The royal Durbar

September 28, 2013 12:00 am | Updated June 02, 2016 03:37 pm IST

A regal raga that has a name of Persian origin, is Durbar. “Durbar” meaning royal court, immediately brings to mind valour, regalia, and opulence. Durbar raga came into prominence just before the the Carnatic music trinity. Thyagaraja’s handling of Durbar is different from Dikshitar's view of the raga. Durbar is considered the janya of the 22nd mela Kharaharapriya. The raga Nayaki is closely allied to Durbar . Durbar can be easily identified based on its characteristic phrases, such as the GGRSR-NNDPD-GGRSR that covers two octaves and emphasises the use of the gandhara – nishada relationship. The notes present in Durbar include sadja, chatusruti rishabha, suddha madhyama, pancama, chatusruti dhaivata, kaisiki nishada, the sadharana gandhara appearing in the descent ( PMRGGRS ). The arohana-avarohana is SRMPDNS / SNSDPMRGGRS .

Compositions in Durbar are usually fast or medium paced, with some slower pieces such as Thyagaraja's “Munduvenuka”. It is Thyagaraja’s vision of Durbar that practitioners of music today mainly follow, and compositions such as “Yochana”, “Aparadhamula”, “Ramabhirama” and “Narada Guruswami” are its quintessential presentation. Muthuswamy Dikshitar has composed “Halaasyanatham” (in which he describes the teppotsava ), and “Thyagarajadanyam” in Durbar. “Meena Nayana” of Subbraya Sastri is a fine piece too.

In the film Tiruneelakandar (1939), one of the earliest appearances of Durbar is seen in “Maravai pudaitha” sung by M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. This song is a commoner’s guide to Durbar. In the phrase mamunivare ariyen the swaras “NS, PDNP..” are typical . In Manamagal , the song “Ellam Inbamayam” starts off in Simhendramadhyamam and is embellished with ragamalika swaras, and one of the featured ragas is Durbar. M. L. Vasantakumari’s genius is heard in this kalpanaswara passage that is crowned with the popular phrase “GGRSR/NNDPD/GGRSR”. In Thiruvilaiyadal , the song “Oru naal podhuma” is a ragamalika piece that begins in a breezy Maand. As the song progresses, several ragas, one of them Durbar, surface in the sheer brilliance of M. Balamuralikrishna’s silken tones. The music is composed by K. V. Mahadevan.

“Enakkinaiyaga Durbaril evarumundo” begins with the pancama note with “PPMPDNP…”, and since this song is set in the royal court the raga mudra sits well . M. Balamuralikrishna’s rendition leaves us awestruck.

Yesudas’s rendition of Thyagaraja’s “Yochana kamalalochana” in Sindhubhairavi is also unforgettable.

In the movie, the singer protagonist barges into a concert-in-progress and chides the performer for his mediocre rendition of Durbar and proceeds to demonstrate the raga starting with swaras and finishing off at the pallavi. This scene is still remembered today – “Durbarnaa ippadi paadanum!” (Durbar should be sung like this!). In Nayaki, the characteristic inflections and exaggerations in the “DNS” and “RG,” regions make it unique. Thyagaraja’s kritis such as “Nee bhajana” and “Dayaleni” and Dikshitar’s “Ranganayakam” on Lord Sri Ranganatha of Srirangam are in Nayaki.

In the film Keladi Kanmani , the song “Varanam Ayiram” is a ragamalika that features Nayaki in the stanza beginning “Indiran...”. The pronounced gamaka in “RG,RS” is evident in “magal pesi…”, sung by S. Janaki in the music of Ilayaraja.

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