RARE RAGA SERIES: SARASWATHI MANOHARI – JANYA OF MELA (28) RAGAM HARIKAMBHOJI

Though a pleasing raga, Saraswathi manohari is a very Rare raga; rarely heard in concerts. The only composition which is somewhat popular is the Thyagaraja krithi, “Enthavedukondu O Raghava”, otherwise, this is a mostly forgotten one. Muthuswami Dikshithar also composed in this raga; other composers like Maharaja Swathithirunal, Dr. Muthaiah Bhagavathar and Mysore Vasudevacharya also seem to have composed in the raga; but these are not heard in concerts – only for academic interest. The raga is more pleasing when it is sung in medium-slow or medium tempo; but musicians like Sri. Yesudas seem to have sung in fast tempo also.

Saraswathi manohari is an oudava- sampoorna janya of Harkambhoji, Panchama, Nishada varja in arohanam and with a slight vakra in the avarohanam with D2; can be written as:

S R2 G3 M1 D2 S // S D2 N2 P M1 G3 R2 S

Like ragam Saraswathi (janya of Vachaspathi, the 64th mela and Prathimadhyama equivalent of Harikambhoji), many of the compositions in Saraswathi manohari is on Goddess Saraswathi.

Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini (SSP) by Subbarama Dikshithar places it under mela (29) Sankarabharanam; gives the raga lakshana by the Venkatamakhi slokam:

tyakta pancama arohe sarasvatamanoharı |

avarohe rivakram syat sagrahassarvakalikah ||

(as per the above, the notes will be SRGMDDNS // SNDPMGMRS; suitable for singing all times).

However, Ragapravaham by D.Pattammal places it under mela 27 (Sarasangi), 28 (Harikambhoji) and 29 (Sankarabharanam) as:

S R G M D S // S N D P M R S (mela 27)

S R G M D S // S D N P M G R S (mela 28)

S G M P D S // S N D P M G R S (mela 28)

S R G M D D N S // S N D P M G M R S (mela 29)

Compositions:

Entha vedukondu - Thyagaraja

Saraswati manohari Sankari – Dikshithar

Mamava Jagadeeswara – Swathithirunal

Amba mahavani - Dr. Muthaiah Bhagavathar

Saraswathi devi - ,,

Vani nithyakalyani - ,,

Karuniso thaye - Mysore Vasudevacharya

Sri Purandara guruvaram – ,,

Cintaginci nadu – Poocci Srinivasa Iyengar

We shall consider the Dikshithar krithi, “Saraswathi manohari Sankari” for discussion.

(Sri Muthuswami Dikshithar couched some of the most lofty ideas in his equally lofty compositions. Some of his kritis are on Goddess Kamakshi, the presiding deity of Kanchipuram. One of the benefits of upasana of Devi Kamakshi is vakvilasa. Kanchipuram is famous for the story of Muka (dumb), who became a kavi and composed some of the most exquisite pieces of poetry in 500 verses, the Muka Panchasathi by the grace of Kamakshi).

Acharya Adi Sankara’s Soundaryalahari also has verses referring to Devi’s powers of bestowing exceptional literary abilities. Some verses are in fact specifically called ‘saraswatha prayoga’. No wonder Devi inspired great composers like Muthuswami Dikshithar one of whose krithis is now taken up for elaboration. This krithi is tuned in the raga ‘Saraswathi manohari’ and also starts with the same words. ‘saraswathi manohari sadanandalahari gauri shankari’. If the grace of Kamakshi has the power to turn Her votary into a veritable ‘Saraswathi’, then what to speak of the ability of Kamakshi Herself ? Small wonder that even Saraswathi is captivated by Kamakshi – ‘Saraswathi manohari’ ! Such a scene is picturized by Acharya in verse 60 of Soundaryalahari –

“sarasvatyaha suktiramritalahari kaushalaharihi

pibantyaha sharvani shravana chulukabhyam aviralam

chamatkara-shlagha-calita shirasaha kundalagano

jhanatkaraistaraihi prativachanamachashta iva te”

Here, the Acharya says that Goddess Saraswathi takes delight in Devi’s speech which surpasses nectar. Saraswati is the Goddess of learning. She herself is amazed at Devi’s exposition, wonder -struck by its sweetness and depth. All agog, she listens keenly & eagerly, literally drinking with her ears wide open, the nectar – like words of Devi which are phonetically, artistically, linguistically and meaningfully sweet. While doing so, she nods her head and her ear ornaments jingle melodiously as if voicing appreciation. The repository of all arts, she herself is astounded by the artfulness, felicity, depth of expression and the sweetness of Devi’s speech. Alternatively in Sloka 66, Goddess Saraswathi even stops playing her veena.

“vipanchya gayanti vividhamapadanam pashupate

tvayarabdhe vaktum chalita shirasa sadhuvachane

tadeeyair-madhuryair-apalapita-tantri kalaravam

nijaam veenam vani nichulayati cholena nibhrtam”

Here Devi takes delight in Goddess Saraswati’s veena recital and utters words of approval. These in turn are so sweet, even sweeter than the veena, that Goddess Saraswathi stops playing.

We shall now listen to the Dikshithar krithi, “Saraswathi manohari Sankari” (on Goddess Kamakshi of Kanchipuram), sung by the legendary Dr. M.Balamuraleekrishna.


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