On the surface of it, the shades of Carnatic raga Sri and the melodic Madhyamavati seem to seep into each other. They belong to the same parent, viz. Karaharapriya. The aarohana (ascent) structure is similar, in as much as it takes, ‘Sa, Ri2, Ma1, Pa, Ni2, SA’ wherein the Chatusruti Rishabham and Kaishika Nishadam are evident. Both are obviously Shuddha Madhyama ragas. But while the ascent is in the pentatonic scale (audava), there is a slight deviation in the descent or avarohana. For the Madhyamavati, it is simply ‘SA, ni2, Pa, Ma1, Ri2, Sa’, the Sri ragam takes ‘SA, Ni2, Pa, Dha2, Ni2, Pa, Ma1, Ri2, Ga2, Ri2, Sa’ revealing a Chatusruti Dhaivatam (Dha2) and a Sadharana Gandharam (Ga2) in its descent.
Now let’s take a deep look at the differences in these allied ragas. In the Sri, the Rishabha (Ri2) does not oscillate (devoid of gamakam). It is rendered as a flat note. Apart from the distinct avarohana phrase ‘SA, Ni, Pa, Dha, Ni, Pa, Ma’ the Sri contains a Sadharana Gandhara (Ga2) which is a prominent note. And it is due to this (Ga2) particular note, that the previous note/swara (Ri2) is not oscillated as it gets the traces of Sadharana Gandhara if there is a kampitam (tremulous gamakam) since both the notes are closely placed.
On the other hand, in the Madhyamavati, both the Chatusruti Rishabham (Ri2) and Kaishika Nishadam (Ni2) notes are high on the gamakam (oscillate) almost touching the non-existent Gandharam and displaying a link with the Shadjam when used in tremulous accent. The Madhyamavati is an audava ragam which symmetrically takes only five solfa-syllables both in ascending and descending order.
These two siblings have a very emotive element in common — they both evoke devotion/bhakti and are ‘auspicious ragas’. Madhyamavati for one is a ragam which was used by the Trinity for a number of compositions of which the highly esoteric Sri Rajarajeswari… by Muthuswami Dikshitar is laden with mantras whose sound waves are supposed to evoke inner energies in the physical being. Shyama Sastri’s Brihannayaki…’ in this raga is set to a very complex Tisra Mattya talam. Most ‘Mangalam’ (kritis marking an auspicious ending to recital) are set to Madhyamavati, the most specific composition being Kamakshi loka sashini.. by Shyama Sastri. Thyagaraja’s Pancharatna kriti Endaro Mahanubhavulu.. is a full-fledged exposition of the Sri raga. The nuances of these two sought-after ragas can be experience (raga anubhava) more vividly on rendition where the variants are markedly distinct to the ear and are dealt with a finesse that permeates the listener.