Talking about the significant role of the Angas in the musical form (kriti) Dr. Rajshri Ramakrishna traced the history of the musical form (kriti). A musical form comprises the elements of bhava (expression), raga (melody) and tala (time measure).

During the reign of the Cholas the devotional hymns of the Nayanmars, Azhwars, Siddhars, Saint Arunagirinathar, etc. came into vogue. After this there was an active cross-cultural exchange between the Telugu, Marathi and Tamil people in south India. This had a strong influence on the emerging musical forms.

Various musical forms

To propagate the raga rasa and bhakti (devotion), patriotism, etc. various musical forms were born and the text was in Sanskrit or Telugu. But in the 16th century the Prabandhas were the main musical forms with emphasis on emotional content aiming to please the people. Prabandha was bound by rules of structure, theme, etc. This was the forerunner of all the later musical forms and of historical and technical significance. Later this became simplified and artistic with rich musical content.

There were seven stages in the evolution of the kriti: Prabandha until the 16th century, Kirtana 16th century onwards, Chaturdandi compositions in the 17th and 18th centuries, Pada-s 17th century, then the period of dance dramas and dance musical compositions, 18th and 19th century the period of the Trinity and the later part of 19th and 20th century was post-trinity period. Rajshri dealt each of these stages in detail.

Kriti comprises pallavi, anupallavi and charanam. There may be more than one charanam at times. Usually in concerts the charanam with the mudra of the composer is sung. While the pallavi is the refrain of the song, the anupallavi continues the pallavi’s musical thought. The charanam combines the music of both, though the lyrics would be longer, while the anupallavi is important as it links the musical thought of the pallavi and charanam.

Attractive angas are added to enhance the beauty of the raga and composition such as the sangati, often graded ones, which exhibit the possible variations of the melody. This was demonstrated by singing ‘Devi Jagat Janani’ in Sankarabharanam. Chittaswaras are added by the composers themselves or by other musicians. Several kritis of Tyagraja have additions of chittaswaras by others such as ‘Sobillu’ in Jaganmohini which has chittaswaras by Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer. Syama Sastri, Dikshitar and Tiruvottriyur Tyagaraja composed their own chittaswaras. The chittaswara of ‘Sringaralahari’ in Neelambari by Lingaraja was so attractive that it was added to many other kritis in the same raga by others. At present when adding chittaswara it is ended with ‘tat din gina thom’ but this was not the practice earlier.

Syama Sastri and Subbaraya Sastri were fond of adding swara sahitya, while the swara portions is sung after the anupallavi, the corresponding text comes after charanam. ‘Kamakshi’ in Varali and ‘Sarievvaramma’ in Bhairavi were taken up for demonstrating this point. Madhyamakala (passages in medium tempo) are part of compositions by Dikshitar. In some of Tyagaraja’s compositions the charanam itself is in Madhyamakala like ‘Ela Theliyalero’ in Durbar or ‘Koluvaiyunnade’ in Devagandhari.

Further embellishments are made by swarakshara sahityas (swara and sahitya have the same letters), manipravala sahitya (more than one language), rhyming etc. Javalis, padams, darus were all modelled after the structure of kriti. Even tillana has the same structure though they contain swaras, sollus and text. Other musical forms with similar structure to kriti are jatiswaram and swarajati. These generally have more than one charanam. Ragamalika compositions are old. Tarangambadi Panchanatheesa Iyer’s ‘Arabhimaanam’ has one raga for each line and carries the name of the raga. Ponnaiya Pillai composed ‘Ninaindodivanden’ in seven ragas and seven talas with the raga mudra. Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer’s ragamalika composition incorporating all the 72 Melakarta ragas is like a reference material giving the swaras and the characterstics of each raga.