Music Raga Khamboji is picked by confident artistes.
The raga Kambhoji is like a litmus test in a Carnatic concert. If the musician chose to present this raga, it goes without saying, that he/she is a high caliber artist. Innately melodic, yet meticulously meandering is Kambhoji which is the offshoot (janya) of the parent Harikambhoji, the 28th melakarta in the ‘Bana’ (5th) chakra. In old Tamil literature the raga comes under the ‘Takkesi’ Pann.
Scholars believe this raga or ragini (female raga) is an ancient one named after the Kambhoja janapada or jana stage (tribal). This simply implies that the raga must have evolved during the epic or even pre-epic times. Its history can be traced to the 7th century ‘Sangitha Makarand’ by Narada who places it as the spouse (female counterpart and hence ragini) of ‘Nat-Narayana’ (the 7th among the 10 main ragas) in his musical scheme. Suffice to assume that later scholars have recognized Kambhoji as a major raga. It is commonly assumed that the Kambhoji is an ‘imported’ raga from Kambhoji desa (Cambodia) which has been contested by recent musicologists. Kambhoja desa was part of ancient Bharata (India), hence there is no evidence of any foreign strain in the raga, they opine. It is considered to be a ‘deshi’ raga that originated from the name of the desha (nation) of its origin like the Saurashtra raga for instance.
Its ascent (aarohana) runs as: sa-ri2-ga2-ma1-pa-dha2-SA and in the descent (avarohana) you find all the seven notes: SA-ni2-dha2-pa-ma1-ga2-ri2-sa. It takes along with the shadjam, chatusruti rishaba, anthara gandhara, shudda madyama, chatusruti daivatha, kaishiki nishada. And hence it comes under the nomenclature of shadava sampoora raga. Having based it so, let us take a look at its disputed etymology and history. It is also an ‘ekanya-swara bhashanga raga’ since kakali nishada occurs as an extra note in the phrases ‘sa, ni,pa,dha,sa’ (in the lower octave –mandra) and ‘SA, ni,dha,pa,sa’.
The notes of Kambhoji are so well distributed that it affords for elaboration and embellishments during the alapana and manodharma stages in a concert. Hence it is considered a major raga and finds its place as a centre (main) piece. All the swaras (notes) can be oscillated (sarva swara gamaka raga) which enriches the texture of the raga. The gandhara (ga), panchama (pa) and daivatha (dha) are the props on which the musician can expand alapana (prefacing). Some special phrases (visesha prayoga) lend a silver lining like for instance, ‘ma,ga,sa’, ‘pa,dha, ma’, ‘ma,ga,pa,dha,SA’ and ‘SA, ri,ga,SA’ (in upper octave). The syllables ‘ma,dha and ni’ in all the octaves are raga chaya swaras (shadow notes), while ‘ga,ma,pa, dha’, are nyasa (ending) notes. It is a tri-sthayi raga that affords equal range and richness in all the three octaves. Since it is vested with so many permutations and combinations that facilitate creativity to a great extent and evoke artistic emotion in the listeners (rakti raga), the Kambhoji is a favourite with many a composer. Kambhoji comes under the ragini classification as it is most apt to convey the softer emotions/ rasa emanating out of shringara, hasya and also karuna. Some famous compositions in this raga are Thyagaraja’s ‘Marimari ninne…’, ‘Evari maata…’, ‘O, Rangasayee…’, ‘Ma Janaki chetapattaga…’, Shyama Sastri’s ‘Devi ni pada,’ Muthuswami Dikshitar’s ‘Sri Subramanyaya’ and ‘Kasi Vishveshwara’ to name some.