Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sobhillu Saptaswara

Raga Jaganmohini , 15 Mayamalavagowla janya
Aa: S G3 M1 P N3 S Av: S N3 P M1 G3 R1 S
Taalam: Roopakam



śōbhillu sapta swara
sundarula bhajimpavē manasā

nābhi hṛt kaṇṭha rasana

dhara ṛk sāmādulalō
vara gāyatrī hṛdayamuna
sura bhūsura mānasamuna
śubha tyāgarājuniyeḍa

English verse:

O mind! Of the seven notes shining,
Of their charming forms, must you sing!

From the navel, heart, throat, nose and tongue,
Arise these seven notes, when sung.

They pervade in Rik, Saman and the others,
In the very heart of the most sacred verse,
In the minds of gods and the godlike,
And in this goodly bard, alike.

This is another kriti on Nadopasana or worship through music. In the Carnatic music tradition, the seven notes of the scale, Sa-Ri-Ga-Ma-Pa-Dha-Ni are each personified and said to be resident in (i.e. arise from) a part of the vocal faculty in the human body. Each note is also associated with a presiding deity. It is this concept that is alluded to here. The text in the Pallavi literally reads something like "adore the beautiful (persons) of the lustrous seven notes". So I have given it equivalently as forms and have used "sing" as in a context of worship.

The four Vedas viz. Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva veda are alluded to in the Charanas. The Gayatri mantra or prayer is considered the most sacred of all. Note that the two vedas, Rg and Sama, and this mantra are all referred to by their poetic meters- Rik, Saman and Gayatri (literally 'trifold' song) respectively. Bhusuras or literally 'gods on earth' are mentioned along with the Suras or gods of Heaven. Bhusura is usually an epithet for Brahmans or the priests and scholars. But to be called a "Brahman" in adulation, as in the kriti, actually indicates a most holy and venerable attainment. It certainly does not refer to everyone of that station. To convey this particular sense, I have given Bhusura as 'the godlike'. These seven notes, i.e. music, is said to pervade and sustain all of them, as well as Tyagaraja himself.

Extra Comments:
We may also note that this song on the sublimity of music, is incidentally set in a raga called 'Jaganmohini', which literally translates to "Enchantress of the world".


I plead for some license,
In the Anupallavi,
To convey the sense. :)

Literally, the seven notes are said to shine in the corresponding parts of the body.



  1. One very interesting thing to note here is that this ragam seems to be an audava-shadava ragam and the interesting thing is that although the song itself speaks of the "saptha swaras" it has two swaras missing in the raga viz. r and d in the arohanam and d in the avarohanam!

    1. Nice point.While this is quite true, Tyagaraja was never consistent this way. So, as he talked about the svaras, and nadopasana and music itself a lot, we can see all kinds of examples. In Mokshamu Galada in Saramati, in the charanas, he discusses the saptaswaras and the origin of music, but Saramati, lacks the p and r in the avarohana. Nadatanumaniusham in Cittaranjani, where he actually enumerates the svaras, is another kind. I think there is not much intent behind these details, and that Tyagaraja sought only the holistic effect in his songs. So we focus mainly on his message in this site - and we didn't even get to the quirk you pointed out. Dikshita though, was the method-man in terms of compositional technique and philosophy, and you can see a lot intricacy and effects in such matters, like mentioning the raga's name directly, indirectly and so on. We can take one look and say, "This is no accident. This is the effect he wanted to give." Shyama Sastri was yet another kind of composer. He did shoot for such effects, but often from a tala perspective.