A soft and melodious raga, which is preferably sung in vilamba kaalam, Narayana goula evokes bhakthi, devotion, karuna rasas. It is a shadava sampoorna raga with N2 in arohanam and R2 & G2 in avarohanam appearing additionally in vakra; that the notes can be found as:
S R2 M1 P N2 D2 N2 S // S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R2 G3 R2 S
Venkatamakhi defines this by the slokam:
syannarayanagaulastu sampurno nigrahanvitah |
arohe gadhavarjasca vinyasat vidyate kvacit ||
(sampoorna ragam; gandharam and dhaivatham varja in the arohanam – Subbarama Dikshithar; SSP. This is followed by Muthuswami dikshithar in his composition, Sri Ramam)
Ragapravaham by D.Pattammal, in addition to the normally followed specification (*), gives three more types, all under mela (28):
S R M P N D N S // S N D P M G R G R S (*)
S R M P N D N S // S N D P M G R S N
S R M P D N S // S N D P M G R G R S
R M P N D N S // N D P M G R G R S
This raga has very close similarity with Surutti and Kedara goula. Also, since two of the Trinities, Thyagaraja and Dikshithar have composed in this raga, it is to be assumed that it is an ancient raga, existing before their period.
Before we take up the raga, we have to find the nature and origin. We have the First Ghanapanchaka ragas as Nattai, Goula, Arabhi, Varali and Shri (coming after the first heavy ragas, Sankarabharanam, Kalyani, kambhoji, Thodi and Bhairavi - these are ‘heavy’ or ‘major’ ragams, and can be explored in a lot of depth. They form the main fare of any full
length Carnatic concert today.); there is another set of ragas called ‘Upa-Ghana panchaka’ ragas, constituted by the ragas, “Kedaram, Narayana goula, Reethigoula, Saaranga natta and Bouli”.
The word Gowla - refers to the Gowla desham or the northern Andra and south eastern Bengal and some part of Orissa region. The book of “Caste System in India” mentions - “Gowla” , “Ghose”, “Sadagopans” all as cowherd caste of Ancient Bengal. Dikshithar’s raga mudra in his first krithi “Sri Nathadi Guruguho” mentions “Maya Malawa Gowla adi desam” which means the
Maya desham, Malawa Desham and Gowla Desham (Aadi in sanskrit means etc). He bestows Lord Guha as one who is worshipped by Mahipatis or kings of these regions. So Diskshithar makes a clever reference of the names used in ancient India and thus coining the raga mudra. Malwa / Malawa was one of 16 Mahajanapadas along with “Gandhara” and “Kamboja”. No wonder many ragam names are from the region it came from. Current raga system has 8 gowla ragams and Dikshithar has composed in all 8 in praise of Nilothpalamba. His krithi again in Kannadagowla mentions the ragamudra as “Kashi Kannada gowla desha”. thus affirming that “Gowla” denotes the geographical region of ancient India along with Kashi and Kannada regions. Interestingly the Mayamalavagowla Nilothpalamba krithi has the same ragamudra as seen in Sri Nathadi krithi”. Thus, for the regional names, Dikshithar refers to the geographical regions while for the other ragams such as Narayana Gowla, Poorva Gaula and Chaya Gowla, he mentions the raga name directly with no twining. For some reason, the Kedaragowlai krithi does not have raga mudra in it. Using his methodology he could have used Kedara Gowla desham referring to Kedara desham and Gowla desham . Thus the 8 gowla ragams are:
“Gowla, Maya Malawa Gowla, Poorva Gowla, Chaya Gowla, Kedara Gowla, Narayana Gowla, Narireethi Gowla and Kannada Gowla”. Some of them mention the region and the Gowla or the caste name from which the ragam comes from. Importantly we are not sure, how these ragams existed in what forms at those times. An extensive search does mention that “Mayamalava Gowla” was the ragam used by the tribes to purify themselves from toxins by exposing things to sun’s rays, thus the ragam denoting a morning ragam. Perhaps they considered it as one of the first ragams which signifies the Sun and and perhaps Dikshithar composed his first krithi in this ragam due to this. So if we observe there is no clear rule if some ragam needs to have a gowla attached. All of the 8, are old ragams which made way into modern music through generations. One could assume the regional influence and emotional variants made the raga names and some sort of “cow herd” influences creeped in while naming the ragas.
Darshanamu seya - Thyagaraja
Inka daya rakunte - ,,,
InnALLu daya - ,,,
Kadale vadu gade - ,,,
Ituu paraku jeya – Poocchi Srinivasa Iyengar
Lambodara pahimam – J.C. Wodeyar
ShrI Ramam ravi kulapti - Dikshithar
ShrI Raman ravikulasoman – Papanasam Sivsn
Vindhyachala nivasini – Dr. Muthaiah Bhagavathar
Chalamela cesevu (tv) - ,,, ,,,
Aravamude adiyen (tv) – Dr. S. Ramanathan
Meenalochane palayamam (tv) - Gitamani/ T.M.Thyagarajan
Maguva ninne kori(tv) - Tiruvettiyur Thyagaiah
,, ,, (tv) - Veenai Kuppaiyer
(It is quite interesting to note that Sri. Muthuswami Dikshithar and Sri. Papanasam Sivan, who lived decades apart, rather a century, composed krithis with similar pallavis, Shri Ramam Ravikulapti somam (D) and Shri Raman Ravikula soman (PS) in the same ragam, Narayana goula !! Similarly, the varnam, ‘Maguva nine kori’ is referred to Tiruvettiyur Thyagaiah; in some places, it is seen as Veenai Kuppaier. It is not sure that the references are about same or different compositions also).
We shall now consider the Muthuswami Dikshithar krithi, ‘Shri Ramam ravikulapti somam’ for discussion. Sri. Dikshithar has written eight krithis in all the vibhakthis, on Sri Rama; known as Ramachandra vibhakthi krithis; in addition, he has written five compositions (not included in the set) on Sri Rama – this composition is one among the same; the other compositions in ragas, Kokilaravam, Manirangu, Mahuri and Hindola vasantham. The composition in Narayana goula is on the Temple at Tiruppullani; on the deity who is lying on Darbha – Darbhashayanam. Tiruppullaani is located near Ramanathapuram. Tiru means 'sacred', Pula the great sage named Pula Maharshi and Ani means 'forest', the sacred forest abode of Pula Maharshi. The other name of the place is "Pullaranyam" (pull-shrub of grass, aranyam--forest: the forest of grass). This place is known by a third name too, "Darbhasayanam" (darbha means sacred grass and sayanam means a bed to rest on). Darbhasayanam is one of the Sethu Stalams, on the coast of Tamil Nadu, linked with the Ramayana. It alludes to the incident in Sri Rama's life when he took rest on the sacred grass during his penance, for three days and nights, in this particular place. The main deity worshipped here is Kalyana Jagannathan or Aadi Jagannathan in a standing posture facing east and the Goddess worshipped here are Padmasini and Kalyanavalli. There is a shrine of Lord Rama in the Darbasayana pose, signifying his resting here and invoking Varuna for help in crossing the ocean, enroute to Sri Lanka in search of Sita. There are so many legends on the deity, as also on the rituals; which can be found in the web.
Now let us listen to the masterly rendition of the Dikshithar krithi from the Sangeetha Pithamaha, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.