A very sweet and melodious raga, that evokes Karuna, Bhakthi and devotion to the maximum, is Saramathi, janya of mela (20) ragam NaTabhairavi. The janaka ragam itself produces bhakthi; Saramathi keeps the same notes in the arohanam and changes to the very beautiful Hindolam notes in the avarohanam :
S R2 G2 M1 P D1 N2 S // S N2 D1 M G2 S
It is the combination of the sampoorna scale of natabhairavi and the audava (pentatonic) scale of Hindolam, that gives the required effect.
The place of bhakti in Carnatic music is a topic of recurring debate. The fact that the Trinity and earlier composers like Annamayya, Ramadas and Jayadeva had all been intense devotees and composed songs has led to the argument that bhakti is the sole fountainhead, if not the goal, of Carnatic music. While devout believers are entitled to enjoy the bhakti aspect, it is untenable to say that there cannot be good Carnatic music without bhakti. Sadguru Thyagaraja has said that mere knowledge of music without devotion can never lead to the right path (Sangeetha jnanamu bhakthivina – ragam Dhanyasi). The same can be found in Oothukad Venkatakavi’s Kharaharapriya composition, ‘bhakti yoga sangeeta margame paramapavana mahume’; Venkata Kavi believed that music had to be blended with bhakti in order to shine. Bhakti may have been the motivating factor in the case of the above composers but it need not be the only motivating factor for every composer or rasika. The Trinity’s motivation may have been bhakti but their product was art music of the highest quality. In ‘Jambu pathe,’ Dikshitar not only expresses his devotion to the deity but also brings out aspects of Yamunakalyani quite different from what we find in simpler compositions such as ‘Krishna nee begane baro.’
Saramathi is a raga that is melting and meditative. It is well loved despite a paucity of compositions in it. Saramati is a janya of the melakarta raga Natabhairavi and its distinctive phrases are SRGS/DNS, and PDMGS , that sum up its mood. A slow tempo or chowka (vilamba) kala rendition brings out the bhava immensely.
This is a raga, again like many other ragas, surviving because of the Thyagaraja krithi, “Mokshamu galada”, though ‘sarasadala nayane’ by Dr. Muthaiah Bhagavathar or ‘manasaramathi’ by Tanjore Sankarayyar or the very melting piece, ‘Arulavendum thaye’ by M.M. Dhandapani Desikar are also heard very rarely in concerts. It is again a mystery that why the Trinities other than Thyagaraja, or the many other prominent composers avoided this raga.
Saramathi finds only very little application in light music; it is found used in few devotional only; may be because of the extreme level of bhakthi it conveys. Ilayaraja used this raga to retune the Kambhoji raga composition of Thyagraja, “mari mari nine”, but unfortunately, the singer crossed the barriers of the raga – unnoticed by the Awards committee.
Saramathi has a very close resemblance with another raga, janya of mela (22) Kharaharapriya, called ‘Margahindolam’. Which also has a similar structure, except for the D1 changed to D2. Anyhow, in listening, these two ragas travel in almost same direction (we shall discuss this raga in detail later).
Mokshamu galada - Thyagaraja
Saarasadalanayane - Muthaiah Bhagavathar
Manasaaramathiyani - Thanjavur Sankarayyar
Arulavendum thaye - M.M.Dhandapani Desikar
Jnanappal Arulvai - Sudhananda Bharathi
Sharade namasthe - Kalyani Varadarajan
Saramathi Saraswathi - Kalyani Varadarajan
Unnatha venkata nilayana - Tulaseevanam
Sree hariharasutha palayamam - K.C.Keshava Pilla
Adaikalam pugundhen - Ku Sa Krishnamurthy
Sree Sharadhamba - Jagadguru Bharathi Theertha swamigal-Sringeri
Sree Rama bhadra - Papanasam Sivan
‘Nadamadum Deivame’ is a composition in this raga popularized by Sri. Maharajapuram Santhanam.
‘Hantha Hamsame’ is a Kathakali padam in this raga from Nalacharitham
‘Samanama Sabhapathi Sadasiva’ - RTP in Saramathi, sung by Shashank Subramanyam (ragam thanam pallavi in raga Saramathi, pallavi being ‘Samanama Sabhapathi Sadasiva’. Saramathi was intertwined with Behag and Pathuvarali in thanam. Similarly, while rendering kalpanaswaram in Saramathi, Hamsadhwani, Ranjani and Shriranjani were combined).
In the kriti Mokshamu galada, Thyagaraja doubts whether moksha, without knowledge of sangeetha with bhakti, is attainable by any one. The immediate power and pleasure of music and that of Veena, isconveyed in this kriti. Thyagaraja believes that the music is the most powerfulmeans of attaining moksha.
We shall listen to the Devi krithi in this ragam, Saramathi, by Dr. Harikeshanallur Muthaiah Bhagavathar, “Saarasadala nayane Sharade”, sung by vidushi. Ananya Ashok, disciple of Sri. T.N.Seshagopalan and belonging to the HMB sishya parampara. Please enjoy her melodious rendition, same time fully immersed in the extreme bhakthi rasa, the ragam evokes.