Amritavarshini is a divine raga said to usher in showers of rain when sung. The moods associated with it are joy, exuberance, appeal, and passionate exultation. The swara combinations in this raga conjure up a grand vision in the mind’s eye. This vision, when complemented with an interesting anecdote of rains pouring down in answer to Muthuswamy Dikshitar's prayer in this raga, gives this raga an almost ethereal quality.
The notes in this raga include Sadja, Antara Gandhara, Prati Madhyama, Pancama, and Kakali Nishada. It is a symmetrical scale, with several crests and valleys. The hyperbolic transition from the Pancama to the Nishada is spellbinding, as is the attraction of Prati Madhyama when sounded in conjunction with the Nishada. The undulating expanses in this raga are an interesting terrain for the adventurous musician who seeks to jump from note to note and revel in thrills.
The classical piece “Anandamrita” of Dikshitar may be thought of as a guide to this raga, and as soon as this song was fervently rendered by the composer as a sincere prayer to the goddess, “varshaya varshaya varshaya”, rains are said to have poured down in Ettayapuram. Ragas are certainly powerful and their vibrations transcend the comprehension of the human mind, pervading the cosmos. Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar's”Sudhamayi” with its attractive chittaswara passage is a treat in Amritavarshini. One fondly remembers G.N.Balasubramaniam's bright rendition of this piece.
In film music this raga has been handled diligently by composers with due respect to its character. In the film “Ganga Gowri” M.S.Viswanathan has composed the Amritavarshini piece “Azhagiya megangal”, sung by S. Janaki. In mythological dramas such as “Ganga Gowri”, a raga like Amritavarshini is apposite, its classical appeal richly complementing the traditional grandeur on screen.
M.S.Viswanathan has once again come up with “Sivakami Ada Vandhal” in “Paattum Bharatamum”, a lilting and energetic piece sung by P. \Susheela and TM Soundararajan. In the lines “Natarajan enna seivan?” , the usage of the phrase “NSG,S S,NSN” hits the bulls-eye and establishes Amritavarshini indubitably. The usage of the mridangam, and traditional kutcheri instruments in this song gives it a very strong classical flavour.
It is Ilayaraja who has explored the length and breadth of this raga and used it extensively in his compositions, and a few of those may be said to be his career's best. In the piece “Mazhaikkoru devane” from “Sri Raghavendra”, Yesudas's voice brings forth the signature phrases of Amritavarshini so beautifully. Composed as a viruttam, Swami Raghavendra sings this song in the movie to extinguish a fire by praying for rain. An apt choice of raga. In the phrase “maariye varuga....mazhaiye varuga” the Prati Madhyama is cleverly highlighted.
In “Oruvar Vazhum Alayam” the song “Vanin Devi Varuga” by Ilayaraja is a fine example of the usage of alapana in a film song. Sung by S.P.Balasubramaniam and S.Janaki, this song is, once again, very traditional and classical.
One of the finest film numbers in this raga is “Thoongatha vizhigal rendu” from “Agni Nakshatram”. The ornamentation in the lines “Maamara ilaimele” sung by Yesudas never fails to elicit a nod of enjoyment.
The usage of new-age instruments marked the advent of a fresh era in music, one where Classicism is met by electronic tones. In the phrase “vizhigal rendu” the notes “GMPN S, N,,” culminate with an oscillation in the Nishada, a clear stamp of Amritavarshini.
“Kaathirunda Malli Malli”, a playful and sprightly tune once again by Ilayaraja, in “Mallu Veti Minor”, is sung by P.Susheela. “Ippodhenna thevai” is a westernised presentation of this raga for the silver screen, and in this song too Ilayaraja is faithful to the character of the raga.