Different Contexts of the usage of the raga mudra by Dikshitar

  • Article by Sri. S Dinesh, Student, Sri Guruguha Gana Vidyalaya Kolkata

    Raga by definition is a melody constructed with swara-s within the framework of swara-sthana-s and the gamaka-s that are interwoven into it. How the names of different ragas have originated is still a mystery that befuddles the most learned scholars. There are ragas which have changed themselves adapting to the time whereas there are ragas which have retained their identity for more than 1000 years since the time when Thevarams were being composed and sung. Shankaracharya once said that ragas have come into the Carnatic fold from the villages or folk music (Ragas are called pann in Tamil) and that is why some of the raga-s actually represent the name of a region, namely Saurashtram, Gaulai, Kamboji etc.

    Dikshitar was a master in weaving the name of the raga into the body of his compositions. Dikshitar signed his compositions with the aid of 'Raga Mudra'. In fact many rare raga-s like Gauri, Chaya Gaulai, Narayana Desakshi etc are recognized ragas because they have a Dikshitar kriti and he has explicitly mentioned the raga name in them. A very interesting trivia however is Dikshitar has incorporated in the 'sahitya' the name of almost all the raga-s that he used for his compositions but no kriti is available with the Thodi raga mudra. Perhaps the word itself was unsuitable to be used.

    We can categorize the usage of his raga mudra mainly in the following contexts:

    • As a Raga itself : In many kriti-s he has used the name of the raga in the kriti as its name and has not used the meaning of word. For example in the Saveri kriti Karikalabhamukham , he uses the phrase "Kaveri tatastitham, Saveri raga nutam". Similarly in the kriti Ardhanarishwaram he uses the phrase "Sri guruguha poojitam, Kumudakriya raga nutam". Many other examples can be cited in this context.
    • Adjective for a deity : Several ragas in Carnatic music are adjectives and have been very aptly used by Dikshitar in the same manner. For example, the Devi Bhawani in Sattur has been praised as the goddess who provides rain and very aptly Dikshitar chose the raga Amritavarshini and describes the goddess as "Anandamritakarshini Amritavarshini ". Another example can be cited in the Rasamanjari (modern Rasikapriya) kriti where he describes the devi Kamakshi in Kanchi as Sringara Rasamanjari.


    The following kritis highlight similar usage:

    Raga Name Kriti
    Chaturangini (Chitrambari) Guruguha bhava taranginim chaturanginim
    Gauri Velavali (Gauri manohari) Kumari Gauri Velavali
    Kanakambari (Kanakangi) Kanakambari Karunyamritalahari
    Kalavati Kalavati Kamalasana Yuvati

    •  In a couched/hidden manner: In several of his kritis the raga name remains hidden within the sahitya and is not as explicitly mentioned as above. The most oft-cited example is that of Arabhi which Dikshitar brings to fore as Sams ara bhi tyapahe (Sri Saraswati). Another common example is Ananda Bhairavi which he brings forth as Ram ananda Bhairavam ( Manasa guruguha roopam bhajare).

    Kriti Sahityam Raga
    Avyaja Karunatakasi Rasalanga nataka kriye Salanga Nattai.
    Parimala Ranganatham Parimala Ranganatham Bhaje hamVira nutam Hamviru(Hamir Kalyani)
    Sarasadalanayana Maa gha Mas otsava Kamas
    Chintaya mahalingamurtim Ati sami pa rju marga darshitam Paraju
    Kamakshi Kamakoti Kaumari Ku sumadhyuti Sumadhyuti (Simhendra Madhyamam)

    •  Used as the actual meaning of the Raga name: Logically this is the best possible way of using the Raga mudra and needlessly Dikshitar has also used the actual meaning of the Raga in most cases. In his very first kriti Sri Nathadi he introduces the Raga mudra as " Maya Malava Gowla di Desha". In ancient times Tamil Nadu used to be divided into several provinces and they were named as above. Similarly for Saurashtram in Varalakshmi Bhajare where he describes Lakshmi as " Saurashtra deshapatinuta dhaninim". Other examples that can be cited are as below:

    Kriti Sahitya Raga
    Sri Kamalambike Avava Santatam mukti ghanta mani Ghanta
    Nishadadi Deshadipati Nishada di Deshadipati Nishadam
    Somasundareshwaram Nitya suddha vasant o tsava vibhavam Suddha Vasanta

    •  Other possible contexts: In a few kriti-s Dikshitar has referred to many hidden legends of ancient India by using the Raga mudra. For example, it is well known that in Chidambaram, Lord Siva defeated a very aggressive form of Parvati (Kali) and banished her outside the town and hence it is said that Devi Parvati after her pride being vanquished is the epitome of peace. This he has referred to in his kriti Sivakameshwarim Chintayeham as " Shanta Kalyana Gunashalinim" and through this he has introduced the Raga mudra Shanta Kalyani, which was the complete name of Kalyani now known as Mecha Kalyani. In another kriti Sri Venugopala, he has aptly chosen the raga Kurinji and referred to the story of a tussle between Rukmini and Satyabhama over the Kurinji flower. Krishna then decided to satisfy them both by having the tree in Satyabhama's garden but the tree was such that the flowers fell in Rukmini's garden. This legend is referred to by Dikshitar when he says "Sri Kuranji ta kama, shrita satyabhama".

    In conclusion, one would have to mention that the scope of the subject is unlimited and scholars have been wonder-struck at his mastery in weaving the name of the raga into his kriti-s and on deeper analysis many further contexts might emerge. I would also mention here that I have deliberately chosen uncommon Dikshitar krit-is to show the very presence of such rare ragas and kritis which certainly do not deserve this rarity.

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