A Bird’s Eye View of Muthuswami Dikshitar’s Compositions

Venue: Raga Sudha Hall, 85/2, Luz Avenue, Luz, Mylapore

Organizer: Music Forum

Date: 15th June 2008

Topic of Lec Dem: A bird’s eye view of Muthuswami Dikshitar’s Compositions

Presenters: Vid R. Vedavalli (RV) & Vid S. Sundar (SS)

Vocal support: Vid Sumathi Krishnan & a student of Vid S. Sundar whom I couldn’t identify

Mrudangam: Vid Mannarkoil J. Balaji

List of songs sung:

The following songs were sung either partially or fully (I might have missed listing some):

  • muthuswAmi mahIndrAya gAna vidyA sudhAbdhayE namOstu thyAga kamala bhaktAyE guharUpiNE namOstu (dhyAna shlOkam) – bauLi – V. Raghavan (RV)
  • gaNanAyakam – rudrapriyA – Adi – MD (SS)
  • shrI mahAgaNapatiravatu mAm – gauLa – misra cApu – MD (RV)
  • hastivadanAya namOstubhyam – navarOj – misra cApu – MD (RV)
  • ranganAyakam bhAvayE shrI – nAyaki – Adi – MD (SS)
  • saundara rAjam AshrayE – brindAvana sArangA – rUpakam – MD (SS)
  • shrI kAntimatIm – dEshIsimhAravam – Adi – MD (SS)
  • mahAgaNapatim – nATTai – catushra Eka – MD (SS)
  • kAmAkSi varalakSmi – bilahari – Adi – MD (SS)
  • guNijanAdinuta guruguhOdayE- gujjari – Adi – MD (SS)
  • pAhimAm ratnAcalanAyaka – mukhAri – Adi – MD (RV)
  • krishNAnanda mukunda murArE – gauLipantu – tisra tripuTa – MD (RV)
  • jambUpate – yamunA kalyANi - tisra Ekam – MD (SS)
  • cEta shrI bAlakrishNaM – jujAvanti – tisra Ekam – MD (SS)
  • nIlOtpalAmbikayA – kannaDagauLa – Adi – MD (RV)
  • hiraNmayIM lakSmIM – lalita – rUpakaM – MD (SS)
  • shrI krishNam – tODi – Adi – MD (SS)
  • shrI abhayAmbA – shrI – Adi – MD (RV)
  • shaktisahita gaNapatim – shankarAbharaNam – tisra Ekam – MD (SS)
  • varashiva bAlam – shankarAbharaNam – catusra Ekam – MD (SS)
  • shyAmaLE mInAkSi – shankarAbharaNam – catusra Ekam – MD (SS)
  • santatam pAhimAm sangIta shyAmaLE – shankarAbharaNam – tisra Ekam – MD (SS)

Summary of the lec dem:

Comments made by Vid R Vedavalli are marked with (RV) and those by Vid S Sundar are marked with (SS)

General Information:

Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was a vocalist, a vainika, a linguist, traveler and a composer. The youngest among the trinity, he has probably traveled the most (SS)

There are two people responsible for us knowing so much about Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar (MD) today: Sri T.L. Venkatrama Iyer and Dr. V. Raghavan. They have done a lot of research on MD (RV)

The trinity was born in Tiruvarur. But MD was the only one who had Tiruvarur as a base throughout his life (RV)

Many of MD’s songs don’t have the anupallavi and are slow paced. His kritis develop rAgams beautifully (SS)

Expertise in Sanskrit & knowledge of scriptures:

MD had pAnDityam. He was a great Sanskrit scholar. He has himself used the word panDitakara in one of his compositions. He was a genius and it is his pAnDityam that is responsible for us still remembering him and singing his compositions (RV)

His sAhityAs have a lot of depth and show that he had knowledge of purANAs and a variety of other texts. It is very difficult to imagine how he could have accumulated all this knowledge at a very young age. Many of his kritis are full of advaita sAram (RV)

Some examples of his linguistic expertise are:

  • Beauty in words coined for describing someone/something: In gaNanAyakam (rudrapriyA), he has described Lord Ganesha as vANi ramaNAnanda. vANi referes to Saraswati and ramaNA means husband. vANi ramaNa refers to Brahma. So vANi ramaNAnanda refers to brahmAnandam and the one who can provide that is Lord Ganesha (RV)
  • Spinning off many words using one word: In saundara rAjam (brindAvana sArangA), he uses the word rAjam in saundara rAjam, varada rAjam, nanda nandana rAjam, nAga pattana rAjam, sundari ramArAjam & suravinutamahirAjam. He also uses ambujam in mukhAmbujam, karAmbujam, nayanAmbujam & padAmbujam (RV)

In many of his kritis, MD repeats words like “namastE” and “satatam” twice. This shows his knowledge of mantra and tantra shAstra where it is said that the repetition of some words twice is equivalent to repeating it many many times (RV)

Indication of dates for festivals

He has indicated simple methods of identifying dates for festivals without the need to refer to a pancAngam. Examples include (RV):

  • Vinayaka Chaturthi: “bhAdrapadamAsa caturthyAm” from siddhivinAyakam anisham in rAgam cAmaram i.e., Vinayaka Chaturthi falls on the chaturthi of puraTTAsi month
  • Varalakshmi vratam: “shrAvaNa paurNamI pUrvasthashukravArE” from shrI varalakSmI namastubhyam in rAgam shrI i.e, it falls on the Friday before paurNami of shrAvaNa

Indication of the rivers that flowed in the temple towns:

Examples (RV):

  • tAmraparNItaTasthitAm” in shrI kAntimatIm (dEshIsimhAravam)
  • kAvErI taTasthitam” in karikaLabhamukham (sAvEri)

Reference to 22 shrutis

He refers to the 22 shrutis in his vamshavati kriti “vamshavati shivayuvati” where he starts the caraNam with “dvAvimshat shruti svara”. He was a vaiNikA and a vaiNikA understands shrutis the best (RV)

Raga system used

MD has used the kanakAmbari-phEnadyuti rAgam scheme for his compositions. Sri Thyagaraja used the kanakAngi mELakartA scheme for his compositions. In earlier times, we did not have a set scale to be followed precisely for raga delineation or usage in compositions. It is only later that rAgams were fit into the mELakarta scheme and scales were defined. For example, the kannaDagauLa of MD is different from that of Sri Thyagaraja (RV)

MD refers to the rAgam scheme in the caraNam of his kriti shringAra rasamanjarIm in the rAgam rasamanjari where he says “dvisaptati rAgAnga rAga mOdinIm” (RV)

We should sing kritis in the rAgams in which their composers composed them. We should also use the appropriate rAgam names. For example, it would be appropriate to mention that siddhivinAyakam is in rAgam cAmaram than shanmukhapriyA. Unfortunately, there have been cases of people trying to even change MD kritis into modern interpretations of the rAgams of his time (RV)

Use of raga mudras

One of the great benefits of the use of rAga mudrAs in songs is that nobody is able to tarnish these songs and sing them in rAgams different from the ones in which the songs were originally composed. May be MD was able to visualize that people would try to change things at will in the future (RV)

MD has also composed in rAgams that sound similar or exactly same to people today. Ex navarOj and kurinji, bauLi and bhUpALam . He has placed rAga mudrAs so that we know which composition is in which rAgam and so that we can learn the differences in the rAgams (RV)

It is very difficult to use a rAga mudra in a composition in such a way that it fits in properly in terms of the meaning, the flow of the song etc. MD has achieved a commendable feat by using rAga mudrAs in almost all of his compositions. The way he has derived rAga mudrAs out of multiple words is testimony to his vidwat (RV)

Examples include (RV & SS):

  • “samsAra bhItyApahE” in shrI sarasvati namOstutE (ArabhI)
  • “prANamaya kOshAnilAkAsha” in shrI kALahastIsha (husEni – older name is ushANi or oshANi)
  • “ati samIpa Ruju mArga darshitam” in cintayE mahAlinga mUrtim (paras or paruju)
  • “mUrddhanyA shiva nigrahayA” in mangaLadEvatayA (dhanyAshi)
  • “aharahah prabala hamsa prakAshAtmanE” in guruguhAdanyam (balahamsa)
  • “cid bimbau LIlA vigrahau” in shrI pArvatiparamEshvarau (bauLi)
  • gaurIpAntarangAdi” in krishnAnanda mukunda (gauLipantu or gauripantu)
  • “mahAkAvya nATakAdi priyam” in mahAgaNapatim (nATTai or nATa)
  • “kAmakOTi bilaharinuta kamalE” in kAmAkSi varalakSmi (bilahari)
  • gujjari rAgapriyEva” in guNijanAdinuta guruguhOdayE (gujjari)

His raga mudras had a meaning and were not just fit arbitrarily into the song. For example, in the case of “kAmakOTi bilaharinuta kamalE” in kAmAkSi varalakSmi (bilahari), bilam means a small pit which is there in all kAmAkshi temples and pUja is done for the hari inside in the bilam (RV)

Use of different speeds (kAlams)

Examples (RV):

  • “shrInAthAdi guruguhO jayati” (mAyAmALavagauLa) contains three kAlams in the same avartanam
  • caraNam of “shrI mAtRbhUtam” (kannaDa) contains sets of consecutive lines sung in three different kAlams

Use of prAsams

He has used AdhyAkshara prAsam, dwitiyAkSara prAsam, antyAkSara prAsams etc in a lot of his kritis. Examples include “kSi” in “kSitijAramaNam” (dEvagAndhAri), “yE” in “shrI dum durgE” (shrIranjani), “Sad” in “SaDAnanE” (kamAs), “dasha” in “kamalAmbikAyAstava” (punnAgavarALi) etc (RV & SS)

Use of yatis

MD has used almost all kinds of yatis (RV & SS):

  • gOpucha – starts big and narrows down
  • srOtovAha – starts small and broadens
  • mrudanga – starts small, becomes large and again becomes small (like the shape of a mrudangam)
  • Damaru – starts big, becomes small and again becomes big (like the shape of a Damaru)

Examples are:

gOpucha yati:

In shrI varalakSmI namastubhyam (shrI):

shrI sArasapadE

rasapadE

sapadE

padE

In tyAgarAja yOga vaibhavam (Anandabhairavam):

tyAgarAja yOga vaibhavam

agarAja yOga vaibhavam

rAja yOga vaibhavam

yOga vaibhavam

vaibhavam

bhavam

vam

srOtOvAha yati:

svarUpa prakAsham

tatvasvarUpa prakAsham

sakalatatva svarUpa prakAsham

shivashaktyAdi sakala tatva svarUpa prakAsham

Use of different tALams

MD has composed in a variety of tALams (RV)

The cApu tALams originated from the tradition of singing divyanAma kritis. They were used for ease of putting tAlams while singing such kritis while in procession as counts of fingers will not be visible to all. MD didn’t compose in cApu tALams but composed in the corresponding Eka tALam (ex. misra Eka for whatever is sung in misra cApu today). Similarly, rUpaka tALam was always put at catushra rUpakam in the earlier days. It is only now what we have started putting tisra Ekam or the modern way of putting rUpakam with two beats and a wave of the hand (RV)

Kritis on Lord Ganesha:

MD has created many kritis on Lord Ganesha and has described the Lord in great detail. His compositions reflect his knowledge of purANAs and mahA gaNapati shlOkAs. Dr. Raghavan and S.N. Janaki have written about this in great detail in their articles (RV)

Description of what all Lord Ganesha holds in his hands is given in (RV):

  • kuvalaya svaviSANa pAshANkushamOdaka” from the caraNam of “shrI mahAgaNapatiravatu mAm” in the rAgam gauLa
  • kamalOtpala pAsha shaHNkha cakrEkSu kArmuka vrIhyagra gadAnija viSANa mAtulaHNga ratna kalasha dharaNa karAmbujAya pada paHNkajAya” from the caraNam of “hastivadanAya namOstubhyam” in the rAgam navarOj
  • “varadAbhaya pAsha shRNi kapAla danta mOdaka mudgarAkSamAlAkarENa” from the caraNam of “pancamAtaNgamukha gaNapatinA” in the rAgam malahari
  • These correspond to the description given in the shLokA “bIjApUra gadEkSu kArmukarujA cakrAbjapAshotpala vrIhyagra svavishANa ratnakalasha prodyat karAmbhoruhA” from Shilparatna

Sthala kritis

He has sung on almost all the temples in and around Tiruvarur. He has described temples and the sthala purANams in a capsulated form in his compositions. We can appreciate his songs more and keep drawing more and more interpretations if we visit each of the temples he has composed on and observe the details there. We usually visit temples in a hurry and do not observe the architecture, the idol etc in great detail (RV)

No Shiva temple in Kancheepuram has an ambAL sannidhi. Kamakshi is the adhipati of Kancheepuram. So none of his kritis on Kancheepuram have ambAL’s name (RV)

In jambUpatE (yamunA kalyANi), he has included a lot of words related to water as it is a sthala related to water (RV)

rA refers to agni. In aRuNacalanAtham (tiruvaNNAmalai kSEtram), there will be a lot of usage of “rA” throughout the song. The raga itself is sArangA which has rA in it. Examples are the phrases “smaraNAt kaivalyaprada caraNAravindam” and “karuNArasAdi kandam sharaNAgata surabrindam” from the anupallavi. rA and ru are used at a lot of places (RV)

sadAcalEshvaram in bhUpALam is on acalEshvarar’s sannidhi in which the shivalinga never casts a shadow. He refers to this when he says “chAyArahita” in the caraNam. In this kriti, he also uses the words “udAjyakRta nAmadhEyavAham” for which the meaning was unknown for many years until Dr. Raghavan, after a lot of research found out that the temple(?) lamp was lit using water when oil was not available (RV)

Vibhakti kritis

There are eight vibhaktis (cases) in Sanskrit. MD has composed many vibhakti kritis like navAvarNa vibhakti, guruguha vibhakti, abhayAmbA vibhakti, tyAgarAja vibhakti and nIlOtpalAmbA vibhakti. In the last kriti of kamalAmbA navAvaraNam, he has included all vibhaktis within the same song which is a feat in itself! (RV)

Group kritis

MD composed a lot of group kritis like (RV):

  • Guruguha Vibhakti krithis
  • Kamalamba Navavarnams
  • Navagraha Krithis
  • Nilotpalamba vibhakti Krithis;
  • Panchalinga Kshetra kritis;
  • Thyagaraja vibhakti Krithis;
  • Abhayamba vibhakti Krithis

Influence of different styles of music

Influence of other styles of music like Hindustani (especially dhrupad) and Western is seen in some of his songs. The Hindustani influence came from his stay in Kashi with his guru. The western influence came from his stay at Manali (near Chennai) along with his family where he had a chance to listen to Western music from the British band at Fort St. George (SS) and exchange his thoughts with them.

Examples of Hindustani influence are his kritis “jambUpatE” (yamunA kalyANi) and “cEta shrI bAlakrishNaM” (jujAvanti). Examples of western influence are his nOTTusvara sAhityams in shankarAbharaNam like shaktisahita gaNapatim, varashiva bAlam, shyAmaLE mInAkSi and santatam pAhimAm sangIta shyAmaLE (SS)

His versatility is evident from such simple compositions as nOTTusvarams as well as such heavy weight pieces as “shrI kamalAmbikayA” in the same rAgam shankarAbharaNam (SS)

Dikshitar – The teacher

He had a lot of illustrious disciples like Sivanandam, Ponnayya, Chinnayya, Vadivelu and Thambiappan (SS)

For the statistically inclined:

Vid S. Sundar collected some statistics on Dikshitar Kritis from the internet and shared with the audience. I think I managed to find the sites he might have sourced them from and the information is furnished below. The information is reproduced from the site as is. I cannot vouch for its accuracy. The sites are http://forumhub.com/indcmusic/19698.19637.07.51.54.html and http://sky.prohosting.com/guruguha/stats.html

A total of 479 Krithis have been used in this analysis. Krithis of doubtful authorship, corrupt krithis, etc have been omitted. The only telugu composition, a daru ” nI sATi daivamuendu” in s’rIra~njani rAgaM, has been included, even though it is devoid of the signature “guruguha” (since it appears in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, as well as in Vina Sundaram Iyer’s book, and Subbarama Dikshitar attributes it to Dikshitar).

1. Total Number of Krithis: 479

2. Number of Melams (asampurnam) : 72 (sampoorna melam makes no sense here)

3.

No. of krithis in Suddha Madyama melam: 423 = 88.3%

No. of krithis in Prati Madyama melam: 56 = 11.69%

4. Breakdown of Gods/Goddesses for these krithis:

  • Siva (including kalabhairava, virabhadra) 131 = 27.34%
  • devi 176 = 36.74% (including lakshmi, minakshi, renuka devi, etc)
  • sarasvati 13 = 2.71%
  • Vishnu 41 = 8.55&
  • Rama 27 = 5.63%
  • krishna 14 = 2.92
  • Ganapathi 27 = 5.63%
  • Subrahmanya 36 = 7.51%
  • Navagraha 9 = 1.87%
  • Brahma 1 = 0.21%
  • Sasta 1 = 0.21%
  • Sandhya 1 = 0.21%
  • Ganga 1 = 0.21%
  • Maya (contemting, not praising) 1 = 0.21%

Krithis on dual deities: (included in the above)

  • Parvati + Parameswara 1 (included in siva)
  • Sankara + narayana 1 (included in siva)
  • Rama + Krishna 1 (included in rama)

5. Vaggeyakara Mudra featured in ALL 478 krithis, except the telugu composition “nI sAti daivamendu”a in srIra~njani.

6. Raga Mudra (including suchitha (indicative) featured in 235 krithis (99.79%). None of the a.nkarAbharanaM and toDi krithis feature raga mudra, except the former in one ragamalika line.

7.

Krithis with Pallavi/Anupallavi/Charanam 280 = 58.46%

Krithis with Samashti Charanam 157 = 32.77% (Most of the Vivadi mela krithis are of this type)

noTTU swara sahityams 37 = 7.72%

Krithis with Pallavi/Anupallavi/Muktayi swaram 1 = 0.21%

8. Ragamalika krithis 4 = 0.84%

9.

Krithis in Upanga Ragams 102 = 21.29%

Krithis in Bhashanga ragams 179 = 37.37%

Krithis in Others 198 = 41.43%

10. Number of Ragams employed 193

Breakdown of number of kritis and the number of rAgams that have this number:

  • 1 krithi each in 97 ragams
  • 2 44
  • 3 14
  • 4 15
  • 5 8
  • 6 6
  • 7 3 (anandabhairavi, bhairavi, surati)
  • 8 4 (athana, arabhi, kambhoji, todi)
  • 11 1 (kalyani)
  • 48 1 (sankarabharanam)

12. Maximum Number of songs in Sankarabharanam 48 = 10.02%

Maximum Number of songs in dhIraSankarabharanam melam: 96 = 20.04%

13. Krithis in major mela ragams:

  • todi 13 = 2.71%
  • mayamalavagauLa 51 = 10.64%
  • naTabhairavi 42 = 8.76%
  • Sri (~ Kharaharapriya) 57 = 11.89%
  • Harikedaragaula (Harikambhoji) 63 = 13.15%
  • dhIrasankarabharanam 96 = 20.04%
  • shantakalyani 27 = 5.63%

14. Number of talams employed 10

Breakdown

  • rupakam 138 = 28.81%
  • Adi 184 = 38.41%
  • triputa 17 = 3.54%
  • jhampa 11 = 2.29%
  • capu 60 (misra 54, khanda 6) = 12.52%
  • matyam 1 -
  • Ekam 56 (tisra 22, chaturasra 22, khanda 12) = 11.69%

15. Number of languages employed

  • Sanskrit 475 = 99.16%
  • Telugu 1 = 0.21%
  • Manipravalam 3 = 0.63% (sanskrit+telugu+tamil)

16. Number of Temples featured 74

17. Other types of compositions: none

18. Notable omissions Kharaharapriya, but substituted by Rudrapriya. Diskhitar uses “srI” as the asampoorna melam 22.

19. Group Krithis on the following:

  • shodasa ganapathi
  • navagraha
  • kamalamba
  • abhaymba
  • nIlothpalamba
  • tyagaraja
  • guruguha
  • madhuramba
  • rama
  • nottu svara sahityams
  • vivadi mela groups on Tanjore brhadiswara/brihannayaki

20. Bhakti/Vibhakti series

  • kamalamba
  • abhaymba
  • nIlothpalamba
  • tyagaraja
  • guruguha
  • madhuramba
  • rama

Dasavatharam

I am speechless. Hats off to Kamal Hassan. This film must be watched for all the hard work he has put in, if not for anything else. All avatars have been portrayed well, though I felt at least one of them didn’t fit into the story at all. Special effects are too good at most places. Sometimes I just forgot if this was indeed a Tamil movie. A prominent disappointment though is the music. I cannot help but imagine how the songs would have been had A.R. Rahman been at work. But Kamal Hassan more than compensates.

Go grab your tickets expecting an entertainer, not a Kamal classic.

Sarkar Raj

RGV delivers. Positives include good performances by almost the entire star cast, a stellar performance by who else but Amitabh Bachchan, some great dialogs and the sudden twists in the story, at least some of which lead to the unexpected. There are some things I personally didn’t like but they were all weighed down by the positives. A must watch if you loved Sarkar.