A raga that is grand in every way, regal, meditative, bold and striking is Simhendramadhyamam. Chiselled with utmost beauty, every facet of this raga brims with passionate appeal. The notes taken up by this raga are Sadja, Chatusruti Rishabha, Sadharana Gandhara, Prati Madhyama, Pancama, Sudhha Dhaivata, and Kakali Nishada. It is a Melakarta raga, complete in every way, and its notes lend themselves to gamakas, symmetric patterns and clever permutations while singing alapanas, niraval and kalpanaswaras.
This raga in Dikshitar Paddhati is called Sumadyuti and it is also prevalent in Hungarian folk music and the music of the Spanish gypsies. Such ragas that are loved across the length and breadth of the world are testimony to the universal appeal of music, and the fact that such scales have been explored with great attention to detail in classical music certainly shows that Indian music is one of the most enlightening forms of art upon this earth.
In Carnatic music, “Kamakshi Kamakoti,” “Pamarajana” and “Neelachala Natham” are Dikshitar's brilliant creations in this scale. Other popular kritis include “Needu Charanamule” attributed to Thyagaraja, “Nata Jana Paripalaka,” “Unnaiyallal” of Koteeswara Iyer, “Ikaparam ennum” of Papanasam Sivan, “Ninne Nammiti” of Mysore Vasudevachar and “Rama Rama” of Swati Tirunal.
Singers like N. C. Vasantakokilam and M.S. Subbulakshmi, possessing high-pitched and sweet voices, sang many of these songs and made them super hits in their day. One such masterpiece in this raga that my octogenarian grandmother often hums is Suddhananda Bharati's “Kanneduthagilum.”
The huge popularity acquired by these classical pieces in those days may be likened to that enjoyed only by film songs today, thanks to the spell-binding voices of the divas. Oothukadu Venkatakavi's “Asaindadum Mayil” is very well-known in this raga, and the fast passages in this piece make a dramatic impact and are ideal for orchestration.
“Ulaginil Inbam Verundo” from the film “Ambikapathy”, sung by M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, was one of the earliest appearances of this raga on the silver screen. Set to music by G. Ramanathan, this song is structured like a typical classical kriti.
“Guha Saravanabhava” – the anupallavi of the song “Ikaparam ennum,” of Papanasam Sivan – gave a flying start to a super-hit in the film “Seva Sadanam” starring M. S. It was an exercise in excellence - the music, the orchestration and the singing.
“Ellam Inbamayam” in the lilting voice of M. L. Vasanthakumari is yet another favourite in this raga. In the lines “Iyarkaiyinaale...” the importance of the Rishabha is clearly highlighted and the frilly brigas make us sit up and take notice of this stately raga.
“Illadadondrillai..” begins T. R. Mahalingam with devotional fervour, pouring his heart out in piety, tambura in hand, in the film “Thiruvilaiyadal.”
This viruttam is a stunning piece of work by the music director K. V. Mahadevan and the singer.
The cascading briga explorations, thrilling and warming our hearts at the same time, are a connoisseur's delight. Here too the top-octave Rishabha is given due respect and the composer lives with it to weave magic.
M. S. Viswanathan starts “Poomudippal” in the upper Gandhara, a bright beginning. This song in the film “Nenjirukkum Varai” sung by T.M. Soundararajan marks a different approach to Simhendramadhyamam.
Ilayaraja's tribute to this raga is the piece “Ananda Ragam”from “Panneer Pushpangal,” sung by Uma Ramanan. In the line “kaetkum kaalam...” the sangati "PDND / DNSN / NSRG S” is logical in progression and effortless in delivery.
Ilayaraja has created quite a few memorable pieces in this raga, of which “Nee Pournami” from “Oruvar Vazhum Alayam” is a delight. This song begins with “RGS, RGMPMP...” and while landing seamlessly in the pancama the listener easily deciphers the undercurrent of Simhendramadhyamam in the melody. In “Thalattum Poongaatru” from “Gopura Vasalile" the innate capacity of this raga to convey longing and yearning is well exploited.
“Kaatrodu Kuzhalin Nadhame” sung by Chitra from the film “Kodai Mazhai” is a perfect example of how this raga is adapted to film music without altering its classical character and with strict adherence to the grammar of music.
Ilayaraja's “Ennai Enna Seidhay” from “Ivan,”sung as a ragamalika beginning in this raga by Sudha Ragunathan, marks the comeback of this raga into the silver screen.