A Raga’s Journey — Kingly Kharaharapriya

April 13, 2012 04:31 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 11:37 pm IST - A Raga’s Journey

The luxurious pastures of this raga – Kodipalai in ancient Tamizh music; the regal Kharaharapriya in Carnatic music – are evergreen and have stood the test of time for centuries. A sampoorna (complete with all seven notes) raga, this scale takes Sadja, Chatusruti Rishabha, Sadharana Gandhara, Suddha Madhyama, Pancama, Chatusruti Dhaivata, and Kaisikhi Nishada. This raga has symmetrical tetrachords in its scale. The harmonies that are possible in this raga are many and priceless, like the RG-DN or GRS-NDP prayoga.

Saint Thyagaraja has composed several masterpieces in this raga, some slow, some fast, some yearning for Rama, some discerning the truths of worldly maya. We have “Chakkaniraja”, “Mitri bhagyame”, “Nadachi nadachi”, “Pakkala nilabadi”, “Kori sevimpa” (one of the Kovur pancharatnas) and many more, each one of them testimony to Kharaharapriya’s divine power. Dikshitar and Shyama Sastri have not composed in this raga. Papanasam Sivan’s “Appan avatharitha”, “Senthil andavan” and “Janakipathe” are immortal, and one cannot forget”Navasiddhi Petralum” of Neelakanta Sivan.

One of the earliest appearances of Kharaharapriya was in”Kubera Kuchela”, the song “Nadai alangaram kanden” sung by P U Chinnappa, and composed by Carnatic musician Kunnakudi Venkatrama Iyer. The song went on to become a super-hit and Kharaharapriya became a “happening” raga in film music. In the film “Shakuntalai”, M. S. Subbulakshmi sang “Endhan idathu tholum” laden with brighas and sangatis in Kharaharapriya, and this too was well received among the music lovers. The music by S. V. Venkatraman was a treat.

“Maya valaiyil” from “Gulebagavali”, sung by TM Soundararajan, is structured along the lines of “Navasiddhi”. The bright opening heading towards the upper Sadja establishes the raga indubitably. “Ariyaparuvamada” from “Missiamma” is a cute song in this raga sung by P. Leela and tuned by S. Rajeswara Rao. The beginning in Dhaivata and calm landing in the Pancama point clearly to Kharaharapriya.

“Enna seidhalum endan thunai neeye” from “Irumbu Thirai” is one of my personal favourites. Composed by S. V. Venkataraman, the song's opening once again highlights the Dhaivata-Nishada combination.

“Madhavi pon mayilal” from “Iru Malargal” is one of the most famous pieces in this raga. Composed by MS Viswanathan and sung by TMS, this song begins regally in the upper Gandhara and the phrase culminates with a lovely gamaka at the Nishada. Progressive sangatis, clever structure and deft raga-handling make this song a favourite.

“Maharajan ulagai” from “Karnan” by MSV-Ramamurthy is a different approach to Kharaharapriya - subdued, classy, and in tisra-nadai. “Isaiyai Tamizhai” from “Agasthiyar” is a lilting piece in Kharaharapriya. Kunnakudi Vaidhyanathan's music, complemented by the voices of Seerkazhi Govindarajan and T R Mahalingam, makes this complex piece an aural treat.

Ilayaraja has composed several pieces in Kharaharapriya, noteworthy of which is “Poo malarndhida” from “Tic Tic Tic”. A slightly westernised presentation, aimed at being a little light-hearted and funny, this song sticks to the grammar of Kharaharapriya. “Sangeeta swarangal” from “Azhagan” composed by Maragathamani is an interesting piece, the phrase “DNP GRGMP” comes as a refrain ushering in a fresh approach to the raga.

“Pachai nirame” from “Alaipayuthey” by A R Rahman is largely based on this raga and brings out the romantic, meandering, and relaxing facets of this scale. Recently “Sadhikkatha kangalil” from the film “180”, composed by Sharreth, is a delightful Kharaharapriya. I loved listening to this piece; the typical Keralite percussive instruments giving a traditional flavour to the soft love song.

Film songs are aplenty in this scale. The Kafi thaat corresponds to Kharaharapriya raga in Hindustani music.

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