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Mayamalavagaula raga S. Rajam with Sruti Staff
Varga: Septatonic
Arohana: Sa ra gu ma pa dha nu
Avarohana: nu dha pa ma gu ra sa
Vadi (dominant note): gu
Samvadi (sub-dominant note): dha
Frequently used korvai or swara combinations:
pa-ma-gu; sa-ra-gu-ra-gu; gu-ma-pa-ma-gu; gu-mapa-dha-nu; ra-sa-nu-sa-ra-sa
ayamalavagaula is a sampoorna raga – it uses
all the seven notes in both the ascending
and descending scales. The swara-s used in
Mayamalavagaula are sa – shadja, ra – suddha rishabha,
gu – antara gandhara, ma – suddha madhyama,
pa – panchama, dha – suddha dhaivata, and
nu – kakali nishada. The alignment of the notes
gives the impression of four pairs of notes. The time
intervals between paired notes – sa and ra, gu and
ma, pa and dha, nu and sa – are short, while the time
interval between any two consecutive pairs, as for
example between ra-gu and ma-pa, is longer. This is true
of the reverse order of the scale as well.
This alternating pattern of short and long time intervals
gives the raga a distinct identity and facilitates the
comprehension of its structure, as well as that of its janya
raga-s. Perhaps this was among the factors that led the
Pitamaha of the Carnatic mode of music, Purandaradasa,
to opt for Mayamalavagaula as the basic abhyasa raga.
Mayamalavagaula heralds the dawn. It is appropriate to
sing it in the early hours of each new day, when the rising
sun is lighting up the eastern horizon with increasing
intensity. This too must have counted with Purandaradasa
when he selected this raga for the first steps in the
learning of music.
Mayamalavagaula is an ancient raga. In the fifteenth
century, it was generally called Malavagaula, but
Venkatamakhi tagged the two-syllable prefix of Maya to
it so that the raga could be assigned the fifteenth place
in his 72-melakarta scheme in accordance with what is
known as the Katapayadi formula (see note).
The jeeva swara-s which project the image of this raga
are ga (gu) and ni (nu). The non-oscillating sa and dha
are elongated in the higher as well as lower octaves
and the raga’s beauty is greatly enhanced when occasional
rests are made in ga (gu) and pa which are therefore
called the amsa or resting notes of this melody.
Slight oscillation or gamaka of ri (ra) and ni (nu) impart
a soothing touch.
Compositions in Mayamalavagaula are outnumbered
by those in its janya raga-s. In the song Vidulaku
mrokeda, Tyagaraja has offered obeisance to all those
well-versed in music and it was therefore common at
one time for performers to sing this song at the start of a
concert or right after the varnam. Merusamana, offered
frequently in concerts, is perhaps the composition which
can help the listener to focus on the image of the raga
properly and appreciate its nuances. It is sung in
middle tempo. D.K. Pattammal and Semmangudi
Srinivasa lyer both have given special lustre to it.
Treasure-hunters should surely seek out privately
circulated recordings of their earlier-day renderings.
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Another kriti in this raga made memorable by
Semmangudi is Swati Tirunal’s Devadeva kalayamitey.
His brisk version which is accessible in private tape
collections, as well as AIR broadcasts, gives the listener
the pleasure of being able to soak in the essence. Swati
Tirunal has composed a varnam Sarasijanabha – also in
this raga. Decades ago, Srinivasa Iyer brought popularity
to another composition – Intaparaka, by singing it in
Mayamalavagaula, even though it was composed in
Nadanamakriya by Anai-Ayya.
Many tevaram-s are sung in this raga. Pita pirai soodi
perumane arulala is one which is often heard. Sivanar
manam kulira is among the Tiruppugazh verses set in
this raga.
Muthuswami Dikshitar’s kriti in this raga, Sreenadadi
was his very first composition. Legend has it that, when
Dikshitar was worshipping at the Subramania temple
in Tiruttani, an old man approached him, blessed
him by placing a lump of sugar in his mouth and then
disappeared. It was then that Dikshitar started his career
as a composer. (see sketch). The song Sree Naadaadi is
unique in that, in the first line itself, within the span of
a single avartana or tala cycle, it makes use of the
arohana-avarohana in full and the sahitya is set to three
kala-s or tempos. The credit for bringing it into the
concert repertoire goes to D.K. Pattammal. She
recorded it and the disc was part of an LP set of
Dikshitar kriti-s.
The raga’s image has been faithfully portrayed also in
Pattammal’s rendering of K. Ponniah Pillai’s Mayateeta
swaroopini, Gopalakrishna Bharati’s Sivalokanathanai,
Jayachamaraja Wodeyar’s Ksheerasagara sayana and a
pasuram from the Divya Prabandham beginning with
the words Urilum kaniyillen. Mayateeta is also very well
suited for the veena.
Besides Sivalokanathanai (Nadanamakriya sung in
madhyamam) Gopalakrishna Bharati wrote many other
songs for the Nandanar story. Still remembered for
their musical appeal as well as lyrical content are
Nanda nee Sivabhaktan and the choral piece Hara
Hara, Siva Siva – in Mayamalavagaula. One song I
still recall vividly is Maanida janmam alitaar, vananga
karangal alittaar. Even though this was rendered by
singers who were not trained musicians, its musical
appeal was great. It moved the hearts of the audience
towards the Divine Dancer. A fine example indeed of
how a raga can enhance the beauty of a song!
Now a word about Syama Sastry’s Neelayadakshi.
This beautiful kriti is held by some to be in
Mayamalavagoula – Rangaramanuja Iyengar so
identifies it in his Kritimanimalai (Volume 4) – but
it is generally rendered in the janya raga Paras (sa ma
gu ma pa dha nu sa/sa nu dha pa ma gu ra sa). In my
younger days, I was fortunate to hear Kanchipuram
Naina Pillai sing this composition. He handled it in a
most leisurely manner. After offering a brilliant niraval,
he sang the charanam honed to perfection. Then
came volleys of swaraprastara – that too separately for
‘ganaloley’, ‘samaganaloley’, ‘danameeyave samaganaloley’
and ‘abhaya danameeyave samaganaloley’ of the
charanam. This offered full scope for Naina’s full
bench of sidemen to exhibit their prowess in the art
of accompaniment. Pattammal affirms that Naina’s
pathantaram of this composition was – as is her own –
in Paras.
Dikshitar’s Sreenadadi, Ponniah Pillai’s Mayateeta, and
Swati Tirunal’s Devadeva – all begin in the adhara
shadja or the basic tonic note.
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The parent Mayamalavagaula has 223 janya
raga-s according to Raga Pravaham but only 41 of
these have been developed fully into proper raga-s
and have compositions in them. Besides Malahari
and Paras, the latter include Bindumalini, Bauli, Gujjari,
Guntakriya, Gaula, Gaulipantu, Jaganmohini, Padi,
Mangalakesi, Poorvi (of Carnatic music), Ragaranjini
and Saveri.
The Tamil pann equivalent of Mayamalavagaula is
Indalam, while its Hindustani counterpart is Bhairav.
Ramamatya (16th century), in his Swaramela Kalanidhi,
has described Malavagaula as the best of all raga-s.
Mahima ariya – Adi (Papanasam Sivan)
The ‘Katapayadi sankhya’ or formula was used to find
the serial number of a melakarta when its name
was being determined. From its serial number it is
easy to identify a raga’s characteristics. Briefly, the
formula is applied as follows: Sanskrit letters are given
numerical equivalents. Thus ka, kha, ga, gha, ma, are
equal respectively to 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Ya, ra, la, va
are equal to 1, 2, 3 and 4. Ma-ya therefore represents
51. The serial number was established by reversing this
number. Thus Mayamalavagaula’s number is 15.
Mayateeta – Roopakam (K. Ponniah Pillai)
Mayam edo – Adi (Papanasam Sivan)
Merusamana – Adi (Tyagaraja)
Naan en seiven swami – Adi (Koteeswara Iyer)
Nanda orusethi – Adi (Gopalakrishna Bharati)
Nenerumganu – Adi (Pallavi Sesha Iyer)
Padamalarey – (Papanasam Sivan)
Pannaga sayanam – Adi (D. Pattammal)
Rakshimpavey – Jhampa (Tyagaraja)
The jeeva swara is a note which reveals the individuality
of a raga. It is also called raga chhaya swara. In some
raga-s jeeva swara-s may also be amsa swara-s or
resting notes.
Sakalakalavani – Adi (Periasami Tooran)
Select compositions in Mayamalavagaula
Tulasidalamulache – Roopakam (Tyagaraja)
Ravikoti – Mattiya (geetam)
Sarasijanabha – Adi (varnam - Swati Tirunal)
Aadikondaar – Adi (Muthu Tandavar)
Sreenadadi Gurugoho – Adi (Muthuswami Dikshitar)
Sree Neelotpalambikayam – Misra Chapu (Dikshitar)
Taraka nama – Adi (Muthiah Bhagavatar)
Vidulaku – Adi (Tyagaraja)
Some film songs based on Mayamalavagaula
Adityan devadidevam – Adi (Muthiah Bhagavatar)
(Listed in the order of song, singer, film and music
Chintayeham – Roopakam (Vasudevachar)
Kallelaam manicka kallaaguma - TMS in Aalayamani,
Viswanathan Ramamurthy
Devadideva nanu – Roopakam (Mysore Sadasiva Rao)
Madura marikozhunthu vaasaam - Chitra and Mano in
Enga Ooru Paatukaran, Ilayaraja
Dinamani – Roopakam (Muthiah Bhagavatar)
Masaru ponne varuga - women chorus in Thevar Magan,
Illaadadai – Adi (Papanasam Sivan)
Poonkathavey taazh tiravaai - Deepan Chakravarthy and
Uma Ramanan in Nizhalgal, Ilayaraja
Kalinaruluku – Adi (Mysore Vasudevachar)
Poova eduttu oru mala - S. Janaki and Jayachandran in
Amman Koil Kizhakale, Ilayaraja
Bhuvaneswari – Desadi (Papanasam Sivan)
Devadeva – Roopakam (Swati Tirunal)
Devi Sree Tulasamma – Adi (Tyagaraja)
Hariya bittare – Adi (Purandaradasa)
Kalangamilla – Adi (T. Lakshmana Pillai)
Ksheerasagara – Dhruva ( Jayachamaraja Wodeyar)
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