say anything and honoured the speakers by handing over whatever the Academy hands out.

I like the way Dr Pappu effectively cuts out effusive praise from members of the Experts Committee when it comes to speaking. He said that he would handle all felicitations and only comments and observations were expected from the Experts. This eliminates all comments such as “Romba Nanna Sonna” and “Chiranjeevi/Dheerga Sumangaliyaga Irukkanum” from the debate.