Forgotten Chapters of Music (And 22 Krithis of Thyagaraja on The Science, Art and Beauty of Music)

Item Code: NAM320
Author: G. Dwarakanath
Language: English
Edition: 2012
Pages: 95
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 11.0 inch x 8.5 inch
Weight 270 gm
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Book Description
About the book

The book traces and tries to reacapture the greatness of our music system, how our ancestors developed it step by step, and how these traditions were almost forgotten after the Thyagaraja–Dikshitar–Syama Sastry period. Restoring the greatness of the system is not impossible and can be achieved with some sincere effort. For a start, students of music can start singing the initial lessons in the traditional way of starting from the lower nishadha to shadja to sing the shadja, from shadja to rishabha to sing the rishabha and so on. This is on the basis that a swara cannot be born unless it is started from the previous swara. This, Venkatamakhi says in his Chaturdandi Prakaasikha, is a great sangeetha rahasyam (music secret). This had been traditionally taught to students but had never been written down and had always been kept a secret. Venkatamakhi for the first time has written it down in black and white. This and two or three other such traditions will become clear on a study of this book.

About the Author

Gomatam Dwarakanath, the author, is a science and law graduate of Mysore University. Born in Bangalore, he belongs to an orthodox family of srivaishnavas, followers of Ramanuja. His ancestors hailed from Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu and had migrated to Maloor in Channapatna district of Karnataka around the year 1780 during the Carnatic wars and consequent unsettled conditions in Kancheepuram. By tradition, the family members had always studied Telugu, perhaps due to the influence of the Vijayanagar empire under which Telugu was the state language almost in the entire South India. In 1946, at the age of 12, the author had started learning music under an able vidwan and subsequently had some advanced training in this field in the Ayyanar College of music started by the late T. Chowdiah. He joined The Hindu newspaper in Chennai in the editorial department in 1957 and retired in 2001 as Associate Editor. In Chennai he came into contact with many eminent musicians, chiefly Thanjavur Sankara Iyer, an eminent composer who taught him not only many rare krithis of Thyagaraja from the original Umayalpuram notebooks but also such ideas as a raga not being limited to the arohana and avarohana, and a janaka raga having some nuances of a janya raga also and so on. Having Tamil as the mother tongue, a native of Telugu country studying Telugu in school and college and growing up in Bangalore in the Kannada country helped him in being familiar with these languages, besides Sanskrit which he learnt. It is with this advantage that the classics were studied.


The Academy has been training students at a senior grade and encouraging them to import the simple yet powerful and effective path of ‘bhakti’ as enunciated by saint composers like Purandaradasa and Tyagaraja, while singing during the Aradhana celebrations. The Academy has in the past published reprints of ‘Purandara Kriti shataka ‘(1964; Kannada) in four volumes as Purandara kirtanas covering 68 songs out of the total 100. Text was added in Tamil, Devanaagari with meaning in English for wider usage. Audio CDs and cassettes for the 68 songs were also brought out.

We are presently bringing out two books on Tyagaraaja kritis in English. The first book “Forgotten Chapters in Music” deals with the nature of the components of music viz. sruti, swara, raga etc. in the former half and the meanings of Tyagaraajaa’s songs’ on music in the latter half. The second book is on the highest quality gems among Tyaagaraaja Kritis viz. “Ghanaraaga Pancharatna Kritis”.

The author of these two books, Shri. G. Dwarakanath, retd. Associate Editor, The Hindu, Chennai, has a wide read knowledge on music. He also has long years of association with eminent scholars and musicians at Chennai. His commentary in English, is based on some traditional books which are in regional languages like Talugu, Tamil, Kannada, hence not easily accessible to the younger generation. Both the books, cover word by word meanings of songs, followed by a brief summary.

We hope that these books will be of use to students as well as all lovers of carnatic music. Thanks to the staff of Elegant Printing Press, Bengalooru, for their excellent work.


These are painful times for lovers of classical Carnatic music and more so for Carnatic music itself. This music has to a large extent lost its popularity among the masses and connoisseurs. Forty or fifty years ago one could see concert halls overflowing with eager audiences and at temple festivals most of the people listening and intently enjoying nadaswaram playing. All these now seem to be distant past dreams. Barring a few, most concerts nowadays attract meagre audiences in Chennai. The position in other cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Tiruchi is still not that bad but there too things are at best at a standstill.

This situation is not peculiar to Carnatic music–the outlook for classical music is equally bad in the western countries also where concert hall authorities are making Herculean efforts to attract audiences back to the halls but with little success and sales of classical music albums have been continually falling, with many well known companies producing such albums having already closed shop. Some critics have called modern classical music a 'torture', and the U.S. Army is actually using classical music to torture prisoners.

Whatever the situation in the west, in South India the general complaint from lovers of classical music is that barring a few very senior vidwans, what can be called great or haunting music is largely missing in present day concerts of others. There has been no concerted effort to study what is 'great music'.

The reason, an elderly musician points out, for this state of affairs is that the quality of musical training which learners today get is poor and when they later attempt to sing in concerts they are unable to attract attention. It is not the fault of the newer musicians or that of their teachers. Young people learning music today are as intelligent and talented as the great musicians of yesteryears but they are not getting the right kind of lessons.

It also needs to be noted that classical music has practically ceased to be a fulltime profession and most present-day musicians do love the art but cannot make it their profession because of poor earnings and have to toil in some other profession to earn a decent income. This may be one reason for the disappearing appeal of classical music, but there are more valid reasons.

This writer, while trying to write the meanings of some of Thyagaraja's songs on music, practically came to a halt at the song, Vara raga laya, where there is the saint's remark in the anupallavi that 'those who do not have a deep knowledge of the nuances of swara, jati and moorchana differences, are bragging they are experts in swara, raga and laya'. An effort to find out what this means by studying the Brihad Desi of Matanga, the Sangeetha Ratnakara of Sarnga Deva and the Chaturdandi Prakasika of Venkatamakhi led to the only conclusion possible - that Carnatic music has lost its moorings and is now a rootless system which is unable to produce great music and attract listeners. The situation is so bad that most musicians do not even know the difference between a sruti and a swara and are using these terms as synonyms.

The ancient traditions which were adhered to till the life time of the Great Trinity (Dikshitar, Syama Sastry and Thyagaraja) started losing ground thereafter and has now been practically forgotten. After Venkatamakhi finalised the 72-melakartha scheme, to a large extent he and more fully his followers thought that the old ideas about swaras and ragas, swara and raga rasas and the like were all outdated and anachronistic, and could be forgotten. And the overenthusiastic fans of Venkatamakhi's ideas even started talking indecently about people who did not agree with them. And it is to these people that Thyagaraja has given his spirited reply.

Is it necessay at all to revive the old ideas? Is it not possible to encourage musicians to devise new forms of music to restore the popularity of classical music? To answer the second question first, attempts have indeed been made in this direction but they have been largely failures. New ragas were formulated like Kadanakuthoohalam and some ragas mentioned in the older lists like Mohana Kalyani were sought to be popularised through new compositions. But these ragas have not developed to the same extent as older ragas like Kalyani or Kharaharapriya had done and have remained just peripheral ragas. Newer forms of compositions like javalis have also been attempted but after a few years of listener interest they too are losing ground rapidly. What have stood the ground are the new compositions that faithfully adhere to the standards and patterns set by the Trinity.

It is also interesting to note that some western musical instruments like the violin, with adjustments to fit into our system, have made a grand entry. Repeated experiments and adoption of a particular fingering technique have resulted in that instrument now being used to produce the finest shades of our classical system. Such attempts have however not succeeded in the case of the harmonium, piano and such other westrn instruments.

Nothing in life remains static and major changes do take place which often alter the very way we live and think. Carnatic music, as it exists today, is the result of at least three waves of changes, reforms and innovations brought about by great musicologists at various points of time.

The first major reforms were in the 16th century when Purandara Dasa rescued the system from imminent disintegration by formulating basic reforms including a new system of teaching music to students. He also started a new era in the contents of the songs composed. He was the first to compose songs on the daily life of the people and even making fun of many of their doings. This revolutionised the whole system. The keerthana structure attained its full form due to his efforts.

Next in importance is the formulation of the 72 melakartha scheme by Venkatamakhi in the 17th century, which also revolutionised the way the ragas and swaras were grouped. It was like the periodic table in science. The new system also enabled the evolution of a notation system to preserve the original tunes. Venkatamakhi himself did little to popularise the use of his melakartha system because he thought that more than half of his 72 melakarthas were useless. It was left to his descendant Muddu Venkatamakhi and later a famous scholar, Govindacharya even to give proper names to these 72 ragas which Venkatamakhi had not done.

It was not until the appearance of the three great composers Syama Sastri, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Thyagaraja in the 18th–19th century that the system saw the next wave of reform. Dikshitar even composed short songs in the English music style. Thyagaraja also composed a few songs in English tunes but his major reform was the system of sangathis in the krithis which elaborated the ragas and also, like Purandara Dasa, songs on more mudane themes like the daily life of the people.

Through all these reforms, it is useful to note that some things remained unaffected. These are the identification of the 22 srutis, formation of swaras from srutis and of ragas from swaras. The concept of swaras and ragas as living beings is also one such development that has remained unaffected.

To return to the first question again, it seems there is no alternative to reviving the music system to the levels that the great trinity of Dikshitar, Syama Sastri and Thyagaraja had taken it. And to do that it seems unavoidable that the basic formulations are well understood. This is the aim in a small way of this book which can also be useful as a basic textbook.

The book is broadly in two parts: the first part consists of ten chapters explaining how music was developed by our ancestors, and the second part a group of twenty-two krithis of Thyagaraja exclusively devoted to the now almost forgotten aspects and details of the science, art and beauty of our music system.


1.0What is music?3
2.0The Srutis in Carnatic music6
3.0Swaras and Srutis9
4.0Swaras - they are from Nature11
5.0How the swaras are developed from srutis15
6.0The living swaras22
7.0The unique system of ragas27
8.0How to create a raga29
9.0The power of constant practice33
10.0Traditions good and bad36
11.0Thyagaraja's songs on music38
11.1Swara Raga Sudha - Sankarabharanam ragam38
11.2Mokshamu galada - Saramathi ragam43
11.3Sobillu saptaswara - Jaganmohini ragam45
11.4Naadhathanumanisam - Chittaranjani ragam47
11.5Vara raga laya - Chenchu khambodhi ragam48
11.6Sangeetha Saastra gnaanamu - Mukhari ragam52
11.7Raga sudhaarasa - Aandholika ragam54
11.8Raga rathna maalikache - Reetigowla ragam57
11.9Sripa priya sangeethopaasana - Atana59
11.10Sogasugaa mridanga thaalamu - Sriranjani ragam60
11.11Naadhopaasana - Begada ragam63
11.12Naadha sudhaarasmbilanu - Aarabhi ragam65
11.13Intha sowkhyamani - Kapi ragam67
11.14Ananda saagaramu - Garudadhwani ragam70
11.15Seethaa vara sangeetha gnaanamu - Devagaandhaari ragam72
11.16Naadha Loludai - Kalyanavasantham ragam73
11.17Narada guru swami - Durbar ragam74
11.18Sri Narada - Kanada ragam76
11.19Sri Narada munee - Bhairavi ragam77
11.20Saamaja vara gamana - Hindolam ragam79
11.21Sangeetha gnaanamu - Dhanyasi ragam80
11.22Vidulaku - Mayamalavagowla ragam82
Glossary of non-English words84

Sample Pages

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