Maha Vaidyanatha Iyers 72 Melakartaragamalika – Explanation and Presentation by R Vedavalli

27 Jun

Explanation : Sangita kalanidhi R.Vedavalli

Krithi Presented by  :  Sumitra Nitin , Harini Raghavan , Vasudevan , Chitra Srikanth, Master Vikram & Master Shreyas

Violin : Annapurni Subramaniam

Mrudangam : Srikanth

Sumitra Nitin and Nadasurabhi Cultural Association conducted a two day workshop on the Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan’s magnum Opus 72 Melakarta ragamalika kriti. The team presented the first half of the krithi today at the Heritage Academy Hall.

Smt R Vedavalli introduced the krithi and Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan to the audience before the presentation of the krithi.  Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer , one of the greatest musician of 19th century,  was a scholar of music and sanskrit.  He was a stalwart by his own right and was respected hugely by his contemperories for  his knowledge in ‘sahityam’, ‘shastra’ and sanskrit.

Vaidyanatha Iyer was proficient in Sanskrit , while his elder brother Ramaswamy Sivan was a Tamil Scholar. The brothers have chosen their respective language for composing.  Being a follower of Shiva, they were often performed and promopted by the Tiruvaduturai Math. It was at this place, he was given the title of ‘Maha’ by Subramanya Desikar.

On composing the Melaragamalika:

The Tanjavur court , then ruled by Shivaji II and his son Sakharam , were connoisseurs of music and art. Their court poet Lavani Venkataraman , had written a 72 sloka in praise of the king , on being asked to do so.. He being a poet and not a musician, all he could do was to present the poem in its raw form. The king however, wanted to listen to this being sung, and had asked Vaidyanatha Sivan to set this to tune. He obliged and set this to tune in 72 melakarta ragas, but being a devotee of Shiva and not that of the royalty (!! ) , he wasnt prepared to sing for the king.  This prompted him to write one in praise of lord Shiva. This was written in Sanskrit set to all 72 melakarta ragas.

PS : Smt Harini Raghavan was kind enough to correct me here with some interesting facts. I am reproducing them in verbatim..

Originally the 72 slokas in Marati was composed by Lavani Venkatram,for which later Shivaji’s nephew Sakharam Sahab requested Mahavaidyanatha Iyer to set music.

Marata rulers were ruling Tamil Nadu at that time.  They nwere great patrons of music and other forms of fine arts and they had a number of court musicians who were encouraged to compose and sing carnatic music.   Sivaji -II was ruling Tanjore at that time and his nephew Sakharam Saheb was very fond of Iyer’s music and  was patronising Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer’s, by regularly inviting MVI to perform at the royal court and enjoyed his music.  (MVI himself belonged to Tanjore district – he was born there). Sakharam had been trying with different musicians to set music for the 72 melakarta raga composition which had been there in the palace for a long time.  Many of the artists he approached were n ot able to do this task (including Patnam Subramanya Iyer and Namakkal Narasimha Iyengar who were great musicians and composers themselves!)  Ultimately he approached MVI and Iyer immediately composed music for those 72 ragsa with talam and even demonstrated it by singing at the royal court in the august presence of many accomplished musicians!

The kriti

Each avartanam in one melakarta ragam followed by Chittaswarams in the same ragam ,  effortlessely migrating to the next of the melakarta scale.

60% of the raga names are feminine ( kanakAngi, ratnangi, keeravani etc). The kriti itself is on Lord Shiva ,god  with the masculine image of highest order. It is a tough task to get the raga names incorporated , which sounds feminine, and have a masculine feel to it. Here is where Maha Vaidyanatha Shivan’s expertise as a scholar comes to the fore. He has done an exemplary job here by appropriately incorporating the ragamudra in each line, without loosing the overal masculine feel of the composition.  She explained this with kanakangi line.

It is also difficult to use the ragamudra in each line. He has smartly deployed this with smart break if the raga names at many places. Eg deva kuLAbharaNoddhAraka , jitamAyA mAlavagauLAntargata.  She explained this with the keeravani line ‘ shiva natkIra vANI vashaga’.

Each line has a story ( from Puranas) behind it. Instead of elaborating, he has given us a glimpse of the story, triggering our interest and left it at that. She claimed that it is important to know these stories for appreciating this kriti.

She also talked about the influence of western music ( the band music ). It was evident even at the time of Thyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar, both composing few kritis under the influence of Band music. Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan was also influenced by the band music, and she gave few examples of the same ( some swara singing at ga,ga,ri,ma,ri…. ).  He has also used the chittraswaras with great variety and vidvat.

There are many vivadi ragas in the melakarta scheme. It was a taboo to sing vivadi ragas in earlier times. Since he was composing the kriti in 72 melakarta ragams it was inevitable to use these ragas. May be this could be the reason, he composed the initial pallavi in Sri ragam ( considered auspicious like Madhyamavathi , surutti or saurashtram) and ended the composition again in Sri ragam. Not only that, he included sri ragam after every 2 chakras ( each chakra is 6 ragams) to minimise any ill-effect on the singer or on the listener.

Smt Vedavalli, also praised her students for their effort and for their enthusiasm and dedication. She noted, that earlier whatever the guru ask the desciple to learn they oblige without any question and she was happy to see that these 15 students were willing to learn the kriti and to present the same.  The team on their part did a commentable job in singing the first half of the kriti.

PS :

a ) link to the sahityam ( without chitta swaram)

b) Here is the links to the kriti sung by Smt R Vedavalli


Posted by on June 27, 2010 in Lec-Dem


11 responses to “Maha Vaidyanatha Iyers 72 Melakartaragamalika – Explanation and Presentation by R Vedavalli

  1. N S Rao

    June 14, 2013 at 3:20 pm


  2. balaji

    July 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Vedavalli amma;s voice so sweet and soft wil pray for amma’s health more songs to hear.

  3. chithra srikanth

    June 29, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    That is an excellent writing perfectly summing up the whole event. Thank you

  4. Annapurni Subramaniam

    June 29, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    This indeed is a splendid write up. You have managed to include almost all the information presented in Vadavalli mami’s introduction.
    Extremely useful for those who missed her presentation.

  5. Raghavan.KSS

    June 28, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    What I understood is that there are two 72 melaragamalikas.

    First: Lyrics composed by Lavani Venkatram. Language Marathi. In praise of the king. Set to music by MVS

    Second: Lyrics and music composed by MVS himself. In praise of Lord Siva. Language Sanskrit. This is the popular one which is now being sung by everyone incl. this group of Smt.Vedavalli’s students.

  6. Jayan

    June 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    Thank you. I made correction as per your note.. I might have jumbled the facts somewhere. May be the language came in way ..

  7. harini

    June 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Dear Mr. Jayan,
    Thankyou very much for the excellent write-up about the Meleragamalika programme. I would like to make a small correction. Originally the 72 slokas in Marati was composed by Lavani Venkatram,for which later Shivaji’s nephew Sakharam Sahab requested Mahavaidyanatha Iyer to set music.

  8. kiran

    June 28, 2010 at 11:47 am

    jayan a german fan eh ?

  9. Jayan

    June 28, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Thanks Raghavan, I have corrected the name. Apologies for the mistake.

    Pramod, the first half of the melaragamalika krithi compensated for the first half of the match. I was back home before the second half 🙂

  10. Pramod

    June 28, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Great writeup.Seeing this looks like it was not that bad for you to miss the Ger-Eng match :).


  11. Raghavan.KSS

    June 28, 2010 at 10:00 am


    It is a brilliant write up. I do not know how you managed to absorb so much from a running lecture. Great.
    PS: Pls change name of on eparticipant from Master Vishnu to Master Vikram.


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