Ghanta is not a popular raga, but there are plenty of compositions available in this raga. There had been so many theories, placing the ghanta ragam under various ragas like NaTabhairavi, Hanumathodi, Kannadagoula (old), Sriragam (old) etc; and the structure also were different. But now, it is commonly accepted to be a janya of Hanumathodi. This raga has another name called 'GhantAravam' (there is a dispute that Ghantaravam is a janya of Ratnangi mela). The notes are: Aroh: S G2 R2 M1 P N2 S; Avaroh: S N2 D1 P M1 G2 R1 S (dhaivatha-varjya, vakra arohanam)
Subburama Dikshithat in SSP, lists it under mela (20) NAriritigoula and gives the specification as:
SGRGMPDPNDNS // SNDPMGRS
Ragapravaham by D.Pattammal gives a specification under mele (2) Ratnangi as:
S R G M P D N P N - S N D P M G R S N
Also, under mela (8) Thodi :
S R G M P D N - D P M G R S N D P N S
S G R G M P N S - S N D P M G R S
Again, as Ghantaravam, under mela (20) NaTabhairavi:
S G R G M P D P N D N S - S N D P M G R S
S G R G M P N D N S - S N D P M G R S
Here are some known compositions: Etlaa kanugontuno Garavimpa rada * Inka yochana ayithe Innallu nanneli Jayamangalam nithya subhamangalam Karuna Rasathyaya Perugu palu * Rama Rama Ramachandra Unna thavuna * (all the above are Thyagaraja krithis. The * mark denotes from Nouka charitham)
Sri Kamalambike avava Sri Mangalambikam (both by Muthuswami Dikshithar)
Kamala nayana jagadeeshvara Kanattha shoka varidhi (Malayalam) Palaya Pankajanabha Saa paramavivasha (all by Swathithirunal)
Eppadi kooduven enge theduven – Sudhananda Bharathi Neyyamuna (ayyayyo marapayana) - Kshethrajnar
It can be seen that it was Saint Thyagaraja who composed many songs and popularized this raga. Though many of the above songs have been sung by some musicians, now it is almost limited to the Dikshithar Navavarana 9th krithi (8th avaranam), Sri Kamalambike avava. Otherwise, it seems to be a raga vanishing slowly from the carnatic music. In a lec-dem by vid. Sowmya and vid. Sashikiran, they say it is clearly one of those ragas that cant be discussed by the mere scale. It has shades of several ragas like Punnagavarali, Dhanyasi, Bhairavi, etc. She also says that it is very difficult to sing an alapana for this raga more than a couple minutes (this raga used to be elaborated in detail by some artistes in the early part of this century, and probably before). But its closeness to various other ragas like Dhanyasi, Punnagavarali etc., makes it too difficult for the singer to handle it, unless with great precision. It used to be a raga elaborated in temple processions; it was being used in Sopana sangeetham in Malayalam. It is to be noted that other than Thyagaraja, it was Swathithirunal who has written many compositions in this raga. For more details about the raga, please visit: http://guruguha.org/wp/?p=1407
It was the great Brinda – Muktha duo who sung the Kshethrajnar padam in Ghanta; unfortunately the audio / video clip was not available. An Ashtapadi "Pravisha Radhe" is seen sung by Shri Udayalur Kalyanarama Bhagavathar, in this ragam. There are many Kathakali padams in this raga and all Kathakali stage performances do include this raga in their songs list, as it is said that this raga evokes scenes depicting pathos and sorrow throughout its sancharas.
It is too disheartening to see that such a beautiful raga with all its pomp glory and centuries of standing dying away from the carnatic music platforms; it is the duty of the young enthusiasts who have come up promoting various other ragas and rare compositions, to give support to this raga, which was once a popular one centuries back !!
We shall listen to the only popular composition of Dikshithar, “Kamalambike avava”, from Sangeethakalanidhi Sri.Sanjay Subramanian.