Certain ragas occupy a distinctive place in classical music, while they are glossed over in film music. This is because they are grammatically complex and rule-driven.
Also, their prayogas are special, exclusive and, sometimes, even peculiar.
Raga Gowla is a ghana raga, an ancient and auspicious one that finds mention in musical treatistes including the Sangitaratnakara.
The arohana-avarohana of Gowla would be SRMPNS/SNPMRGMRS. It has a vakra (zig-zag) pattern of swaras in the descent and the prayoga RGMRS is characteristic.
The notes in this raga include the sadja, suddha rishabha (actually ekasruti rishabha, very close in frequency to the sadja that is unique to Gowla), antara gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, and kakali nishada.
Gowla is well-known for compositions, such as the second pancharatna of Thyagaraja ‘Dudukugala’, Dikshitar’s ‘Sri Mahaganapati’, Mysore Vasudevachar’s ‘Pranamamyaham’ and the tiruppavai, ‘Vayyathu’.
In film music, a composition in Gowla that has been executed with genius is ‘Vedam nee’ from Koil Pura, composed by Ilaiyaraaja. Sung by Yesudas , this song adheres to the grammar of the raga.
This composition culminates in an interesting madhyama kala charanam. The use of the veena, flute and mridangam in the interludes is attractive. The sangatis in ‘Vedam Nee’ are interesting, S, NSRSRSNP being repeated. In the phrase, ‘Adimai Naan Dinamum Odhum’, the swaras MPM/ RGMRRS are beautifully arranged.
Yet another graceful raga that is meditative and calming is Lalitha. A janya of Mayamalavagowla, the pancama is absent in this raga. The arohana-avarohana of Lalitha would be SRGMDNS/SNDMGRS, a symmetrical shadava scale.
Many listeners find a similarity with raga Vasantha, which differs in using the chatushruti dhaivata, and the SMGM phrase in ascent.
The notes present in this raga are sadja, suddha rishabha, antara gandhara, suddha madhyama, suddha dhaivata, and kakali nishada.
Lalitha is well known for Dikshitar’s ‘Hiranmayim Lakshmim’ and ‘Agastiswaram’ and Shyama Sastri’s ‘Nannu brovu Lalitha’, all of them melting, appealing pieces.
When his wife desired material wealth and jewellery, Dikshitar is said to have sung this prayer to the goddess of wealth. That night, a bedecked goddess appeared in all her glory in his wife’s dream. Need she have asked for more?
In film music, Lalitha kept a low profile until Ilaiyaraaja came along and composed the fabulous ‘Idazhil Kathai Ezhudum’ in Unnal Mudiyum Thambi. This song begins with a signature phrase SNDMD,MGMGRS and ends with sangatis that sweep over two octaves.
Earlier, in Dhavani Kanavugal, Ilaiyaraaja briefly forayed into Lalitha for the folksy ‘Sengamalam Sirikkudhu’.
Ilaiyaraaja’s album Geetanjali features the beautiful ‘Amma Janani’ in Lalitha, in a simple and earthy depiction.
Music lovers might want to listen to this album containing an eclectic collection of devotional songs set to tune by the maestro.