Wednesday, September 19, 2007


2nd post within a day. Well, today's not been the best day. The news that (a) I might not be able to go to India in December and (b) one of my close friends is going away to her hometown for good, was not the best start and rendered me sulky very early in the morning. But thankfully, another of my closest friends was with me to cheer me up, and I feel much better now, no-thankfully. Also, what with all the activity on in our DIkshitar gumbal, with all that raving about navarOju and my repeated listening to gajavadanA in tODi, which brings back fond memories of times at LA, not much work is getting done. I thought that a blog on Priyanka's suggestion of vAgadheeshwarI couldn't help me at a better time.

vAgadheeshwarI is the 34th mELakarta rAgam and the 4th rAgam in the Rutu chakram. It is what I would characterize as a pseudo-vivAdi rAgam, because many of the rakti prayOgams in the rAgam do not involve the vivAdi swaram. vAgadheeshwarI is composed off Sa-ShaTshruti RuShabham (R3) - antara gAndhAram (G3) - shuddha madhyamam (M1) - Panchamam - Chatushruti daivatam (D2) - kaishiki niShAdham (N2). The vivAdi tag is evidently earned due to the presence of R3.

It is pertinent here to describe the nomenclature of the Rushabhams. It is not mere coincidence that we have a shuddha Ri, chatushruti Ri and then a ShaTshruti Ri. The Ri's themselves form something like a sub-octave scale, comprising off Sa, shuddha Ri, trishruti Ri, chatushruti Ri, panchashruti Ri, ShaTshruti Ri. tri, chatu:, pancha, shaT are the sanskrit terms for 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th. However, with respect to the human ability to sing these notes, trishruti and panchashruti are subharmonic, and can be best rendered as gamakams. The trishruti RuShabham, as a gamakam, can be seen best in asAvEri. The panchashruti, well, I am not aware.

Hence, the RuShabham contained in vAgadheeshwarI would be the highest permissible harmonic a Ri can have - ShaTshruti. While this adds a lot of "zing" to the rAgam, it is inappropriate to center a rAgam in vAgadheeshwarI solely about R3. It is however necessary to include here, that R3 perhaps "defines" vAgadheeshwarI, and hence is a very vital swaram. The sanchArams and prayOgams in vAgadheeshwarI are pleasing, for lack of a better word. The pUrvAngam evokes excitement, and the uttarAngam provides quiescence and peace. As such, vAgadheeshwarI = vaak (speech, verbal skills) + adheeshwarI (the goddess), means the goddess of speech, verbal skills and so on. It could mean saraswatI (vAgdEvI), it could also mean lakShmI, as even LakShmI is hailed as "vAgabhimAnI" in "AmbhRuNI sooktam" of the rigvEda. I would like to look at it as a part of both :)

The two compositions that I am aware of in this rAgam are (1) paramAtmuDu veligE by tyAgarAja and (2) bhOgachChAyanATakapriyE of Dikshitar in bhOgachChAyanATa, the 34th asampoorNa mELakartam, which is not very vastly different from vAgadheeshwarI. Between themselves, I would say, these two song pretty much qualify the rAgam wholly.

While it is indeed a tendency to overdo the vivAdi in any vivAdi rAgam, it must be realized that the potential sanchArams scale beyond this. The n2-s-r3-s-r3-g3-m1 is quite a trademark sanchAram of vAgadheeshwarI, at least from the point of view of Dikshitar's school, since rAgachooDAmaNi doesn't permit this usage. (Note - rAgachooDAmaNI and rAgavardhani are vastly different!). It doesn't come as a surprise that but for the usage of r3, the sanchArams would be very chakravAka-ish. For instance, consider the charaNam of paramAtmuDu. "gaganA anila tEjO jala bhoomaya maku" (another magnificent way to bring in the panchabhootAs - I was telling Sai about Dikshitar bringing in the panchabhootAs in SrI kALahastIsha (husEni) as pAkAri-vidhi-hari-prANamaya-kOsha-anilAkasha-bhoomi-salilAgni-prakAsha shiva - this will be sung in praise of when Sai or I write about SrI kALahastIsha). The sangatIs in gaganAnilatEjOjala.... are very typical chakravAkam. "pa pa pa ... ma pa n2 d2 m g3 m1 p... n2 d2". Thought it is tempting to draw a parallel to HarikAmbhOji, we have to exercise caution, because the character of the niShAdham in vAgadheeshwarI is completely unlike that in harikAmbhOji - consider for instance the pallavi in "chani tODi tEve... p d2 n2 s p m1 r2 g3 m1"... the n2 is flat and bland. There is NO gamakam, for any gamakam on n2 in harikAmbhOji could bring it scarily close to kAmbhOji. In general though, a gamakam on n2 in harikAmbhOji is permitted, but perhaps sufficient data does not exist of the same. (Even dinamaNi-vamsha has a lot of flat n2-s ; of course, not as flat as in kEdAragowLam or nArAyaNagowLam, but flat nevertheless).

The uttarAngam is hence best compared to chakravAkam. the p-d-n-s has the form of d2 being pretty much attached to pa, and branching off with a nokku (jerk) to n2, which now happens to be kissing the mEl-shaDjam. Then, why is it not the same as hEmavatI ? I would attribute it to the existence of another p-d-n-s methodology. In this, the n2 has a kampitam (an oscillatory character with affiliation to d). The latter dominates in hEmavatI, while the former dominates in chakravAkam. The best example of this would be in the charaNam of veeNApustaka-dhAriNi "karAravindAm-kalyANadAm-bhAshAm". Of course, from the wholesome view, the uttarAngam is certainly a weighted average of chakravAkam, harikAmbhOji and hEmavatI, just the weight is more towards the chakravAkam character, later perhaps followed by the other two. The point I want to convey here is this. By virtue of this affiliation or I'd say, commonality of the uttarAngam with these three rAgams, there is a LOT of scope for various sanchArams with different characters, more so with an occasional appearance of R3. So, the sanchArams do NOT have to be centered around or be very prominent in R3 for it to be vAgadheeshwari.

This is best illustrated with the second line of the pallavi of bhOgachChAyanATakapriyE - mudam dEhi brihadeeshajAyE - d2 n2 s .. n2 d2 n2...s n2 r3 s n2 d2 p m1 g3 m1 p n2 d2 - bhOgachChAyA..... Observe that R3 is used only once and that suffices to make the whole sanchAram typical vAgadheeshwarI. It does NOT always have to be of the form "surulaTa narulaTa - n2 s r3 r3 m1 g3 r3 r3 s". Another example is "mriga-khaga-naga-tarukOTlulalO - p s .. (mRuga) s n2 d2 n2 d2 p (khaga) p d2 n2 d2 n2 d2 d2 p (madhyama speed) (naga)....m1 g3 r3 s n2 n2(taru..) n2 s r3 g3 m1 p m1 p (kOTlulalO)" and by the line following that "sagaNumulO vigUNamulO - n2 d2 n2 d2 ... d2 ... | p d2 n2 d2 p m1 p n2 d2 d2 p d2 p .. m1 (some in madhyama kAlam)" ... This classic spot has NO vivAdi character and still one can tell it apart from the way it is sung that it is vAgadheeshwarI and not harikAmbhOji, because it has that little harikAmbhOji character. Then, again, how close is kharaharapriya (KHP) ? Not very. the uttarAngam of KHP has d2 closer to n2 than to panchamam - something that is not very profoundly seen in vAgadheeshwarI. I urge one to listen to recording of the charaNams of veeNapustakadhAriNi and paramAtmuDu to get a feel for the similarities and subtleties.

Moving "down" to the pUrvAngam, this is what makes vAgadheeshwarI majestic. The R3 has a lot of "weight" in it. This can be best realized by observing a vaiNika play it. The amplitude of oscillations imparted to the string while plucking it to produce R3 is the maximum of the three Ris, and naturally so, owing to its distance from ShaDjam. This distance from ShaDjam, hence provides immense gamakam capacity to R3, especially the kampitam. Even the Sa-Ri3 usage is to be sung with a lot of weight put in into the prayOgam. One can't quite get away with singing Ri3 lightly. There is no bland ascent from Sa to Ri3. If it exists, it is a recipe towards a discontinuous breakage in the rocky ascent from Sa to Ri3. The ascent is anything but smooth. The gradient from Sa to Ri3 is immense and the gamakams fill up the white space with a lot of beautiful color. While the aarOhaNam resembles nATa in character, the avarOhaNam, with the absence of p-m1-r3, carves out a place for itself, with the serenely beautiful p-m1-g3-r3.

A word needs to be added about G3. Amongst the 3 gAndhArams, G3 is the one which has the least character for a gamakam. This is a GOOD reason why MMG wins the race between MMG and hEmavatI for a starting rAgam, even with symmetry in both of those (ref - last post). G3 has hardly any gamakams, while G2 hardly has no gamakams (at least in hEmavatI). The rather bald character of G3 is what makes it beautiful. After the heavy Sa-Ri3 ascent, the "be-ing" at G3 is something that flushes calmness and composure into one. One can "park" at G3 forever, without having to worry about gamakams and the like. This makes G3 a very preferred spot for an anchor during AlApanam or during koruvai. Further, even M1 is pretty bland, and is another very calm place to rest peacefully upon. The G3-M1 pair however, does not resemble the one in MMG, for the G3 in MMG has a quasi-M1 character many a time. vAgadheeshwarI perhaps stands alone here. In my opinion, G3-M1 in the other chakras don't quite have the capacity to just exist merely, and always are aided by gamakams. However, the M1-G3 descent does portray a lot of gamakam. M1-G3 ~ M1-P-M1-M1-G3. Taking Ri3 from G3 almost happens accompanied by a dip to ShaDjam and a rise back to Ri3. The bland M1-G3-R3 is hardly seen. However, where there is no dip-rise character, the G3 itself has a lot of Ri3 character, and almost resembles a jaaru (slide) from m1. This can be seen in the pallavi of bhOgachChAyanATakapriyE.... ChA...yA = m1 g3 p m1 r3 r3 almost, with perhaps a small scent of G3. The other kind of a descent I would like to point out is a more 'agitated' descent, of the kind "m1 g3 p m1 g3 r3 r3" in "Ta a a a a a a" of "muchchaTa" in paramAtmuDu. And all these are distinctly different from nATa.

Next, I'd like to highlight the characteristics of the transition piece - uttarAngam to poorvAngam (da2-pa-ma1) and (ni2-sa-ri3). The d2-p does always portray a slide from n2 to d2 as a start up, which is again pretty expected because of the character of the uttarAngam as already discussed. Analgously, the ascent from ni2 to sa will emanate from the daivatam and stagnate at ri3, due to the inability of G3 to support any gamakam. DhATu prayOgams such as n2-r3, n2-g3, n2-m3 add value, but just that in these cases the niShAdham is mostly anchored at ShaDjam, rather than at d2, or at times, stands alone.

Finally, the pUrvAngam to uttarAngam transitions (ri3-sa-ni2) and (m1-p-d2). The m1-p-d2 transition is fully chakravAkam in nature, and the dhATu m1-d usage doesn't appear so chaste or appealing, but sparing usage should add value, especially in a patterned usage such as "m1-p.. m1-d2...m1-n2...m1-sa-ni(w/ sa gamakam)-ni(w/ da gamakam)-d2-d2" or such. The ri3-sa-ni2 prayOgam starts at r3 again, with no overshoots, while the termination could be at either of the three possibilities - n2 w/ sa anchor, n2 w/ d2 anchor or n2 alone. The standalone n2 is not usually the best, and the other two come across rather beautifully.

As such, it is always difficult to express the multifaceted character of a wholesome raga like vAgadheeshwarI using text, especially with the existence of the fully packed uttarAngam and the spicy pUrvAngam with Ri3. This is but a humble attempt to do some justice in sketching out a potrait of the ragam without using curves but using a-b-c-d.

The divinity of vAgadheeshwarI is in the beautiful way the rAgam builds up and then smooths out to poise and equilibrium, again, pretty much like the pure gangAdEvi, who starts off with a lot of momentum at gangOtrI and flows down calmly to feed a good part of northern India. The beauty of the rAgam is indeed akin to that of saraswatI herself, with her being the Goddess of learning and all that, and still a mother of the world. There is serious stuff you can approach her for - be it jnAnam, sujnAnam, vijnAnam or whatever, and there is also protection and love you can go to her for. This hence is perhaps aptly named after the goddess of learning, for indeed yes, singing vAgadheeshwarI would strengthen and enable to learn, a good set of rAgams, including, but not restricted to, chakravAkam, hEmavatI, those of Rutu chakram, also perhaps a bit of nAsikabhooShaNi, certainly a good deal of vAchaspati, and also teaches to exercise control from slipping into nATa, which will never look more enticing.

My next post would mostly be on the 2nd navagraha krithi chandram bhaja mAnasa and asAvEri, while Sai's post on hiraNmayeem lakShmIm is eagerly awaited.

vagarthAviva sampruktau vagarthapratipattayE
jagata: pitarau vandE pArvatIparamEshwarau

SrI kamalAmbA jayati

Shreekrishna (9/18/07)


Musical Scientist said...

Aahaa..what a wonderful post..2 amazing posts in one day..sli too much pa SK this is..I sang along and played every sangathi you have talked about there..tried parking peacefully at G3 and M1..amazing feel it gives. My favourite sangathi is G M P S N R S N P M...totally range post pa SK it is..So enlightening these posts are :). You are teaching me a lot of things..just like how Hari used to teach me so much stuff at AA(those were the golden days..*sigh*).

Please keep posting more as and when u find time..beautiful :). I will post hiraNmayIm in a few days..that lalitha gives me goosebumps all the time..ore feelings only!!!

Musical Scientist said...

But the day totally belongs to hastivadanAya pa SK..I am totally unable to overcome that..ooyooyoooo....
himAdri-tanayAnana-paHNkaja-hiraNya-garbhAya sumanasE umAramaNa-kumAra-guruguha-samAna-varaujasE mahasE

Too too much!!!dIkshithar!!

Unknown said...

It may be well past 8 yrs since this post was written - Yet couldnt resist leaving a comment

What a brilliant composition by Sri Dikshitar - These were exactly the two lines that bought tears to my eyes "himAdri-tanayAnana-paHNkaja-hiraNya-garbhAya sumanasE umAramaNa-kumAra-guruguha-samAna-varaujasE mahasE"

What a Divine Brilliance to be able to compose this and Bogachayanataka !
Shive Paahi !