A PEEP INTO VIVADI RAGAS
If Vadi swara in a raga denotes the dominating note, there are
other notes which add colour, shape and beauty to a raga. Like
the samvadi swara, graha swara, the jeeva sawaras etc. Their
use singly or in combination with other notes from the arohana-avarohana
(ascending and descending scales of a raga) gives them a distinctive
look and go to ascertain their individuality. Some combination
notes characterize the pidigal or sangathis and bring about
the bhava or add a typical colour or flavour or mood to a raga.
Just as individuals contribute to the society’s progress
in their own individualistic ways, ragas too have distinct personalities,
bringing about separate colour, form and flavour to music. There
are also ragas which have differences in vaadi swaras or in
elongation of swaras and unusual prayogas in swaras, which give
rise to entirely new ragas and which may be using the same notes.
Then again there are notes that are fundamental to produce music
referred to as shruties. In Indian music, 22 such shruties are
identified. Not all such shruties can be effectively produced
by human voices. Only Gotuvaadyam or vichitra veena, as it is
now known, is said to be the stringed instrument which can produce
all these 22 shruties. The Saraswathi veena’s octave produces
12 notes. By pulling the strings to give the gamaka effect,
more notes, however, are made possible to beproduced. These
go to enhance our listening pleasure.
All these are fine. What has all these got to do with new ragas
capable of taking the listener to unchartered territories and
providing a new range of listening pleasure with more colour,
form and beauty?
Venkatamakhi is credited with evolving the
scheme of 72 melakarta ragas (mother ragas with seven notes
in the ascending and descending scales). So, in a way, he opened
up the vistas of Carnatic music like no one else before him
had done. More ragas meant more kritis and more beautiful creations
for the enjoyment of the vast multitude of listeners.
However, some experts question the need for having the 72 mela
ragas. Some experts felt that Venkatamakhi could have restricted
himself to just 32 melas with the logical extension of original
12 notes without dissonance. But Venkatamakhi went beyond the
logical and introduced what is now recognized as “Vivadi”
Musicologist , musician, research scholar and Prof.P.Sambamurhty,
in his book on South Indian Music, points out that the scheme
of 72 mela ragas are more perfect and ambitious as it includes
Vivadi melas as well.
What then is Vivadi raga? Venkatamakhi , says Prof.Sambamurthy,
got a glimpse into vivadi melas by the process of modal shift
of the tonic (the basic note Sa ) and characterised the vivadi
melas which became the integral part of the 72 melakarta scheme.
Vivadi swara is a dissonant note, perceived by many in the musical
world, to be an enemy note. That is probably the reason why
vivadi melas were called ragas with “dosha” (some
harmful element like an enemy perhaps!). According to Prof.
Sambamurthy, vivadi melas are those scales which take one of
the following notes: shatshruti rishabha (R3). Suddha Gandhara
(Ga1), shatshruti dhaivata (Dha 3) and suddha nishada (Ni1).
There are 40 such ragas which are supposed to have vivadi dosha.
I recall the war of words between the late Sangeeta pitamaha
Vidwan Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and one of 20th centuries most
original musicians and musicologist Vidwan Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna
which occurred sometime in the early 1970s. Singing melas based
on dissonant notes was unmusical, according to Sri Semmangudi
Srinivasa Iyer, but Balamuraligaru argued that vivadi melas
had their own elevated positions in the scheme of melakarta
ragas and it was wrong to argue for curtailment and confinement
of the melakarta ragas to only 32.
In his book on Murali Ravali published in Tamil. Balamurali
bemoans the fact that musicians are not taking enough trouble
to explore the inherent beauty of the 72 melas, including the
40 vivadi mela ragas. “It is our misfortune that for the
generation, the musicians are satisfied with the knowledge of
a very limited number of ragas and compositions, which, perhaps,
is easy for them to sing and thereby the lovers of music have
formed an opinion that the South Indian classical music has
a tradition which is very limited and has no hope for expansion.”
In the foreword to that book, Prof. Sambamurthy observes that
while the 12 notes of the octaves are universally known, “the
number of Hepta tonic scales using these notes is very limited.”
“It was given to a genius in South India to point out
that the 72 hepta tonic scales, based with these 12 notes of
Octave are possible. This scheme is logically perfect, mathematically
accurate and aesthetically sound.”
And then he gives the clincher: “A scale can become a
raga when the various raga ranjaka prayogas establish its melodic
personalities and determine through a process of ratiocination.”
Mark the key words, “melodic personalities” and
“ratiocination”. Both are vital for enjoying music.
Melody and constant re-affirment to provide pleasing music combined
Publisher of the book, Smt.Abhayambika, says
many of the 72 melakarta ragas existed even before Venkatamakhi
times. Also, it is wrong to claim that ragas with vivadi notes
are “dosha” ragas. The letters “Su”
and “Vi” in Sanskrit are used to exemplify and add
speciality to words. The word “bhavam” means fame,
world or simply ‘sivam” but when you add the “Vi”
to “bhavam” it becomes “vibhavam” which
means something special.. Likewise the word “nutam”
becomes extraordinarily special when “vi” is added
to make it “vinutham”. Thus vivadi does not carry
“dosha” as many point out but in reality it means
“vivadi” raga is something even more special than
Because of their nature of being more special than Vaadi swaras,
the suddha-gandhara-nishada shatshrudhi swaras used in ragas
must have been called vivadi ragas. That is why ragas with vivadi
swaras are more special and easily touch the heart of the listener.
That is why Saint Thyagaraja, one of the trinities of Carnatic
music, composed the ultimate and memorable philosophical kriti
“Paramatmudu” in the raga Vagadeeshwari.
B.Subba Rao, in his book “Raganidhi”,
points out that more and more Carnatic melakarta ragas are being
adopted by Hindustani musicians in spite of 40 of them having
vivid doshas. “There are certain rules and methods suggested
for overcoming these Vivadhi doshas while composing songs. Shri
Thyagaraja must have composed many keertanas under each of the
72-melakarta ragas. Unfortunately, most of them have been destroyed
by his brothers. A few which escaped that fate and are still
extant go to prove the above assumption. Shri Muthuswamy Dikshitar
has also composed songs in ragas having vivadi dosha. But still
they are highly musical.”
According to Mr.Subba Rao, the beauty of many of these vivadi
melakarta ragas can be fully appreciated when one listens to
these ragas played on the veena. As explained earlier, Vivadi
is a dissonant note in relation to an adjacent note and is viewed
as an enemy note. For example ragas Kanakangi, Ratnangi etc
have both suddha rishabha and suddha gandhara notes, which are
vivadi to each other. Here is the list of the full 40 Vivadi
melakarta ragas: Melakartas: 1- Kanakangi : all notes ri, ga,
dha and ni are suddha notes. Scale: Sa, r1, ga 1, suddha madhyama.
Panchamam, dha 1 and ni 1, sa.
Similarly, suddha madhyama (sM) melas: 2 Ratnangi, 3 Ganamurti
have R1, G1,D1 and kaiskika nishada (N2) and kakali nishada
The melas 4 Vanaspati, 5 Manavati and 6 Thanaroopi have Sa,
R1, G1, sM, P as common notes while Vanaspati has chatushruti
dhaivatm (D2) and kasiki nishadam (N2), Manavati D2 and N3 while
Thanaroopi shatshrudi dhaivatam (D3) and kakali nishadam (N3).
Other sM melas which have vivadi notes are: 7 Senavati, 12 Rupavati,
13 Gayakapriya, 14 Jhankaradwani, 18 Hatakambari, 24 Varunapriya,
25 Mararanjani, 30 Naganadihini, 31 Yagapriya, 32 Raghavardini,
33 Gangeyabhushani, 34 Vagahadeeshwari, 35 Shulini, 36 Chalanatta.
Pratimadyama (pM) vivadi melakarta ragas include: 37 Salagam,
38 Jalarnavam and 39 Jalavarali (Same notes like Kanakangi,
Ratnangi and Ganamurti except in the above three you have Prati
Other pM vivadi melakarta ragas are: 40 Navaneetam, 41 Pavani,
42 Raghupriya, 43 Gavambodhi, 48 Divyamani, 49 Davlambari, 54
Vishwambari, 55 Shyamalangi, 60 Neethimathi, 61 Kanthamani,
66 Chitrambari, 67 Sucharitra, 68 Jyotiswaroopini, 69 Datuvardini,
70 Nasikabushani, 71 Kosalam, 72 Rasikapriya.
Prof.Sambamurhty points out that Venkatamakhi experimented with
modal shifts of tonic note and developed new ragas. “Bhavapriya
(44th mela) with Ga yielded Vagadheeswari, and with Dha yielded
Naganandini (30). These melas, in their turn, suggested Nasikabhushani
(70) and Chitrambari (66).”
Many more examples are given by him. Pantuvarali’s nishada
as shadja gave Kanakangi (1), while Mayamalavagowla’s
rishaba as shadja gave Rasikapriya (72). “He (Venkatamakhi
) was alive to the apparent vivadi character of 40 of the 72
melas, but since they were the resultant murchhanas and were
obtained as by-products from the non-vivadi melas and since
they also came within the scope of the 12 notes of the octave,
he had to include them. Without their inclusion, his scheme
would have lacked completeness.”
Prof. Sambamurhty observes that Venkatamakhi himself had suggested
methods to get over the vivaditva in the 40 melas. “The
graced utterance of the concerned note immediately removed the
vivaditva. Again, the melas which had in them both the varieties
of the same note, the difficulty was cleared by adopting the
ingenious device of calling one of these notes by the name of
the next higher or lower note.
“It should be remembered that the melas resulting by the
process of modal shift of tonic had to be touched here and there,
i.e. flattened or sharpened a comma interval or pramana sruti
in some cases in order to get at the correct ranjakatva.”
A selection of some of the popular kritis in SOME of these Vivadi
melakarta ragas are given for the benefit of the reader. We
have already mentioned St Thyagarja’s famous “Paramatumdu”
in Vagadeeshwari (34th melakarta). Here are some more examples:
Thyagaraja’s kriti “Ganamoorthi” in Ganamurthi
Koteeswara Iyer’s “Edaiya Gathi” (sung by
MLV) in raga “Chalanatta” (36th melakarta). Also
brilliantly with emotion-charged ranjaktva creating a haunting
melody by Sanjay Subramaniam. I rate this as truly memorable.
Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s “Sri Rama Saraswathi”
in raga Nasamani (another name for Nasikabhooshani) 70th melakarta.
Sung by many including superbly by Maharajapuram Santhanam.
Thyagaraja’s “Sari Evaarre” in raga “Gangeyabhushani”
(33rd melakarta), sung by Dr S. Ramanathan and Dr.Balamuralikrishna.
Both versions are very good and captivating in their own way.
Balamuralikrishna’s “Gana Sudha Rasame” in
Ragavardhini (32 melakarta).
Koteeswara Iyer’s “Karmuga Shanmuga Neeye”
in raga Kosalam (71st mela) sung melodiously and popularized
by Madurai G.S. Mani.
Balamuralikrishna’s “Bo Shambo” in raga Vishwambari
Koteeswara Iyer’s “Arul Seiyya Venum Ayya”
in raga Rasikapriya (72 melakarta) sung and popularised by Prof.T.R.Subramaniam
in the 70s and recently by O.S. Arun.
In raga Jyothiswaroopini (68 th melakarta), the song “Ganamutha
palam” was popularized by Madurai Mani Iyer and later
by Tanjore S.Kalyanaraman.
It will be abundantly clear that Vivadhi ragas are definitely
beautiful and need not be excluded from concert platforms by
musicians because they are perceived to be “unmusical”.
It will also be evident that even out of the 40 Vivadi ragas
only a dozen or so have popular kritis in them. Now the onus
falls squarely on younger generation of musicians to carry forward
the rich heritage of “Vivadi” melakarta ragas and
many more janya ragas and compositions in this genre.
GNB, MLV, Madurai Mani Iyer set the trend to explore new ragas
and newer compositions. Madurai Somu, S.Kalyanaraman, Balamuralikrishna
and Mahrajapuram Santhanam, T.N.Seshagoplan, Mandolin Srinivas
and maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman, the pre-eminent violinist of
our times, and several others have opened up new vistas in Carnatic
To end on an optimistic note, many artistes like T.V.Shankaranaryanan
and Trichur Ramachandran, K.J.Yesudas ,the younger set including
Sanjay Subramaniam, Vijay Shiva, T.M.Krishna, Hyderabad bros.,
Malladi bros., Sudha Raghunathan, S.Sowmya and Bombay Jayashree
have all ably handled newer themes and newer compositions in
Vivdadi melakartas. All augurs well for future of Carnatic music
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