Saturday, November 28, 2009

rAmachandrabhaktam bhaja mAnasa!

I am back to play the visiting faculty. It's the "turkey killing weekend" here in USA. So, I request all those who read this post to pray to their favorite Gods/Goddesses to grant mukti to all those millions of innocent turkeys which have been stuffed and devoured in the last few days, in the name of a "thanksgiving tradition".

Gripped by the recent mELakarta rAga exposition series being telecast on podhigai, and thanks to a samaritan (TVG)'s uploads on Sangeethapriya, I got to listen to Gayakapriya and vakuLAbharaNam a few days ago. That aroused in me, an enthusiastic urge to refurbish a rare gem that had rested deep in my memory for a long time, or so it seemed. Having refurbished the song reasonably satisfactorily over the last week and sung to a few of my very dear friends, I thought a blogpost is in order, for what is truly one of Dikshitar's MOST unique krithis (needless to say, amongst his rarest - we're yet to get hold of a recording for our tribute site).

The krithi in discussion is 'rAmachandra-bhaktam' in the rAga 'gEyahejjajji', the 13th rAgAnga rAgam, mELam, in the Dikshitar school. It is amongst the only four or five songs composed by Dikshitar on Lord AnjanEya (who's very close to my heart - being a dvaitin :P), and to my knowledge, probably the only composition of his having a swara-graham for chiTTaswarams - such is its uniqueness. More on that when I get there.

gEyahejjajji, the 13th mELam, is the Dikshitar equivalent of gAyakapriya. As per the SSP, it is a sAyankAlika rAgam, with shuddha Ri, antara Ga, shuddha Ma, shuddha Da and shuddha Ni - a vivAdi! Hence, close to heart, being the vivAdi-boy! :P . The asampoorNa mELam, as in many of the 1(mod 6) asampoorNa mELa rAgas (the geeky way of referring to the 1st rAgam of each chakram) is nishAdha-varjya (devoid of nishAdham) in the ArOhaNam. Specifically, SSP provides the ArOhaNam to be - "S R1 M1 G3 M1 P D1 S". The avarOhaNam is sampoorNam with "S N1 D1 P M1 G3 R1 S". Apparently, the "P D1 S", is to make it easy for the singer, without him/her having to accommodate the (I feel) rather troublesome and oddly located N1 in between D1 and S. However, the asampoorNattvam (incompleteness) makes manOdharmam a tight-rope walk, if ever one chooses to experiment with it!

The song is set to a rather "chuggy" Adi tALam (1 kaLai), and progresses at a quasi-madhyama kAlam pace ('chuggy' is again the right word!). A pleasure to sing in that oh-so-comfortable pace - that of calmness and quietude. In some sense, it befits the deity in whose praise the song is! Lord AnjanEya is known for his 'jitEndriyattva' - conquer over sensory perceptions, and has been portrayed in the purANas to be forever calm, stoic and humble, and subservient to his master, Lord rAma.

|| Pallavi ||
rAmachandra-bhaktam bhaja mAnasa!
rAkShasAntakam, hanUmantam, shrI ...

O mind (mAnasa), sing in praise (bhaja) of the foremost devotee of Lord rAmachandra (rAmachandra-bhaktam), the one who vanquishes evil (rAkShasAntakam), the one with a swollen chin (hanUmantam) .....

A superb way to introduce AnjanEya! "rAmachandra-bhaktam"! The perfect adjective, I'd say - what with AnjanEya being certainly the foremost amongs t the devotees of Lord rAmachandra! Dikshitar probably uses "rAmachandra bhaktam" in the more complete sense of "THE devotee of rAmachandra". It is like, say, the usage "geetA" to refer to bhagavadgeeta, or say "bhAratam" to refer to mahAbhAratam, or, in Vaishnavaite school, "sahasranAmam" to refer to "ViShNu-sahasranAmam". I've also seen Sanskrit scholars referring to "amarakOsha" as simply "kOsha". It kinda seems plenty to just refer to AnjanEya as "rAmachandra bhaktam"(in a similar vein as the above), with his "first-in-line" far ahead of all else obviating from the very reference! Well, Lord Rama himself praises hanUmAn to the skies in the 1st sarga of the yuddha-kANDam (see here)

Also, the term "hanUmAn", has been dealt with in paurANic interpretation to qualify AnjanEya as "the knower of all divine knowledge". The term "hanu" refers to "knowledge". This is a valid interpretation, given the shlOkam in 28th shlOkam of the 3rd sarga of the kiShkindAkANDam of rAmAyaNam - "nAnR^igvEda-vineetasya na ayajurvEdadhAriNaH ...." (see here) which goes on to describe hanUmAn as knowing all four vEdAs perfectly (in addition to other attributes). Lord rAma goes on to describe the impeccability of hanUmAn! In fact, it is said that 'hanUmAn' is still chanting the vEdAs and the brahmasUtras in kimpuruSha khaNDa to this date!

In the view of the above, the pallavi seems to be more than an enough description of the Lord AnjanEya.

The swarasthAnams in the pallavI are very interesting, and needless to say, extremely apt for the meaning. As mentioned earlier, the dominant rasa is 'shAnta' rasa - the 'emotion' of peace, notwithstanding, the tinge of 'uncertainty/fear' that 'shuddha niShAdha' is capable of adding. In the pallavi herein, the N1 appears in the mandram alone and contributes wholeheartedly to the lovely wave of peace that the rest of the pallavi brings about. I particularly love the 'flat' gAndhAram in 'rAkShasAntakam', that brings in a feeling of 'assurance' of hanumAn as the destroyer of all evil and hence keeping us safe. The phrase hanUmantam, ends the pallavi on a serious note with the G3 and M1 dominating.

|| samaShTI charaNam ||
AmishIkR^ita-divAkaram, gEyahejjajji-rAga-preetikaram
|MK| sAma-dAna-bhEda-daNDa-chaturam, sad-guruguha-sammOditam, varam ....

The one who attempted to gobble up the sun (AmishIkR^ita-divAkaram), the one who loves/can be loved by the rAga gEyahejjajji (gEyahejjajji-rAga-preetikaram), the one who is adept at sAma, dAna, bhEda, daNDa (to uplift beings) (sAma-dAna-bhEda-daNDa-chaturam), the one who brings pleasure to guruguha (by blessing him) (sad-guruguha-sammOditam), the respectable (varam).

A s such, the reference to the his gobbling up of the sun, can denote at least two things - (i) the famous, actual event, (ii) the fact that AnjanEya is more knowledgeable and hence brighter than the sun. I am unaware if the term 'gEyahejjajji' means something deeper. Anyone with an idea of the same should kindly add a note on that.

The charaNam starts with a 'tasty' "D, N D, PM", setting the tone for a beautiful charaNam. The lovely swaram for divAkaram as "D P, M G," really energizes me. That G, halt is SO wonderful! gEya starts off as 'M G M', in the last beat of the AditALam of the first Avartanam, adding beautiful variety in the laya pattern for the song. preetikaram comes as P D, D S , - the platform is very well set for the tArasthAyi.

"sA-ma" in the madhyama kAlam starts as a 'swarasAhityam' (sA ma). dAna uses G, R. The usage S, N N, D for bhEda daNDa, in concordance with the meter adds excellent symmetry between the swara and sAhitya, that which is preserved for the rest of the madhyamakAlam. The usage S, M G, R G M for sammOditam varam is a beautiful lead to the chittaswara, which is the most unique feature of this song!

Swara-graha :
The swara, in stead of the sAhitya, has a madhyama-graha of the swara, i.e., P is sung as the madhyama graha swara S. Sa as Ma, Ma as Ni etc. The swara S is sung at the position Pa, in the 'actual' shruti, but would be 'Sa' in the madhyama graha shruti. For example, for a singer singing at 1, Pa would be Sa in the madhyama graha of 1, which is 5. I know that this is a musicological idea, but I am unaware of the science, rules and the ramifications of this idea. Again, knowledgeable people should help me here.

Swara - P, P M G R R M G G R G R R S | S , N, D P D | S , S R M , G M ||
Graha - S, S N D P P N D D P D P P M | M , G , R S R | M, M P N, D N ||

Swara - P M G R S , N D P D S, R M G R | S , N, D P P , | M , G R S M G M ||
Graha - S N D P M , G R S R M, P N D P | M , G , R S S, | N, D P M N D N ||

Words fail me here to describe the genius of the nAdajyOti! Who else could think of SUCH a chittaswaram, whose graham is beautiful AND complicated at the same time. Needless to say, this would challenge the singer quite a lot, especially if the swara and graham are sung interchangeably! A novel concept! Beauty non-pareil, brought out even in an asampoorNa vivAdi mELam!

As I mentioned earlier, I seek further enlightenment on this graham aspect of it. But as a layman, this is astounding stuff. The mood I see in the tempo and effulgence of the swaram and its graham, is that of a troubled stream torn up in two opposite directions of confusion, so typical of samsAra, seeking refuge in AnjanEya, the one who is free from worldly attachments.

On a side note, as a dvaitin, I am also VERY tempted to argue that the "reflection" (actually translation, speaking strictly) of the swara to yield its 'graha', denotes the 'image-reflection' (bimba-pratibimba) nature of rAmachandra and his bhakta, AnjanEya - a kind perennial master-slave relationship, if you will! IShAvAsyOpaniShat says - tamEva bhAntam anubhAti sarvam, tasya bhAsA sarvam idam vibhAti - It is following Him, the self-shining supreme, that all shines (dependently). It is because of his shine that all else shines. The swara-graham, somehow, for me awakens and underlines in me, those golden words of the IshAvAsyOpaniShat. I may be extrapolating, but that's just what I feel. Opinions may differ!

In all, this song comes about a beautiful treatise on a very unheard, undealt with rAga. It is prudent to point out here, the genius of the vAggEyakAras who bring out different emotions with the same swarams. While Dikshitar exploits the asampoorNa mELam effectively to produce 'shAnta' rasa, peace, shyAmAshAstrI uses the same notes in kalgaDa (pArvati ninnu) to convey a sense of distress, fear and appeal for refuge in the divine Goddess.

Evidently, all we, as mere mortals, can do, is pray to such divine demigods to grant us more bhakti in AnjAnEya, and his master, Lord rAma.

rAmachandra-bhaktam bhaja mAnasa......hanUmantam SrI....


Musical Scientist said...

Dearest SK..brilliant post!! I just now downloaded and listened to your version of the krithi..beautiful :).

Very apt allusions to the upanishads and being a dvaitin, you definitely seem to have enjoyed the krithi a lot :).

Regarding the swaram/graham pattern, I have always been wondering what is the concept/principle behind in, why is dIkshitar employing it(some anulOmam-vilOmam)? I sincerely hope someone knowledgeable reads this post and replies. Incase you haven't noticed already, dIkshitar has used the same concept in gunijanAdi (gurjari) and sadA vinata sAdarE (rEvagupti) too. In rAmacandrabhaktam, we can see that he uses a half-octave shift for the graham-swaram combo (P-->S, M-->N, etc). In the gurjari and rEvagupti krithis, he has used just a mono-note shift (S-->R, R-->G etc). The gurjari krithi has a massive muktAyi type of svaram running for four Avarthanams..totaal shtud it is..check it out if u havent already.

Anyway..I request you to please, please post more often. More turkeys should get mukti, not only during thanksgiving but throughout the year :) :).


nandita said...

A brilliant and very illuminating post as always. I had recently watched a clipping of TM Krishna explaining and singing this composition and didn't follow the Griha Swara concept very well. Your post throws a little more light on it. This is the clipping I am talking about it :

Shreekrishna said...

Thanks for your appreciation, Sai and Nandita.

@ Sai,
I'd love to post more often but time is always a major constraint, especially with the next week being dead week! I'm planning to take up the unheard trilOchana-mohinIm in bhairavI next. The navagrahas are pending too :-/

@ Nandita,
I had somehow missed TMK's rendition! Glad to know that there is a rendition out there. For a long time, this song was on our "hit-list" and I was promising Sai that I'd refurbish this! Thanks for the link!

Yes, the graha-swara concept baffles me too. Right now, to me, it seems as a mere academic exercise. As such, gAyakapriya permits dhAtuvardhanI as a grahabhEda-mELakartam. But that is achieved through R^iShabha-graham. So, my initial theory of such a graha relationship went for a toss. As such, a panchama-graha in gAyakapriya yielded nothing tangible. So I am really wondering what the entire idea is! :-/


Musical Scientist said...

@Nandita..Thanks for the video link. I have watched this before and TMK somehow always says that it will need a separate lec-dem to talk about this concept. Probably I will ask SRJ mama for the details when I go to Chennai the next time..he will definitely throw some light on it :).

@SK..I was discussing this with anna yest..he too was :/. Neither of us could think of a logical explanation for why dIkshu is employing this concept. The best I could think was this..the scale itself has nice symmetry..the ArOhaNam is srmgmpdS and avarOhaNam is Sndpmgrs. So, there are no srgmp or pdns prayOgams in the ArOhaNam. Now u can see the symmetry clearly..srmgr is like pdsnd and this explains why he uses the madhyama graha. So, probably he does this to better demonstrate the symmetry. Other than that, me too completely baffled :(. And if I extend this theory to gurjari and rEvagupti,they are straight forward, which is why he has just used a mono-note shift..probably. SRJ maama has to answer this one. Or hopefully Vidya Jayaraman ma'am will read this and reply.


Musical Scientist said...

@SK..Did you try singing it with the graha notes as in their original positions (singing p as p and d as d and so on)? It sounds totally shtud that way also :).Especially, the place where chitta swaram ends and loops back to the pallavi as mndn..rAmacandrabhaktam. Shtuddest only..dIkshu is god!!

ಹಂಸಾನಂದಿ said...

Nice post Shrekrishna. I have not read all the comments yet - so excuse me if I'm repeating stuff.

>> my knowledge, probably the only
>>composition of his having a swara
>>graham for chiTTaswarams

Sada Vinata Sadare in rEvagupti and GunijanAdi nuta in gurjari do have a graha svara passage. Probably there exist a couple more. Not sure.

If you don't have a recording for adding to Sangeethapriya, I probably have one - by Veena Jaysri. It is a home recording and I can check with Jaysri if it is OK to be posted.

We can actually request Jaysri and Jayraj to play/sing it, and make a good recording too :)

About why graha svara passages exist: These Ragas would typically be ragas that became part of shadja grAma, but had origins in madhyama grAma. And possibly this could even occur in shadja grAma rAgas that had a svara other than shadja as graha, but later moved themseleves to have shadja as graha - with the apparent movement in the varjya svaras.

The graha svara passage tells us how the rAga would have looked(!) in their original context.

Not sure how much sense I am making in this comment; probably it needs a blog post itself :)

ಹಂಸಾನಂದಿ said...

See some more discussion of this kriti here:

Yours truly left some notes there as well :)

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ಹಂಸಾನಂದಿ said...

>>'gEyahejjajji' means something >>deeper. Anyone with an idea of the >>same should kindly add a note on >>that.

hejjajji/hejjujji comes from a Persian 'makAn'(something like a mELa in the context of Indian music) by name hijAz. gEya, of course is the katapayAdi prefix.

This Youtube video is supposedly in Hijaz, but I see more of vakuLAbharaNa in it than hejjujji. Who knows, it might have progressed now to have kaishiki nishAda rather than shuddha nishAda in contemporary treatment!

Anonymous said...

Good topic

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Hari said...

@SK, Sai: The only guess I have as to why dIkshitar employs this graha shift is probably to remind us of the madhyama mUrccana version of the madhyama grAma that existed as a pre-raga version (like SRJ says about vEgavAhini) of gEyahejjajji?

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Anonymous said...

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