A raga that is symmetric and very easy to teach and learn is Mayamalavagowla. This is the reason beginners' lessons in Carnatic music are based in Mayamalavagowla and its derivative ragas.
The notes that feature in Mayamalavagowla are sadja, suddha rishaba, antara gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, suddha dhaivata and kakali nishada. It is a morning raga that evokes peace, harmony and sometimes a hint of sadness.
The well-known “Sri Gananatha” geetham is based on Malahari raga, a janya of Mayamalavagowla.
“Tulasi dala,” “Vidulaku Mrokeda,” “Rakshimpave” and “Merusamana” are well-known Thyagaraja kritis in this raga. “Srinathadi Guruguho Jayati,” the very first composition of Muthuswamy Dikshitar, was in this raga too.
In cinema, one of the first songs to have been composed in Mayamalavagowla is “Govinda Varada Srihari Gopala” from “Tukaram,” starring Musiri Subramania Iyer. “Alibaba-vum 40 Thirudargalum” featured the very peppy “Azhagana ponnuthan” in this raga, sung by Bhanumathy.
“Kallellam manicka kallaguma” from “Alayamani,” sung by T.M.S. and L.R. Eswari in the music of Viswanathan–Ramamurthy, is a brilliant example of this raga. In the haunting humming “spm, /grs /s, r,s r,s g...” the various stages of progression of the raga are outlined – the gandhara pause, next pancama and finally a complete octave sweep to upper sadja.
“Solladi Abirami,” the passionate outpouring of Abirami Bhattar from the film “Adhiparasakthi” (music K. V. Mahadevan) is based on this raga. Mostly in the upper octave, the opening of this song highlights the importance of gandhara in this raga.
“Anthapurathil oru maharani” from the film “Deepam,” in the music of Ilayaraja and sung by T.M.S. and S. Janaki, is an example of a free-flowing Mayamalavagowla. Starting in the top sadja, the opening phrase “ss n d p d m p,p,p” straightaway establishes the stamp of the raga. This song flagged off a successful innings in Mayamalavagowla for the maestro, and he would compose, over the next few decades, some of his best-known tunes in this scale.
Ilayaraja's creations in this raga define its place in film music. One of the most melting pieces in this raga is “Rama namam oru vedhame” from the film “Sri Raghavendrar.” Sung tunefully by Vani Jayaram, this song shows the dutiful disciple repeating phrases in this raga and gleaning knowledge from the guru, and the choice of raga couldn't have been more apt. “Kadhal kavidhaigal” from “Gopura Vasalile,” sung by Chitra and S.P.B., is a bright song in this scale and in the lines “idhayam idam maarum, ilamai parimarum” subtle gamakas come alive in the pancama-dhaivata region.
“Madura marikkozhundu vaasam” from “Enga Ooru Pattukaaran” showcases this raga in a folkish style. The groovy 6-8 beat complements the mood and the opening “p d s, n,d mpdp” clearly points to this raga. The song “Mariyamma Mariyamma” from “Karagattakaran” is a striking Mayamalavagowla. Once again in a village setting, this song captures the raga's earthy appeal in the voices of Malaysia Vasudevan and Chitra. In “Thevar Magan,” a little piece sung in chorus stole our hearts - “Maasaru ponne varuga.” The sangati in “Eesanin pangey varuga” reminds one of a proper kriti in this raga.
“Poova eduthu oru maalai” from “Amman Kovil Kizhakkale” is another memorable melody in Mayamalavagowlai from Ilayaraja's sound factory, as is “Mookuthi poomele” from “Mouna Geethangal,” by Gangai Amaran.
A.R. Rahman in the film “Alli Arjuna” composed “Solladhe solaikili,” sung by Swarnalatha and S.P.B. in this raga, with lilting backgrounds and interludes defining a modern Mayamalavagowla.
In Hindustani music, the raag Bhairav is the equivalent of Mayamalavagowla. “Mohe bhool gaye sanvariya” from the film “Baiju Bawra,” sung by Lata Mangeshkar and with music by Naushad, is a classy Bhairav, handled in a moderate tempo. “Ek ritu aye, ek ritu jaye” from the film “Gautam Govinda,” with music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and sung by Kishore Kumar, is a breezy depiction of Bhairav.