An appreciation by Dr. P. P. Narayanaswami

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Appropriately named for its beauty, rAgam MOHANAM is a very pleasing and enchanting pentatonic scale, that captures the mind of every listener.  It is a janyam of mELam 28, harikAMbhOji.  But the scale of mOhanam also fits into mELams: dhIrasha”nkarAbharaNam (29), vAcaspati (64), or mEcakalyANi (65).  There is endless debate on whether the parent scale should harikambhOji or kalyAni!


ArOhaNam:                  s r g p d s*        (S R2 G3 P D2 S)

AvarOhaNam:              s* d p g r s        (S D2 P G3 R2 S)

·       An auDava – auDava rAgam (5 - 5) - The notes “ma” and “ni” are absent in both ArOhaNam and avarOhaNam.  Svarams taken are: SaDjam, catushruti .rSabham, antara gAndhAram, pa~ncamam,  and catushruti dhaivatam. Thus, the mnemonic scale is sa ri gu pa dhi.

·      It is a sarva svara gamaka vArikA rakti rAgam – in which all svarams can be rendered with gamakam. Especially, the notes ri, ga, dha can be oscillated, and gamakams on these notes add beauty to this rAgam.

·      rAga chAyA svarams/jIva svarams:  ri, ga, dha

·      amsha svarams ga and pa

·      graha svarams : ga, pa dha

·      jhaNTa svara prayOgams  (gg pp dd ss), and dhATu svara prayOgams  (d  g r s d p;  d r s d p;  g d p g r; r p g r s)  bring out the melodic beauty of  mOhanam

·      A sarva svara mUrccanakAraka rAgam.  All the four notes ri, ga, pa, dha admit graha bhEdam (modal shift of tonic).  The ri, ga, pa, dha mUrccanas of mOhanam result in rAgams madhyamAvati, hindOLam, shuddha sAvEri and udayaravicandrika, respectively.

·      A rAgam with symmetrical tetrachords.

·      A rAgam that gives ample scope for a detailed AlApana. Lengthy AlApana in nAdasvaram instrument during weddings is a real treat. It is a rAgam suitable for portraying a vivid description (varNanam)

·      Suitable for singing at all times, but the night time is best suited for this rAgam.

·      mOhanam is featured in operas and dance dramas.

·      An auspicious, trishAyI rAgam, invariably featured in most concerts. This rAgam fits into any segment of the concert, in any category, whether it is a varNam, a weighty k.ti, a  detailed pallavi exposition, a rAgamalika, a viruttam, shlOkam, jAvaLi, or tillANa.  There is even a ma”ngaLam in mOhanam composed by tyAgarAja as the conclusion of his opera – pahLAda bhakti vijayam.

·      Compositions usually commence in the notes  sa, ga, or dha.

·      The ancient name of mOhanam is “rEgupti” or “raghupati”.

·      The rAgam was also known as “mullattImbavani” in tamil paNN music

·      mOhanam basically portrays vIra rasam.  However, a wide range of emotions can be invoked with this rAgam. The song  "nanu pAlimpa" of saint tyAgarAja radiates love in a leisurely pace.  There is kAruNyam also here. Again, a sense of majesty is conveyed in the lines describing the grandeur of Lord rAma.  On the other hand, the tyAgarAja k.rti "evarUra ninnuvinA" seems to portray a resolute attitude!

Historically speaking, mOhanam is perhaps the oldest rAgam known to mankind. Dr. S. Ramanathan's doctoral dissertation on the music in shilappadikAram mentions that it is one of the most ancient paNNs  Notes figuring in mOhanam are the earliest notes met in the cycle of fifths (sa – pa series), that is, sa – pa; pa – ri; ri – dha; dha –ga. This pentatonic scale is, therefore,  found in the music of various nations, including primitive tribes.  Ancient chinese, japanese, hungarian, swedish, and gypsy music all have traces of  mOhanam.

Compositions of all types, heavy, as well as light, exist in this rAgam. Most composers have contributed generously to mOhanam.  Among the trinity, muttusvAmi dIkSitar has six k.rtis, and all of them bear the rAga mudra for mOhanam (an easy and captivating phrase!). The k.rti “gOpikA manOharam” attributed to dIkSitar, has been viewed as a spurious k.rti.  Saint tyAgaraja has 11 compositions, that include the immortal classic, “nanu paliMpa”.  Strangely, we do not have any composition in mOhanam by shyAma shAstri. PApanAsham shivan’s “kApAli”, mysore vAsudEvAcariar’s “rA rA rAjIvalOcana” , and aruNAcala kavi’s “En paLLi koNDIrayya” are some of the popular compositions that depict the grandeur of mOhanam.  There are plenty of tEvAram, and tiruvAcakam songs in this rAgam.  The 16th day rendition of the tiruppAvai verse, “nAyakanAy ninRa nandagOpan” is sung in mOhanam.  The cine world has also contributed large number of film songs in mOhanam. 

mOhanam was regarded as a property of the maharAjapuram school. Both maharAjapuram VishvanAtha Iyer, and his son Santhanam excelled in detailed portrayal, and have carved out exquisite renditions of mOhanam.  The k.rti “gOpikA manOharam bhajEham” (mis)attributed to dIkSitar was often rendered by SantAnam. The tyAgaraja k.rti, “mOhana rAma”, and the papanAsham shivan song, ‘kApali” were favorites of Madurai Mani Iyer.  AriyakkuDi  frequently elaborated the dIkSitar k.rti “rAjagOpAlam”. M.S. Subbalakshmi used to render “nArAyaNa divyanAmam” of pApanAsham shivan, often preceded by a beautiful viruttam in tamil.  MLV often rendered “rA rA rAjIvalOcana”, and “En paLLi konTIrayya”.  Balamuralikrishna’s vinyl EP of the earlier days captures the essence of “nanu pAlimpa”.  The varNam, ‘kapAlIshvaram” by ambi dIkSitar, and the muttusvAmi dIkSitar k.rti, ‘kAdambarIpriyAyai”  were popularized by the  D. K. Pattammal and D.K. Jayaraman

AsaMpUrNa scheme

In the asaMpUrNa scheme,  vE”nkaTamakhi places mOhanam as a bhASA”nga janyam of the rAgA”nga rAgam (mELam) 65, shAnta kalyANi.


auDavO mOhanO rAgaH sa grahaH sArvakALikaH |

                                            anubandham of caturdaNDi prakAshika

lakSaNa details:- bhASA”ngam; auDavam; madhyama niSAda varjyam; Sadja graham;  suitable for singing at all times.  The notes ga, dha, and ri are both the jIva svarams as well as nyAsa svarams, that add much delight (ra~njakatvam)

Sa”ngIta sampradAya pradarshini gives the following compositions in mOhanam:

a lakSyA gItam by vE”nkaTamakhi, “shrI kaliyuga vE”nkaTEshu rE re” in dhruva rUpaka tALam; the k.rtis “narasimha Agacca” (mishra jAti Ekam) by muttusvAmi dIkSitar; the kIrtanam “ramAvarAya ratnavibhUSANa ra~njitAya” in Adi tAlam by lakSmIkAnta mahArAju; a padam, “inti cakkadana” by kavi mAt.rbhUtayyA; a tAna varNam “sa ri gA dhA ni” in Adi by gOvindasAmi; another tAna varNam, “ sarasijAkSi” by vINa kuppayyar, and concludes as usual, with a sa~ncAri by the author subbarAma dIkSitar..

nanu pAliMpa episode

It is said that when Saint tyAgaraja’s daughter was getting married, his prime disciple wAlAjApETTai ve”nkaTaramaNa bhAgavatar  walked all the way from his village to tiruvaiyARu to attend the  wedding.  He brought with him a life-size picture, depicting the shrIrAma paTTAbhiSekam to be presented to his guru on this auspicious occasion. Upon receiving the gift, tyAgarAja  was very much moved, and spontaneously poured out the song  "nanu pAlimpa naDacivaccitivO" (Did You come walking, to protect me). Musicologist, painter, S. Rajam has beautifully captured this moment,  with a brilliant picture of tyAgarAja kneeling down, holding the portrait that his disciple had brought, with part of shrI rAma's gigantic body seen in the background!

hindustAni bhUp

HindustAni rag “bhUp”, or bhUpali (not to be confused with bhUpAla) resemble mOhanam

RAg bhUp is placed under kalyAN thaTh (mEcakalyANi) and is sung at the first prAhAra of night. It is very popular in hindusthAni music. Vadi is “ga” and samvadi is “dha”. Notes “ga” and “pa” are vishrAnti notes. Jugal bandhis featuring hindusthAni rAg bhUp and karNAtak rAgam mOhanam are very common. Rag dESkAr, and the less popular jeth kalyAN  (jayat kalyAN)  resemble mOhanam

Selected Compositions in mOhanam


vara vINA, rUpakam

lakSya gItam

shrI kaliyuga vE”nkaTEshu rE re, dhruva rUpakam (vE”nkaTamakhi)


ninnu kOri, Adi (rAmnaD shrInivasayya”ngAr)

ninnE kOrinatira, Adi (pallavi doraisvAmi Iyer)

kapAlIshvaram bhajEham, Adi (ambi dIkSitar)

sarasijAkSi, aTa (vINa kuppayyar)

pada varnam

sarigA dAni, Adi (kArvETRa”ngar gOvindasAmayya)


sAmI dayamEra , Adi (?)


kAdambarIpriyAyai, mishra cApu (muttusvAmi dIkSitar)

narasimha Agacca, mishra cApu (muttusvAmi dIkSitar)

nAgali”ngam namAmi satatam, Adi (muttusvAmi dIkSitar)

pAhi mAm pArvatI parameshvarI, rUpakam (muttusvAmi dIkSitar)

rakta gaNapatiM bhajEham, Adi (muttusvAmi dIkSitar)

rAjagOIpalam bhajEham, rUpakam (muttusvAmi dIkSitar)

gOpika manOharam bhajEham , Adi  (mis-attributed to muttusvAmi dIkSitar ?)

endukO baga teliyadu, Adi  (tyAgarAja)

nannu pAlimpa, Adi (tyAgarAja)

bhavanuta nA h.rdayamuna, Adi(tyAgarAja)

mATi mATiki delpa, mishra cApu(tyAgarAja)

mOhana rAmA, Adi (tyAgarAja)

rAma ninunammina varamu, Adi (tyAgarAja)

evarUrA ninnuvinA , mishra capu (tyAgarAja) – divyanAma kIrttanam

rama rAma ramayani nanta, mishrta cApu (tyAgarAja) – divyanama kIrttanam

vEdavAkyamani, mishra cApu(tyAgarAja) – nauka caritram

dayarAni, Adi/khaNDa cApu  (tyAgarAja) – prahLAda bhakti vijayam opera

jaya ma”nhgaLam, khaNDa cApu (tyAgarAja) – prahLAda bhakti vijayam opera

cintayE shrI padmanAbham, mishra cApu (svAti tirunAL)

k.rpAkaTAkSam kartuM mayi,  adi (svAti tirunAL)

mOhanaM tava vapurayi, Adi (svAti tirunAL)

pa”nkajanAbhOtsvAghOSa, misha cApu (svAti tirunAL) (First day utsava prabandham)

paripahi mAM n.rharE murArE , mishra capu (svAti tirunAL)

sevE shrI padmanAbhamanisham, jhampa (svAti tirunAL)

ADInamaTTukkuM nI ADaDA, Adi  (UttukkADu ve”nkaATa kavi)

alaivai pazham udirum shOlai, Adi  (UttukkADu ve”nkaATa kavi)

illai illai illaiyammA, Adi  (UttukkADu ve”nkaATa kavi)

jaganmOhana sundara”nga, Adi  (UttukkADu ve”nkaATa kavi)

nalattanamAy sholli, Adi  (UttukkADu ve”nkaATa kavi)

nIlavaNNa kaNNanukkum, Adi  (UttukkADu ve”nkaATa kavi)

pESha kELIrO e”ngaL piLLai, Adi  (UttukkADu ve”nkaATa kavi)

shamattu kkuTTiyaDi e”ngaL gOPAlan, Adi  (UttukkADu ve”nkaATa kavi)

svAgatam k.rSNA (UttukkADu ve”nkaTa kavi)

svAmI umakku namaskAram, Adi  (UttukkADu ve”nkaATa kavi)

En paLLl koNDIrayyA, Adi (aruNAcala kavi)

avatAram seydiDu, Adi (aruNAcala kavi)

rAmanai ttaruvAy, rUpakam (aruNAcala kavi)

kApAlI, Adi (pApanAsham shivan)

nArayaAna divyanAmam, Adi (pApanAsham shivan)

saundarya veLLam kaNDEN, Adi (pApanAsham shivan)

mayil vahanA, Adi  (pApanAsham shivan)

mOhana sh.r”ngAra, Adi (pApanAsham shivan)

rA rA rAjIvalocana , Adi (mysore vAsudeEvAcAriar)

shrIramA ramaNimanOhara, Adi (pallavi gOpAlay iyer)

shrIpura nivAsini, rUpakam (pallavi gOpAla iyer)

A~njanEya paripalaya mAM, Adi (margadarshi shESayya”ngAr)

cEri yashOdaku, Adi (annamAcArya)

bhadrakaLi namOstu tE, adi (muttayyA bhAgavatar)

manamOhana, aTa (muttayyA bhagavatar)

vAmadEva mahAnubhAva, Adi (muttayyA bhagavatar)

sadA pALaya,  Adi (G.N.Balasubramaniam)

bhuvanatraya sammOhanakara shAstAram, Adi (G.N.Balasubramaniam)

kaNDu kaNDu nIyenda, jhampa (purandaradAsa)

mella mellanE bandenE, Adi (purandaradAsa)

maruvaku daya, Adi (garbhapuri - karUr dakSiNAmUrti shAstri)

pedda dEvuDani, Adi (mysUr sadAshiva rAo)

arumarundoru tani, rUpakam (muttittANDavar)

sannidhi kaNDu koNDEN, capu (kaviku~njara bhArati)

ettanai shonnalum shummA , cApu (madhurakavi bhArati)

nahi rE nahi sha”nka, Adi (sadashiva brahmEndra)


kSEmam kuru gOpAla,  mishra capu (nArAyaNa tIrtha)

pallaki sEvA prabandham

etulA remmanandu, cApu (SahAji maharAja)


inti cakkadana, Adi  (kavi mAt.rbhUtayyA)

velagadurA, tripuTa (kSEtraj~na)

paradEshamuna, Adi (kSEtraj~na)

gadura gatiyakai, jhampa (kSEtraj~na)


mOhamella delisenu, rUpakam (pattAbhirAmayyA)


dhIm dhIm  kiTataka,  Adi (muttayA bhAgavatar)

pallavi lines

mOhanam is a popular candidate for brilliant  rAgam tAnam pallavi expositions. I recall an exquisite pallavi in mOhanam rendered by T.V.Shankaranarayanan in College Park, Maryland (April 1976), whose sAhityam has many svarAkSrams – “sariga dhaivamukha dA sadA pada sarOja nera nammiti”.

A dvi tALa pallavi (a pallavi capable of being rendered in two different tALams) in mOhanam, in the tALams (I) Adi (tishra gati), and (ii) rUpakam (caturashra jAti), composed by P. SambamUrti can be found in his book,  with notations for both tAlam renditions.  The sAhityam is “ sarasijAkSa nalukora sArvabhauma”.

Famous rAgamAlika lines

A cute rAgam like mOhanam has its right place in rAgamAlika segments. Some of the popular rAgamAlika lines featuring mOhanam are:

“guruguha sammOhanakara li”ngam viri~nci viSNu rudramUrti mayam” in caturdasha rAgamalika, “shrI vishvanAtham” (muttusvami dIkSitar) – with the rAga mudra!

“kamalajAsya h.rta nigamarAshi hayagrIva” – the opening line in the dashAvatAra rAgamalika (svAti tirunAL)

“vitata daNDakAraNyaka gata virAda daLanam” in the AraNya kANDAm, rAmAyaNa rAgamalika – bhAvayAmi raghurAmam (svAti tirunAL)

“yallAvaNyamasheSa gOpagamanI nEtraika sammOhanam” in  the rAgamAlika shlOkam “kalyANI khalu”  (svAti tirunAL)

“Adishakti akhilANDEshvari nIdu pada sannuta bhaktapOSaNi pArvati muddu mOhanA”ngi”, the seventh segment of the rAgamalikA “nitya kalyANI”  by sItArAmayyA

The famous navarAgamAlika varNam, “valaci vacci” has mOhanam as one of the component rAgams.

Allied rAgam

MOhana kalyANi  is a combination of mOhanam (in the ArOhaNam) and kalyANi (in the avarOhaNam), placed under mELam 65.

ArOhaNam:                  s r g p d s*

avaraOhaNam:            *s n d p m g r s

It is a pleasing rAgam, that has recently gained popularity. It is believed to be the creation of muttayyA bhAgavatar. There are some remarkable compositions in mOhana kalyANi.


sEvE shrIkANtam, Adi  (svAti tirunAL)

bhuvanEshvariya, Adi (muttayyA bhAgavatar)

siddhivinAyakam (muttayyA bhAgavatar)

shivam v.rSabhArUDham, khaNDa cApu (muttayyA bhAgavatar)

tAmatam tagAdayyA, Adi  (lAlguDi gOpAla iyer)

tajaNu tIM ta - tillAna, Adi  (lAlguDi jayarAman)

Though the rAgam mOhana nATa bears a prefix “mOhanam”,  it is an entirely different one. It is a janyam of mELAm 9 dhEnuka (dhunibhinna SaDjam) with the scale (s g m p d p m p n s*; s* n p d p m g s).   The composition, “mOhana nATAkapriye” by muttusvAmi dIkSitar is in this rAgam.

Some other rAgams with a mOhana-prefix are: mOhanacandrika (32), mOhanadhvani (29), mOhanakaishiki (15), mOhanakura~nji (59), mOhanA”ngi ( 34), mOhanavarALi (20/34), and mOhanavAridhi (15/26). None of these have any resemblance whatsoever to mOhanam. Perhaps, some day, someone will render a pallavi in mOhanam, with these rAgams as candidates for the concluding rAgamAlikA svarams!

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