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Introduction and Historical Background (DR. V V Srivatsa): The names of some ragas are indicative of the region from where they originated, e.g., raga Kambhoji from Kambhoja desha (Cambodia), Gurjari from Gujara desha (N.W.F.P.), Sindhubhairavi from Sindh, Malavi from Malwa etc. The region which has two Nadas (west-flowing rivers - Narmada and Tapti), bound in the North by Sowrashtra, in the East by Malwa, by the Sahya mountain in the South and by the sea in the West was know as Soratta desha and its capital was Soratt (Surat). It was a very prosperous region and the hub of commercial activity. The great port Bhrigukaccha (Bharuch) was located here, all trade with the Greeks and Romans were routed through this port. The East India Company sought the Mughal Emperor’s permission to establish their first base at Soratt. The residents of this area were not insensitive to cultural values. Culture always thrived where prosperity prevailed. Surati is a raga, which originated from this region.

Pundarika Vittala, who resided at Jamnagar, refers to this raga as Soratti. The same name is found in Rasakowmudi, as also in the anubandha of Chaturdandi Prakasika. The absence of reference in ancient texts like the Sangeeta Makaranda, Sangeeta Samaya Sara by Parswadeva, Sangeeta Ratnakara, Ragatarangini or even Swaramela Kalanidhi makes this a raga which evolved in the medieval times. Cross-references date it to the 16th century AD. Many Bhashanga ragas were accepted and absorbed, in Carnatic music at that time and Surati is ostensibly, one of them. A sankeertana of Annamacharya, “Itaritama” has for long, been rendered in Surati. However, this is not conclusive evidence, as this raga is not referred to in the Rang Mahal plates. We find compositions by Muthu Tandavar and a few Darus and one Mangalam in this raga. There is a detailed lakshana-sloka by Govindacharya in the Sangraha Choodamani on Surati. Hence, this raga was well established in the pre-Trinity period.

Surati, like Natakurinji, is a lakshya-oriented raga, giving ample scope for manodharma and improvisation. It has potential for dualistic usage of swaras. Classified under the 28th mela, Harikambhoji, it has distinct hallmarks and perhaps, a unique swaroopa-lakshana, manifesting as a melodic yet, individualistic identity. The consensus is in favour of raga Surati’s construction as an audava-vakra-sampoorna raga. 

Melodic Individuality (Prof. S R Janakiraman): Prof. Janakiraman said that the notes in this raga do enhance and impart aesthetic value but added that there is an apparent non-conformity in swarasthanas, which he called as “false-notes”. He chose to demonstrate the melodic individuality of this raga by vocal rendition of Subbarama Dikshitar’s Pada-Varna, “Sami Entari Deluppudura”. During an exacting and emotive rendition, Dr. Janakiraman also pointed out the finer aspects of this composition.

Gamakas, Anuswaras and aesthetic value (Dr. M Narmada): Any raga is a mere scale of swaras. It is the manner of usage and the interrelation amongst swaras that condition the aesthetic value. Surati is a raga with multiple hues, which can be visualised in swara-prayoga. Rishabha is one of the main aesthetic contributors; it has an elongated use in the arohana – yet with limited duration. It is the duration that distinguishes Surati from Kedaragowla. Similarly madhyama plays a relatively sedate role in Surati than in Kedaragowla. The elongated rishabha combined with the madhyama is a salient feature of this raga. Panchama gives a finite shape to the poorvanga of this raga. The uttaranga in arohana is truncated. The elongation of nishada in arohana though permissible, is not desirable. It is a kerb-stone to move on to the shadja. The uttaranga is more distinct in the avarohana. The deergha-daivata is a speciality of this raga. The panchama swara has a positive role in the avarohana scale, once again distinguishing this raga from Kedaragowla. (Dr. Narmada demonstrated with brief renditions from Muthuswami Dikshitar’s “Balasubramanyam”, passages from Javalis and Tyagaraja’s “Verevvare”.)

Manodharma (Suguna Purushottaman): As pointed out earlier, Surati is a lakshya-oriented raga. However, it does not confer undiluted liberties or unfettered freedom. She admitted that she heard for the first time “pa-ga-ri-sa” prayoga rendered by Dr. Narmada when singing “Mangala dayaka” from “Angarakam” by Dikshitar. (The Dikshitar Kriti Manimalai also follows suit). This was to her, a revelation. She mentioned that care has to be exercised, in this raga, in respect of brevity or elongation of swaras. Smt. Suguna Purushottaman rendered a lovely alapana with a fine akshiptika passage, covering almost all aesthetic nuances of this raga. Her rendition was reminiscent of her preceptor, Musiri Subramanya Iyer.

Compositions in Surati (Dr. V V Srivatsa): The list of compositions include a Lakshya Gita “Lakshmi Nrisimha Devadeva” attributed to Venkatamakhin. Apart from the Varnam rendered by Dr. Janakiraman, “Ento premato” by Tiruvottriyur Tyagayyar, is well known. Another Tana Varnam “Sami dayaseya” is modelled after Subbarama Dikshitar’s Varnam. Of the Trinity, only Tyagaraja and Dikshitar have composed in this raga. We have eight authenticated compositions of Tyagaraja of which “Geetarthamu”, “Bhajana Parula” and the Utsava Sampradaya composition “Patiki Harati” are rendered quite often. “Ramachandra Nee Daya” and “Verevvare” are infrequently heard. The two compositions from Nowka Charitram are rarely heard. “Paramukhamelara” is also ascribed to Tyagaraja. Muthuswami Dikshitar’s “Angarakam” (a Vara kriti), “Sri Venkatagiresam” and “Balasubramanyam” are well known. The other three kritis by Dikshitar, “Govindarajaya”, “Sri Vanchanatham” and “Lalita Parameswari” are rare compositions of high aesthetic value; Muttutandavar’s “Ambara Chidambara” and “Innum oru daram” are favourites from the forgotten past. This raga has appealed to the great composer, Gopalakrishna Bharati, who has six compositions to his credit “Adiya padattai”, “Kanakasabhai”, “Unadu tiruvadi”, “Tillai Ambalattanai”, “Periyare” and "Engal Gurunathar”. We have a composition by Marimutha Pillai. Papavinasa Mudaliar’s “Edukkittanai modi” is a well-known composition. Swati Tirunal’s kriti “Tavaka pada” and his padam “Alassiru” are famous. Vina Kuppayyar’s composition “Paradevi”, Ambujam Krishna’s “En nilai” and Kovai Subri’s “Adarittarulvay” supplement three compositions by Papanasam Sivan, of which, “Siva peruman kripai” remains evergreen. There is also one kriti by Kumara Ettendra.

A raga which is sringara rasa oriented, we have many Javalis and Padas, amongst which “Mariyada teliyakane”, “Veganevu” and “Indendu” are very popular. Ghanam Krishna Iyer's “Entanninal” is not widely known. “Mayaladi” is another popular piece. Mention must be of a “Tillana Daru” by Krishnaswami Ayya.

Allied ragas (Dr. M Narmada): Paucity of time restricted dilation on this facet. Dr. M. Narmada cited the Narayanagowla Varnam “Maguva” to differentiate between Narayanagowla and Surati. Ample examples were provided earlier in respect of Kedaragowla. 


Our nation, Bharata, the synthesis of Bhava, Raga and Tala had a unified system of music until the irreversible bifurcation in the 13th century. Even after the formal division, there was adequate interface, absorption and exchange of tenets, theories and melodies; the current water-tight compartmentalisation and touch-me-not conservatism had not set in. It is in this background that we should review the sojourn and contributions of pioneers like Pundarika Vittala, belonging to the sishya parampara of Purandaradasa, who lived for several years under the patronage of King Shatrushalya (Chattarsal) of Jamnagar, in Gujarat. It is widely accepted that several bhashanga and some desiya ragas were transplanted in the late sixteenth century, from Hindustani to Carnatic music.

Raga Surati originated in the Soratt or Surat region of Gujarat and was imported into our system along with ragas like Hameerkalyani, Sindhubhairavi and so on. Soratt was a prosperous region, with plenty of riches. Automatically, this raga from that region was also “deemed” to be a lucky one, a mangala raga. Perhaps, this led to the practice of rendering Surati at the end of a concert. It should be noted that both Narayana Teertha and Tyagaraja have composed mangala kritis in Surati, wherefore, the   premise that this practice is a few centuries old. Such a convention having come to vogue, the attempts to indigence the name has perhaps, led to the name “Surati” for this raga; an apt name for a raga with which you wrap up a performance.

Apart from its usage by pre-Trinity composers, the inclusion of a lakshana-sloka in the Sangeeta Saramrita indicates that this raga got established in South India at least a hundred years before the Trinity-period. The dictum to classify Autra ragas into our melakarta system led to its being classified under the Kambhoji or Harikambhoji mela. Govindacharya wrote,

Harikambhoji melaccha Surati raga ipyate sanyasam samshakam chaiva sa shadja graham uchyate. Arohe gada varjya chapyavarohe samagraham sa ri ri ma pa da ni Sa, Sa ni da pa ma ga ri sa.”

Govindacharya’s prescription came to be modified, by virtue of the proximity to Kedaragowla and Narayanagowla. This raga needed a distinct feature, some melodic individuality. It was modified into a audava-vakra sampoorna raga, with the understated structure: 

Arohana: sa-ri-ma-pa-ni-Sa
Avarohana: Sa-ni-da-pa-ma-ga-pa-ma-ri-sa

The phrase ‘ma-ga-pa-ma-ri’ became the hallmark of this raga; as well as the safety-valve to protect performers from renditional migration to proximate ragas. This view is ascribed to Venkatamakhi. Yet, Subbarama Dikshitar adopted a different concept. The custom with this raga, is not to go below the Mandara sthayi Nishada. Subbarama Dikshitar made this Mandara Nishada as the first swara in the moorchana arohana, thus:

Arohana: ni-sa-ri-ma-pa-ni-Sa
Avarohana: Sa-ni-da-pa-ma-ga-ri-sa.

Nevertheless, the “ma-ga-pa-ma-ri” method is preferred, in practice. The constituent swaras are Chatusruti Rishabha, Antara Gandhara, Suddha Madhyama, Chatusruti Daivata and Kaisika Nishada, making it ideal for classification under the Harikambhoji mela. Superficially, it appears to be a simple, avarohana vakrita upanga raga.

Alas, the case of classification does not end so easily. In some prayogas, the sruti level of Nishada rises; in some places the sruti level of Gandhara comes down; in some Tara sthayi phrases, Antara Gandhara is substituted by Sadharana Gandhara. So, some view this as a bhashanga raga. The inclusion of a Vara kriti in this raga, by Muthuswami Dikshitar, supports this view.

Rishabha, Madhyama and Nishada are raga-chaya swaras and appear in the arohana as deergha swaras. However, the Rishabha is never a deergha swara in the avarohana. Daivata and Gandhara swaras, generally tag on to the Nishada and Madhyama swaras, respectively. However, aesthetic and melodic embellishment can be achieved by usage of the deergha Daivata. This is a speciality of the Dikshitar tradition and examples are found in the kritis ‘Angarakam’ and ‘Balasubramanyam’.

Though the hallmark of this raga may be the prastara ‘ma-ga-pa-ma-ri’, there are several other vishesha prayogas. This raga admits repetitive swaras like “ni-ni-ni” and “ma-ma-ma”, without any loss of aesthetic value. The krama avarohana, ‘Sa-ni-da-pa-ma-ga-ri-sa’ is found in a Varna. A very special prayoga in the Tara Sthayi is “RI-MA-GA-RI-SA-RI-SA-ni-da”, when the prastara “ni-ma-pa-ni-ni” is rendered, the Kaisiks Nishada echoes the type of sruti called 'Deepta', a rare type. In the passage “RI-SA-ni-da”, the Daivata appears as a dubious note – virtually as a Nishada swara. So, some scholars say that this raga is riddled with false notes – however, without any dilution of aesthetic value.

We must note that Datu swaras are possible. Subbarama Dikshitar advocates usage of “pa-ma-ri”. Somehow, under the pretext of brevity, he abruptly terminates his exposition of this raga with the comment, "pandai marabu arindavargalin lakshyattinaal telivaagum". Thus, this is one of the select lakshya-pradhana ragas.

Tyagaraja’s eight compositions in this raga present a variegated scenario. 'Geetarthamu' is in vilamba kala (slow tempo), 'Bhajana Parula', 'Verevvare' and 'Ramachandra needaya' are set to medium tempo; 'Sringarinsu' and 'Patiki Harati’ tend towards fast tempo. ‘Rama Daivama’ is some where between medium and fast pace. For the speedsters, the Le-Mans drivers of music, we have the composition ‘Paramukha’, wrongly ascribed to Tyagaraja. Dikshitar has preferred the medium to slow range. His kritis 'Angarakam’ and ‘Balasubramanyam’ are well know. ‘Govindarajaya’ is a lovely piece, as also 'Sri Vanchanatham'. There is no kriti in this raga from the Syama Sastri school. While there is a solitary kriti by Swati Tirunal, we have half-a-dozen compositions in this raga by Gopalakrishna Bharati, Papavinasa Mudaliar. 'Edukkitanai modi tano' was popularised by Bharatanatyam dancers. We have compositions by near-contemporary composers like Papanasam Sivan, Ambujam Krishna and Kovai Subri.

This raga exudes Sringara rasa and Hasya rasa (with a touch of sarcasm). There is no dearth of Sringara-oriented compositions. Amongst these ‘Mayaladi’, ‘Mariyada teliyakane’ and 'Indendu vachiti’ are well known. Rasikas will recall the lucid renditions of 'Vega neevu vaani' by the maestro, G N Balasubramaniam. The repertoire on this raga is replete, if not complete! From Lakshana Geeta to Tillana Daru! The melodic identity and individuality of this raga is such that one thing is for sure - this raga will never wind up; there is no “Suruti” for raga Surati.

  • Tyagaraja’s Nowka Charitra starts with a composition in raga Surati and ends with a Mangalam in the same. This Geya Nataka is thus composed. No other raga has this distinction of being used at the start and the end of Geya Nataka.
  • The Mangala kriti of Nowka Charitra, 'Makula muna kiha' is rarely rendered. At a concert at Gokhale Hall, in the mid-1940s, the Vina wizard, Venkataramana Das, concluded his recital by playing this Mangalam. Many rasikas did not realise this and continued to sit. They left when they were told about the Mangala kriti. This Mangalam is sometimes rendered by T R Subramaniam.
  • Mars or Kuja is a dreaded planet for his dual nature of conferring prosperity and inflicting calamities. Though Tuesday is called Mangalavara, nothing auspicious is usually done. A tala with a dhrutam at start is not considered auspicious. Muthuswami Dikshitar has used such a tala in a highly Mangalakara raga, for his composition on 'Angaraka'. This is proof of the genius of Dikshitar.
  • There is no Divyanama Sankeertana by Tyagaraja in Surati.
  • Very few are aware of the fact that the Krishna Leela Tarangini ends with a delectable Mangalam 'Sri Vijayagopala' in Surati.
  • The pinnacle of permissible erotica-vulgarism can be seen in the composition 'Indendu'.
  • Krishnaswami Ayya’s Daru Tillana in Surati, 'Nadiritani tomdiridani’ is a unique composition.


Composition Tala Composer
Saminee todi (Varnam) Adi Pallavi Seshayyar
Entopremato (Varnam) Adi Tiruvottriyur Tyagayyar
Geetarthamu Adi Tyagaraja
Bhajana parula Roopaka Tyagaraja
Patiki harateere Adi Tyagaraja
Ramachandra needaya Desadi Tyagaraja
Ramadaivama Roopaka Tyagaraja
Verevvare Adi Tyagaraja
Paramukhamelara Adi Attributed to Tyagaraja
Balasubramanyam Adi Muthuswami Dikshitar
Sri Venkakagireesam Adi Muthuswami Dikshitar
Angarakam Roopaka Muthuswami Dikshitar
Balakuchambike Roopaka Muthuswami Dikshitar
Govindarajaya Roopaka Muthuswami Dikshitar
Lalita Parameswari Adi Muthuswami Dikshitar
Sri Vanchanatham Adi Muthuswami Dikshitar
Kande karunanidhiye Adi Purandaradasa
Koduva karubare Adi Purandaradasa
Nachiyogala beda Adi Purandaradasa
Sri pavanapuresa Adi K C Kesava Pillai
En nilai ariyaro Adi Ambujam Krishna
En bhagiyami Tisra Triputa Arunachala Kavi
Kanavendum Misra Chapu Arunachala Kavi
Garudagamana rara Adi Bhadrachala Ramadas
Ettanai naal virahamudan Adi Ghanam Krishnayyar
Iniyum kurattil kanakasabhai Adi Gopalakrishna Bharati
Tirunatanam Misra Jhampa Gopalakrishna Bharati
Saravanabhava Misra Chapu Kavikunjara Bharati
Karuna payonidhe Adi Mysore Vasudevachar
Sive pahi Tisra Triputa Mysore Vasudevachar
Mangalam mayitvaham Adi Koteeswara Iyer
Sarasadalanayanam Adi Seshayyangar
Rohineeyam Khanda Chapu Muthaiah Bhagavatar
Dakshatvaraharam Adi Muthaiah Bhagavatar
Samaganalola Adi Pallavi Seshayyar
Swami nannubrova Adi Pallavi Seshayyar
Mariyada teliyakane (Javali) Roopaka Patnam Subramanya Iyer
Harinama bhajane Misra Chapu Periyasami Tooran
Kanamana muruga Adi Papanasam Sivan
Pacchaikku Adi Papanasam Sivan
Sivaperuman kripai Adi Papanasam Sivan
Srirama jayamangalam Adi Papanasam Sivan
Veganeevu (Javali) Adi Ramanathapuram Srinivasa Iyengar
Sami Entani Adi Subbarama Dikshitar
Adahodalle Khanda Chapu Purandaradasa
Alarsara paritapam (Padam) Misra Chapu Swati Tirunal
Intitiramichechena (Padam) Misra Chapu Kshetragna
Evarivalla duduku (Padam) Misra Chapu Kshetragna
Indalihavalarunu (Padam) Tisra Triputa Swati Tirunal
Makulamuma kiham Misra Chapu Tyagaraja
Manasimadantapam (Padam) Adi Swati Tirunal
Sadaramava Adi Swati Tirunal
Tavaka padambuja (Padam) Misra Chapu Swati Tirunal
Sringarinchikoni (Daru) Adi Tyagaraja

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