CAC Newsletter




Dear Raganubhava rasikas,

A very Happy New Year to you all! We have now marched into the new millennium with renewed vigour and determination to serve the cause of music.

Last year saw a variety of activities undertaken by the Carnatica Archival Centre. Some of the highlights were:
  • The launch of the new web portal on 10th September 2000 at a grand function held at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai. Thus far, it has been a runaway success, having received global recognition and respect within the short span of 4 months.
  • The Vadyanubhava series – The unique all-instrumental festival, which was held in Narada Gana Sabha between 24th and 30th November 2000. A variety of instruments ranging from the ancient Vina to the recent entrant, Saxophone were featured in this. There were also representations of various styles or banis, wherever possible.
  • The launch of another web site entitled in December 2000, which specialises in custom-made CDs and cassettes with an exclusive database containing the music of popular as well as rare artistes.
  • The Sahityanubhava session, to highlight the greatness of the lyrics in our compositions, not to mention the composers themselves. This took place on November 11, 2000.

All the above were, of course, activities besides our usual Raganubhava sessions. We had eight such sessions last year and a total of eleven so far. We feel happy that our initiative in organising such sessions has paid off in more ways than one. That other organisations are following suit is proof enough of how big a success it is. 

As always, we would like to emphasise that nothing would be possible without the cooperation of musicians and music lovers. We take the opportunity to thank each one of you and look forward to your continued support.


The antiquity of raga Mukhari was never in doubt; they were created only in respect of its identity. “Sarveshu raaga melaanaam Mukhari mela aadimaha” is the reference in a text, a passage without interpretational uncertainity. Mukhari was the first mela, so it is said.

The raga we know nowadays as Mukhari, is a fine-honed melody, comprising swaras embellished with many fine Sruti levels. All these swaras are ascribed to the ancient Shadja Grama. A section of ancient scholars did aver that the Shadja Grama comprised Suddha swaras. This led to the implication that a mela consisting of Suddha swaras is a Suddha mela. The passage cited above does not refer to a Suddha mela. The aftermath of the codification of twelve swaras, included the advent of swarasthanas like Dwisruti Rishabha, Dwisruti Dhaivata, as well as those of Suddha Gandhara and Suddha Nishada. A lacuna that spread widely was that Suddha Gandhara and Suddha Nishada had to be present in a Suddha mela. While the contribution of Venkatamakhi overrated the above-stated lacuna as a concept and virtually created a Trishanku swarga, a Mukhari, which is a Suddha mela. Venkatamakhi propounded that, “Mukhaaryaak yasya Raagasya aarohe ga ni varjitaha, Sampoornah sagrahopeta sarvakaaleshu geeyate”.

A raga Mukhari, audava-sampoorna in structure, was created to justify an unwarranted premise. This raga had Suddha Gandhara and Suddha Nishada. Curiously, only in the Avarohana! However, note that the name used by Venkatamakhi is just Mukhari. Govindacharya was aware of this so-called Suddha-mela Mukhari. His concept was different from that of Venkatamakhi and he distinguished this raga from the other Mukhari, by the prefix ‘Suddha’.

“Kanakaangi sumelaascha jaataa Suddha Mukhaarikaa
Shadja nyaasa samshakam chaiva sa Shadjagraham uchyate
Aarohe ta sampoornam, avarohe pa varjitam
Sa ri ga ma pa da ni Sa, ni da ma ga ri sa ni sa”

The sampoorna-shadava Suddha Mukhari of Govindacharya is a different cup of tea.

The traditional loyalist of the Venkatamakhi system that he was, Muthuswami Dikshitar gulped Venkatamakhi’s dictum and accepted both Mukhari formats. No harm came out of this act of Dikshitar, only good! We have a short but delectable composition of his in raga Suddha Mukhari, “Muraharena Mukundena Keshavena rakshitoham”. Unmoved by all contradictions, Tulajaji correctly stated that raga Mukhari was a ‘Grama’ raga. All controversy would have been laid to rest, if only Tulajaji had called Mukhari a Shadja grama raga. The raga Mukhari detailed by both Tulajaji and Shahaji corresponds almost to the contemporary raga known as Mukhari. The only difference is that they permitted usage of the prastara “ga-ma-pa”, which is not currently practiced. Govindacharya clearly identifies raga Mukhari as a derivative of the mela Kharaharapriya:

“Mukhari Ragah sanjaato melaat kharaharapriyaat
Sanyasam saamshakam chaiva sa shadja graham uchyate
Ga variya vakram aarohe apyavarohe samagraham
Sa ri ma pa da ni da Sa, ni da pa ma ga ri sa ri”

The shadava-sampoorna version of raga Mukhari has found wide acceptance, sidelining the subsequent postulation of Subbarama Dikshitar that Nishada swara is absent in the Aarohana and that the raga is audava-sampoorna.

The presence of dual Dhaivatas in this raga is not amorphous. In the arohana, usually the Chatusruti version is used and in the Avarohana, Suddha Dhaivata. A unique feature of this raga is the omnisonorous Rishabha swara.

It must also be noted that Mukhari does not foster the usage of Datu or Janta swaras; Aahata or Pratyaahata usages are also not favoured. Elaboration of this raga is nice and fine but has to be limited if repetitive phrases are to be avoided. Even swaraprastara has to be limited if aesthetic values have to be conserved. With all these limitations, what is so great about this raga?

This raga is highly rasa-oriented and provides for a multiplicity of rasa-s. One musicologist called Mukhari a “Bahurangee” raga, meaning a raga of different shades and colours. We can visualise this view, best, through some compositions. ‘Elavatara’ is ascribed to Adbhuta rasa (wonderment), ‘Saraseeruhanana’ to Sringara rasa (romanticism), ‘Ksheenamai’ to Raudra rasa (fury), ‘Sangeeta Sastra’ to Shanta rasa (peace) and ‘Muripemu Galige’ to Bhakti rasa (devotion). All these compositions are of Tyagaraja, a master-craftsman who brought out a comprehensive rasa-anubhava (experience of emotion) through his compositions.

Unwanted indeed is the superimposition of soka rasa (melancholy) on this raga. A Kavadi Chindu has the words ‘Mohana Mukhari’, referring to this raga as charming. How can such a raga be deemed as inauspicious? The view that Mukhari is inauspicious has permeated and percolated to such an extent that there is a taboo on its being rendered on festive or happy occasions! 

There is also the complexity of classifying this raga under the 20th or the 22nd mela (Natabhairavi and Kharaharapriya respectively). Several sookshma (minute) srutis found in raga Bhairavi are found in raga Mukhari also. The general view is in favour of the 22nd mela.


Dr. V V Srivatsa (Introduction and historical background): Mukhari is one of the ancient, pristine ragas and was accorded, in days bygone, the status of a mela by musicologists like Tulajaji. We learn from texts like the Sangeeta Saramrita that the traditional name for this raga was ‘Suddha Sadarita’, which subsequently got modified as Mukhari, in common parlance. Reference to Mukhari as a Suddha mela did cause confusion and resulted in two ragas, namely, Suddha Mukhari and Mukhari. The raga in vogue today, was structurally enunciated by Shahaji and Tulajaji. Textual references to raga Mukhari are available in ancient treatises, ranging from the Sangeeta Makaranda to Sangeeta Ratnakara. Venkatamakhi refers to raga Mukhari as ‘Poorva-Prasiddha’, i.e., well known even prior to his time. Copper plates found in the Tirumala temple precincts refer to two songs of Annamacharya in this raga, ‘Aakali Velala’ and ‘Naanaati bratuku’ (the second song is now rendered in raga Revati). Haridasa tradition holds that Purandaradasa’s devaranamas ‘Vasudeva Naamaavaliya’ and ‘Paalisamma muddu Sarade’ were always rendered in raga Mukhari. Narayana Teertha’s Krishna Leela Tarangini shows that the Tarangam ‘Krishnam kalaya sakhi’ was tuned to raga Mukhari.

Govindacharya defined this raga as Gandhara swara varjita (meaning a raga wherein the note Ga is absent) in the arohana and gave the scale as a vakra (zigzag) sa-ri-ma-pa-ni-da-Sa. The avarohana was sampoorna (containing all seven notes) and sequential too. Subbarama Dikshitar stated that the Nishada swara is also to be excluded in the arohana and that the ascent was without vakra. In Subbarama Dikshitar’s view, this raga is audava-sampoorna. Nevertheless, the majority and consensus view is that this raga is shadava-sampoorna and that Govindacharya’s portrayal is perfect.

Chitravina N Ravikiran (Melodic individuality): The constituent swaras of this raga are Chatusruti Rishabha, Sadharana Gandhara, Suddha Madhyama, Panchama, Chatusruti Dhaivata, Suddha Dhaivata and Kaisika Nishada. The presence of two Dhaivata swaras renders this a Bhashanga raga. The Chatusruti Dhaivata dominates the Arohana, especially in the prayoga pa-dha-Sa, while the Suddha Dhaivata is usually rendered in the Avarohana.

The presence of two Dhaivatas results in complications in classification. Undoubtedly, Bhairavi and Manji are proximate ragas, notwithstanding which, Mukhari has its own melodic identity. Mukhari is a raga known for its multi-faceted rasaanubhava. It is maligned as a raga, which exudes sorrow, as a soka rasa pradhana raga, which is factually and musicologically erroneous.

Mukhari has a strong poorvanga and uttaraanga, requiring correct emphasis of some swaras, to establish the melodic individuality. Stress is usually laid on Madhyama in prayogas like sa-ri-ma-ga-ri. The emphasis shifts to Rishabha in passages like pa-da-Sa-Ri. This warrants correct conception and proper emphasis by the performer. The raga mudra has been used by Muthuswami Dikshitar, in one of his compositions, ‘Pahimam Ratnachalanayaka’.

There is finite difference and distinction between Mukhari and other allied ragas like Huseni, Bhairavi and Salagabhairavi. (Ravikiran rendered briefly, some passages, to accentuate this distinction).

The scope of rasanubhava in this raga is quite wide although the dominant rasas can be Karuna and Soka rasa-s. (He referred to compositions of Tyagaraja to substantiate the view that Bhakti, Sringara and Shanta rasa-s can also be effectively portrayed in this raga.) Thus, this raga has melodic individuality.

T K Govinda Rao (Manodharma or creative aspects): The emphasis on a particular Dhaivata conditions the manodharma in this raga. Normally, the Chatusruti Dhaivata acquires more emphasis. However on some occassions, the Suddha Dhaivata is emphasised. Such variance is made primarily to suit the composition being rendered. Embellishment of any raga, especially of the likes of Mukhari, was attained only when the Vadi-Samvadi aspects were stressed. Mundane adherence to the scale serves no aesthetic purpose. Madhyama and the Tara sthayi Rishabha are the ‘jeeva’ (life-giving) swaras of this raga. A performer who does not accentuate the jeeva swaras will have no jeeva in his rendition. 

Rama Ravi (Gamakas and Anuswaras): Great musicians comprehended gamakas (ornamentations) in an all-encompassing manner and not as a mere oscillation of a   note. The delicate nuances and vital role of gamakas in Mukhari, is best visualised through the compositions of maestros. The kampita gamaka permits plurality. A regular and uniform oscillation between two tones, is seen in respect of Madhyama in Tyagaraja’s ‘Elaavatara’, while a delicate, fine throb is seen, in passages like ‘Kelaayo’ (Sivakamasundari) or ‘Arivaar’ (Arivaar yaar unnai). Two more varieties of kampita gamaka, plaavita and tarangita, involving sustained notes, can be seen in passages like ‘Kammani Phalamu’ (Entaninne) and ‘Paataki nechaala’ (Ososinamadi, a Padam).

Mukhari permits wide usage of Jaru type of gamakas. Irakka Jaru, i.e., descent from higher Shadja to Panchama or from Panchama to Rishabha, is best seen in the passage “Saarasalochani” (Emani ne). When an exponent merges the Rishabha with Madhyama and the Madhyama with Panchama, in the passage “ri-ma-pa”, the Leena (merger) type of Gamaka is best seen.

Anuswara oriented gamakas like Sphurita, Orikkai and Varek also abound in Mukhari. Janta type of swaras permit Sphurita gamaka. The passage Ri-Sa-ni-dha-pa in the Chittaswara portion of the kriti ‘Emani ne’ is an illustration for Orikkai type. If the conventional avarohana of raga Mukhari was rendered in slow-tempo, the presence of Varek type of gamaka can be discerned. (Rama Ravi rendered the illusrations cited by her.)

Madurai G S Mani (Raga Mukhari in Cinema music): Music directors like G Ramanathan and M S Viswanathan were in favour of providing a classical base to cinematic compositions but modified them marginally to enhance appeal to layman listeners. This meant only minor modifications, some uncommon usages, but no  infringement of the classic idiom. [Recounting an incident, G S Mani stated and demonstrated how a classical composition metamorphosised into a cinematic tune. Songs rendered by him included ‘Vaada malare’ (Film: Ambikaapati), ‘Yaar poi solluvaar’ (Film: Harischandra) and ‘Kanavu kanden’ (Film: Sivagangai Seemai)].

Dr. Srivatsa (Compositions): Patnam Subramanya Iyer has composed a Tana Varnam. Popular compositions of Tyagaraja include ‘Entaninne’, ‘Karubaru’, ‘Ksheenamai’, ‘Elavatara’ and ‘Sangeeta sastra’. A rare kriti of Tyagaraja, is ‘Talachinantate’. The composition ‘Muripemu’ which was very popular thirty-forty years ago, has gone out of circulation. The kriti ‘Pahimaam Ratchanachala’ is the best known kriti of Dikshitar in this raga. The absence of any composition by Syama Sastri in this raga is adequately compensated by Subbaraya Sastri’s ‘Emani ne’. Neelakanta Sivan’s ‘Enraikku Sivakripai’ moves even a stone-hearted listener to tears! Papanasam Sivan’s ‘Sivakama Sundari’ is a popular song, while his other compositions like ‘Adimalar’ and ‘Saranam Ayyappa’ are rarely heard.

Some good compositions in this raga, which have now become obsolete are Patnam Subramanya Iyer’s ‘Eppudu Kripa galguno’, Kumara Ettendra’s ‘Sivagurunatha’ and Kavi Kunjara Bharati’s ‘Innamum enmel’.

Mention has to be made of Swati Tirunal’s ‘Bhavati Viswasa’, a noble composition integral to the Navaratnamalika group. Kshetrayya’s Padams ‘Ososi namadi’ and ‘Emmana vanatim’ are known to a select few.

Modern composers including Tulasivanam and G S Mani have also composed in this raga. Annamacharya’s ‘Brahma kadigina’ is nowadays being rendered in raga Mukhari.


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