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Introduction and historical background (Dr. V V Srivatsa): Begada is a raga with unique, if not exclusive, Madhyama and Nishada swaras. The Madhyama is of Pratyantara Madhyama level. Nishada appears to be between the Kaishiki and Kakali Nishada swaras. This raga also permits, on a selective basis, Kaisika and Kakali Nishada. Begada is of the genre of Sahana, Saveri and Anandabhairavi, liked primarily for the ranjakatva. The dual-vakra sanchara in the Arohana is the main characteristic of this raga. The glide from the poorvanga to the uttaranga is harmonious.

Ancient treatises do not refer to raga Begada. The earliest established reference is in the Rang Mahal copper plates - referring to a composition of Annamacharya. A Devaranama of Purandaradasa, "Hariye Sarvottama" is still rendered in an archaic form with "sa-ri-ga-ma-pa" sanchara too - perhaps indicative of its existence in the 16th century. We have a Padam "Yala Padare" by Kshetragna. A composition of Margadarshi Sesha Ayyangar establishes its presence in the pre-Trinity period.

Begada belongs to a select group of ragas in which we have atleast one composition by each member of the Trinity. This is a raga which provides hasya, sringara and adbhuta rasas. The present version of this raga conforms to that given in the Sangraha Choodamani.

Allied Ragas (B Rajam Iyer): The "pa-da-pa-Sa" commonality with other ragas is a congnisable factor, yet only to a limited extent. (Rajam Iyer cited the emphatic variance of this sanchara between Begada and Poornachandrika). The swaroopa-lakshanas of these ragas are different.

The proximate raga to Begada, if at all, is raga Kannada. {Rajam Iyer showed renditional similarities found in Dikshitar's compositions "Sri Matah Siva" (Begada) and "Sri matrubhootam" (Kannada)}. Yet, the supposed proximity is distant.

The unique Madhyama and Nishada found in Begada make it a very special raga. Really, there is not much ground to define any raga as allied to Begada.

Special phrasings / visesha prayogas (R Vedavalli): The uniqueness of Begada can be visualised from a number of visesha prayogas, which may not per se, adhere to the canonical musicological norm and yet can be used without any aesthetic aberration. Examples: "dha-ni-Sa" in "Intachala", "sa-ga-ma" in "Marachitlunde" and the phrases "sa-ri-ga-ma" and "pa-dha-ni-Sa" in "Inda paramukha" by Tiruvarur Ayyasami Nattuvanar, which occur both in the Anupallavi and Charana passages. The kriti "Nadopasana" has visesha-prayogas like "sa-ga-ma" (Vedoddharu) and "ma-ga-ri-ma-pa" (vishwamella), as well as "Sa-ga-ma-ri-Sa" (varulu). "Sa-ga-ma" is also found in the kriti "Sri Matah". Citing the lucid oscillation of Rishaba at "mariyaada" in the Javali "Idi Neeku", she deemed it as a special phrase. (R Vedavalli also demonstrated some vishesha prayogas in tana rendition).

Gamakas and Anuswaras (Rama Ravi): Begada is a raga which accommodates a variety of Gamakas and Anuswaras, duly enhancing the aesthetic beauty. The Rishabha, Madhyama and Nishada swaras align well with kampita gamaka. She cited this through a passage "ni-dha-pa" in the kriti "Tyagarajaya Namaste". Citing the passage "Narayana Vidulu", she established usage of Etra Jaaru. Another gamaka example cited was "Yogeeswara Manasa Yukta Vadana".

Delving on swasthana gamakas, she showed, how gamakas ultimately indicate swara-swasthana. She showed that the Madhyama of this raga is at a pitch level of 27/20, instead of the conventional level of 4/3. She cited several examples of Anuswaras, found in varnas including "ni-ma" and "pa-ma-dha-pa-Sa-ni-ri-Sa". She also dwelt on gamakas resultant from deflection when playing the Vina.

Compositions (Prema Hariharan): The repertoire found in this raga is bountiful. There are two Khanda Ata tala Varnams and two Adi tala Varnams, each of which is a masterpiece. Commenting on conceptual differences, she cited that Dikshitar and Syama Sastri preferred essays into the Tara sthayi, which was not the case with Tyagaraja. "Nadopasana" was indeed a unique tribute by Tyagaraja. She rated "Sankari Neeve" by Subbaraya Sastri as a magnificent composition. This raga seems to have been the favourite of post-Trinity composers too like Ramaswami Sivan, Swati Tirunal and Patnam Subramanya Iyer. Citing the sringara aspect found in this raga, she gave the example of the Tamil Padam "Yarukkagilum". She also rendered passages of a composition by Papanasam Sivan.


  • Patnam Subramanya Iyer is said to have rendered this raga for eight hours, in two sessions. He was so much identified with this raga that he was known as Begada Subramanya Iyer. He rendered, in the marathon presentation of this raga, his own kriti, "Abhimanamendu". In one session, neraval and swaraprastara centered around "Abhimanam" (self-respect) and in the next session around "Anna vastra" (food and clothing). A puckish sense of humour indeed!
  • Though a sarvakalika raga, many consider late afternoon (16:00 hrs) as the best time to render this raga. However, the gayaki-tradition allows the rendition of this raga in the evening.
  • Two groups of Nagaswara vidwans were playing at a wedding in Mayuram. One group from Chidambaram emphasised the Kaisika Nishada in rendition. The other group, in its exhibition of innovativeness, emphasised the Kakali Nishada. The second group was from Semponnar Kovil. Such was the healthy competition, in days bygone.
  • In the Tiruppanandal Mutt, Begada is given a place of honour. Tiruttandagam is always rendered only in Begada. (Information given by Dr. S A K Durga)
  • Sangameswara Sastri of Vizianagaram was well-known for its lucid renditions of raga Begada on the Vina.
  • There is a proverb - "Aadi Nata, antya Surati, Begada mee gada". Meaning, it is advisable to sing Nata at start and Surati at the end; but Begada can be rendered whenever desired!


Ragas of Carnatic music are said to have had a genesis, an evolution, subsequent metamorphosis and eventual standardisation. There are select Ragas of none-too-ancient origin and with high popularity in current times. Some are meteoric - they rise fast and disappear too. If there is a raga with distinct and unique musical features and immense popularity, it should be deemed a phenomenon. Begada, sans doubt, is a phenomenon.

It would perhaps be unjust to state that this raga was in its incipient stages in the 16th century, despite stray epigraphic or musicological evidence. Finite proof of existence in the pre-Trinity era is found in a composition of Margadarsi Sesha Ayyangar. As one of the select 22 ragas in which we have atleast one composition by each member of the Trinity, the establishment of this raga by the 18th century is incontrovertible. Surprisingly, the popularity of Begada did not merely sustain - it underwent geometric progression. By the advent of the 20th century it had occupied a place of pride.

References to Begada, found in recent works like Mahabharata Choodamani, Sangeeta Sara Sangrahamu, Sangeeta Kalanidhi, Gayaka Siddhanjanam, Gana Vidya Pradarsini, Sangeeta Swara Prastara Sagaram, Karunamrita Sagaram and Sangeeta Chandrikai, are adequate testimony to its immense popularity.  Two distinct features are the hallmarks of Begada. Firstly the Ubhaya Vakra sanchara in the Arohana or the ascent. The norm given in the Sangraha Choodamani conforms to the current version Sa-ga-ri-ga-ma-pa-da-pa-sa. Secondly, we find the unique Nishada swara which is neither a Kaisika nor a Kakali Nishada. The use of Nishada, especially in sancharas like "Ri-ni-da-pa" or "ni-ni-da-pa" is bewitching. It gives this raga a haunting lilt.

It is undeniable that the Trinity were enchanted by this raga. Compositions by Tyagaraja include "Nadopasana", "Bhaktuni Charitramu", "Lokavana Chatura", "Neevera kula dhanamu", "Sundari nannindarilo" and "Gattiganu nannu", The construction of the kriti "Bhaktuni Charitramu" is unique, with an off-beat start of the Anupallavi and a madhyama kala Charana. Some scholars opine that the Tisra gati renditions of "Rama nee vadu" and "Sandehamu" in raga Kalyani, are aberrations. However, there is no difference of opinion in respect of the Begada kriti "Gattiganu Nannu", rendered in Tisra gati. Compare this with the majestic slow-paced movement found in "Nadopasana". Begada suits all musical-paces. It is not a raga only for a racy-pace, often mistermed as Vegada. Muthuswami Dikshitar has offered a quartet of compositions, amongst which "Vallabha Nayakasya" and "Tyagarajaya Namaste" are outstanding. "Sri Matah Siva" has a great esoteric and metaphysical content embellished with a lilting tune. "Madhurambikayah" is a very sober composition.

We have an Adi tala Varnam by Syama Sastri, in which we can find often, the permutation "pa-ma-ga-ri". Syama Sastri's "Kamakshi Nato Vada" has several pristine sancharas now virtually lost to posterity. Post-Trinity composers continued to enhance the repertoire in Begada. Swati Tirunal's "Karunakara" is an outstanding composition. Patnam Subramanya Iyer's Varnam, apart from his compositions "Manasuna Neranammiti" and "Abhimanamennadu", are famous. His disciple Ramanathapuram Srinivasa Iyengar's "Anudinamunu" is equally famous. Mention must be made of compositions such as Vaiyapuri Doraiswami Kavirayar's "Innam Paramukham", Mazhavai Chidambara Bharati's "Karunai Tandennai" and Ramaswami Sivan's "Kadaikkann Vaittu". Begada indeed, is a beguiling bewitching and beautiful raga.


Composition Artiste
Abimanamenndadu T V Namasivayam
Intachalamu (Varnam) Lakshmana Sharma, G N Balasubramanyam
Tyagarajaya namaste Brinda - Mukta
Lokavana Chatura M D Ramanathan
Kalayami raghuramam G N Balasubramanyam
Kadaikkan T M Tyagarajan
Malaikuruvanji S Rajeswari
Alli alli tarum Could not be identified
Sangeeta vidya G Channamma
Neevera kuladhanamu N S Krishnaswamy Iyengar
Neepadapankaja N S Krishnaswamy Iyengar
Abhimanamennadu Ramnad Krishnan
Siritanattai Chengalpet Ranganathan
Manasa vachasa D Pasupati
Visalakshi nayakam Sethalapathy Balasubramanyam
Sanganiti Sethalapathy Balasubramanyam
Doorumaduvareno rangayyana Sandhyavandanam Srinivasa Rao
Vallabha nayakasya Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer
Erumayil erivilayadumugam Tiruppugazh Mani
Marachi itulundedi Titte Krishna Iyengar
Srikanchipura vasini R Venugopal
Va muruga va R Venugopal
Nadopasana T Mukta
Tyagarajaya namaste D K Pattammal
Sankari neeve D K Jayaraman
Swamikki sarievaru Shobhana Rangachari
Yalapadare Brinda - Mukta
Anudinamunu Allepey Venkatesan
Padamalar inaye Trichur Ramachandran
Yarukkagilum Maithili Nageswaran
Kailasapate Nedunuri Krishnamurthy
Chalulera T Sankaran & Rama Ravi
Eesan kanaka sabhesan B Krishnamurthy
Kulam vilanga D Pattammal
Chidambaram G N Balasubramanyam
Neevera kuladhanamu Sripada Pinakapani

List compiled by K Parthasarathy, Chennai


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