What are Bhashanga ragas?

Dr. R. Hemalatha   | Photo Credit: V_Ganesan

In her lec-dem for Guruguhaamrta, Dr.R. Hemalatha elaborated on Bhashanga ragas in the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini. Muddu Venkatamakhi’s raga lakshanas are followed in the Pradarsini. The conventional definition of a bhashanga raga is one that has one or more swaras not found in its raganga raga. But one problem is that many janya ragas are older than the parent ragas. For instance, Kambodi is older than Harikambhodi. So, creating a functional system of parent and janya ragas must have been difficult.

Up to the 13th century, there were only two classifications — marga and desi. Desi would be anything that was current when a particular musical treatise was written. Desi ragas are of four kinds- raganga, upanga, bhashanga and kriyanga. Raganga ragas are part of grama ragas. Grama ragas come under marga and marga was sung from ancient times. Upanga ragas are what we call janya ragas.

Bhashanga could be anything that came from other regions. Subbarama Dikshitar leaves out Kriyanga ragas, which deal with some action, mentioning that Venkatamakhi has not used them.

Most of the time, when Subbarama Dikshitar talks of Venkatamakhi, he means Muddu Venkatamakhi. Fifty-five ragas are spoken of as bhashanga in the Pradarsini. Of these Subbarama Dikshitar says one is aprasiddha. Of the remaining 54, no anya swaras are given for 23 ragas, as for instance Devagandhari. But Muthuswami Dikshitar’s Devagandhari kriti Kshitija has the anya swara- kaisiki nishada. The problem is further compounded for us, because there is mention of a Devagandharam and a Devagandhari. Devagandharam is placed under 22nd mela, that is Sri ragam, and it is what we today call Karnataka Devagandhari. What is today referred to as Devagandhari is a Desi raga, according to Pradarsini. Devagandharam is defined by Shahaji and Muddu Venkatamakhi too. But for Devagandhari there is no sloka in Pradarsini, and no mention of anya swaras.

Seven of the bhashanga ragas are not mentioned in Muddu Venkatamakhi’s lakshana gitam. For Thodi, Muddu Venkatamakhi gives a lakshana gita, and says that Punnagavarali is a bhashanga raga that comes under this. But Pradarsini gives Asaveri also as a bhashanga raga under Thodi.

Absent element

Pradarsini says Margadeshi raga has pratimadyama, but there is no composition with pratimadhyama. So, when a certain swara is mentioned, but is not present in the kriti, naturally we wonder how to sing the kriti.

The lakshana that Subbarama Dikshitar gives for Ghanta is like the Bhairavi that we sing today. For Dhanyasi, he says he does not know why Muddu Venkatamakhi classified it as bhashanga. Shahaji talks of Dhannasi and Dhanyasi, linking the former to Bhairavi. What Shahaji calls Dhanyasi is what we call Suddha Dhanyasi today. Subbarama Dikshitar is also sceptical about Gopika Vasantham being a bhashanga raga. He says there is a p prayoga in Vasantha, which he also classifies as a desi raga. While placing Asaveri under Todi, he says vainikas play suddha gandhara and suddha nishada. Hemalatha concluded that perhaps Desi ragas in course of time became bhashanga ragas. So, when we sing, we should not add anya swaras, if they are not mentioned.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 9:51:01 AM |

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