Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On HEmavatI ......

Sai's blog on hEmavatI put me on a high. The high led me to call him up and then we had a 2 hr discussion session on the brilliance of MuthuswAmi Dikshitar. The lyrical genius of the man, sorry, Gawd, requires a different blog altogether. However, I felt so into "hEmavatI" reading Sai's blog in the afternoon that I thought I should blog on hEmavatI, as a rAgam, as a portrayal of divinity. The other reason is that hEmavatI is a rAgam that is very very dear to Sai, Aishwarya and me, and to my beloved late grandfather, discussing hEmavatI with whom is still clearly etched out in my memory. Of course, my mom loves hEmavatI too! I also find that this kinda post would give a break from appreciating krithis and instead aims at appreciating, more fundamentally, rAgams.

HEmavatI is the 58th mELakarta rAgam, and is called dEshi-simhAravam in the Dikshitar school. The name hEmavatI- the one which is golden, itself symbolizes all that the rAgam stands for. I've always opined that hEmavatI is a feminine rAgam, with its delicate gamakams and inimitable beauty. The rAgam essentially thrives on the beauty of the r-g synchrony, m-p synchrony and the d-n synchrony. The transition from one note to another in the rAgam is so smooth, full and pure. Also, very interestingly, it is the 1st rAgam that has NO non-Sa, non-Pa note common with mAyAmALavagowLam (one of my personal favorites).

The prayOgams in hEmavatI, as mentioned earlier, are on the "feminine" side. There are no eccentric brighams, no sudden nokkus.... it all flows. It flows like how gaNgA flows from Lord Shiva's jaTA. While the "p s n d" phrase always gets overdone, I find the following prayOgams remarkably beautiful - (1) "p-m-g-r", with a jaaru from ma to ga (2) "p-m-g"-r" with g" sung as r-g-r, giving the effect of "p-m-r-g-r" (3) a simple, serene "p-d-n-s". In fact, looking at it, the quarter progression {s-r-g-m, r-g-m-p, g-m-p-d, m-p-d-n, p-d-n-s} and the corresponding avarOhaNam, in itself captures all the beauty of hEmavatI, without having to resort to hackneyed usages. Referring to Dikshitar's SrI kAntimatIm, it may be seen that it is "this" usage that so "embellishes" (Aishwarya's usage!) the rAgam. The "sparing' usage of "p s n d" in "shuka-shaunakAdi" only appreciates the beauty of the rAgam. (Overdoing this is something that I'm known to be picky about :|)

I need to remark here about the octave symmetry that exists in hEmavatI. The pUrvAngam (s-r2-g2-m2) is perfectly symmetric to the uttarAngam (p-d2-n2-s). It is a very simple exercise to show from this symmetry, that vakuLAbharaNam is a grihabhEda derivative of hEmavati (More on this later!). Symmetry is one of the reasons that MMG is chosen as the initiation rAgam, of course, in addition to the capability of MMG to support bland notes. On the contrary, symmetry is one of the reasons hEmavatI is difficult to sing chastely, because not only are the notes merely symmetric, but the way they are sung (with the gamakams) are also so. For instances, just as s-r and g-m form a pair of pairs that stick close to one another and emanate-terminate in/into each other, so do p-d, n-s. It is hence "perfectly" symmetric, probably a wee bit more perfect than MMG itself. It is not too surprising that this symmetry leads to the beautiful emotions of peace and harmony that it evokes, for nature, in my opinion, uses symmetry as a means of portraying harmony and equilibrium.

The rasa (emotion) that hEmavatI largely evokes is shAnta rasa (peace and harmony), and hence probably finds very well appreciated. But then, a good rendition of the rAgam can portray karuNa rasa (sympathy), especially with repeated usages of "r2-g2-m2", with lesser r2 than the others. On the whole, the rAgam seems very self-equilibrated.

The popular songs in this rAgam seem to bring forth this fact very well. SrI kAnthimatIm so aptly fits into hEmavatI, and I am sure Dikshitar's choice of hEmavatI and kAnthimatI were not coincidental. (The former means - the golden one, the latter - the lustrous one!), and immediately, he follows in by shankarayuvatIm, which so perfectly portrays the equilibrium in hEmavatI (or i'd better use the word "saukhyam" - well-being). This is just an example. Consider "hariyuvatIm hymavatIm". An uncanny resemblance to "SrIkAnthimatIm shankarayuvatIm", in terms of the saukhyam and the lyrical structure. To me, this all signifies the divine equilibrium portrayed by the divine father-divine mother, and how that divine equilibrium sustains the world.

To me, hEmavatI has always been synonymous to dEvi, in her full brilliance, and in the most peaceful form, with an ever-smiling countenance, signifying "abhaya" (perfect natural harmony by assurance that she will protect us all). The s-r-g-m phrase in hEmavatI, to me, is something that signifies motherly love. I've always thought so. May be I am a little jerky here, but sing it repeatedly and see the comfort that you get - something synonymous to motherly love. On the contrary p-d-n-s to me, has somehow been synonymous to a more robust form of comfort, perhaps fatherly! I, in certain terms, see the shiva-shakti unison in this beautiful symmetry of hEmavatI, just that shakti is the dominant character here (as opposed to MMG, which I'd opine is slightly more "masculine"). The shiva-shakti unison is that which is analogous to the prakriti-purusha equilibrium in nature. You could also compare it to the jeeva-jada (active-passive) character in the world. The pUrvAngam and the uttarAngam, in my opinion, in the light of the above discussion, has perhaps a nice philosophical interpretation. There seem different yet there are one (advaita). On the other hand, they seem one, but they are still different (dvaita). To me, this is nAda, that which clearly transcends philosophies (logical thought in philosophy). To me, this is also seeing the divinity of the universe in nAda, in what hEmavatI holds together so beautifully, woven in each of its sanchArams and prayOgams.

The wholesomeness of hEmavatI heralds itself with keeravANi and vakuLAbharaNam as its mElakarta grihabhEdam derivatives, while amRutavarShiNi, mEchabouLi, bhoopAlam are some of its non-mELakarta grihabhEdam derivatives. I rather not write anything about keeravANi here, for if I start, I fear I'll hijack the topic altogether! Within these rAgams, ALL emotions but for bheebatsa (extreme shock - as a poor translation) and raudra (extreme fear) seem to be scaled. This is again perhaps for the reason that the divinity of the rAgam keeps away the two emotions that we don't seek. In a sense, the saukhyam continues. Also notice the different moods during a day, that can be captured with this set. Remarkable ain't it ?

The final point I want to make is about the nature of the prati madhyamam in hEmavatI. Of all the prati madhyama rAgams, it is perhaps only hEmavati (and varALi) that NEVER employ an "as is" prati madhyama prayOgam by default. In other words, m2 lacks clear definition, in a scalar sense. But then, therein lies the beauty. The non-existence of a bland m2 and n2 is the "basis" of all the symmetry I've been bragging about. Had the prati-madhyamam and/or the kaishiki-nishAdham been bland, the gAndhAram would have to be blandly defined as well (Sing it to see), as a necessity to maintain aesthetic continuity in the rAgam. And as it is very well known (though not always well executed), the gAndhAram and the madhyamam and the connecting gamakam, pretty much control the dynamics of the pUrvAngam (lower half of the madhya sthAyI), while the da-ni transition piece controls those of the uttarAngam. The "p-s-n-d" wouldn't be half as beautiful, if it were not for the accentuation on ni2. In short, in my opinion, the non-static beauty (Ok, I'm going bonkers here, but again, the prakriti/jeeva/active beauty) of the prati madhyamam is what infuses infinite beauty into the soul of hEmavatI, in conjunction with the symmetry. (This is the result of a discussion with my mom and grandfather long long ago, about what swaram is most important in hEmavatI, and my justification for choosing madhyamam over gAndhAram).

I could write much much more about hEmavatI, not that I know any more, but because of how dear and divine this rAgam happens to be to me. But lest it become a case of "You-say-it-is-cabbage-but-it-is-actually-garbage-and-I-don't-give-a-bloody-damn-to-your-nonsense", I would stop here. I know I have a tendency to correlate anything musical to divinity, but I believe that that is what "nAdOpAsana" is all about - to see divinity in nAda - even in the bare "sa-pa-sa", and more importantly, to "attempt" to see divinity through nAda, like how the great godly personalities such as the trinity and haridAsAs (purandaradAsa and others) did. And this is what this blogspace is all about - nAdasudhArasa - a means to experience the sweet nectar of nAda - just that, this time, the attempt is thru rAgasudhArasa :)

nAdalOluDai brahmAnanda-mandavE ! manasa ! (tyAgarAja)

SrI kamalAmbA jayatI

Shreekrishna (9/18/07)


Musical Scientist said...

SK...aaahaaa...total falling at your feet now pa..>--<-o @ you for such a beautiful post..amazing!!!! What analogies you have used to describe the beauty of this rAgam :)..chancey illa "flow of ganges from shivA's head" and all..I totally relate to every word u have written here pa..The flow in hEmavathi, the PMGR phrase, the beautiful connection between hEmavathi and kAnthimathi..so so beautiful..dIkshithar pa..thats all..Its a rare phenomenon which will not occur ever..

Musical Scientist said...

And explaining the phrase of the blog name itself..bhale bhale..too much only..nAdasudhArasa indeed.. Just too good pa SK..ore feelings after those 2 hours yest..ooyoyoooo..and that hastivadanAya..too much. And i have no words to even compliment this wonderful post of yours..yabaaaa!!!

Anonymous said...

great. waiting to see your blog on Keeravani

Ganesh said...

I am not clear about your comparison of hemavathi with MMG.

Can you elaborate a bit about that !


Shreekrishna said...

Sri Ganesh, I am sorry to be responding so late.

There are 2 things to take note about MMG & hEmAvatI. First, the non-trivial swarasthAnams in either rAgams are mutually exclusive, i.e., hEmAvatI's ga, ma, da, ni are completely different from MMG's. It can be proved (by counting, as well as mathematical rigor) that this is the first mELakarta rAgam which possesses this property.

In addition to that, it is very interesting to see that it possess the pUrvAngam and uttarAngam symmetry just like MMG. In MMG, the relative spacing between notes in sa-ri-ga-ma, is the same as the relative spacing between consecutive notes in pa-da-ni-sa. The same is true with hEmAvatI too.

Is it not remarkable that hEmAvatI inspite of being as different from MMG as it perhaps can be, possesses the exact same property that is perhaps at the heart of MMG (symmetry)? That is what I intended to convey, perhaps. (Perhaps - because, it's been so long since I wrote this, I had to read thru the post myself to be able to answer your question).