RARE RAGA SERIES: RAGAM HINDOLA VASANTHAM – JANYA OF MELA (20) NATABHAIRAVI RAGAM

After discussing Gopika vasantham, we come to another raga with similar name, Hindola vasantham. I am not sure how this name was given to this beautiful raga, which does not have any relation to both Hindolam and Vasantha; though the uttaranga of the descending notes show some similarity with Hindolam. Also, the Thyagaraja school keeps the Hindolam notes in the avarohanam of this raga. Though this raga is much beautiful, as also two of the Trinities have composed in it, the compositions are seldom heard in concert platforms. There are few compositions available, including a pada varnam; none of these are so popular; even the raga which was so familiar and popular in earlier times, has become almost extinct.

The raga has its pride of place in the musical paddhati of the Tiruvarur temple which was formalized by Ramaswami Dikshitar. In the ceremonial procession of Lord Thyagaraja around the 4 mada streets (Veedi Ula in Tamil) surrounding the sprawling temple complex in Tiruvarur, the raga Hindolavasanta is to be played as the procession goes down the East Street/ Kizhakku Veedi. The nagasvara or the wind pipe that is used in Tiruvarur temple is the bari nayanam as it is called and it is this instrument that is played out during the Lord’s procession.

Now, let us discuss the structure of this raga. Hindolavasanta is an upanga janya (uses only the notes of the janaka raga) under the mela (20) ragam Natabhairavi with arohana/varohana as: Arohana: S G2 M1 P D1 N2 D1 S; Avarohana: S N2 D1 M1 G2 S. The above referred raga lakshana is as found in the Thyagaraja kriti ‘Ra Ra Seeta ramani manohara’. This raga admits only the suddha dhaivatha as evidenced by the overwhelming body of musicological documentation starting with Govinda Dikshitar’s Sangita Sudha. Another point worth mentioning here is that this melody has been dealt with slightly differently by Muthuswami Dikshitar.

In the asampoorna mela system, the corresponding mela (20) is Narireethigoula; Subbarama Dikshitar provides the lakshana of the raga S G2 M1 P D1 S // S N2 D1 P D1 N2 D1 M1 G2 S ; grouped under same. According to Sangraha Chudamani the raga is from the mela NaTabhairavi with dhaivatha as nyasa and rishabha being omitted. The arohana / avarohana is: S G2 M1 P D1 N2 D1 S // S N2 D1 P M1 D1 M1 G2 S.

The difference in the treatment once sees between Thyagaraja and Dikshitar are:

(a) Dikshithar utilizes the vakra sanchara PDNDS as also the nishada is vakra in his treatment as in DNDM.

(b) The descent is characterized by SNDM avoiding the panchama in Thyagaraja’s visualization of this raga. Dikshitar on the other hand utilizes SNDPDNDM, making the panchama vakra by flanking it between the dhaivata swaras.

(c) While rishabha is altogether omitted in Thyagaraja’s conception, we find rishabha is used sparingly through some choice phrases such GRGM in the compositions of Ramaswami Dikshitar and Muthuswami Dikshitar

(d) The raga supports only shuddha dhaivatha; whereas it is quite strange to see that the Thyagara krithi is also sung with another version using chathusruthi dhaivatha (D2). It is found that in the Thyagaraja krithi, the D1 is morphed to D2; though the D2 version of Hindolavasanta does not have the sanction of the older musicological texts, it is indeed beautiful in its own way. Should it be classified as a separate raga in its own right. The MDR version uses D1, while the popular vetrsion uses D2. it is also worth observing here that surprisingly both Dikshitar and Tyagaraja have not gone past the tara sadja or below the madhya stayi sadja (save for ‘chinmatram’ or the chittaswara which features NDPDS in ‘Santhana ramaswaminam’).

Though Raga Pravaham by D.Pattammal gives six different scales, she emphasizes both the Thyagaraja and Dikshithar scales; indicating both these scales are in use.

Given the beauty of the raga one does wonder why the krithis and the varna are not frequently rendered. The raga and the compositions therein are evidence for the the older murcchana/ motifs based approach of melody construction with its bends, jumps and twists, which has been long forgotten. And in the context of Hindolavasanta, it is in no small measure we are indebted to the great Subbarama Dikshitar for having passed on to us this priceless gem of a raga and the nearly extinct, compositions in it, through his magnum opus, the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini.

We are highly indebted to Ramaswami Dikshitar for creating a gem of a varna ‘Valaci vacci’. Composed on Lord Thyagaraja of Tiruvarur; this varna seems to have been created for rendering as a part of the temple’s pooja/festivities. it is worth noting here that Subbarama Dikshitar employs the term ‘chowka’ varna only, in contrast to modern day usage of the word ‘pada’ varna. It is clear from this that the raga can be sung in all speeds; but the other compositions are mostly sung in madhyama or drutha kala only.

Compositions available:

Rara Seetha ramani manohara - Thyagaraja

Santhana Ramaswaminam - Muthuswami Dikshithar

Shankaram sookshmathanum - Muthaiah bhagavathar

Jagadapu Chanavula Jaajara - Annamacharya

Paadaaravindame aadharame – Ambujam Krishna

Valachi vachi (V) - Ramaswami Dikshithar

Let us discuss the Dikshithar krithi, ‘Santhana Ramaswaminam’. This krithi is on Lord Rama enshrined in the temple at Needamangalam, which is on the route from Kumbakonam to Mannargudi in Tanjore / Nagapatinam District in Tamilnadu. Dikshitar refers to the kshetra by its older name ‘Yamunambapuri’, named after the favorite wife of King Sarabhoji of Tanjore (King Sarabhoji had two wives, Yamunamba Bayee Saheb and Ahilya Bayee Saheb. King Sarabhoji’s successor, King Shivaji was the son of Yamunambha Bayee Saheb. This Rani Yamunambha Bayee established an endowment and built a choultry for the pilgrims in this town Needamangalam). Perhaps Dikshitar stayed in this choultry when he visited the Santanaramaswami Temple at Needamangalam. The raga mudra is found in the anupallavi, as ‘nata santaM hindOLa vasanta Madhavam’; also meaning the lord of Lakshmi, who sports on a swing in the spring season. Again the name of the Lord being ‘Santhana rama’, Dikshithar describes him as ‘santAna saubhAgya vitaraNaM’ (the one who liberally bestows the good fortune of progeny) Also the usage, ‘sat-cit-Ananda vaibhavaM’ found in the anupallavi is found used in the reverse way as ‘anRta jaDa duHkha rahitaM’, both having the same meaning - the one whose magnificence is being-knowledge-bliss.

Now, we can listen to the rendition of the Dikshithar krithi; while Bombay sisters (vid. C.Saroja & C.Lalitha) as also, Dr. Shobana Vighnesh sing this in Madhyama kala, Dr. K.J.Yesudas and Semmangudi Swami do in drutha (fast) kala. Here is the Yesudas rendition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dybbkn5rmW4

Sri Rajam Iyer’s version is a literal interpretation down to every single note. In other words, the rendering is a very high fidelity reproduction of the notation or a gold standard in terms of adherence to both the letter and spirit of the notation. His version is not brisk like the version of Semmangudi Swami or KJY. It is in a languid pace, a true chowka kAla rendering, almost at half the elapsed duration for a tAla matra in comparison to Sri SSI’s. He renders the chittaswara section for our benefit as recorded in the SSP.


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