It is a raga that is melting and meditative. It is well loved despite a paucity of compositions in it. Saramati is a janya of the melakarta raga Natabhairavi and its distinctive phrases are SRGS/DNS, and PDMGS , that sum up its mood. This raga has the arohana-avarohana SRGMPDNS/SNDMGS. In the descent the pancama and rishabha are absent. The notes in this raga include Sadja, chatusruti rishaba, sadharana gandhara, suddha madhyama, pancama, suddha dhaivata and kaisiki nishada.
The most important composition that is a definitive authority on Saramati is ‘Mokshamu galada’ of Thyagaraja. It is a poignant piece. This raga, and this piece in particular, evoke karuna rasa and bhakti rasa. A slow tempo is most suited to this piece, and ideally it should be presented sans frills and thrills. Lalgudi Jayaraman’s rendition of ‘Mokshamu’ is an uplifting experience.
Other important classical pieces include ‘Sarasadala nayane’ of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar, ‘Manasaramati’ of Thanjavur Sankara Iyer and ‘Arula vendum thaaye’ of M. M. Dandapani Desikar.
In film music, this raga has not been exploited to its fullest. But a few noteworthy compositions do exist. In Utthama puthiran the ragamalika piece ‘kaathiruppan kamalakannan, begins in Saramati. In this piece, the ingenious composer G. Ramanathan has woven the raga like an intricate puzzle, and only a careful attention to it is required to know that it is based on Saramati . The song typical of the raga, starts off with the phrase MPDM/MGSR,GM. P Leela’s vocals are beautiful and crystal clear.
As the piece progresses one is reminded of raga Jaunpuri in parts and Natabhairavi in parts.
It is Ilayaraja who gave this raga a place of pride in film music. In the film Sindhubhairavi he took the bold step of setting Thyagaraja's Kambhoji masterpiece ‘Marimari ninne’ to Saramati, and also the riveting ‘Padariyen padippariyen’ in the same raga. This was as a counter to the kriti ‘Marimari ninne’, driving home the point (in the movie) that when sung in Tamil, classical music can reach a wider audience. Ilayaraja has brought out the grandeur of the raga in the folk tune ‘Padariyen’ and crowned it with glittering swaras. The grammar is impeccable and the conception brilliant. This cherished piece is the result of the maestro’s genius and Chitra’s musical prowess.
In the album ‘Ponnona tarangini’, K. J. Yesudas’s famous piece ‘Pathira mayakathil’ is a stunning composition in Saramati. Raveendran has composed a very lilting tune, typical of Saramati in every phrase.
In the Malayalam film Chaitanyam, Raveendran has once again created a piece in Saramati that is delivered with absolute passion by K. J. Yesudas. The interludes encompass the raga’s beauties. The tune and sangatis sit naturally in the raga and are a treat to listen to.
The Swami Iyyappan serial on Vijay TV had a lovely title song ‘Sabari ma malai vazhum Iyyapa’ in Saramati. The phrase that has you riveted is ‘Swamiye ayya saranam swamiye saranam’ set to the notes S,RG,RGM,GSD / DDNNS. The orchestration complements the tune and adds to the raga bhava.