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Tamilnadu's Contribution to Carnatic Music -
A Bird's Eye-view (by B.M. Sundaram)
Source Acknowledgement: |
The following article is taken from SRUTI, India's Premier Music and Dance Magazine , Issue 132, p. 23 (1995). It was adapted from a lecture delivered by B.M. SUNDARAM at the 53rd annual festival of music and dance organized by Sri Tyagaraja Festival Committee in Tirupati. In regard to performers, the author has, with few exceptions, not mentioned the name of anyone living.
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Carnatic music means ancient or traditional music.
Every region in the South has contributed to the richness and glory of Carnatic music but each may claim only a share of the credit. 'Contribution' is a word meaning 'to give or supply in common with others to a common fund or store'; it also means 'to play a significant part in bringing about a result'. In this broader context, it can be safely stated that the many-splendoured contribution of Tanjavur to Carnatic music has played a significant role in its development.
It is generally accepted that the Tamil race and the Tamil language are of ancient origin. Assemblies called Sangams were founded to foster the Tamil language. Three such Sangams, called 'Talaicchangam' (the first Tamil Sangam), 'Idaicchangam' is the middle one and 'Kadaicchangam (the last) had poets, musicians, kings and nobles as members. But even before the first Sangam, another one with the name of Mahendramalai Tamil Sangam is said to have existed, between 16000 BC and 14550 BC. It can be inferred that, for a Sangam to be established, the language, culture and works of the land must have already been well developed by that time. From this, the antiquity and predominance of the Tamil language and people may very well be understood. Brooni, in his The Music of the World, has written: Pythagoras came to South India, learnt about the major seven scales of the Tamils, returned to Greece and reshaped the Greek musical system."
According to scholars, the first Tamil Sangam existed between 14004 BC and 9564 BC (14440 years); the second one between 6805 BC and 3105 BC (13700 years); and the third between 1715 BC and 235 BC (1480 years).
References in literary works
Almost all the literary works of the Sangam age, barring one or two, have been lost, though references to them or quotations from them are found in some later works. Agattiyam, Mudunarai, Perunkurugu, Pancha Bharateeyam and Kalariyavirai were some among the works of the first Sangam period. Tolkappiyam, the earliest available work, belongs to the second Sangam period. The available works reveal that the arts, especially music and dance, were part of the Tamils' life. References to music and dance are said to be found in all these Sangam works, though their main topics are varied. For instance, Tolkappiyam is a grammar, but speaks of music and musical instruments at numerous places. Pathu Pattu and Ettu Togai, like some other works of the third Sangam period, mention music and dance at various places.
Works on music and dance
Besides, there were works exclusively either on music or dance or on both. Indra Kaleeyam of Yamalendra, Isai Nunakkam of Sikhandi, Pancha Marabu of Arivanar, Bharata Senapatiyam of Adivayilar, Kootta Nool of Sathanar and Muraval, Sayandam, Guna Nool, Seyirriyam-- authors not known-- are examples. Pancha Marabu belonged to the third Sangam period. Adiyarkku Nallar, who wrote a commentary on Silappadikaram, has quoted extracts from verses of the Sangam works. Except for these two works, others are known only through references.
Different types of yazh (lute), palai (parent scale) and pann (comparable to the raga of the present day) are mentioned profusely in the Sangam literature. It is a common notion among some music scholars that the division of parent scales (now termed as janaka raga-s or melakarta-s) and the derivative raga-s was first spoken of by Vidyaranya in his Sangeeta Sara, with the name 'jati' for a parent scale. Although it has been quoted by King Raghunatha Nayaka in his Sangeeta Sudha, this work of Vidyaranya is not available. But, a system similar to the present melakarta, as well as Vidyaranya's 'jati', was indicated by the Tamils of the pre-Sangam age, with the term 'palai', oft-discussed and described in Sangam and post-Sangam works.
In ancient Tamil, the seven notes of the musical gamut were termed as kural, tuttam, kaikkilai, uzhai, ili, vilari and taaram. A sthayi (or an octave) was termed as mandilam. Later, say, between 200 BC and 200 AD, these notes also came to be mentioned as sa, ri, ga, etc., as in use today. The Tamils of thc Sangam age of an earlier period also identified the 12 swara-s in a scale employ the shadja-panchama or shadja-madhyama relationships. This type of relationship was called kizhamai by the Tamils. By modal shik of tonic, they devised the seven major palai-s. This graha bheda method, known as 'pannu peyarttal' was discusset in various Sangam works like Ahananooru, Madurai Kanchi and Malaipadukadam. The 'cycle of fifths' was called 'aaya palai'. By decreasing one sruti for two swara-s, 16 kinds of pann-s were derived; this method was called 'vatta palai'. Halving the sruti value in the 12 notes and creating pann-s was 'tirikona pdai'. 'Sadura palai' indicated reducing one quarter of the sruti value of the notes. The ancient Tamils also knew the method by which a scale of seven notes is made out of only five. This was the 'nertiram', which reminds us of thc saptaka that was formed with the five notes of the Saman chant.
The major seven palai-s or parent scales of the music of the ancient Tamils are: Sempalai (corresponding to the present Harikambhoji); Padumalai Palai (Natabhairavi); Sevvazhi Palai (Hanumatodi, but with both madhyama-s); Arum Palai (Dheera Sankarabharanam); Kodi Palai (Kharaharapriya); Vilari Palai (Hanumatodi); and Merchem Palai (Mecha Kalyani). From out of these, 103 pann-s (raga-s) were derived: Perumpann (sampoorna) 17; Panniyal (shadava) 70; Tiram (audava) 12; and Tirattiram (swarantaram) four. The possibility of evolving 15,456 pann-s is also spelled out. Sangeeta Ratnakara of Sarangadeva (13th century, AD) mentions some of these pann-s.
It is fortunate that Pancha Marabu, the Sangam work on music, has survived. It describes, in extenso, all aspects of music, musical instruments and dance, which were prevalent during that period. Silappadikaram of Ilango Adigal and commentaries on it have also thrown open the windows to the musical system, nomenclature and so on of the Sangam period. We get a fund of information about the music of the Tamils in these works.
It is believed that there were a number of works dealing solely with tala-s even during the Sangam age. Tala Eri and Tala Vagaiyottu are examples. Later came Chacchaputa Venba, Tala Samudram, Talakkali Venba, Adi Bharatam, Suddhananda Prakasam, etc. Pancha Marabu has separate chapters for tale and percussive instruments; the 108 tala-s are mentioned in it. It explains terms like 'vattanai' (which means avarta). Reckoning tala-s in the usi mode (syncopation) originated in Maharashtra, but was highly developed by the Harikatha artists of the Tamil soil. Insofar as tala-s are concerned, a new trail was blazed by Arunagirinathar of Mullundrum who lived in the 15th century. His hymns on Lord Subrahmanya, called Tiruppugazh (1360 of them are available), many of which are included in classical music concerts as well, are set in complicated chhanda-s and hence the tala-s have come to be known as chhanda tala-s. They are indeed very difficult to execute. The late Chittoor Subramania Pillai was a master in rendering Tiruppugazh songs in chhanda tala-s. Most concert musicians, however, render these songs in other tala-s which are simple.
Music manuscripts are plenty in the Saraswati Mahal Library. Raga elaborations have been notated and preserved in many of them, as also thousands of compositions that are yet to see the light of the day. Innumerable books on music appeared to offer maximum benefit to musicians, students and researchers. Natanadi Vadya Ranjanam of Gangamuthu Nattovanar, Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsiru of Subbarama Dikshitar, Dikshitar Keertana Prakasika, an authentic version of some select Dikshitar kriti-s by Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, Sangeeta Gayakamrita Varshini of Pandanallur Arunachala Nattovanar, Tacchur Singaracharlu's works, and the works of Veena Ramanulachari and Tanjavur K. Ponniah Pillai are examples. Yazh Nool, a work dealing with a variety of lutes and ancient Tamil pann-s, was written by Swami Vipulananda. Karunamruta Sagaram, the 'magnum opus' of Tanjavur Abraham Panditar, is a voluminous work in two parts and it is astonishing to note how much material he has collected and presented. On the theoretical side, the contemporary source of authority are Prof. P. Sambamoorthy's works, in which he has summarised earlier texts. Only his books are recommended in any University that has a faculty of Camatic music, be it in Andhra, Karnataka, Bombay or Delhi and found part of the syllabus.
Contribution of Tamil Saint-Poets
Tevarams are devotional hymns bequeathed by three Saivite Nayanmar-s: Tirugnanasambandhar, Tirunavukkarasar of the 7th century AD and Sundaramurti of the 9th century AD. Manickovachakar, of a later period, composed Tiruvachakam, Tirukovaiyar, etc. Significantly, in these works, the names of the pann-s in which the hymns were to be rendered have been specified. There is a pann of ancient ongin, with the name of Kausikam, used by the Tevaram composers. This is the very first bhashanga rage and it now goes by the name of Bhairavi. Other bhashanga raga-s may be said to have been modelled on this one. The Chapu tala-s too were probably introduced by the Tevaram composers.
The more than 3000 songs of the compendium called Nalayira Divya Prabandham are the gift of the Vaishnavite Azhwars. Although, the names of the pann-s for most are missing in the printed versions, the pasuram-s were apparently rendered musically rather than merely recited.
The system of Tamil music would not have survived but for the hymns of the Nayanmar-s sud Azhwar-s. Tevaram-s and pasuram-s now serve as a bridge between the ancient Tamil music and present-day Carnatic music.
Compositions and composers
Musical compositions are multivarious, like swarajati, varnam, keertana, kriti, padam, pada vamam, javali and many more.
The very first musical composition came up in the Sangam era. Paripadal is a collection of about 30 musical compositions, in praise of Tirumal (Vishnu) or Kumaran (Subrahmanya) or some other deity. Each song contains the name of the individual who set it to music.
The first swarajati is attributed to Melattur Veerabhadrayya (1739-1786), though it is not known how the village name, Melattur, got prefixed to his name, considering that there is no record to indicate he lived in the village. Swarajati-s are of two kinds. In the series of vocalises taught to beginners in music, there are some with the name swarajati, like Rara Venugopala. In Vizianagaram and Bobbili areas, they are called jetiswara-s. But both seem to be wrong. The very name contains the word 'jati', be it a swarajati or jetiswara and, as such, suggests that jeti should be interspersed in the song, which is missing in these cases. The second kind of swarajati is that used in a dance perfommance, like: E mayaladira, which contains jati phrases also.
Tana varna-s Tana varna-s, used in music concerts, are myriad in number, like their composers. Pachimiriyam Adiyappiah is regarded as the 'tana varna margadarsi' or the pathfinder in regard to tana vamam. He lived in Tanjavur and then in Pudubotai between 1730 and 1766. Two of his varna-s in Ata tale are available. Viriboni in Bhairavi is most popular, while the other one, Madavati in Pantuvarali, is seldom heard these days. Pallavi Gopala Iyer (1788-1832), Tiruvarur Ramaswami Dikshitar (1735-1817), Veena Kuppier, Kottavasal Venkatarama Iyer (1810-1880), Patnam Subrahmania Iyer (18451902) are among other famous tana vama composers. The maximum number of vama-s by a single composer-- about 46-- were created by nagaswara vidwan Koranadu Natesa Pillai (1830-1925). Most of the musicians do not know who is the composer of the Kalyani rage vamam Vana jakshiro in Adi tale for various authors have given different names. The real composer was another nagaswara vidwan, Nagapattinam Veeraswami Pillai, whose manuscripts are now in my possession. He has four more vama-s to his credit with the mudra 'Nagapuramuna Velayu Sami Soundraraja'.
The kriti format was first handled in Tamil Nadu by Muthu Tandavar. It was further used by Margadarsi Sesha Iyengar in his compositions; it is because of this he came to be known as margadarsi or pathfinder. Another early composer who deserves mention in this context is Oothukadu Venkatasubba Iyer. He is reported to have composed hundreds songs but not all have come to light yet.
It was, however, the trio called the Carnatic music trinity-- Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastry - that gave a new fillip to the kriti-form and gave it the shape that prevails even today. The three enriched Carnatic music with compositions in their individual styles and it is their compositions that yet constitute the core of the concert repertoire.
All the three belonged to Tamil Nadu, though Tyagaraja's ancestors are said to have belonged to a village in present-day Andhra Pradesh. Tyagaraja's family had lived in Tamil Nadu at least for four generations, as have his descendants later.
Tyagaraja composed keertana-s and kriti-s, besides three operas. It is said that it was only he who introduced sangati-s (thematic variations) to kriti-s. In ancient Tamil music, sangatiwas known as 'viyartti' and sanchara as 'selavu'.
Dikshitar has given us keertana-s and kriti-s, including the navagraha kriti-s and two sets of naveavarana kriti-s. The tana vama Roopamu joochi, in Telugu, is mistakenly attributed to him; it is in fact a composition of Tiruvarur Muthuswami Nattavanar, a disciple of Ramaswami Dikshitar. And, in the group of navagraha kriti-s, only seven are Muthuswami Dikshitar's Smaramyaham on Rahu is a composition of Balaswami Dikshitar, while Mahasuram on Ketu is that of Tiruvarur Veeraswami Nattuvanar, a disciple of Muthuswami Dikshitar. The compositions of Syama Sastry are notable for their rhythmic nuances in particular.
Following in the footsteps of these three, a multitude of composers appeared on the scene including Subbaraya Sastri, Annaswami Sastri, Ananta Bharati, Patnam Subrahmania Iyer, Vaiyacheri Ramaswami Iyer, Subbarama Dikshitar and Ramanathapuram 'Poochi' Srinivasa Iyengar. Among latter-day composers, the contributions of Mayuram Viswanatha Sastri and Papanasam Sivan also deserve mention here.
Arunachala Kavi of Seerkazhi, who lived in the 18th century, composed Rama Natakam in the form of an opera or geya nataka. Similarly, Mudicondan Gopalakrishna Bharati's songs for Nandan Charitram are very popular. A junior contemporary of Tyagaraja born in 1810, he was an outstanding composer and Harikatha artist. He passed away in 1881 (?). Nandan Charitram has been presented on the stage both as drama and ballet; and its songs have entered the concert repertoire via Harikatha discourses.
The very first ragamalika song in the 72 mela raga-s was in Marathi, a creation of Tanjavur Venkat Rao (1817-1900), a student of Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbayya. Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer composed Pranatarthihara, his melaragamalika opus, only later. Muthuswami Dikshitar and later on Kotiswara Iyer 11870-1938), a descendant of Kavikunjara Bharati, composed kriti-s in all the 72 mela raga-s.
Ragam-tanam-pallavi is considered the piece de resistance of a Carnatic music kutcheri. Pallavi-s are set up, of course, not by composers but by performing musicians. Musicians of Tamil Nadu have, ever since concert music came into vogue, contributed a plethora of pallavi-s to the repertoire. But even earlier, in the 19th century, there were musical stalwarts known for their specialisation in creating and rendering pallavi-s.
The post-pallavi segment of Carnatic music concerts, especially those presented in Tamil Nadu, feature other types of composition, mostly in Tamil. These are drawn from works like Tevaram, Divya Prabandham, Rama Natakam, Nauka Charitram, and Tiruppugazh, as well as from the numerous songs composed by others, including pada-s and javali-s and kavadichindu-s.
The genre of songs called pada, soaked in sringara bhakti, came into vogue at least during the 16th century AD. Such songs took birth, influenced by the Sangam classic Ahananooru, the verses of which are replete with sringara rasa. The term pada is ohen loosely used. The sringara sankeertana-s of Annamacharya and his descendants, according to some writers, are pada-s. Similarly, the devarnama-s of Purandaradasa are also termed as pada-s. The pada with an erotic content is said to have gained currency thanks to the compositions of Kshetragna of Mowa and Sarangapani of Karvetinagar. As far as the Tamil country is concemed, Muthu Tandavar of Seerkazhi, a contemporary of Kshetragna, composed many pada-s. Inspired by them, Tanjavur Vasudeva Kavi, Kavi Kunjara Bharati, Vaitheeswarankail Subbarama Iyer, Ghanam Krishna Iyer, Mazhavarayanendal Chidambara Bharati, Chettipattanam Cheenawa and some others composed pada-s and then have become popular.
Based on the pada-s, pada vama-s for Bharatanatyam came into existence, usurping the role of swarajeti-s. The pada vama-s of the Tanjavur Quartet-- Chinniah, Ponniah, Sivanandam and Vadivelu-- are still popular in the field of dance.
The Tanjavar Quartet composed as well a rich cascade of tana vama-s, kriti-s, pada-s, javali-s and tillanas. Though their compositions are either in Telugu or Tamil, they themselves were Tamils.
The origin of javali, according to some scholars, is traceable to Karnataka. The contribution by way of this musical form, of Tanjavur Chinniah and his brothers, Patnam Subrahmania Iyer, Dhammapuri Subbaraya Iyer, Ramanathapuram Srinivasa Iyengar and Tiruppanendal Pattabhiramawa, is remarkable. The bulk of the songs of the genre called javali is in Telugu but many of these composers lived in Tamil Nadu.
A musical form akin to the tillana has been mentioned in the inscriptions of Rajendra Chola I (10th-11th centuries), but the tillana in its present form actually came into existence in Melattur, a small village near Tanjavur associated with the Bhagavata Mela nataka-s. Tillana-s were originally meant for dancing, but gained entry into the concert stage also. A number of tillana-s were composed by the Tanjavar Quartet, while many others have added to the list since then.