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  • Very few rasikas are aware of the fact that Tyagaraja rendered the kriti "Venugana Loluni" at Tiruvottriyur, on the outskirts of Chennai. At Vina Kuppayyar's house, the idol of Venugopala, their tutelary deity, was beautifully bedecked with jewellery and flowers that it moved Tyagaraja to sing this song, stating that a thousand eyes are needed to absorb the beauty of Venugopala. Do you now realise as to why Kuppayyar's mudra is "Gopala Dasa" or "Venugopala"?

  • Talking of Tiruvottriyur, the popular Varnam "Sami daya jooda" is also dedicated to Lord Tyagaraja of Tiruvottriyur. Tiruvottriyur is known as Adipuri, as seen in "Srimadadipuri nivasa Sri Tyageswara". Dikshitar has used the word "Adipuri" in one of his compositions.

  • Residents of the tri-junction areas of Chola, Pandya and Kongu Nadus observe a ritual of visiting three Siva temples on the same day. They visit Kadambavanam (Kodumudi) in the morning, Ratnachala (Tiruvatpokki) in the afternoon and Tiruvengimalai (Tireengoimalai) in the evening. The proverb is "Kaalai Kadambar, madiya chokkar, maalai iruvenginathar". Muttuswami Dikshitar must have observed this ritual. His kriti "Neelakantam" (Kedaragowla) is on Kadambavana. He has sung in Mukhari on Ratnachala (Pahimam ratnachala). We cannot trace his kriti on Tiruvenginatha - one of the many missing kritis. Kadambavana and Ratnachala are on the Southern bank of River Kaveri, while Eengoimalai is on the Northern bank. Was Dikshitar unable to ferry across?

  • Swati Tirunal's "Tavaka Namami", is a lofty composition, both in Dhatu and Matu. It summarises the entire saranagati-tattva. It belongs to the group called "Navaratnamalika".

  • The historical background of the kriti "Saragunapalimpa" is not well known. Ramanathapuram Srinivasa Iyengar sustained injuries on his knees and was rendered immobile. Healing was too slow and the pain unbearable. Srinivasa Iyengar accuses Venkateswara of the Seven Hills (Tirupati) that he has no time to protect him; but that he came to Gajendra's rescue - all this in the kriti "Sargunapaalimpa". Srinivasa Iyengar got cured and as a gesture of thanksgiving, sang "Sri Venkatesam" (Todi) at a later date. Such is the power of this Kedaragowla kriti.  

  • "Darsanamu Seya", a Tyagaraja kriti in raga Narayanagowla has a version in Kedaragowla, rendered thus by disciples of Kattai Subramanya Iyer. This fact is acknowledged by Sri T S Parthasarathi. Fortunately, the correct version survives.


Names are only identificatory superimpositions and apparently unreal, so it is said. What is in a name? A rose, is a rose, is a rose. Nevertheless, there are exceptions to this adage and we have instances where names do signify adequate detail. Kedaragowla is a name with latent significance. Kedara, is a centre of pilgrimage located in the higher reaches of the Himalayas, in the Garhwal range. Gowla means white. So, Kedaragowla connotes by inference and in an abstract manner, the snow-clad lofty heights. A remarkable similarity is seen in the Dwadasha - Jyotirlinga sloka, where the reference is "himalaye tu kedaram". From the aesthetic point of view, undoubtedly Kedaragowla is one of the ragas perched on the higher ranges of Carnatic music.

Known also as Harikedaragowla, the prefix "Hari" is perhaps a misnomer. It is a raga dedicated to Lord Siva primarily and should perhaps have been christened as Harakedaragowla. It must be a case of North Indians calling Mayapuri as Hardwar and South Indians as Haridwar. Mayapuri is the entrance to the Himalayas, the abode of Siva and is really Hardwar - the entrance to the abode of Hara.

A perusal of the Sangeeta Sudha of Govinda Dikshitar, as published by the Music Academy, Madras (edited by Shri T V Subba Rao and Pandit Subramanya Sastri - pages 244 and 245), provides information indicative of the fact that Kedaragowla was perhaps in vogue in the 13th century AD. The absence of reference in precedent texts including Sarangadeva's Sangeeta Ratnakara shows that Kedaragowla's antiquity did not date beyond the 13th century. Govinda Dikshitar attributes the reference on Kedaragowla to Vidyaranya, who lived in the 14th century and was a pontiff of the Sringeri Mutt. None of the latter day musicologists have questioned this reference.

There is a need to examine this postulation, at this juncture, in depth. The Pann system of Tevaram and Divya Prabandham was evolved independent of the development of the raga-system. Gandhara-Panchama is a Pann, which sounds very much like raga Kedaragowla. The period of harpists like Tiruneelakanta Yazhppanar was between 6th and 7th century AD. If so, did Gandhara-Panchama exist as early as 6th or 7th century AD and was it adopted into the Raga system in the 13th century AD? There is inadequate detail available on the form of Gandhara-Panchama. Furthermore, there are some fine and intrinsic differences between the Pann Gandhara-Panchama and the raga Kedaragowla. Even if it be conceded that Kedaragowla was an allotropic modification of Gandhara-Panchama, it does not negate the proposition that such adaptation occurred around 13th century AD. The raga system was aware of the name Gandhara-Panchama and there was a derivative of raga Ganasamavarali with that name. It is safe to construe that the Pann and the raga are not identical, but at best, proximate. Prof. Sambamoorthy calls Gandhara-Panchama a 'Pagal Pann' - a day-time renditional case. Tulajaji says "geyo yamah tureeyakaha" - meaning that raga Kedaragowla is fit to be rendered in the last jama of the day. Current musicologists rate Kedaragowla as most emotive when rendered just after sunset. Which is correct? This is left to inference. Nevertheless, there is ground to state that the Pann and the raga are not the same.

Kedaragowla must have found wide acceptability, ever since its emergence, as Ramamatya (Ca. 1550 A.D) mentions Kedaragowla as one of the twenty melas. However, the structure shown by Ramamatya is different from what we know today. Ramamatya says that this raga has Chyuta Madhyama-gandhara and Chyuta Shadja-Nishada, meaning that the Gandhara is higher than Antara Gandhara and that the Nishada is higher than Kakali Nishada. Further, the raga is deemed sampoorna as well. There is no reason or practice for Gandhara to be pitched as hyper Antara Gandhara. The Nishada level may marginally rise in prayogas like "ri-ma-pa-ni-sa", or "ni-da-da-pa" but it remains only at the Kaisika level and goes nowhere near the Kakali, much less the Chyuta-Shadja levels. Further Chyuta Mmadhyama-Gandhara and Chyuta Shadja-Nishada are only Sruti-sthanas and not Swara-sthanas. Venkatamakhi and Tulaja disprove Ramamatya's views and endorse Vidyaranya's views.

Curiously, Venkatamakhi agrees with Ramamatya that the raga Narayanagowla is a derivative of raga Kedaragowla. This is explicitly stated thus in Sloka 102, Raga Prakarana Adhyaya of the Chaturdandi Prakasika. Just earlier, in Sloka 98, Venkatamakhi says "Kedaragowla Sampoornaah Khamboji mela sambavaah". If Kedaragowla itself is a derivative, how can it have a derivative? The anubandha to the Chaturdandi has a classification (Sloka No. 7) of Kedaragowla as a Raganga raga. A Raganga raga can be a Rakti raga, but can a Raganga raga be a melakarta? Subsequently, Subbarama Dikshitar attempted to resolve this issue by deeming Kedaragowla as a Raganga and a melakarta raga:

Kedaragowlah sampoornaastrovarohe ga da varjitaha |
nishadagraha samyuktaaha saayamkaale prageeyate ||

Govindacharya adopted another method to resolve this issue by making Harikambhoji the mela and Kedaragowla as the Upanga raga thereof. This resolved the problem of Raganga versus melakarta.

Govindacharya's views were known to / accepted by Tyagaraja; ostensibly unknown / unaccepted by Syama Sastri and Dikshitar. In this, perhaps, lies the clue to the fact that there are compositions of Tyagaraja only in raga Harikambhoji and none of Syama Sastri or Muthuswami Dikshitar. To hold Syama Sastri or Dikshitar as ignorant of raga Harikambhoji is absolutely incorrect. We have compositions by all three Trinitarians in raga Kedaragowla.

The Audava-Sampoorna structure now known to us, is first depicted in a late 17th century composition by the Karvetinagar brothers. This is duly notated in the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini.

The Gandhara and Dhaivata swaras are varja in the Arohana. Ranjakatva in Kedaragowla comes from Rishabha, Madhyama, Nishada and Gandhara, in that order. Rishabha and Nishada are the Jeeva (life-giving) swaras. Rishabha is widely used as a Graha and Nyasa swara. Madhyama is rarely used as a Nyasa swara in an Avarohana-krama. Nishada, used as a Graha swara, has a dual nature - it is a deergha-kampita swara in the arohana and mrudu-kampita in the avarohana. Gandhara and Dhaivata are weak swaras. Gandhara, though used profusely, is a conjointed weak swara - an example of Alpatwa in Bahutwa.

The swara struture in prayogas show chequered patterns. Many prastharas permitted earlier, like "ma-pa-ni-sa-ri-ga-ri-sa" and "ni-da-ni-pa" are disallowed now-a-days. The phrase "ni-da-ni-pa" goes to the verge of Narayanagowla. A sanchara like "ri-ma-pa-da-pa-ma-ga-ri" is nice as long as the Daivata is not elongated; but in a prasthara like "ma-pa-da-pa" only, Dhaivata is deergha. Just see how small differences present different nuances.

We have Gitas, three Varnams and all varieties of compositions. Tyagaraja’s "Tulasi Bilva", in Pallavi, starts on Madhya-sthayi Rishabha and goes to mandra Panchama. Anupallavi moves on to Tara-sthayi. The Charanam has distinct sectors where movement is from panchama to shadja and vice versa.

Kedaragowla is a tri-sthayi raga, which is reconfirmed in Dikshitar's "Neelotpalambikayai". One discerns adequate conceptual similarity between Tyagaraja and Dikshitar, in their compositions in this raga. Tyagaraja's "Venugana loluni" is well-known, while "Vanaja nayana" and "Siggumali", are rarely heard. There are three Divyanama Sankeertanas - "Raghunandana", “Dharmatma Nannipudu" and "Ramuni maravakave". A lali-kriti of Tyagaraja is found in the Utsava- Sampradaya group. Two kritis "Vanaja nayana" and "O Jagannatha" are a part of Prahlada Bhakti Vijaya. There is also a Mangala-kriti by Tyagaraja. Dikshitar's "Neelotpalambikayai" is complex, "Abhayaambikayah" majestic and "Neelakantam" popular. "Abhayamba Nayaka Varadayaka" is a delectable Dikshitar kriti, rarely heard. Syama Sastri's "Parakela" has a cascading swara passage. Mention should be made of Swati Tirunal's "Deva Maamayi" and "Taavaka namami", Papanasam Sivan's “Samikki sari evvare" and "Balasubramanya" and a rarely heard Javali "Kopametula". Failure to cite Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar's "Saragunapalimpa" will amount to an omission.

Kedaragowla appeals equally to listeners in Vilamba and Madhyama Kala. It exudes various types of emotions - Sringara, Karuna, Veera etc. and is a Sarvarasabharita raga. It is also a Sarvakalika raga. It has a special status, as slokas of the Krishnakarnamrita were usually sung in Kedaragowla. Its radiance, brilliance, aesthetic superiority is well seen when contrasted with other ragas of its mela group.


Introduction and Historical background (Dr. V V Srivatsa): Kedaragowla is not an ancient raga, as there is no reference thereto in Narada's Sangeeta Makaranda, Parshwadeva's Sangeeta Samayasara or Sarangadeva's Sangeeta Ratnakara. However, Govinda Dikshitar, cites in the Sangeeta Sudha, passages on this raga, which he ascribes to the sage Vidyaranya. Thus, there is room to construe that raga Kedaragowla existed in the 13th century. The copper plates found in Rang Mahal of the Tirupati temple, are inscribed with a Sringara Sankeertana of Talapakkam Annamacharya (1424 - 1503 AD) in Kedaragowla, titled "Rammanave Vaani rammanave". A devarnama of Purandaradasa "Manavajanma", has been traditionally rendered in Kedaragowla, generation to generation. Ramamatya (1550 AD), mentions Kedaragowla as one of the twenty melas but portrays a rather outlandish structure, dissonant with the current form. Venkatamakhi has dwelt at length on this raga and has totally condemned Ramamatya's views, duly upholding the views of Govinda Dikshitar. Tulajaji also endorses Venkatamakhi's views to a great extent.

Kedaragowla was deemed by Venkatamakhi as a derivative of the Kambhoji mela. Nevertheless, as a rakti and raganga raga, Venkatamakhi left the issue vague - especially whether raganga ragas could be mela ragas. An attempt was made by Subbarama Dikshitar to upgrade Kedaragowla as a melakarta raga. Earlier, Govindacharya had ruled Harikamhboji as the mela for the Upanga raga Kedaragowla. Scholars opine that Kedaragowla preceded Harikambhoji - which is also inferred from the fact that Kedaragowla is certainly of pre-Trinity vintage, as seen from the Tarangam "Mangalalaya" by Narayana Teertha.

The best depiction of the current version as an audava-sampoorna raga is seen from a Varnam composed by Karvetinagar Govindasamayya and Koovasamayya, dating to the later half of the 17th century.

Gamakas, Anusrutis and Swaras (R S Jayalakshmi): Despite the fact that it is the combination of swaras that enhance audio-satisfaction and aesthetic appeal, the individuality of each swara is not obliterated. Variance is welcome as long as nothing sounds disoriented. Rishabha, perhaps, is the dominant swara in Kedaragowla and this appears in four forms, in different phrases. These four versions are distinct and individualistic. Gandhara is widely used in Kedaragowla but appears to be totally interlinked with the preceeding or succeeding swara. Gandhara has no dominance. Madhyama is more aesthetic oriented and is used often as a Graha swara. However Madhyama has also links, in an ongoing manner with Gandhara and Panchama. Panchama has a presence but not much power, except that it can be used as a Nyasa swara. Do the dimunitised roles of Gandhara and Panchama lead to this raga being called "Gandhara-Panchama"? The Dhaivata swara appears only in the descending scale, more as a foothold between Nishada and Panchama. Nishada is a reasonably strong note. However, the hallmark of this raga is the linkage between swaras, especially in Datu and Jhanta passages. Lucid usage of jaru and pratyahata gamakas are found in Kedaragowla. (R S Jayalakshmi demonstrated these facets by playing on the Vina.)

Manodharma (Chitravina N Ravikiran): Freedom of aesthetic expression is not unbridled and has to conform to the established norms of lakshana. Multiple types of nuances are possible and these are conditioned and predicated by the type of oscillation and extent of oscillation imparted to each note. Sequential or dissequential presentations do differ in aesthetic effect.

It cannot be gainsaid that there are some non-conformist passages of salient aesthetic value. Renditional differences exist, branded as Manodharma. The admissibility or acceptance thereof is a moot point. Manodharma strives only to embellish or enhance aesthetic values and not to depreciate the same. This factor must be borne in mind always. (Ravikiran demonstrated some examples.)

Compositions (B Krishnamurthi): The compositions in this raga are multiple and numerous, starting from Gita to Mangalam. (Starting with the Gita, B Krishnamurti rendered the Lakshana Gita of this raga. He referred to the fact that kritis, Sankirtanas, Utsava Sampradaya and Prahlada Bhakti Vijaya Kritis of Tyagaraja were found in this raga). Tyagaraja has composed even a Mangalam in this raga. "Venugana Loluni" and "Tulasi Bilva" are well known. There are four kritis of Dikshitar. The two kritis by Syama Sastri are unique. (He rendered excerpts from one of them. He referred to the well-known Ramanataka kriti and to compositions of Papanasam Sivan. Krishnamurti also opined that phrases and nuances found in the compositions of the Trinity may be deemed as acceptable.)

Allied Ragas (Seetha Rajan): Concurring with views expressed by precedent speakers, she stated in addition, that the emphasis on a particular swara not only changes audio-aesthetic contours but also distinguishes one raga from another. She rendered a passage, in support of this view, to distinguish between the ragas Surati and Kedaragowla. Another promixate raga was Narayanagowla, she said, which was distinguishable by the treatment given to the Rishabha swara. Oscillatory imposition has limits and on overdose can produce alien nuances. She demonstrated in this manner, as to how nuances of Sahana and Balahamsa can arise. Kedaragowla, she felt, has a strong structure with regulatory measures. It is only when these limits are by-passed that we encounter allied ragas, mainly Narayanagowla and Surati.


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