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Introduction (Dr. V V Srivatsa): Durbar is a raga of relatively recent origin, having come into vogue just prior to the era of the Carnatic music Trinity. The compositions by the Trinity and by their successors have elevated this raga to an exalted status. Durbar has some unique characteristics, seldom seen in other ragas. The name of the raga may be deceptive to some extent but this is a raga traceable to the folk tradition. Its proximity to raga Nayaki is such that is difficult to decide whether Nayaki originated prior to Durbar, or vice-versa.

Historical Background (Dr. S A K Durga): Medieval musicological texts make no reference to raga Durbar. It is a raga of recent antiquity, an Adhuna-Prasiddha raga. The Sampradaya Pradarsini gives it as a derivative of Sriraga mela and uses the name Darubaru. The structure of the raga given in Sampradaya Pradarsini is Sampoorna in both Arohana and Avarohana, which is not the case nowadays. We know this raga only as a Shadava-Sampoorna raga. Mention must be made of the compositions of Tyagaraja and Dikshitar, as well as of the two beautiful Tana Varnams in this raga. The essence of the raga comes out in kritis like "Yochana Kamalalochana". One gathers the impression that this raga was developed and refined especially for medium-tempo rendition. It is interesting to note the remark "lakshya-maargena geeyate" made by Subbarama Dikshitar, indicating posto-facto classification in Lakshana. Abraham Panditar and Manicka Mudaliar, however, treat raga Durbar as a derivative of the 29th Melakarta.

Manodharma (V Subramanyam): Durbar is not a raga conducive for expansive elaboration and requires crisp and deft handling for depiction of aesthetic values. It has a restricted renditional scope, if repetitive phrases are to be avoided. The opening notes should indicate sans doubt, the contours of this raga. It has a fairly wide vocal range, covering three octaval zones. Despite the prominence given to the phrase ‘ga-ga-ri-sa’, the Gandhara swara is not a strong swara and can be superimposed by ‘ri-ma-ri-ma’, especially in instrumental rendition. Creative aspects can be best seen in swara passages, where permutative effects can be embellished. (V Subramaniam rendered a brief alapana and also presented a punctuated passage with Tanams).

Ornamentation / Gamakas (Kalpakam Swaminthan): Playing on the Vina, Kalpagam Swaminathan demonstrated the gamaka-orientation, especially in respect to the Nishada and Madhyama swaras. She confirmed the incremental sruti level of the Nishada swara. She stated that it is not advisable to elongate Dhaivata. She compared and contrasted by playing on the Vina, some passages from ragas Nayaki and Durbar. She also played a Tanam passage and the kriti, "Yochana kamalalochana".

Compositions (N Vijay Siva): The reportoire is quite substantial. We find delectable phrases in the last swara passage of the Tana Varnam "Chalamela". Tyagaraja’s compositions dominate the spectrum. The kriti "Yochana" is vitually a model for compositions. Tyagaraja's "Mundu Venuga" and "Rama Abhirama" impart knowledge in respect of the dwelling duration on a swara. The kriti "Narada-guruswami" demonstrates the quick and aesthetic ascent from the panchama to the Tara sthayi. "Aparaadhamula" is another commendable composition by Tyagaraja. "Edi ni bahubala", "Ramalobhamela" by Tyagaraja are other noteworthy compositions. In addition we can recall "Meena Nayana" by Subbaraya Sastri. Compositions of Tirupati Narayanaswamy, Gopalakrishna Bharati, Krishnaswamy Ayya and Papanasam Sivan are all testimony to the excellent aesthetic appeal of this raga. Dikshitar’s two kritis stand apart and have only archival value in view of the conceptual differences.

Allied Ragas and Special prayogas (Dr. V V Srivatsa): Durbar is suited for both medium and slow tempos, thus permitting variable speed swara renditions. Needless to say, "ga-ga-ri-sa-ni-ni-da-pa-Ga-Ga-Ri-Sa" is the most popular passage. One Visesha prayoga is "ri-ma-pa-da-ni-pa". A racy-paced prayoga is "ma-pa-da-ni-pa". Nayaki and Durbar are like twins but not identical twins. The extent of closeness between these ragas can be well perceived. Raga Karnataka Kapi has three versions. Syama Sastri’s "Akhilandeshwari" has positive nuances of raga Durbar. Dikshitar’s Karnataka Kapi is more Kanada-oriented, which is also noticeable in his compositions in raga Durbar. Karnataka Kapi, in these two versions, is an allied raga of raga Durbar. If only swara-saamya is the basis for allied ragas, then Devamanohari and Suddhasaveri can also be called allied ragas. (Excerpts from the kritis "Akhilandeshwari", "Tyagarajaadanyam" and "Haalasyanatham" were rendered).

  • Musicians from Mysore seemed to have an affinity for this raga. Bidaram Krishnappa used to render a Swarajati in this raga, which had traces of allied ragas. The Mysore Vina school had zealously guarded their repertoire and tradition of raga Durbar. In recent times, listeners have heard aesthetically satisfying renditions of this raga by Kannadiga Vidwans, especially R K Srikantan.
  • Philosophers extoll the Sahitya-bhava of Tyagaraja’s "Rama Abhirama". The stanza starting with "Dikku neevani" is supposed to symbolise supreme sacrifice and eventual refuge, sharanaagati. The stanza "Neeke dayabutti" echoes the Upanishadic dictum - "Anor aneeyam, mahato maheeyaan aatmasya jantoho nihite guhaayan, tamah kratuhu pashyati veetashoko, dhatuh prasaada mahimaan, mahimaanam aatmanaha". 
  • “Narada Guruswami" belongs to the special quartet in praise of Narada, the others being Sri Narada (Kanada), Varanarada (Vijayasri) and Naradamuni (Pantuvarali) Inclusion of the Atana raga kriti, Naradagana lola, in this group, is incorrect.
  • Competition was in progress, amongst two groups of Nagaswara vidwans at Semponnar Kovil, in a festival. The second group was obliged to render at double the speed, whatever was rendered by the first group. One of the items taken up at this competition was the kriti in raga Durbar - "Yochana Kamalalochana"!
  • Dikshitar’s kriti, "Haalaasyanaatham" is known for two reasons:
    a) His description of the float-festival, Teppotsava, which still continues to take place at a location called Mariamman Teppakulam, east of Madurai.
    b) His unique equation of Hanuman and Nandi in this song.
  • "Gandhavaaha", a sweet word in Sanskrit, literally means "one who wafts the scent" and is a term used for air. Only Muthuswami Dikshitar has used this lovely word, that too, twice. The first usage is in "Chetasri" (Dwijavanti); the second is in the Anupallavi of the Durbar kriti "Tyagarajad anyam".
  • An emotive rendition of Gopalakrishna Bharati’s song in raga Durbar by D K Pattammal, at the Music Academy, over a decade back, is unforgettable. Nevertheless, there were specialists before her - including Durbar Narasiah.
  • Above all, is the story relating to a sack of gold kept in a palanquin, which carried Tyagaraja from Kovur to Tiruvaiyaru. Tyagaraja was persuaded to accept this as a gift for Rama’s pooja. Passing through a forest, bandits attacked the entourage, with an intent to steal the gold. The bandits saw two resplendent warriors, with bow in hand, guarding the palanquin in front and at back. On seeing them, the bandits ran away. These warriors, ostensibly, were Rama and Lakshmana. Did Tyagaraja have a glimpse of them? Was the outpouring as "Mundu Venuga", in raga Durbar, an outcome of Divine Dashing?


Durbar, in Carnatic music is a many-splendoured raga. Its name is indicative of its origins and its nobility. A word of Persian origin, Durbar connoted that enclosure of the royal court where nobility congregated. There is adequate ground to construe that this raga was first rendered on a special occasion at some royal court and christened as "Durbar". This view is reinforced by Subbarama Dikshitar’s comment in the Sampradaya Pradarsini that this is a lakshya-oriented raga. Its evolution can be traced to lakshya (practice), ostensibly perhaps, through modification of raga Nayaki.

Despite the name, the structure of this raga is wholly Carnatic, sans doubt. It is not an influx from Islamic influence. Also called "Darubaru", some people hold the view that this raga was thus called due to its being a medium for the rendition of Darus. Alas, such a contention remains unsupported by circumstantial evidence. Dance-dramas, Geya-Natakas including the Pallaki-Seva-Prabandha have not used this raga in Darus. 

Irrespective of the cause, the effect of this raga is ethereal. Its evolution does not precede the 18th century. Nevertheless it originated in the pre-Trinity period, as Govindacharya has specifically referred to this raga in the Sangraha Choodamani. At this stage, let us pause to ponder. The compositions of Tyagaraja, Dikshitar and Gopalakrishna Bharati and some of the succeeding composers have elevated this raga to veritable exaltation. In less than two centuries, it has a place of pride in the pantheon of Carnatic ragas. This shows the intrinsic value and aesthetic appeal of this raga.

Durbar is a shadava-sampoorna bhashanga, desiya and sarvakalika raga belonging to the 22nd melakarta group. Opinions vary as to whether it was derived from Sriraga mela or Kharaharapriya mela. The currently familiar and popular recenscion, with the exclusion of Gandhara in the Arohana, is a derivative of the Kharaharapriya mela and is duly confirmed by Govindacharya thus : "Durbaru ragah sanjaato melaat Kharaharapriyaat".

This raga is unique to the extent that it exhibits a federal swara-structure. Each swara has its role, purpose and effect. Yet limitations are imposed on the swaras and on certain occasions, importance is also diminutised. The raga-chhaya swaras, are Nishada and Gandhara. The aesthetical appeal of this raga can be visualised through the elongated usage in the Avarohana. In contrast, in the Arohana, these two swaras appear with tremolo and a slightly modified musical visage.

The Chatusruti Rishabha is a significant note, that can assert on its own. However it is always linked with Gandhara or Madhyama, to play a subservient role. The hallmark of this raga, "ga-ga-ri-sa" indicates this factor. Another view is that this phrase can be eschewed completely, giving dominance to "ma-ri-ma-ri" or  "ri-ma-ri-ma".The Sadharana Gandhara is not a strong note. Sometimes it is emphasised, sometimes not. Here, we have to quote Subbarama Dikshitar, who cites the Gandhara swara of this raga as an example of "Alpatwa" in “Bahutwa”, i.e., minority in a majority. Rishabha cannot be oscillated in this raga. Nishada is a kampita swara in this raga. Chatusruti Dhaivata always appears to be in a state of relativity with Nishada and appears most comfortable when sandwiched between Nishada. Deergha Prayoga of Dhaivata has to be avoided as it could lead to nuances of raga Nayaki. An interesting feature of this raga is that limitations have been imposed on the Gandhara and Dhaivata swaras in that, they can never function as Graha or as Nyasa swaras. Au-contraire, combination of Rishabha-Panchama as "ri-pa" or "pa-ra" does not dilute the aesthetic value. From what was stated above, some may erroneously construe bifurcation of swaras into two sectors. This raga does not have distinctive poorvanga or uttaranga and presents only a synthesised homogenous picture. This is caused by the quiet but active Madhayama swara, the middle-man. Can you now perceive as to what is meant by the federal structure of swaras, found in this raga?

The impact on Tyagaraja has been profound, as portrayed by the variegated musical and musicological fare found in his compositions, ten in number. As this raga is enriched with dual-felicity, it lends itself suitably for both medium-tempo and slow-tempo compositions. Undoubtedly, the most popular composition is the racy paced "Yochana Kamalalochana" by Tyagaraja. Attenuation of speed homogenised yet with medium tempo can be seen in Tyagaraja’s "Aparadhamula". A corollary, a further step down is "Rama Abhirama". We also have the Vilamba-kala compositions "Mundu venuga" and "Narada Guruswami". An interesting factor worth notice, in Tyagaraja’s compositions is that with the solitary exception of "Aparaadhamula", equal emphasis is there on Misra Chapu Tala (4 songs) and Adi Tala (5 songs) - with more usage of Adi Tala in Vilamba-Kala compositions. Misra Chapu tala is ideal for medium-pace; so proves Tyagaraja. The exclusion of Roopaka tala by Tyagaraja, in this medium-pace oriented raga is a matter for thought.

Some compositions of Tyagaraja are going towards obscurity. "Ramalobhamela Nannu" and "Edi nee bahubala" are seldom heard. "Paripalaya maam Kodandapane" and "Ela teliyaro Rama” are virtually extinct. 

The repertoire in this raga is quantitatively adequate and qualitatively sublime. Vina Kuppayyar’s Varnam is often rendered by artistes. The complex but intellectually stimulating Ata-Tala Varnam "Inta Modiye vaaniki" by Subbarama Dikshitar is of a different genre. If one recalls the fact that Subbarama Dikshitar was only seventeen years of age when he composed that Varnam, one can evaluate the then-latent genius.

Krishnaswamy Ayya’s "Itlundaraadu" and "Pahimaam Baalakumara" are commendable compositions. We have compositions by Tirupati Narayanaswami, Papanasam Sivan and contemporary composers, as well. Baluswami’s praise of Venkatesa Ettendra is found in a Narastuti "Rajasikhamani ninne". "Meena Nayana" by Subbaraya Sastri deserves special mention. 

Venkatamakhi’s adherents adopted a divergent concept of this raga, right from start. The divergence is clearly seen in the two compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar - "Tyagaraajad Anyam" and "Haalaasyanatham". Finite nuances of raga Kanada are evident in these compositions. In the Dikshitar school, there is no raga Kanada and their Karnataka Kapi is the equivalent raga.

Delving into raga Karnataka Kapi, Syama Sastri’s "Akhilandeswari" proves its proximity to raga Durbar. Karnataka Kapi was the ancient raga, now extinct. Musical cannibalisation is not unknown - the way Bilahari ate up Soolini or Tilang gobbled Samanta. Some traditions hold that even Tyagaraja had composed in raga Karnataka Kapi and when this raga went out of vogue, there was a division of compositional assets. "Meevalla" and "Intasowkhya" were hijacked by tunesmiths to Hindustani Kapi. The composition, "Nityaroopa", originally in Karnataka Kapi, got endowed to raga Darbar.

Durbar is a yuppie - young, upcoming, enterprising raga - whose popularity will remain staid and steady even in times to come.


Composition Tala Composer
Chalamela (Varnam) Adi Tiruvottriyur Tyagayyar
Inta modi (Varnam) Adi Subbarama Dikshitar
Dari teliyaka (Varnam) Khanda Ata Patnam Subramanya Iyer
Tyagarajad anyam Adi Muthuswami Dikshitar
Halasyanatham Adi Muthuswami Dikshitar
Rajasikhamani Adi Baluswami Dikshitar
Yochana Adi Tyagaraja
Munduvenuga Adi Tyagaraja
Aparadhamula Khanda Chapu Tyagaraja
Ramabhirama (Divyanama) Misra Chapu Tyagaraja
Ela teliyalero Misra Chapu Tyagaraja
Idi nee bahubala Adi Tyagaraja
Rama lobhamela Adi Tyagaraja
Paripalayamam Misra Chapu Tyagaraja
Endundi Misra Chapu Tyagaraja
Palayasada Adi Swati Tirunal
Saure vitara kusalam Adi Swati Tirunal
Smara manasa Roopaka Swati Tirunal
Palanai purivathor Adi Papanasam Sivan
Namam uravullolam Adi Papanasam
Jwala jihve Adi Muthaiah Bhagavatar
Sarasu rammanave Eka Pallavi Sesha Iyer
Meena nayana Roopaka Subbaraya Sastri
Nive dikkani Adi Vina Kuppayyar
Nera nammitira Roopaka Vina Kuppayyar
Tillai veliyile Adi Gopalakrishna Bharati
Virutaasanammade - Gopalakrishna Bharati
Neeve Nannu Khanda Chapu Walajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar
Pahi mam balakumara Roopaka Krishnaswamy Ayya
Enta Vdina Misra Chapu Chengalvaraya Sastri
Momu joopu Roopaka Tirupati Narayanaswamy
Inimel aayinum Misra Chapu Ramaswamy Sivan
Sivan varuvar Adi Neelakanta Sivan
Ajureswara kelum - Neelakanta Sivan
Ennadidu kripai - Neelakanta Sivan
Kadaikkan parayya Roopaka Neelakanta Sivan
Namo namo paradeva Misra Chapu Neelakanta Sivan
Rajanai tazhuvai Roopaka Neelakanta Sivan
Natha irangalagada Adi Lakshmana Pillai
Parimala natha Adi Ghanam Krishna Iyer
Cherullul mayakkam Adi Ghanam Krishna Iyer
Vadivel Muruga Tisra Triputa Kavikunjara Bharati
Melminulluthai Roopaka Kavikunjara Bharati
Sri Venugopaladeva Khanda Chapu Koteeswara Iyer
En manam pole Adi Periyasami Tooran
Ennai azhiya Tisra Triputa Vedanayakam Pillai
Oho kalane Adi Vedanayakam Pillai
Itanavu nambalu beda Adi Purandaradasa
Odi yolivadeno Adi Ambujam Krishna
Anubhavikkada Misra Chapu Achyuta Dasa
Chelanaye (Padam) - Kshetragna
Yelagunandanu (Javali) Roopaka Pattabhiramayya

Note: The kriti “Nityaroopa” of Tyagaraja is classified under Kapi in “Spiritual heritage of Tyagaraja”, but Rangaramanuja Ayyangar’s Krithimani Malai labels it under Durbar.

List Compiled by PP Narayanaswamy, Canada


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