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In the another episode, we have dealt with ‘Poornashadjam’, a raga used by the Thyagaraja school and not found in Dikshithar system. In this essay, we are going to discuss ‘Rudrapriya’, a rare raga, often confused with the above raga. This is mainly because some compositions, like ‘Gananayakam bhajeham’ (said to be Dikshithar krithi in Rudrapriya, but still remaining disputed) which is mostly sung in Poornashadjam. The raga for the Thyagaraja krithi, Lavanya Rama is given as Purnashadjam in some books. Poorna Rajagopal’s book lists it under Rudrapriya. It was agreed that the publisher/compiler may have listed it as such based on prayogas such as SRGMPNS which occur in the song. But the record of Veena Seshanna of Lavanya Rama also states that it is Rudrapriya. Adding to reverse analogy, Dikshitar' interpretation of Gananayakam in Rudrapriya seem to be in same mettu and swara usage as ‘Sree maninim’ in Poornashadjam by Thyagaraja, thus adding to the usual confusion of Poornashadjam and Rudrapriya being same scale, in fact which are not. It is to be seen that while Thyagaraja composed in Poornashadjam and never in Rudrapriya, Dikshithar composed only in the latter, while Shyama Sastri never touched any of these !!

The ragaswaroopam of Rudrapriya shows it is a sampoorna – shadava janya (Dhaivatha-varja in avarohanam only) of mela (22) raga Kharaharapriya, as:

S R2 G2 M1 P D2 N2 S // S N2 P M1 G2 R2 S

Ragapravaham by D.Pattammal shows two specifications under mela (22) as:

S R G M N S // S N P M G R S

S R G M P D N S // S N P M G R S

SSP by Subbarama Dikshithar gives the lakshana slokam of Venkatamakhi as:

"purno rudrapriya ragascavarohe dhavarjitah |"

(bhashanga, sampoorna, dhaivatha varja in avarohana, all time raga), ascertaining the above configuration.

Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini (SSP) gives a lot of glide phrases in the Muttuswami Dikshitar kriti Rudrakopajata. These phrases are N and G centric. These glides are more akin to the Hindustani Kapi of old (not to be confused with the present day Hindustani Kapi of the Carnatic tradition) which was marked by occasional use of the Kakali Nishada and Antara Gandhara. The Tanjore Quartet have a pada varnam in Rudrapriya which also uses these glides. The usage of jhanta prayoga in N is also present. The SSP specifies N,G, M, R as nyasa swaras for this raga. The song Valli Devasenapate from SSP has prayogas such as SNRSNSR. The notation for Amba Paradevate given in the SSP has phrases which recall to mind the old Hindustan Kapi. Dr. Ritha Rajan is of the view that this raga was originally the old Hindustan Kapi and was rechristened as Rudrapriya for Carnatic music as there was already a Kapi (the Karnataka Kapi) flourishing here. Some would have immediately thought the raga was Rathipathipriya, another rare raga but whose melodic identity is very unique and somewhat unusual that it stands out. However as you can find from its arohana/avarohana, Rudrapriya has D2 in ascent and thus freely uses pdns, dnp , pdnp etc. which can never be part of Rathipathipriya, though initially it will give a feel of the same.

The reason for this anomaly can be summarized as follows. The Trinities learned the theory of music either from their gurus or from the ancient treatises that were available at those times. The Trinities got their musical knowledge from different sources which attributes to the differences in raga interpretation, same ragam with different scales, same scale but different raga names etc. These disparities give us creativity and diversity in their compositions. As of now, there are only 28 ragams that are used by all the three composers. A close observation of these ragams suggest that many of them were rakthi ragams, transcended from generations to generations. Others were ancient ragams which are in vogue now. Let us explore each composer and find the answer for these anomalies.

Saint Thyagaraja had his music initiated by Sonti Venkatasubayya and other gurus. His knowledge of the theory follows the works of Govindacharya who formalized the 72 melakartha system and gave names to all 72 ragams. This system emphasized the existence of all 7 notes in arohonam and avorohanam in order as part of being nominated as Mela Kartha or a Janaka ragam of the group. Thus if you see the 22nd Melam was called Kharaharapriya and had all the 7 notes. Thyagaraja thus followed the ragam names and scales of Govindacharya and thus composed enthralling beauties in Kharaharapriya. (However, out of the 72 mela ragas, the Saint did not compose in about 22 melas; while in Kharaharapriya alone he composed more than a Dozen krithis!)

Coming to Muthuswamy Dikshitar, he had his music initiated by his father Ramaswami Dikshithar who had his tutelge under Govinda Dikshithar and Muddu Venkatamakhin, the court musicians of Tanjore Court at that time. Dikshithar was later introduced to the Yogi. Thus all of Dikshithar’s works were influenced from the ragam names and scales of Muddu Venkatamakhin. As per Muddu, the mela kartha need not have all 7 notes in arohonam and avorohonam. It can be present in either of the series. Thus the 22 nd melam was Shriragam as per Venkatamakhin system. Fortunately unlike Thyagaraja and Shyama Shastri, Dikshithar took extra efforts to stamp the raga mudra in most of his compositions giving good insights to the raga structure and names prevalent at those times, which helped musicologists solve many disparities. Thus the closest scale of (Khara)Harapriya that Dikshithar composed was called Rudrapriya.

Now, regarding Shyama Shastri, he had his musical initiation from a sage who visited Tiruvarur. Later he was introduced to Pacchimiryam Adiyappa. Shyama Shastri is believed to have composed more than 400 krithis, we have only about 93 krithis attributed to his name. So one cannot be sure if Shyama Shastri did compose in Kharaharapriya or not. Even the krithi “Ninnuvina Marigalada” is still often attributed as both Abheri and Reethigowlai. Compositions of Shyama Shastri in Nattai and Shriragam suggests he followed the same steps of Thyagaraja, since the raga interpretation is similar. So one can think he might have had the knowledge of Kharaharapriya ragam but chose not to compose in it. Interestingly his son, Subbaraya Shastri who was a disciple of Thyagaraja did not compose in Kharaharapriya at all.

Oothukkad Venkata Subbaiyer’s (well known composer who lived before the trinities) compositions in Kharaharapriya suggests the scale and ragam existed much before, which adds proof to “Harapriya” being a very old ragam, perhaps the first known melody. The word Khara was added later by Govindacharya to comply the Katapayadi scheme of nomenclature.

If we check the scale of Rudrapriya ‘S R2 G2 M1 P D2 N2 S and S N2 P M G2 R2 S’, it is the nearest to sampoorna ragam, but as per Venkatamakhi’s thought Shriragam was chosen as the melakartha, since his ideology reflected that the most famous / ranjaka ragam will be chosen as the leader of that group. Interestingly Shriragam (like Nattai) used Dhaivatham as per Dikshitar compositions which is completely absent as per Thyagaraja’s compositions. The methodology that Thyagaraja and Dikshithar followed suggests that, both of them did not budge a little to modify the scale or bhavam. They respected the treatise or their gurus with utmost reverence.


Valli devasenapatina - Baluswami Dikshithar

Nive rasika sikhamaniyani (dAru) - ,,

Amba paradevathe - Krishnaswamy Ayya

Murukavunai - Venkateswara Ettappa Maharaja

Rudrapriye mookambike - V.Dakshinamurthy

Parashakthim bhajare - Muthuswami Dikshithar

Rudra kopa jatha - Muthuswami Dikshithar

Siva kayarohanesaya - Muthuswami Dikshithar

Sri Thyagarajasya bhaktho - Muthuswami Dikshithar

Thyagesam bhajare - Muthuswami Dikshithar.

Gananayakam bhajeham - (disputed krithi) Dikshithar

As the most popularly heard composition, we shall consider the Krishnaswamy Ayya’s krithi, ‘Amba paradevathe’. The composition is on Goddess Lalitha, the lyrics:

P: amba paradEvatE anAdi shiva sahitE

A: ambujAkSi mahitE AmOda rasa bharitE shrI rAja rAjEshvari nirupama shubhakari

hita bhavAni bahu vidhAni disha sukhAni guha jananI smara hara sakhi sarasijamukhi

vividha sukhini sarasa guNini hrdi bhajAmi purANi navAmi mAnava mAnita matE

C: Adi shaktE lalitE ati vicitrE adri sutE Agama vidhita sucaritE Ashrita krSNa vinutE

Ajanma pApa hara kIrtE Adyanta rahita cinmUrtE Apanna rakSaNa pravrttE akaLanka

citta vrtE amarArcitE abhimatE amita bhUSaNAlankrtE abhaya shubha prada hastE

anugraha kAriNi namastE

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Sri. Jon Higgins Bhagavathar, the American born Carnatic musician, who popularized the above composition; left us untimely at his 45 yrs of age.

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