A raga that is auspicious in name and bhava is Sri. Sri is a ghana raga, a heavy and noteworthy one that is melodic as well as regal. Sri is a janya of Kharaharapriya raga and is characterised by jagged traversals in the scale, the avarohana having interesting diversions from the usual linear path. The Arohana-Avarohana pattern of this raga is SRMPNS/SNPDNPMRGRS. In Tyagaraja’s works in this raga, the dhaivata prayoga (“PDNPM”) is not used, while in Dikshitar’s kritis, there is a sudden twist in the structure, with the prayoga featuring the dhaivata. This raga houses sadja, chatusruti rishabha, suddha madhyama, pancama, kaisiki nishada, chatusruti dhaivata and sadharana gandhara.
The raga’s highlight is the exaggerated gamaka at the gandhara. Because it is a ghana raga, it is suitable for tanam. Askilled vainika (veenaartiste) can demonstrate the stately gait of the tanam in Sri.
The classical pieces in Sri include Tyagaraja’s fervour-filled ‘Endaro Mahanubhavulu’, the fifth and famed pancharatna, which features torrential janta swaras and ‘Namakusumamula’.
Dikshitar’s ‘Sri Kamalambike’ (the concluding Kamalamba navavarana), ‘Sri Varalakshmi’ (sung during the Varalakshmi vratha) and ‘Sri Abhayamba’ (the final kriti of the Abhayamba vibhakti kritis on the presiding goddess at Mayavaram) are most notable. Music lovers may recall M.S. Subbulakshmi’s rendition of Annamacharya’s ‘Vande Vasudevam’ in the raga.
The kriti ‘Endaro’ featured in the Telugu film, Thyagayya. The same pancharatna found place in Shankarabharanam, where it was sung by S. P. Balasubrahmanyam.
In film music, one of the finest pieces in this raga would be ‘Deviyar Iruvar’ from Kalaikovil, composed by M.S. Viswanathan and T.K. Ramamurthy. Chittibabu’s veena prelude is electrifying and P. Suseela’s alapana is apt. The lines‘Enadi Thozhi Arivayo, Enakkor Idam Nee Tharuvayo’ well establish the raga bhava, with the phrase RPMPRG,RSS lending the requisite charm.
In Kodi Parakkudhu, the song ‘Selai Kattum Pennukkoru’ is a clever attempt by music director Hamsalekha to showcase the nuances of Sri raga. In the lines ‘Kandadhunda...Sonnadhunda’ the prayoga RGRS, SRSN, RGRS is amply evident.
A.R. Rahman has composed a sedate piece, ‘Theendai Mei Theendai’ for En Swasa Kaatre. The opening phrase is punctuated with a fitting gamaka at the gandhara. The pallavi’s concluding line, ‘Didukkittadhey’, the phrase PRSN/PDNPMRG, says it all. This song shows how well Rahman has gleaned the raga’s salient features and presented it as an entertaining number.
The song ‘Sutti Poove’ from Kaivantha Kalai in the music direction of Dhina is a brilliant piece in Sri. The opening phrase, SR R,GRS establishes the raga’s identity. The classical interlude employs the saxophone. A song from an album called Andhi Maalai became very popular — ‘Andhi Maalai Kovil Vandhen’ sung by S. Janaki. It is a filmy version of ‘Endaro Mahanubhavulu’. The tune is just the same, with Tamil lyrics!