|AN EVENING OF SAVERI - REPORT BY SEETHA
If vintage Chennai was earlier vibrant due to the classical musicians of yore, today a heartening development, a boon that offers to reassure one and all, that the future of this grand heritage is indeed bright in the era of the coming millennium, is galvanising the ambience of Carnatic Music. It is in this light, that the Carnatica Archival Centre (CAC) deserves to be fully congratulated for a scintillating evening in Raga Sudha Hall where a lively discussion on raga Saveri was followed by an enthralling concert. It was just a month ago that CAC had organised a fine discussion cum concert on raga Sahana that turned out to be a rich experience.
Dr V V Srivatsa introduced the subject Saveri in his lucid inimitable style. He explained that Saveri, probably derived from the word 'Savari' is a rakti raga, apt for singing at the time of Suryodaya (sunrise) and Suryastama (sunset). Saveri is also one of the ragas confined to the realms of Carnatic music. Dr. Pramila Gurumurthy, tracing the history of Saveri referred to a number of Lakshana Granthas wherein the raga emerged only in the pre-Trinity period.
Vidwan P S Narayanaswami dealt with the manodharma aspect of Saveri and demonstrated as to how adherence to lakshana (grammar) and liberties with lakshya (aesthertics) ought to be balanced. Subsequently Dr Narmada spoke on the importance of gamakas in the raga Saveri. She expounded the various hues assumed by the Dhaivata, Rishaba and Madhyama swaras of Saveri and divided the development of the raga into zones dominated by the above swaras. Next, Dr Ritha Rajan compared the 'Chaal' (behaviour) of the raga to the unpredictable yet majestic flow of the river Kaveri. Demonstrating the varnam 'Sarasuda' she explained how each phrase and curve conveyed a different facet to Saveri and she also gave a glimpse of some grand compositions in this raga including 'Sri Rajagopala' of Muthuswami Dikshitar and the padam 'Telisenura'.
Elucidation of the raga was further made lively by Sri V V Srivatsa who added many more valuable points. He explained that Saveri is one of the twenty eight specific ragas in which kritis composed by each of the musical trinity can be found. The discussion was followed by a question and answer session, after which the audience was fortunate to savour a brilliant exposition of Saveri by T M Krishna. This concert fare included the Adi tala varnam 'Sarasuda', 'Karikalabha Mukham' composed by Muthuswami Dikshitar, 'Entanerchina' by Patnam Subramanya Iyer, 'Durusuga' by Syama Sastri, 'Rama Bana' by Tyagaraja, 'Muruga Muruga' by Periasami Tooran, and javali, 'Muttavaddura'. The neraval at 'Parama pavani' in Durusuga and the raga alapana and tanam preceding the kriti Rama Bana were elaborate and appealing. The accompanists V V Ravi and Arun Prakash complemented the involvement evinced by the vocalist and made the thematic concert an experience to cherish.
The thought of providing musical brainteasers on Saveri, in the form of a quiz was a worthwhile idea. As one left the hall after such a satiating experience, one could hear murmurs of appreciation of the evening's effort by the CAC. At the same time avid listeners could not help voicing their suggestion for future such projects, where due to the interesting nature and vastness of the subject, some more time and space could be allotted for discussion. One could not agree more with such valuable suggestions, as such subjects could be better comprehended in a leisurely mode. All said and done, it would be appropriate to again compliment those who organised, participated and contributed to make the occasion a memorable one.
SUMMARY OF THE RAGANUBHAVA SESSION ON SAVERI HELD ON 29TH OCTOBER, 1999:
Dr V V Srivatsa (Introduction): Saveri is an ancient raga with many textual references. This raga is classified as a Bhashanga raga in Sangeeta Ratnakara, albeit with the name Savari. This raga has a place of pride in Carnatic music, as can be also seen in the proverb, "Kaveri snaanam, Saveri Gaanam", which is duly reflected in a composition by Dikshitar. Each swara has a significant role. Gandhara and Nishada, at Trisruti levels, render this raga as Bhashanga. Rishabha, Madhyama and Nishada are raga-chhayya swaras, which bring out the nuances of this raga. Madhyama is unique, often called Saveri Madhyama. It is one of the select ragas with compositions by all members of the Carnatic Trinity. There is a marked conceptual similarity between Dikshitar and Syama Sastri. Some rare sancharas can be found in "Karmame
Balavanta", a Tyagaraja kriti. There is considerable esoteric significance in some passages of the kriti "Sri Rajagopala" by Dikshitar. Syama Sastri's first composition was in this raga. Many post-Trinity composers have used this raga, unto recent times. A great legacy.
Dr Pramila Gurumurthy: The earliest reference is by Parshwadeva (11th Century). Narada's classification under the time theory details Saveri as a derivative of Gauda, apt for rendition between noon and 3 pm. Sarangadeva refers to raga Sauviri only. The Brihaddharma Purana mentions Saveri as a janya raga of Gowda mela. Annamacharya and Purandaradasa have composed in this raga. Ramamatya refers to Saveri as a janya raga of Salanganata mela. The references by Somanatha to a raga Saveri as a derivative of the Mallari scale perhaps is in respect of Suddhasaveri. Venkatamakhin opines that Saveri is a derivative of Gowla mela. The melodic identity of this raga is established in works like Raga Lakshanamu, Sangeeta Saramrita and Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini. The Sangeeta Saramrita deems Saveri to be a morning raga. Shadja is used as Graha, Nyasa and Amsa swaras. Many compositions are available with notation in the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini. B Subba Rao has expressed a view that Saveri is getting popular in Hindustani music too. There is no eqivalent for Saveri in the Pann system.
P S Narayanaswami (Creativity): Saveri is a very unique raga affording ample scope for manodharma. The three swaras, Rishaba, Madhyama and Dhaivata play a vital role. It is difficult to prescribe any uniformity in Manodharma in respect of this raga. (P S Narayanaswamy rendered an alapana which was crisp and embellished with all desirable facets of this raga.)
Dr M Narmada (Ornamentations / Gamakas): It is the judicious combination of swara and gamakas that accentuate the beauty of this raga and facilitate Raganubhava. (The proximity and combination of Shadja and Rishaba was demonstrated by her, duly accentuating the gamaka element with Rishaba swara). The effect is such that some may adopt the zonal concept, within the raga framework. (The effect of using gamaka with Dhaivata was also demonstrated.) For a total aesthetic effect, the key is the judicious use of the gamaka with any swara. Saveri is a gamaka - variga raga but not extensible to all swaras. This raga gives the anubhava of Sringara, Santa and Adbhuta rasas.
Dr Ritha Rajan (Compositions): The compositions in Saveri are of very high calibre. The varnam "Sarasuda" by Kottavasal Venkatarama Iyer is unique in several respects. There are enough compositions of the pre-Trinity period. Tyagaraja's Kritis "Tulasi Jagajjanani", "Rama Bana", "Daridapu Leka" are magnificient. "Chalu Chalu" is rarely heard. "Sri Rajagopala" by Dikshitar encompasses all the salient features of Saveri. "Durusuga" by Syama Sastri has structural and renditional elegance, "Sankari Sankuru" is also a popular composition. Amongst the post-Trinity compositions, "Etu Namminavo" is outstanding, as is "Sri Kamakoti Peeta" by Mysore Sadasiva Rao. The Padam "Telisenura" is a masterpiece. There are two Javalis as well.
The panel discussion concluded with a lively interactive question answer session. This was followed by the distribution of prizes to the winners of Sahana quiz and articles by Padmasri M S Gopalakrishnan.
NOTES ON RAGA SAVERI BY DR V V SRIVATSA:
The antiquity of Saveri dates to 11th century AD, as can be perceived from a reference found in the Sangeeta Samaya Sara. However, Sarangadeva, the author of Sangeeta Ratnakara (13th century AD), refers to a Bhashanga raga called Savari and calls it an Adhunika-prasiddha raga, i.e., one of recent fame. It is after deep deliberation that we have to conclude that raga Saveri originated about a thousand years ago. The commentator of Sangeeta Ratnakara refers to this raga being popular in Dravida Desa.
One popular saying is "Kaaveri snaanam, Saveri gaanam", meaning, bathe in the Kaveri but sing in Saveri. This is tangible proof that this raga was held in esteem. We find an echo of this proverb in a composition, "Kari Kalabhamukham" by Muthuswamy Dikshitar.
Saveri is one of the ragas referred to in the Rang Mahal copper plates containing compositions of Annamacharya. Karna parampara holds that there are Devarnamas by Purandaradasa, in raga Saveri. Thus, there has been reasonable continuity of usage of this raga.
Saveri is one of the select twenty eight ragas in which we have at least one composition by each member of the Trinity. The first composition by Syama Sastri was in raga Saveri. There are twenty six compositions of the Trinity in raga Saveri, the bulk (nineteen) being the contribution of Tyagaraja. "Tulasi Jagajjanani", "Rama Bana Trana", are popular kritis of Tyagaraja. Dikshitar has composed only two kritis in this raga, "Sri Rajagopala" and "Karikalabha Mukham", both of which are quite popular. Syama Sastri's "Durusuga" and "Sankari Sankuru" are also quite popular.
This raga has been a favourite of post-Trinity composers like Kottavasal Venkatarama Iyer, Krishnaswamy Ayya, Kumara Ettendra, Patnam Subramanya Iyer, and many others. A popular composition of very recent times is "Muruga Muruga". From the viewpoint of lakshana, Saveri is unique in several respects. It is deemed as Bhashanga as the Gandhara and Nishada swaras tend to manifest at the Trisruti level, a fact recognised by Venkatamakhin. Madhyama sounds different from the customary Suddha Madhyama, as a result of which pundits refer to a Saveri Madhyama. The three swaras ri, ma and dha are adequate to bring out the nuances of Saveri and are raga-chhayya swaras. Thus, each swara has a distinct and dominating role to play, wherefore Saveri can be construed as a federalistic structured raga, characterised by
equitable usage of all integral swaras. From the standpoint of laya, "Sankari Sankuru" is unique as it portrays the Chaturasra aspect in Trisra. Be a scale, a maana-danda, which can be applied to any applied to any melakarta raga. Is any raga with an Arohana structure "sa-ri-ma-pa-dha-sa" a Saveri raga? Such is the case with the ragas Karnataka Suddhasaveri and Suddhasaveri. Yet, to the pamara-pandita, Saveri is synonymous with the derivative of raga Mayamalavagowla.
Pallavi Sesha Iyer is said to have rendered this raga for a continuous period of eight hours. This is indicative of the scope for Manodharma. Connoisseurs fondly recall the Abhinaya presented by the peerless danseuse, T Balasaraswati, of "Ettanai Sonnaalum", in this raga.
We have nomenclature equivalents of Todi, Bhairavi, Sri etc: in Hindustani music and some musical equivalents too. There is no equivalent to Saveri. Rag Jogia is way off. Saveri is an exclusive possession of Carnatic music.
SAVERI BY P P NARAYANASWAMI, CANADA:
Raga Definition (lakshana) as given by Venkatamakhi:
Saveri ragah purnoyam arohe ga ni varijitah
Arohana: sa ri ma pa dha sa (S, R1, M1, P,
LIST OF COMPOSITIONS IN SAVERI (Not an exhaustive list)