Music

‘Avoid ambiguity in raga singing’

Scholarly approach: Sumitra Vasudev (left) and R.S. Jayalakshmi.  

“Raga Parichaya,” organised by Nadasangamam (Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai) dwelt at length on the subtle yet notable differences between ragas such as Sankarabharanam and Kalyani. It was handled by Dr. R.S. Jayalakshmi and Sumithra Vasudev.

Sankarabharanam's Mela is 29 and Kalyani (Mecha Kalyani), construed as its prathi madhyama counterpart, stands at 65. They are thus wide apart though apparently similar. The learned vidhushis quoted evidences from ancient texts and said that Sankarabharanam was known as Dheera Sankarabharanam in the beginning and was treated as a Sampoorna raga. Graha swaras (or jeeva swaram or amsa swaram) were stipulated as tara Shadjam and Gaantharam. ‘Ni’ and ‘Dha’ are sparingly used. “They can be used as passing notes but not pausing notes.” The Madhyama swara gamakas are special in Sankarabharanam but one has to be aware of the limits of a gamaka and use them judiciously with a self-acquired sense of proportion. The raga-swaroopam cannot be compromised. In fact ‘Sa Pa Sa’ sung in proper sequence and with adequate gaps could spell the raga right away. The swara ‘ga’ is never oscillated in Sankarabharanam.

Taking up Kalyani, they said its original version was similar to the present day's Mohana Kalyani. Later editions viewed it as a Sampoorna raga. Unlike Sankarabharanam, one could take the liberty of “swaying” all swaras in this raga. The ‘Sa’ ‘Pa’ varjya prayogas would still leave the raga intact. That is, however, anathema to Sankarabharanam. Kalyani has a universal scale, but still reigns as a Carnatic raga. It is not the notes per se, but the handling of the notes, the resting points and the starting points that assures each raga its character and makes its characteristic features felt. Kalyani-Sankarabharanam take these. Kalyani's ‘Ma’ was mentioned in the music lexicons as Varali ‘Ma.’ Janta prayogas fit smoothly in the very structure of Kalyani. They are beauteous (sobikkum) in Sankarabharanam, only when used as part of the tanam.

In the next session held recently ragas such as Pantuvarali and Purvikalyani were handled. Both Pantuvarali and Purvikalyani have the same purvangam, i.e. the ascent. These two ragas raise eternal doubts in the minds of the rasikas and even the trained rasika is a trifle puzzled in arriving at a decision. Historically speaking the name assigned to Pantuvarali was Kasi Ramakriya whereas Dikshtar wished to call it Kamavardhini. The two ragas themselves are not old enough and probably belong to the 16th or the 17 century only.

The passage of time has wrought out changes in the evolution and re-evolution of a raga. “How Saint Tyagaraja landed on this raga and assigned the name Pantuvarali to it, will remain an unanswered question” said Dr. R.S. Jayalakshmi. Tyagaraja is credited for having made at least twelve compositions in this raga. The original usages of this raga, unadulterated by the passage of time, if heard today would sound more like Bowli. The graha swara has been termed and used mainly as tara sthayi shadjamam. Many examples from different composers, to prove the usage of certain prayogas unique to this raga, were cited and their glimpses given to the involved audience. Each one of the cited composers had taken their creative flights in forming compositions in this raga.

According to the 72 Melakartha Sampradayam, the Purvikalyani is labelled under Gamanasarama. Though in the present days the usage of ‘pa dha pa sa,’ sung in continuity, is more in vogue, this phrase was sparingly used during the days bygone. The phrase more in use was the ‘pa dha sa.’ Incidentally there are no two kalai tala compositions in this raga and did that indicate the limited scope of this raga? This was a self-seeking question posed by the learned vidwans to themselves. “Kallidaikurichi Vedantha Bhagavatar who belonged to the Dikshitar parampara, has no place for the ‘pa dha pa sa,’ in his varnam,” said Sumithra Vasudev and quoted this as a sort of internal evidence. Mention was made about scholar T.S. Parthasarathi’s saying that the Tyagaraja kriti, ‘Gnanamosagaradha’ was originally sung in Shadvidhamargini and got changed to Purvikalyani only much later.

In singing Purvikalyani care should be taken not to give it the Hamsanandhi colour, when attempting panchama varjya prayogas. The absolute beauty and subtle handling contained in the chittaiswaram of ‘Parama Pavana’ (Purvikalyani, Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar) even in panchama varjya methods that have been used, was sung and explained to fit the context. Sometimes prayogas that do not appeal during raga alapanas tend to bring out the raga contour sumptuously, when sung at the niraval phase. Examples were sung to substantiate this point also. That little word in the sahitya does the trick. Manodharma itself thus is many-splendored. The point was thus made: Raga singing should dispel all ambiguity, and should not in the least suggest another raga. Students of music would do well to mull over the points brought out in these sessions and try to “realise” the ragas’ whole beauty in its entirety.

(sivakumar2004@gmail.com)

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 1:32:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/%E2%80%98Avoid-ambiguity-in-raga-singing%E2%80%99/article15616844.ece

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