This is an ancient raga in Indian music and was known as Sevvazhi paN in the Tamil music system of yore. Today it is classified as a janya or derivative of the 28th mELa harikAmbOji. It is an auDava sampUrNa raga as it has five notes in the ascent and all seven in the descent. The notes being:
avarOhaNa : sa-ni-dha-pa-ma-ga-ri-sa
The notes are shadja, catushruti riShabha, antara gAndhAra, shuddha madhyama, pancama, catushruti dhaivata and kaishiki niShAda. gAndhAra and niShAda are absent in the ArOhaNa. The kAkali niShAda is used occasionally in certain phrases and so this raga is also a bhAShAnga raga. In the Muttuswami Dikshitar school this raga is called Erukala kAmbOji. The raga is very popular in Kathakali performances and is known in Kerala as Yadukula kAmOdari. In his Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini, Subbarama Dikshitar classifies this raga as a janya of the rAgAnga rAga harikEdAragauLa.
The raga is best presented in the slow tempo or cauka kAla. Short phrases are its speciality and care is to always be taken that shades of kEdAra gauLa do not creep in. Some of its characteristic phrases include sa-pa-dha-sa, sa-ri-ma-ga-sa, sa-ri-ma-ma, ga-ma-pa-pa, sa-ri-ma-pa-dha-dha-pa, pa-dha-sa-pa-ma-ga,sa-sa-ni-sa-ri-ma-pa-dha-sa,ma-pa-ma-ga-ri-ma-ga-sa, sa-ni-pa-dha-sa. Subbarama Dikshitar adds that the phrase sa\ pa dha sa gives a special pleasing effect to this raga. Dikshitar also gives a lakshya gItam arE gajavanavAsa composed on Lord Jambukeswara of Tiruvanaikka and attributes it to Venkatamakhi.
The Trinity has handled this raga exhaustively. But perhaps the best known piece in this mode is one composed earlier, namely kAlai tUkki ninrADum dEivamE on Nataraja at Chidambaram by Marimutha Pillai. The tune is probably one that was created much later. Coming back to the Trinity, Syama Sastry used this raga for composing one of his three svarajatis, the other two being in bhairavi and tODi. It is the least sung among the three. There are at least four songs by Tyagaraja – EtAvuna nErcitivO, heccarikagA rArA, pAhi rAmacandra rAghava and shrI rAma jayarAma. Muttuswami Dikshitar has given us tyAgarAjam bhaja rE which is on the presiding deity at Tiruvarur and also divAkara tanujam which is on Saniswara (Saturn) and hence is part of the vAra kriti series by the composer. In the era of the Trinity, the Anai Ayya brothers gave us ELiyEnai. Gopalakrishna Bharati has used this raga in his Nandan Charittiram and in other compositions. Some instances are bhaktiyE, innamum oru daram, Ezhai pArpan aDi, nIcanE and varuvAro
Turning to Subbarama Dikshitar once again, we find from his book that he has listed a song by Kumara Ettappa Maharaja in this raga – karuNArasalaharI kaTAkshEna which is very much in the Muttuswami Dikshitar style. In keeping with Kumara Ettapa’s style, the song ends with a cittasvara passage. Subbarama Dikshitar has three compositions of his own in the raga the first of which is a kriti pArthasArathinI in praise of the deity in Triplicane. This has an interesting wordplay with the same words being used in different contexts right through the song. Some of the repetitive words include pArthiva, kari, dAra, parama and guru. The song ends with a passage of sollukaTTus (solfa syllables). The other two compositions are varnams, one a tAna varnam and the other a daru. The former is in aTa tALam. Yet another varnam in the raga is kamalAkshi by Tiruvottiyur Tyagier also in aTa tALam. A third varnam is padarEdi, in aTa tALam, composed by Patnam Subramania Iyer. The first caraNam in the nava rAgamAlika varnam, valaci is in this raga.
Subbaraya Sastry, the son of Syama Sastry has given us ninnu sEvincina, a song on Parthasarathi of Triplicane. Another song on Parthasarathi, once again in the same raga, is pArthasArathi by Cheyyur Chengalvaraya Sastry. Vedanayakam Pillai’s innum parAmukham and karuNAkaTAksham are sung in yadukula kAmbOji. Several songs of earlier composers are set to this raga. These include Ittanai kOpam by Arunachala Kavi, manadinil by Muttu Tandavar, pAhimAm of Bhadrachala Ramadas, dEva dEvOttama of Annamacharya and several padams of Kshetrayya and Sarangapani. Some of the latter day vAggeyakAras who have used this raga include Papanasam Sivan in kumaran tAL, Mysore Vasudevachar in sAradE pAhimAm and GN Balasubramaniam in paramakrpA sAgari. Songs of lyricists such as Ambujam Krishna (arivAnO kaNNan, sindanai seyyaDi) and Periyasami Thooran (AruyirgaTkEllAm) are set in this raga. Swati Tirunal songs are aplenty in this raga, especially in the padam genre. The most famous piece of his in this raga is bhujagashAyinO, often sung as benediction at the end of concerts. His contemporary was Iraviamman Tampi whose karuNai sEivAn is sung in this raga.
Several musicians handled some of the songs listed above often in their performances. EtAvuna nErcitivo was made famous by Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar. pAhi rAmacandra was a favourite of Musiri Subramania Iyer. divAkara tanujam was often sung by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and Madurai Mani Iyer. Ninnu sEvincina was a frequent concert piece in the performances of the Brinda-Mukta duo and they sometimes began their concerts with the kamalAkshi varnam. The former song was also sung by DK Pattammal and DK Jayaraman. bhujagasAyinO was frequently heard in KV Narayanaswami’s concerts as was hEccarikkagA rArA. MS Subbulakshmi made kAlai tUkki an integral part of her repertoire. Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar often sang karuNai sEivAn of Iraviamman Tampi. The raga is frequently used by many musicians in their viruttams, shlOkas and rAgamAlika svarams for pallavis.
The raga, like many evergreen modes in Carnatic music continues to remain a favourite among musicians and audiences alike.