CAC Newsletter




Rasikas, students, aspiring performers, musicians, musicologists and teachers,

Freedom of thought and expression, (termed manodharma), is amply permitted in Carnatic music. Carnatic music is an art with a mathematical and scientific base. Certain hypotheses are perhaps inviolable, but much of the divergence is not beyond the purview of resolution. Codification and classification apart, every aspect requires fundamental analysis for ultimate consensus or acceptance.

The broad objectives of CAC are to expose, educate and enlighten one for a better insight into the aesthetics of Carnatic music and to perceive the subtle nuances through this innovative musical experience.

This is a sincere effort to make:
  • A layman, a great rasika,
  • A music student, a musician, and
  • A musician, a musician’s musician

This newsletter aims to highlight and report the activities of CAC while also featuring useful and interesting articles / information on music. The trustees of CAC are look forward to your long-term, active participation and valuable suggestions.


CAC has so far organised the following programmes since its launch:

In the documentation and archival project, CAC has digitally documented around 140 compositions of various composers by eminent musicians like Smt. T Mukta of the Vina Dhanammal tradition (which includes rare masterpieces of the Trinity and a variety of Padams and Javalis); Sri Sethalapati Balasubramaniam (Collection of viruttams and Papanasam Sivan's compositions), Sri Tanjavur Sankara Iyer (Sharing his musical experience), and Sri Chitravina N Ravikiran (singing his own compositions). This documentation programme was through a series of chamber concerts held at Sri V V Sundaram's residence.

CAC also celebrated Smt T Brinda memorial day on 6th August 1999, at Raga Sudha Hall, which included audio excerpts of the veteran musician, followed by concerts of Smt Vegavahini Vijayaraghavan and Smt T Mukta, who hail from the same tradition.

CAC has recently started its new venture, The Raganubhava series. Raganubhava is intended to be a series of unique programmes for free, frank and constructive discussions on all salient aspects of the ragas, supplemented by thematic concerts. A written "Gala Quiz" is a special effort to enthuse active rasika participation.

The first of the live interactive session of Raganubhava was a grand programme held on 22nd September at Raga Sudha Hall amidst overwhelming response from the music lovers and musicians. The highlights of the session were a lively, informative panel discussion on raga Sahana titled "Sariyana Sahana Idamdana" - face to face with raga Sahana followed by a special thematic concert by Sri Sanjay Subrahmanyan. The experts in the panel discussion were Prof S R Janakiraman, Prof T R Subramaniam, Chitravina Ravikiran, Smt Suguna Varadachari and Smt Seetha Rajan. The moderator of the proceedings was Dr V V Srivatsa.


Introduction (Dr V V Srivatsa): Sahana is a highly emotive raga with contours of Karuna and Santa rasas. It is not referred to in medieval musicological texts but became one of the popular ragas prior to the age of the Trinity. The distinct but variant gandhara swara is the characteristic aspect of this raga. The effective combination of gamakas with swaras generates the rasanubhava. Used widely in ragamalikas, viruttams etc; it is a highly popular raga with performers, mainly because of the affordable felicity in swara-singing. Many composers have presented masterpieces in this raga. The repertoire is sizeable.

Historical / musicological origins of Sahana (Dr S R Janakiraman): (The moorchana pattern culminating in the raga Sahana were demonstrated by Prof S R Janakiraman). Agreeing with the introductory remarks, he said that Sahana was first mentioned as a derivative of the Kambhoji mela by Paidala Gurumurthy Sastri. The use of the raga mudra technique by Dikshitar leads to the possibility of the name of this raga having been Shana. The gandhara swara was termed as "Trisanku Gandhara", which, in reality, was above Sadharana Gandhara and below Antara Gandhara. The Sadharana Gandhara primarily appeared only in some sancharas and cannot be deemed as freely used. Most favour the Antara Gandhara while few use the Sadharana Gandhara. The Ubhaya-Vakratva enhances aesthetics. (This was demonstrated).

Scope for manodharma in Sahana (Prof T R Subramaniam): There is no standardisation of finite prescription, though there is ample scope. The accent should delve on the avoidance of repetitive phrases. A pen-picture, in comparative terms, was presented, using raga Mandari. In as much as raga Ghanta was deemed an allotropic modification of raga Dhanyasi, Sahana's modification leads to raga Dwijavanti.

Use of Gamakas in Sahana (Chitravina N Ravikiran): (Explained the role of gamaka in Carnatic music). There are many special passages with unique swara patterns, even in the Adi tala Varnam. (He duly demonstrated this). Several delectable swara passages are seen in the Kamalamba Navavarna kriti. The combination of the gamakas, ascending / descending Jaru is so facile with the swaras. There have been renditions exclusively with Sadharana gandhara only, which in no way, has  devalued aesthetics. (He gave a note by note delineation of the subtle values and the kind of gamaka treatment, which he said was according to the context of the musical phrasings).

Compositions in Sahana (Seetha Rajan): Abundant, a favourite of several composers. Using the graha swara as the yard stick, the raga affords quite a variety. (Special mention was made of a composition of Muthaiah Bhagavatar, Manamukapadu, with the madhyama as the graha swara). Modern composers have maintained the precedent purity and values. Many Padams in this raga are popular. There appears to be no Tillana in this raga.

Allied ragas (Suguna Varadachari): The most proximate raga, obviously is Dwijawanti. It is not merely the musical format that defines allied ragas. Due weightage should be given to ragas with similar swara prayogas. (Examples cited included passages from ragas Malavi, Begada, Kanada and Vedaghoshapriya.)


The origin of raga Sahana, highly popular in the contemporary classical music scenario, is rather obscure. There is no reference to this raga in works like Sangeeta Makaranda or Sangeeta Ratnakara, much less, even in Rasakowmudi (Ca. 1560 A D). Govindacharya has defined the structure of this raga, which indeed, was in vogue during the period of the Trinity.

The hallmark of this raga is the unique gandhara swara, which can neither be classified as Sadharana gandhara or antara gandhara. This has resulted in divergent classifications - with some considering Sahana as a derivative of the 28th melakarta and others treating it as a derivative of the 22nd melakarta.

Sahana is identified substantially with Karuna rasa and most of the compositions have a sympathetic strain. Rasanubhava apart, it is a very popular raga used in viruttams, rendition of Padyas, Churnika and Ragamalikas. Sahana offers ample felicity for permutative rendition of swara passages, wherefore, performers revel in swara-patterns characterised by constructive manodharma.

The swara constituting this raga, apart from gandhara are Chatusruti rishabha, Suddha madhyama, panchama, Chatusruti Dhaivata and Kaisika Nishada. The ascent (Arohana) and descent (Avarohana) have vakra sancharas. Theoreticians give Sahana as one of the examples to cite the premium value of aesthetic satisfaction (Ranjakatva) in Ubhaya-Vakra ragas.

The repertoire in this raga is fairly large - about 80 - 85 compositions. We have Tana Varnams in Adi and Khanda Ata Talas, including one by Subbarama Dikshitar. Of the ten compositions of Tyagaraja, "Giripai Nela Konna", "Ee Vasudha", "Raghupate Rama", "Vandanamu Raghunanadana" and "Emanadichevo" are very popular. Classicism is discernable at its pinnacle in Muthuswami Dikshitar's compositions like "Sri Kamalambikayam", "Abhayambayam" and "Easanadi Sivakara". There is no composition by Syama Sastri, in this raga, which deficiency is made good by Annasami Sastri's "Inkeverunnaru".

Among the salient features is the Mitatva aspect of this raga. Alapana, gamakas, swara-prastara have to be limited, yet not very brief. Hence, its universal appeal. Among anecdotes, the first pertains to the promise made by Lord Rama to Tyagaraja, assuring deliverance from human bondage in ten days' time. This is mentioned in the kriti "Giripai Nelakona". The next one relates to the unforgettable rendition of this raga by Nagaswara vidwans of Chidambaram, who used the opening lines of Ramaswami   Dikshitar's composition "Vasi Vasi" - for the pallavi part of their Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi. In days bygone, this raga had a place of pride in the presentations of the danseuse, Mylapore Gowri Ammal. In recent times, we have the observations of N E Purushottaman, who wrote that he wished to shed his mortal coils (so that he hears no more) after listening to a rendition of "Vandanamu Raghunandana" by Smt D K Pattammal. Sahana is a highly emotive raga offering an ethereal level of Rasanubhava.


Sahana is one of the most beautiful melody scales in World music. It is unparalleled in any other system of music, like many other core Carnatic ragas such as Devagandhari, Yadukulakambodhi, Suruti, Nayaki and Ahiri. The primary reason for this is its enormous dependence on the typical ornamentation of Carnatic music (gamakas). Since it is not a scale-oriented raga, it simply CANNOT survive without the characteristic gamakas like kampitam (oscillation), pratyahatam (forceful rendering of groups or pairs of successive notes in descending order like nd dp pm).


First of all, it is important to know what the term "gamaka" means. Many people think that gamaka means general oscillation of notes. Actually, gamaka means ornamentation and includes many other enhancements to the notes like Aahatam, Sphuritam. Carnatic music is a highly evolved logical art form. There are very well defined rules for ornamentation in Carnatic music. The oscillation is one of the most important gamakas and the types of oscillations are numerous depending on the number of oscillations, its frequency and speed.

In any raga, there are notes that can be oscillated and notes that can't be. There are other notes, which sound good either way. As a rule, S and P are never oscillated. Similarly, there are well defined rules for the duration that a note can be sustained for. For example, R and D in Sahana can be sustained longer than G. Similarly, there are also certain notes which are suitable to end phrases and some, which are not. In Sahana, phrases of ascent will not sound nice if ended in M and no phrase will sound good if it culminates in G in either direction.

The arohana - avarohana sequence is - SRGMPMDNS - SN,DPMGMRGRS (corresponding note variety of Harikambodhi scale). There are certain phrases like RGMPDN,DPM which have been used in compositions by great masters and are rendered during improvisations like raga alapana even now.

Let's quickly analyse each note in Sahana.

S and P are extensively used.

R: Can be oscillated slightly. We generally take it first time from near-abouts G and then swing it very little 2 - 3 times. R can also be rendered plain as in phrase like R,,,,,,,,G RSN, DPM DNSR,,,,,,. One can sustain R and also use it as a developmental center (Nyasa swara).

G: I have always favoured G being rendered forcefully as opposed to slightly sustained, plain usage of it in phrases like R,G,,M P,,D PMM,, et al. There are some who also render the G plain, which they think adds to the Karuna Rasa or Soka Rasa (Pathos). I think that Sahana is a majestic raga, which needs to be portrayed as such and the Karuna or other rasas can be brought out in other phrases with proper gamakas.

M: Plain, short or long. Exceptions are when it is held a bit in phrases like PMM,,,PMGGR,,, in places like Muvvagopala in the Kshetrayya padam, Moratopu. Also in phrases like PMD,,, and MP,MD,,, we find that M can be swung briefly without loss of beauty.

D: Plain, short or long. A nice note to keep as the center of development (nyasa).

N: Always with oscillation. Generally taken from D. There are also instances when we commence the oscillation from S as in "Devi neeve gaaka loka janani" in Inkevarunnaru's swara-sahityam.

Now generally, the notes which are oscillated should not be sustained for too long as it will not sound nice to oscillate something 6 - 10 times. The other gamakas heard in Sahana include Pratyahatam in phrases like NDDPPM MGGMR, and Datu where we jump notes in phrases like MDRN,DPM and RN,,,DPM.


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