A REPORT ON THE
RAGANUBHAVA SESSION ON NATAKURINJI:
Introduction (Dr. V V Srivatsa): The word Kurinji can be interpreted in
Sanskrit as "land". In Tamil literature, there is reference to five types of
lands, one of which is Kurinji, signifying mountainous regions. Was this raga one of the
Kurinji region? A distinction has to be made between Kuranji and Kurinji. There is no
musically equivalent raga in the Pann system. Hence, it cannot be the music of the
mountains. This raga has not been extensively used in dance and cannot be said to be a
tune adding aesthetic value to dance.
There is no reference to this raga in ancient treatises like Sangeeta Makaranda
or Sangeeta Ratnakara. References in Chaturdandi Prakasika are found
only in the supplement, (anubandha), which is antedated to the original version.
The first concrete reference is found in Sangeeta Saramrita of Tulaja, where it
is referred to as a janya raga of the Kambhoji mela. Saramrita dates to 1735 AD.
The presence of a kriti by Pallavi Gopala Iyer proves that it was in vogue in the
Historical Background (Dr. N Ramanathan): Concurring with the
introductory remarks made earlier, Dr. N Ramanathan opined that Natakurinji is a raga
which established itself only in the pre-Trinity period. He referred to an isolated view
expressed that the Pann Nattapadai referred to Natakurinji and not to Nata and felt that
this view remained inadequately substantiated.
Pointing out the structural diversity expressed by musicologists, Dr. Ramanathan was
critical of the usage of the Panchama swara and pointed out that this swara is freely used
in the Dikshitar school, and that too, with emphasis. Dr. Ramanathan was critical of the
Panchama usage and pointed out that Govindacharya clearly referred to the absence of
Panchama in both the Arohana and the Avarohana. He also pointed out liberties taken by
performing artistes in the rendition of alapana and played an audio extract to
substantiate his view. He favoured the Shadava-Audava structure.
Manodharma (P S Narayanaswamy): Apparent differences on the structural
format, lends ample scope for manodharma - this was the stance taken by P S Narayanaswamy.
The essence was amelioration of aesthetic value, which was the ultimate objective. Citing
the ni-da-ni-pa-da-ni-sa movement, he opined that there was melodic beauty in
it. Similarly, the sa-ma-ga-ma was a special movement, quite welcome, which,
however did not negate the value of sa-ri-ga-ma. He said that Natakurinji does
offer adequate scope for exposition and improvisation and that it is a raga which shines
mainly in the Madhya and Tara sthayis. Even the usage of ri-ga-ma-ri-sa in the
Tara sthayi was sweet and so was the prayoga ga-ma-ri-sa. He further added
that this raga affords plenty of scope for Tanam-rendition and was suited for both medium
and slow tempos, although composers appear to have preferred the medium tempo. (P S
Narayanaswamy rendered a few passages demonstrating the scope of manodharma in
Anuswaras, Gamakas and Allied ragas (Dr. Sriram Parasuram): Embellishment
of a raga depends on two factors - the choice of the note to be emphasised and the
duration of emphasis. The duration of emphasis conditioned the choice of the Anuswara and
gamaka. Further, the pace of rendition also conditioned the extent of usage. If the
objective is to give a musical-gliding effect, the choice gets limited further. Dr. Sriram
Parasuram was of the view that composers generally favoured a racy-pace, as can be
visualised from the preponderance of Roopaka tala in compositions. He said that in this
raga, notes should not be over-extended as they mar the beauty. The Rishabha, Gandhara and
Madhyama scenario shows pitch-proximate. There is occasional variance in the level of the
madhyama, which is very marginal. The role of the anuswaras are finite and not faint. The
lakshana of the raga is conducive to jaru and pratyahata Gamakas.
Speaking on allied ragas, he felt that the "sa-ma-ga-ma movement reminds
listeners of raga Khamas. He also agreed that raga Ravichandrika was a proximate raga. The
Hindustani raga, Ragesri, did bear resemblance despite the pakkads being different, he
Compositions (Suguna Varadachari): Suguna Varadachari drew the attention
of the audience to the fact that there were atleast eight Varnams in this raga,
obliterating the mistaken impression of the public on the singularity of the Varnam Chalamela.
One of the Varnams was totally devoid of Panchama, she said, (and rendered) which was in
concurrence with the views expressed earlier by Dr. Ramanathan. She rendered excerpts from
most of the Varnams.
Among the kritis mentioned by her were Pallavi Gopala Iyers Needumoorti,
Tyagarajas Manasu Vishaya Nata and Kuvalayadala;
Dikshitars Gajadeeshad and Budhamasayami;
Syama Sastris Mayamma, Vina Kuppayyars Matalada
and one rescission of Gopalakrishna Bharatis Vazhi
maraitirukkudu. She also referred to Swati Tirunals composition Mamava
Sada. She pointed out that the phrase ga-ma-ri-sa in the Tara
sthayi, found in one of the Varnams, was also present in the kriti Mayamma
by Syama Sastri.
NOTES ON RAGA NATAKURINJI BY V V SRIVATSA:
The aesthetic appeal of raga Natakurinji is of a high order. The name remains an enigma.
Note that in Nata, though generally written with one a the
pronunciation, in practice, is Deergha (elongated). This rules out any special links
between dance and this raga. The second factor is whether it is Kurinji or
Kuranji. The origin and historical background of this raga is clear enough to
prove, sans doubt, that it did not exist in the period of Pann evolution. Hence, it could
not have been the raga of the State, of one of the five forms of geographic types of land
called Kurinji. There is no evidence to prove usage of this raga in Tevaram
traditions; there is no equivalent Pann. If the name is styled as Kuranji it
can be interpreted as something that promotes ranjakatva (aesthetic
value), which is undeniable. The extent of usage of this raga in Bharatanatyam is limited.
Even Tamarum amarum, a Tiruppugazh tuned in this raga, modified to
serve as Alarippu (the opening piece in Bharatanatyam), is of very recent origin. As
stated earlier, Nata is pronounced with an elongated a after Na.
Thus, we can call this a raga with an enigmatic name.
The structure of this raga is non-standardised and divergent, but not enigmatic. This raga
does not have an ancient historical background - in the absence of treatise from Sangeeta
Makaranda onwards to Sangeeta Ratnakara. There is mention of this raga only
in the supplementary compendium of the Chaturdandi Prakasika. The absence of
reference in Ramamatyas Swaramela Kalanidhi and Somanathas Raga
Vibhodha prove that it was not in vogue in medieval times too. The reference in the Lakshana
supplement of Chaturdandi Prakasika makes it a raga which at best, could have
orginated in the 17th century AD. References to this raga, by Govindacharya, in Sangraha
Choodamani as Arohe pa varjita, Avarohe ri pa varjita, indicates
that this raga was of pre-Trinity times and was a Shadava-audava raga. Tulajas
reference, also as a Panchama-varja raga, dates it prior to 1735 AD. Pallavi Gopala Iyer's
composition in this raga confirms the pre-Trinity genesis. So, this is a raga, is at best,
about three hundred years old. It is a raga beyond an incipient stage, on the verge of the
termination of development, yet remaining to date, non-standardised, in structural terms.
Govindacharya calls it a derivative of the Harikambhoji mela while Tulajaji calls it a
derivative of Kambhoji mela. Tulaja hints at a Shadava-Shadava structure, Govindacharya
gives a Shadava-Audava structure. Subbarama Dikshitar portrays a Sampoorna-Audava
structure. Nadamuni Pandita deems it to be Sampoorna-Audava and K V Srinivasa Iyengar
visualises it as Sampoorna-Shadava. Hence, there is apparently, a lack of uniformity, if
not a lack of standardisation.
As a janya raga of Kambhoji mela, the constituent swaras are Chatusruti Rishabha, Antara
Gandhara, Suddha Madhyama, Chatusruti Daivata and Kaisika Nishada. Natakurinji does not
have a background of folk music and is not a Desiya raga. It is wholly indigenous to
Carnatic music. The semblance between raga Ragesri of the Hindustani system and raga
Natakurinji is to say the least, distant. This raga affords ample scope for Tana rendition
and is yet not recognised as a Ghana raga. Adequate explanation for this raga being
branded as a Bhashanga raga is not given in musicological works. It is more a
performance-oriented raga and does not restrict the creativity or manodharma of the
performer. It certainly is swara-oriented and this results in the presence of many Varnams
in this raga.
It is one of the select 28 ragas in which we have composition of each member of the
Carnatic music Trinity. Tyagarajas Manasu Vishaya is reasonably
well known but his Kuvalayadala is rarely rendered. Muthuswami
Dikshitars Budhamasrayami is one of the Vara kritis, dedicated
to the graha Budha and is perhaps, the best-known composition in this raga. Other
compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar are Gajadeesad anyam, Parvati
Kumaram and a medium-paced Balambikayai. Syama
Sastris Mayamma is adorned with delectable swara and
We have to recall the fact that Pallavi Gopala Iyers Needumoorti
is of pre-Trinity vintage. In the post-Trinity period, we have compositions like Vina
Kuppayyars Matalada and Subbarama Dikshitars Tripurasundari.
There is a kriti, Raghuraman ascribed to Oothukadu Venkata Kavi,
which is virtually unknown. Swati Tirunals popular composition Mamava sada
varade is in addition to the less known Pahi Janani by
him. Recent compositions are Enta ninne by Mysore Vasudevachar and
Kolam kana vareer by Ambujam Krishna. The mention of Gopalakrishna
Bharatis Vazhimaraitirukkudu has to be cursory, as there are
versions of that composition in other ragas too. A song dedicated to Swami
Vivekananda in this raga, is Mahishanti moortim. There are two
compositions of anonymous authorship, Kamalasana (perhaps Subbaraya
Sastri but his mudra, Kumara is not found) and Ketumbhajeham.
Needless to state, this raga is a favourite of performers for Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi.
Though not in sequential order, mention must be made of the unique Pada-Tana Varnam by the
Karvetinagar brothers, which is unique by virtue of the presence of jatis for
muktayai-swaras, in the Charana passage.
The repertoire of compositions in this raga is adequate but not massive. The limitation
can be traced to the relatively recent origin. This raga has crossed the embryonic stage
long back, but lacks a unified format, as the lakshya is still in a state of development.
It is a dynamic raga with exponential potential and will continue to provide melodic
satisfaction to rasikas, even in times to come.
The problem of Panchama:
Natakurinji is not just multi-faceted, but has multiple versions as well. The concepts of
contemporary musicologists have been widely divergent. At the outset, we must state that
the consensus view is that this is a lakshya-oriented raga. The structural prescription
has to emerge from performance.
Tulaja was the first, in chronological sequence, to mention this raga. He stated:
Asya aarohasya avarohayoho
Raktilaabhaaya kwachit panchamam aagachhati
Normally, the ascending and descending scales
are devoid of Panchama, but sometimes it is present to enhance the beauty of the raga. So
there is no need to inculcate an aversion to the version with the Panchama swara. Such a
phenomenon exists in respect of raga Bagesri too, where both versions are accepted without
much ado. Unfortunately, there is unwarranted hullabaloo about the dual versions of raga
Natakurinji. The Sloka found in the appendix of the Chaturdandi Prakasika says:
Pa ri varjya avarohetu raago
Shadja graha samyuktaa, gaayate lakshyavedibhi
The reference to gaayate
lakshyavedibhi assumes importance. Freedom is given to the performer, to render
this raga as per his concept, which, per se, could include or exclude panchama. No crime
is committed if it is included. Govindacharya was a staunch protagonist for the exclusion
of panchama. As one swallow does not make a spring, Govindacharyas view is not a hukumnama
The chittaswara passage of Pallavi Gopala Iyers Needumoorti has
phrases like ga-ma-pa-ga-ri-sa and sa-ni-da-pa-da-ni, which shows
that in the pre-Trinity period, there was no bar to the inclusion of Panchama. Tulaja also
permits pa-da and "sa-da-pa-ma. We find a sanchara in the Pada-Tana
Varnam of Karvetinagar brothers, da-sa-sa-ni-da-ni-pa. What does this
indicate? This is left to inference. Subbarama Dikshitar refers to
ni-da-ni-pa-ni-da-ni-sa as archaic but admissible. As visesha prayoga-s
(special usages), Subbarama Dikshitar cites sa-sa-ni-da-ni-pa-da-sa and
ma-pa-ga-sa. So there are visesha prayogas with Panchama.
Nadamuni Pandita is in favour of sa-ri-ga-ma-da-ni-pa-da-ni-sa as the arohana
but excludes Panchama in the avarohana. In Gana Bhaskaram, we find
the arohana as sa-ri-ga-ma-ni-da-ni-pa-da-ni-sa, which includes Panchama.
Historigraphic analysis shows that the usage of Panchama by the Dikshitar school is
limited. The lakshya-orientation of this raga allows them the liberty to stress, if so
The conceptual blinker of considering a raga as a scale, combined with accent on one
swara, is the cause for aberrated, yet unwarranted pontification on the admissibility or
otherwise, of Panchama in raga Natakurinji. The majority view is in favour of incluing
Panchama. If it were not there, there would be finite nuances of raga Sriranjani in this
raga. Hence, the presence of Panchama is not only admissible but also desirable.
SELECT COMPOSITIONS IN NATAKURINJI
||Patnam Subramanya Iye
|Pahi janani santatam
||Patnam Subramanya Iyer
||Oothukadu Venkata Kavi
||Ramnad Srinivasa Iyengar
||G N Balasubramanyam
||Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer