Malavi is a very beautiful raga, sung in madhyama kala; considered to be created by Saint Thyagaraja. This raga contains all the notes of the janaka raga, with notes appearing in vakra in both directions. The raga Malavi (mALavI) under mela 28 ( Harikambhoji) as a scale is a creation of Thyagaraja with his well-known kriti ‘nEnarunci nAnu’ serving as his solitary exemplar in the raga. The raga has been inspirational for latter day composers including Patnam Subramanya Iyer & others. The raga today has a dozen kritis and four tana varnas serving as illustration to its total melodic canvas. Given its apparently limited scope, the raga is termed by musicologists as a minor raga. Following the footsteps of Thyagaraja who composed ‘nEnarunci nanu’ , many later day composers have added to the corpus of compositions in this raga even while many tunesmiths too have set this raga as the melody for lyrics, such as for example the tarangams of Narayana Teertha.
The normal ragaswaroopa is represented as:
S R2 G3 M1 P M1 D2 N2 S // S N2 D2 P M1 G3 M1 R2 S
The authoritative book on Thyagaraja creations, Sangraha Chudamani gives:
S R2 G3 M1 P N2 M1 D2 N2 S // S N2 D2 N2 P M1 G3 M1 R2 S, as the scale; which shows a nishadam (N2) in addition to the M1, appearing in vakra.
While SSP does not mention about this raga, Ragapravaham gives three specification:
S R G M P N M D N S // S N D N P M G M R S (same as above)
S R M G D N S // S N D N P M G M R S
S R G M P M D N S // S N D N P M G M R S
Chittaswara section of ‘nEnarunci nAnu’, which we hear today is a much later-day creation of Violin Vidvan Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer, tracing back to the last quarter of the 19th century. The Chittaswara too validates the swara progression as above. The arohana progression SRGMPMDNS could evoke the raga Sahana and hence must be tactfully sung. SRGMPNMDNS would sound better and distinctive.The avarohana kramas SNDNP is a Devamanohari leitmotif while the PMGMRS is a motif of Purnachandrika. The two in combination on the descent with the Sahana evoking ascent, potentially make the raga a compound raga of sorts.
It is seen that Saint Thyagaraja never revealed the names of the nouveau ragas that he came to compose in, during his lifetime. The names of the ragas which we today know as Nalinakanthi, Ravichandrika, Bahudari, Nagaswaravali etc., including Malavi came to be assigned to these melodies much later, either by the sishya parampara of Thyagaraja or by publishers of his compositions, much after the death of the composer. This fact has been attested to by several musicologists and musicians in the past. In the instant case as well, the raga name Malavi for the melody using the notes of Harikambhoji mElA (28th) is a later day assignment. We know for sure that in the first half of the 18th Century even before the birth of the Trinity, a raga by name Malavi existed. Tulaja II the musicologist King of Tanjore in his ‘Saramruta’ catalogues, around 1732 AD, a raga by name Malavi under the modern day 15th Mela, Malavagaula, which shares no melodic affinity to the modern Malavi of the 28th mela. Neither is there a raga documented by Tulaja in the ‘Saramrutha’ that even faintly resembles the modern Malavi under
the 28th mela. Or for that matter neither does Muddu Venkatamakhin’s raga compendium nor Subbarama Dikshitar’s Sangita Samapradaya Pradarshini talk of this melody. As pointed out earlier the first musical compendium where this scale under mela 28 makes its first appearance is the Sangraha Cudamani, the lexicon of the ragas of Tyagaraja’s compositions of 19th
century vintage. Thus, it can be safely surmised that this melody under 28th mela Harikambhoji is a later day creation of Thyagaraja ie. later in time to Saramrutha and the name Malavi came to be assigned to it post 1850, with the name belonging to a long dead raga (Malavi of the 15th Mela) which had fallen into disuse being repurposed to name this raga (under mela 28). Suffice to say that the Malavi of Tulaja (under Malavagaula) has no melodic affinity whatsoever to the modern Malavi, which is a creation of Thyagaraja with the documented lakshana as given in the Sangraha Cudamani. There is a Hindustani raga by similar name, but there is no much resemblance between these.
Nenaruncinanu annitiki - Thyagaraja
Bhajare shri Ramachandram - Walajapet Venkatramana Bhagavathar
Idi nyayama - Patnam Subramanya Aiyyar
Marivere gati nakevaru - G.N. Balasubramaniam
Ninnu vinaa verevaru - G.N. Balasubramaniam
Nambittan irukkiren - Suddhananda Bharati
Neelalohita kalakala - Dr. Muthiah Bhagavatar
Shrikanthadayite - Dr. Muthiah Bhagavatar
VallarI samane madhava - Oothukkadu Venkatakavi
Shankari sadanandalahari – J.C.Wodeyar
Rama nee dasudane - Spencer Venugopal
Matsya koorma – Narayana Theertha (tharangam 1)
Ninne koriyunna (tv) - Calcutta Krishnamurthy
Cheliya pai daya (tv) - N.S.Ramachandran
Sarigadura ni daya ranidhi (tv) - M.Anathanarayanan
E maya jesitivo eta batu (tv) - R.Venugopal
In the krithi ‘nenarauncinAnu’ Saint Thyagaraja states that he has total faith in Him.
“O Gale that blows away the clouds of heinous sins! O Lord who is majestic like the Ocean! O Benefactor of this tyAgarAja!
I have placed affection on You because You are the source for everything.
I have placed affection at Your feet because You are the source for everything.
In the kali, for the sake of protecting wife and children, I shall not happen to speak as a stone-hearted by learning elocution”.
Sri GNB’s felicity in rendering ragas such as Suddha Saveri, Malavi, Devamanohari, Andolika and their ilk would buttress his virtuosity in expansively exploring the unfamiliar or the tricky. And his exposition of Malavi is no different and in the same mould. Rasikas from an era, long gone will recall misty eyed, the late Sangita Kalanidhi Subbarama Bhagavathar who was a forerunner and an inspiration to Sri GNB in his raga vinyasa, especially Malavi.