|A REPORT ON THE RAGANUBHAVA SESSION ON
DURBAR, HELD ON 9TH JULY 2000:
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
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".
Tyagarajas 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. Dikshitars 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 Sastris "Akhilandeshwari" has positive
nuances of raga Durbar. Dikshitars 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"
ANECDOTES ON RAGA DURBAR:
- 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 Tyagarajas "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"!
- Dikshitars 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 Bharatis 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 Ramas 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?
NOTES ON DURBAR BY DR. V V SRIVATSA:
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 Dikshitars 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 Tyagarajas "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 Tyagarajas 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
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
The repertoire in this raga is quantitatively adequate and qualitatively sublime. Vina
Kuppayyars 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
Krishnaswamy Ayyas "Itlundaraadu" and "Pahimaam
Baalakumara" are commendable compositions. We have compositions by Tirupati
Narayanaswami, Papanasam Sivan and contemporary composers, as well. Baluswamis
praise of Venkatesa Ettendra is found in a Narastuti "Rajasikhamani ninne".
"Meena Nayana" by Subbaraya Sastri deserves special mention.
Venkatamakhis 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 Sastris "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
Durbar is a yuppie - young, upcoming, enterprising raga - whose popularity will remain
staid and steady even in times to come.
COMPOSITIONS IN DURBAR
|Inta modi (Varnam)
|Dari teliyaka (Varnam)
||Patnam Subramanya Iyer
|Idi nee bahubala
|Saure vitara kusalam
||Pallavi Sesha Iyer
||Walajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar
|Pahi mam balakumara
|Namo namo paradeva
||Ghanam Krishna Iyer
||Ghanam Krishna Iyer
|En manam pole
|Itanavu nambalu beda
Note: The kriti Nityaroopa
of Tyagaraja is classified under Kapi in Spiritual heritage of Tyagaraja,
but Rangaramanuja Ayyangars Krithimani Malai labels it under Durbar.
List Compiled by PP Narayanaswamy, Canada