A raga that has only five notes in its scale, one that is very joyful and found in widely in Indian and Oriental systems of music is Suddha Saveri. The notes in this symmetrical pentatonic scale are Sadja, Chatusruti Rishabha, Suddha Madhyama, Pancama and Chatusruti Dhaivata. According to Dikshitar’s nomenclature, this raga is ‘Devakriya’. In the Hindustani system of music, this scale is called ‘Durga’. A raga suited for singing in the afternoon, the therapeutic values of Suddha Saveri include dispelling depression and ushering in positivity, in addition to renewing the energy centres in the body. I have had the pleasure of listening to traditional Khmer musicians play a full-length piece in this raga at the Bakong Temple, Siam Reap, Cambodia.
In Classical music, ‘Darini telusukonti’, ‘Kalaharana’ and ‘Orulanaduko’ of Thyagaraja, ‘Sri Vatukanatha’ of Dikshitar, ‘Arumuga’ of Papanasam Sivan and ‘Thaaye Tripurasundari’ of Periasamy Thooran are all prominent pieces in Suddha Saveri.
In Tamil film music, a refreshing wave of this raga swept over us in the song ‘Ellorayum Polave’ from Valli Thirumanam (starring S.G. Kittappa as Muruga and K.B. Sundarambal as Valli). This song sung by S.G. Kittappa is a delight. Starting at the dhaivata, replete with gamakas and ornamental sangatis, Suddha Saveri comes alive in this piece. This piece was also a T.R. Mahalingam favourite and he sang it in the film Sri Valli. It is interesting to note that this song was composed by Kavi Kunjara Bharati.
K.B. Sundarambal sang ‘Porumai Ennum’ in Avvaiyar in the same tune as ‘Ellorayum’. Through this song, Avvaiyar lists the qualities an ideal woman should possess in order to have a happy family life. In the line ‘perinbam adaindhida’, the phrase ‘PD R, SDP’ is sung with great style and sweeps over us like a whiff of fresh air.
‘Brindavanamum Nandakumaranum’ (originally in Telugu ‘Brindavanamadi Andaridi’ ) from Missiamma sung by A.M. Raja and P. Susheela (music by S. Rajeswara Rao), is based on this scale, but an occasional gandhara and nishada peep into a few phrases suggesting Arabhi. The interlude music in this piece is completely Suddha Saveri.
Ilaiyaraaja has explored the beauty of this raga and composed several memorable pieces. ‘Koil Mani Osai’ from Kizhakke Pogum Rayil sung by Malaysia Vasudevan and S. Janaki is a breezy and cleverly crafted melody in this raga. The opening phrase ‘PPPM RMP, MR, S’ itself clearly establishes the raga’s identity.
‘Radha Radha’ from Meendum Kokila is a splendid piece in this raga, with music by Ilaiyaraaja, sung by S.P. Balasubrahmanyam and S. Janaki. The song begins with progressive ‘akaara-s’ sung by the two singers that reach a crescendo at the upper Sadja. The violins in harmony are a delight to the ear and this sweet piece is an example of how a complex raga could be simplified to suit a romantic situation on the silver screen. More recently, ‘En Uyir Thozhiye’ from Enakku 20 Unakku 18, with music A.R. Rahman, is largely based in Suddha Saveri.
In Hindustani music, Kesarbai Kerkar popularised raag Durga. ‘Brindavan Ka Krishn Kanhaiya’ from Miss Mary (the Hindi remake of the Telugu Missiamma) sung by Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar is a lovely example of Durga, with the same Telugu tune being used.