RARE RAGA SERIES : GARUDADHWANI – JANYA OF MELA (29) RAGAM SANKARABHARANAM

Ragam Garudadhwani is a quite interesting one; like some other rare ragas we have seen earlier, there are some considerable number of compositions available, still only very few being seen sung in concerts – the existance is mainly because of the Thyagaraja krithis. This raga can be said to be a mirror image or the reverse of the famous ‘Bilahari’ raga; if the arohanam and avarohanam notes of Bilahari are interchanged, we get this raga theoretically. Hence the notes can be written as: S R2 G3 M1 P D2 N3 S // S D2 P G3 R2 S Garudadhwani is an asymmetric ragam that does not contain madhyamam or nishadham in the descending scale. It is an sampurna-audava ragam (or oudava ragam, meaning pentatonic descending scale). The notes used in this scale are shadjam, chathusruthi rishabham, antara gandharam, shuddha madhyamam, panchamam, chathusruthi dhaivatham and kakali nishadham in ascending scale, with kakali nishadham and shuddha madhyamam skipped in descending scale. This raga has shades of western music when played in fast pace. It is a restrictive raga – it has all seven notes on the ascending scale, but only five on the descending. This means that certain patterns are created which make the raga both instantly recognisable, as well as hard to elaborate on for long. It is bright, playful, optimistic and powerful. It also has a fascinating name. I know the meaning of the Sanskrit words ‘Garuda’, the eagle carrier of Lord Vishnu and ‘dhwani’ – ‘sound’, it means the sound that the divine eagle, Garuda makes. When we consider Bilahari and Garudadhwani, we have to begin with Mohana Kalyani ragam, which is a prathimadhyama raga; with Mohanam notes in arohanam and Kalyani notes in avarohanam. If we consider Mohanakalyani’s suddha madhyama counterpart, this raga would have Mohanam as its arohanam and Sankarabharanam as its avarohanam. Hence by the previous logic, we theoretically get the raga Mohana-Sankarabharanam. Clearly, a bit of a mouthful to pronounce, this ‘’theoretically coined’’ Mohana-Sankarabharanam happens to be a very popular raga that is better known as Bilahari! What about the "reverse" of Bilahari – i.e. the reverse of Mohana-Sankarabharanam? Exercising the same logic we get, by this process of reversal, the raga Sankarabharana-Mohanam. As the name suggests, Sankarabharana-Mohanam has for its arohanam, Sankarabharanam, and Mohanam for the avarohanam. Hence the structure is: S R G M P D N S // S D P G R S.This is the raga Garudadhvani. Hence, Garudadhwani can be referred to as the mirror-image of Bilahari. In practical application however, Garudadhwani has nothing to do with Bilahari whatsoever and they do not even sound remotely similar. The arrangement of the notes and the intonation of the swaras of Garudadhwani are completely different. While the SSP does not give any mention about this raga, Ragapravaham confirms the above scale; same time giving another scale, S R G M N D M P D N S // S N P M R S, under mela (61) Kanthamani; but no such scale has been found in use, except theoretically. Garudadhvani is an example of a sampoorna-oudava raga. This raga has all the seven notes in order in the arohana (S R G M P D N) and five notes in the avarohana (S D P G R). Examples of similar sampoorna-oudava ragas are Kiranavali (a janya of the 21st melakarta raga Keeravani) and Saramathi (a janya of the 20th melakarta raga NaTabhairavi). Garudadhwani is a raga that acquires extra sheen when it takes more of plain notes and relatively less of gamakas. This is not to say that gamakas are totally done away with – it’s just that the raga sounds better and less like its parent Sankarabharanam when it is sung with more of plain notes, especially the rishabham, dhaivatam and the nishadam. As always, it is Thyagaraja who has given life to this raga in the form of two very beautiful compositions. The first krithi is the very popular “Tattvameruga tarama”; which has been extensively sung many musicians, notably by vidwans. K.V.Narayanaswamy, T.K.Rangachari and T.R.Subramanyam (TRS). TRS in his heydays would sing this kriti at a relatively faster pace and sing many rounds of mind-boggling kalpana swaras that would span all the three octaves, even touching the thara sthayi dhaivatam in the process. With his clear and ringing voice superbly complemented by easy and facile brigas, TRS rendition of Tattvameruga tarama would be sheer delight to listen to and experience. Hence Garudadhvani is not merely a raga that should be regarded as a 'filler-item' in concerts. It is a raga that is worth exploring further. This is a raga that holds its own and definitely occupies a place of pride in the Carnatic music firmament. Compositions: Tatwameruga tarama - Thyagaraja Ananda sagara - Thyagaraja Chanda munda - Dr. Muthiah Bhagavathar Garuda vahana - Dr. Muthiah Bhagavathar Rajarajeshwari - Dr. Muthiah Bhagavathar Shree bhavam - Dr. Muthiah Bhagavathar Devi kamalalaye - Mysore Vasudvacharya Maravadarul tiru - Suddhananda Bharathi Na dru dru tom dru na (t) - Balamurali Krishna KattharuL karuna - Abraham Pandithar Navirrakzhagu meyye - Abraham Pandithar Vanam tanai tudippai - Abraham Pandithar

Now, coming to the discussion part, we take the Thyagaraja krithi, Tatwameruga tarama; in this krithi, Sadguru Thyagaraja yearns for the grace of Sree Rama in realizing that Sree Rama is the Final Reality meant in the mahavakya – ‘tat-tvaM-asi’. “O Lord SrI rAma! O Lord well praised by this tyAgarAja who is devotee of SrI rAma! Is it in one’s capacity to realise the supreme reality that You are indeed the purport of the sacred statement called ‘tat-tvaM-asi’? The sufferings caused by inertial and active principles will not cease. Is it in one’s capacity to realise the supreme reality as brought out in vEdas and SAstras?”


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