Veeneya Bedagu – Lec-Dem on Compositions of Veena Sheshanna @ Gayana Samaja 25th July 2010

25 Jul

Theme : Compositions of Veena Seshanna ( jatiswara , varNam & thillAna )

Presented by : Dr.R K Srikantan , M S Sheela & D.Balakrishna

Inaugurated by : Dr.S C Sharma , Vice-Chancellor of Tumkur University

Presided over by : Dr.Pappu Venugopala Rao

Dr S C Sharma, himself a violinist ( as well as a vocalist) in his opening speech mentioned seeing the portrait of Veena Sheshanna at the famous Albert Hall , saying his fame was beyond the boundaries of  India. Veena Seshanna , he said, was one of those rare genious in the field of music , who started perforning at the age of 5, sang his first RTP at the age of 10, performed for  King George  and Gandhiji etc. He is known for learning a kriti and practicing the same for over 100 times until he has mastered it. Sri Sharma, a desciple of R R Keshavamurthy ( for Violin) and D K Pattammal ( Vocal), remembers the respect both the musician had for Veena Seshanna. He took the example of Junjhuti ( for which Veena Sheshanna is known for) and explained the limitation of this raga and mentioned that Veena Seshanna used to perform elaborate Pallavi in this raga.

 gajAmba nAyako rakshatu – junjhuti –

He said, while singing this raga, you can’t cross certain levels, and no scope for much oscillations. He demonstrated this with few examples ( chEtASrI bAlakrishNam – dwijAvanti).

He was all praise for Veena Sheshanna, that he composed some of the most complex jatiswaras and thillana in complex of tala ,without any help of tools and systems.

Jatiswara – Dr R K Srikantan

Violin : Nalina Mohan

Mrudangam : K U Jayachandra Rao

While conceptually swarajati and jatiswara are the same, technically they are different. Swarajati, will have sahitya, while a jatiswara is sans sahitya. Jatiswara is used extensively in Dance programs, but they are usually accompanied with Sahitya. Veena Sheshanna’s jatiswaras did not have any sahitya. However,  one of the manuscripts recovered in the later days, had sahitya , which possibly could have been added by someone. Veena Sheshanna used to call these as swarajatis.

RK Srikantan started with stating that Veena Seshanna’s compositions are ‘chhandOvinyAsa rachana’. He used the swaras with different aksharakala pramana and with varied tala. Jatiswara should be learned after the geetham and before varNam. It helps the students to be ‘swara shudha’ and gives a perspective of various swarakalpana for a raga. Most of the jatiswaras have to be sung in madhyamakala. It is also called as a ‘swara pallavi.’

Veena Sheshanna had composed 11 jatiswaras, some of them in ragas like mAnavati and vanaspati and employed different tALa like aTa tAla, and sankIrNa tripuTa tALA.  These are very difficult to learn for both vainikas and vocalists. RKS mentioned that these are ‘bhAvayukta, gamaka yukta and ‘swara samyOjita’ and often have ‘tristhAyi sanchAra’.

1. jatiswara  mAnavati – rUpaka

after singing this, he said this cant be sung in faster kAla because of the closure swara sthana of this rAgam. He mentioned that this krithi ‘lankhana mADi hADu bEku’ ( some one can help me in translating this ).

2. jatiswara – nIlAmbari – chaturashra triputa

3. swarajati – vanaspati – chatusra triputa

4. ga pa ma ga ri  (  jatiswara ) – kAmbOji – chaturasra triputa

RKS demonstrated the way Veena Sheshanna had composed this by merging the second and third avartana to the ‘mUla dhAtu’ ‘ga’. He says this is a speciality of Veena Sheshanna’s compositions and you dont see it in other swarajatis. Later Mysore Subramanya mentioned that his jatiswara are used by Mysore Bani for practice.

5. jatiswara- karNAtaka kApi – khaNDa jati aTa

 Veena Seshanna composed this in pure kApi. What we hear now are mishra kApi. ( Sri Pappu VenugopAla Rao in his conclusion speech mentioned that ‘good kApi is only in karNataka and not in tamilnadu). There are no other swara jatis in this tAla.

6 dha ni dha ma pa dha ma ( jatiswara) – khamAs – chaturasra triputa

7 ma ga ri ni sa dha ni sa ( jatiswara) – kharaharapriya – chaturasra triputa

8 ga ma pa ni sa ni dha pa ( jatiswara) – behAg – chaturasra triputa

9 ri ga ri sa ri sa ni dha ni sa ( jatiswara ) – bhairavi – chaturasra triputa

10 jatiswara – SankarAbharaNam – sankIrNa tripuTa

One of the complicated jatiswara and very difficult to learn. He joked that if you focus on the tAla, you will loose the swara sthAna and vice versa.

11 ma ga ri sa ni dha pa – junjhuti – chaturasra triputa

Junjhuti is one of his favourite raga and this jatiswara is the most famous. As the raga demands, it has only manthra sthayi and madhya sthayi sancharas.

Summarising , Sri Pappu Venugopala Rao mentioned the qualitied needed for a good vaggeyakara ( I cant recollect the slokam). He said Veena Sheshanna had all those  qualities. He said kannadigas do not promote their vaggeyakaras,  on the other side, people who have written 4 compositions are heralded as great vaggeyakaras elsewhere.  On the jatiswaras of Veena Seshanna, he said, they are not only difficult to sing, but are equally difficult to ‘say’ the swaras.  He said, being a vainika himself, Veena Seshanna probably would have written them for Veena students to practice different swara sthanas, different kAla pramAna and different tAla. He appealed to the music teachers to learn them first and then teach their students.

Varnam – M S Sheela

Violin : Nalina Mohan

Mrudangam : K U Jayachandra Rao

Veena Seshanna have composed 9 varnams in total, and each of them are complex and intellectually at a high level.  They aren’t easy to learn and that could be one reason, why we dont see them in concerts.

Out of the 9 varnams 7 of them are in ragams like thODi, sAvEri, jhAla varALi etc and 2 of them are in rAgamAlika ( behAg rAgamAlika with 14 rAgas and bEgaDa rAgamAlika with 21 rAgas). In this only 2 are in Adi tALa and the rest are in different often complex tAla. All these varnams start at the middle finger count ( eduppu after samam) 

1. nIrajAkshi – sAvEri – misra jhumpa

The nuances of the varnam was demonstrated by M S Sheela, on the various ways of reaching the  ‘jIva swara’ of sAvEri ( dhaivatham) . Some of them have to be listned to and words will not be able to bring them to light.

2. kAma shata kOti sundara – jhAla varALi – chaturasra triputa

3. sAmi ninnE nammi – pUrvikalyANi – khaNDa madhya tALA (?)

she sang some excerpts from this varnam demonstrating the tri-sthayi sanchara. Interestingly, in this varnam pallavi starts with shadjam and the swara starts at ‘madhyamam’. This is unheard in purvikalyani, according to her, and she demonstrated with other popular pUrvikalyAni kritis.

4. varNam – behAg rAgamAlika

After charanam, the swaras are composed in 14 ragas.  behAg, hindOLam, mALAvasri, sahAna, AbhEriNi, AbhOgi,  nata nArAyaNi,  khamAs, kOkila , kamalA manOhari , garuDha dhwani , jhunjhuti .. ( oh I missed two ).  I havent heard the names like mAlavasri and Abherini before. M S Sheela mentioned that there is no other reference on AbhEriNi, but the ArOhaNa and avarOhaNa. She also mentioned that the natanArAyaNi here uses a different nishAda ( kAkali ?) from the known scale.

While summarising Pappu Venugopala Rao credited M S Sheela for a successful demonstration of these varnams. He said, they are like gymnastic exercises and are not easy to perform. He aslo thought aloud, if these are good for performances or are they only for academic exercise. Had he composed these to demonstrate his expertise over these forms of music and ragam.  He said, all these varnams are written in telugu and they are of high order in both musical and sahitya. He would have been assisted , possibly, by the royal poets ( he mentioned in general not singling out Veena Seshanna).

Thillana – D. Balakrishna

Veena : D.Balakrishna

Mrudangam  : K U Jayachandra Rao.

Vid D Balakrishna, son of Mysore Doraiswami Iyengar  is probably the best exponent of Veena Seshanna krithis, having learnt and performed them extensively. 

For a common listener, Veena Seshanna is known for his thillanas. It is also said that his thillanas are his best compositions and widely popular especially the jhunjhuti thillana. He narrated an incident where Ariyakkudi Ramaujam was so impressed with the charanam of this tillana, praising them to Sri Doraiswami Iyengar, after repeating the line several times ( Enividha mukhA veNDu konDirA ??).

1. thillAna – sankarAbharaNam – Adi tAla

Veena Seshannas krithis are known for the dhAtu prayogas, various approaches to the dhAtu swara. This thillAna is no different. Demonstrating certain phrases form the thillana, Vid.Balakrishna highlighted the western musical influences in this composition.

2. thillAna – thODi – Adi

This thillana has some interesting swara phrases, not usually seen in other thODi compositions. These phrases are ‘gamaka mukta’. They are sung as plain notes. This was taught to Doraiswami Iyengar by Chintapalli Venkatagiriappa , a desciple of Veena Seshanna himself.

3. thillana  – kEdAram – rUpakam

Kedaram was Veena Seshannas favourite ragam according to his desciples.

4. thillAna – kAnaDa – Adi

This thillana uses ‘anthara gAndhAra’ and ‘kAkaLi nishAda’ which are not heard in the current kAnaDa. While discussing this Rarappilli Ananthakrishna Sharma said to Doraiswami Iyengar that this should be considered as ‘composer’s license’ like the ‘poetic license’. He also mentioned that there is no clear evidence, on how kAnaDa was sung those days.

There is also a legend on this composition. It is said that the Maharaja and Veena Sheshanna weren’t in talking terms at the time of this and the line in charanam ‘marachEDi nyAyama’ wupposed to have melted the heart of the MaharAja ( especially the nyayama word played beautifully on veena) and the misunderstanding were cleared.

5. thillAna ( tana dhirana dhim tana dhim) – hindustAni kApi – misra chap

As is the case with every Mysore compsers, Veena Sheshanna was also influenced by the hindustani music. His kritis in Jhunjuti, behAg and Hindustani kApi are the examples of this influence. He has also composed in karNataka kApi.

This thillana supposed to have been the last kriti performed by Veena Seshanna. At a concert at Shadvidha pAThashAla in Mysore, he supposed to have played this krithi closed his eyes and did not open again.

While summarising Pappu Venugopala Rao acknoledged the fingering techinique of Balakrishna for its distinct Mysore Bani.  Veena Seshanna have composed 17 thillanas in total and each of them are performable. They are also complicated in its own way with very unusual mathematical patterns to it. There are craftmanship and design in each of them and are not easy.

As Vid.Balakrishna mentioned, Veena Seshanna was an unsual man and his knowledge on music was outstanding. With continued practice, he discover various possibilities within the raga and this excitement of finding something new in the raga would have come out in the form of a new composition. 

It would be a mistake on my part if i did not mention the supporting artists. To me, it seems, Nalina Mohan had done some good homework performing thse krithis commentably well. So was the percussion of Jayachandra Rao.

PS : most of the lecture was in Kannada and I would have made errors in my understanding. Do not hesitate to correct me. Also, I might have missed some important technical points ( with my near zero knowledge on music). Any addition to this is welcome.


Posted by on July 25, 2010 in Lec-Dem


3 responses to “Veeneya Bedagu – Lec-Dem on Compositions of Veena Sheshanna @ Gayana Samaja 25th July 2010

  1. soham

    March 17, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    Can you please tell me if there is a recording of the concert avavailable or any other renditions of the pieces mentioned above?

  2. Jayan

    February 20, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Thank you Sri Rao. Though I’ve not heard a great deal of him, he is the doyen of the carnatic Music in Karnataka

  3. N S Rao

    February 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Pujya VeeNay Seshanna should have definitely been a gandharva deputed by God to earth not only to demonstrate the power of music but to prove that nadopasana can lead to liberation. He was very well known to the family of Halegeri Narasinga Rao, who is the grandfather of my grand father in law, Nellikai Vebkata Rao of Mangalore.


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