T he Mysore Wodeyar dynasty, beginning with Maharaja Yaduraya in 1399, patronised art, culture and music. The last in the line, the 25th king, the late Jayachamaraja Wodeyar distinguished himself as a Carnatic musician, a piano player and a composer.
Jayachamaraja Wodeyar composed 94 kritis in 94 different ragas in a short span of 28 months from August 1945 to December 1947. He is said to have invented 10 new ragas and popularised 30 rare scales. It is only in the past 15 years some of his compositions were made available by vocalist and musicologist (late) S. Krishnamurthy (grandson of Mysore Vasudevachar who was guru to the Maharaja). It was more than three decades after the Maharaja’s death in 1974, in 2006 that Krishnamurthy’s compilation of all the 94 compositions along with notations was available. The author was present when Vasudevachar was imparting lessons to his royal disciple and the work thus gets rare authenticity.
A decade later, this year, the Maharaja’s kritis have been brought out with explanations, background and categorisations by a Mysuru musicologist and vainika V. Nanjundaswamy. Close scrutiny and analyses of the Maharaja’s kritis make up the 468-page book, ‘Royal Composer Shri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar.’ It contains word-to-word meaning with a comprehensive study of all the 94 compositions with extensive information on the Maharaja’s study of sacred scriptures and mythology.
Nanjundaswamy has given the work a new dimension by looking at the compositions as those of a Sri Vidya upasaka, which the king was. “This is why the Maharaja’s ankita, or the signature is ‘Sri Vidya’ in all his compositions as he was also a follower of Mysore Chamundeswari Devi, his family deity,” observes Nanjundaswamy.
“I took nearly 20 years to do this kind of a compilation which is rare,” he says. “As a 20th century composer, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar was the only one to give us 11 kritis on Lord Ganesa in Sanskrit,” he adds.
The nine Sri Vidya kritis of the Maharaja relates to the Aavaranas of Sri Vidya. “Take the Maand raga kriti, ‘Brahmaanda Valaye’ or ‘Srichakra pura nivasini’ in Suddha Lalitha that explains his scholarly take,” points out Nanjundaswamy.
Hamsa Vinodini, Prathapa Varali, Nagadhwani, Suranandini and Durvanki are some of the ragas credited to the Maharaja. Among the taalams is Khanda Jhampa.
The Maharaja’s inclination for composing started off with “Sri Mahaganapatim Bhaje Hum” (Atana) in 1945, with almost the rest eulogising his family deity Chamundeswari.
“The end of 1947 saw the 94th, his last, kriti “Sriranganatha” gain form in Kalyana Vasantha,” says Nanjundaswamy.
“My aim is to see that the kritis reach people with the right background and perspective. This way, the persona of the last Maharaja who reigned from 1940 to 1950 is mirrored,” says Nanjundaswamy. Given the background of Nanjundaswamy as a regular visitor to the Palace, the book is pepped up with interesting details. His uncle M. Chaluvarayaswamy was an Asthana Vidwan of the Royal Court, and his father served as the manager of the palace temples for nearly six decades.
“As the king presented his compositions to Vasudevachar and discussed the lyrics, sangatis and ragas, Krishnamurthy would be sitting at a distance noting every detail,” says Nanjundaswamy. “I would meticulously present the same the next day, while the king would further revise it and give it a final shape,” Krishnamurthy had told Nandundaswamy.
What makes Wodeyar’s work rich is his chaste Sanskrit lyrics clothed in ragas and talas noticeably different.
“The king once brought in an invigorating blend of Madhyamavati and Udaya Ravichandrika and called it ‘Shuddha Salavi.’ He realised that something was missing. Vasudevachar advised him to avoid oscillations at the rishabha and gandhara as ‘the flattened phrases would lend it a personality.’ The proof is in his composition, “Sugyana Daayaneem Vandey.”
Nanjundaswamy, a retired bank employee and recipient of Karnataka Kalashree, has even classified the Maharaja’s works with finer distinctions as Ganesa, Lakshmi and Devi compositions. “Wodeyar’s inclination to Western music also had him choose the Dheera Shankarabharana scale for more than 30 kritis as it is close to Western Major Melodic scale,” says the author.
Paeans to Chamundi
“The Maharaja has written 57 kritis on Devi, including five on Mahalakshmi, and two on Saraswati, says well-known vocalist of Mysuru, Sukanya Prabhakar, who holds a doctorate in Jayachamaraja Wodeyar’s kritis. She has released a five-part audio CD, “Sri Vidya Vaggeya Vaibhava” containing 42 of his songs. There are seven compositions on Chamundeswari, of which ‘Chintayami Jagadamba’ in Hindolam, was popularised by M.S. Subbulakshmi. Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar delighted the ruler by singing ‘Chintayami Jagadamba’ in his Durbar concert. “Those days musicians made it a point to render songs of contemporary vaggeyakaras. Otherwise, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar’s songs wouldn’t have come to light, given his aversion to publicity,” says Sukanya.