It is in deed impossible to think of any human activity without numbers.Our age, the time, the grocery, the Bus Route, the Car Registration, the TV Channel..well the list is endless..
And yes..Music and numbers..
It is an inextricable link.
Each number is unique and has its own beauty.
Thirumazhisai Aaazhwar-one of whose paasurams I had already quoted in my post on ‘Endrendrum Aanandame’(Laya Raja) in this thread-who lived in the 7th Century wrote 216 verses out of which 96 are classified are ‘Naanmugan Thiru Anthaathi’ and 120 are classified under ‘Thiruchchanda Viruththam’.
‘Thiruchchanda Viruththam’ is very musical. The verses have very deep philosophical connotations as well.
One of the verses is
‘AaRum AaRum AaRumaay Or Ainthum Ainthum Ainthumaay,
ERuseer iraNdum moonRum Ezhum AaRum ettumaay,
VERu VERu Gnaam Aagi meyyinodu poyyumaay,
OoRodu Osaiyaaya ainthum aaya aaya maayanE!
ஆறும் ஆறும் ஆறுமாய் ஓர் ஐந்தும் ஐந்தும் ஐந்துமாய்,
ஏறு சீர் இரண்டும் மூன்றும்,ஏழும், ஆறும், எட்டுமாய்,
வேறு வேறு ஞானம் ஆகி,மெய்யினோடு பொய்யுமாய்,
ஊறொடு ஓசையாய ஐந்தும் ஆய ஆய மாயனே!
The great Vaishnavite scholar Shri.K C Varadachary has translated this verse wonderfully:
Being the six, the six and the six being (worshipped) by the five, the five and the five
He who is the excellent two, the three, the seven, the six and the eight
Having made distinct the knowledge, being the True and the Untrue
The Self of the five (senses) He is the Lord, the magician!
As mentioned earlier, the verse has inner meanings and is beyond the scope of this discussion.
However, one can enjoy this verse just by reading without even scratching the head about the meanings.
Does it not sound so musical?
Now each number is unique and has a beauty of its own.
Let us take the number five.
There are five elements.
There are five senses.
There are five fingers in each hand.
The Tamizh Land was divided into Five different ThiNais in the Sangam period.
In Hindu Religion, Siva is known by the panchaakshara mantran(na ma shi va ya).
Lord Ganesha is described as the one with five hands(Ainkaran).
The number Five is very musical too.
While setting the Shruthi, the range is calculated from the base ‘sa’to ‘pa’which is the fifth note.
One of the greatest composers of all times, Saint Thyagaraja spent his life in Thiruvaiyaaru-the place where 5 rivers flow.
In Kerala, during all major functions, five percussion instruments-called as Pancha Vaadhyam- is played in unison.
In Carnatic Music, pentatonic Ragas-Ragas that have five notes are very popular.
Our Maestro invented a raga called ‘Panchamukhi’-meaning five faces.
His symphony score for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has five movements.
Today, we are going to see a composition that is based on a pentatonic raga.
The Raga is Abhogi.
This Raga is special for two reasons.
Before we get on with the composition, let us see why this Raga is special.
The Carnatic Music Trinity-Shyama Sastry, Thyagaraja,and Muththuswami Dikshitar-were contemporaries and have given us gems.
Yet another great composer, Gopalakrishna Bharatiyar-who composed many songs in Tamizh including the ‘Nandanar Charitram’ also lived during the same period in Mayilaaduthurai.
One day, he decided to visit Saint Thyagaraja.
As he entered the house, he saw and heard Thyagaraja’s disciples singing a Keerthana in Abhogi. Thyagaraja asked Bharati if he had composed any song in that raga. There was no answer.
The next day, Bharati went to the Saint’s house again and sang a Krithi in Abhogi.The Saint asked him as to why he did not sing that the previous day and Goplakrishna Bharatiyar replied that he composed it only the previous night.
The great Saint blessed him.
The song was the popular ‘Sabapathikku Veru Deivam Samaanamaaguma’.
This episode was described by the great Tamizh writer U.V.Swaminatha Iyer and has been reproduced by ILaiyaraaja in his book ‘Sangeeta KanavugaL’ while mentioning about a photograph he saw of the Western Music composer Strauss with another great composer Brahms in Vienna.
Abhogi is special for yet another reason.
A Krithi in this Raga was sung by ILaiyaraaja in pure Carnatic style in the presence of one of the greatest legends of Carnatic music, Shri.Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer-whose Birth Centenary is being celebrated across the country now.
After the rendering, Shri.Semmangudi placed his hands on Raaja sir’s head and called him a ‘Maha Vidwan’.
Let us now look at today’s composition that is based on this very special Raga.
Before that, let us see the structure of Abhogi.
It is derived from the 22nd Melakartha Karaharapriya and its Arohana/Avarohana pattern is:
Sa ri2 ga2 ma1 dha1 Sa/Sa dha2 ma1 ga2 ri2 sa.
And now for the composition.
The single string provides the adhaara shruti.We see the quintessential beauty of Abhogi as Jayachandran sings a sweet aalaap with subtle flute welcoming him.The Veena now plays with verve.
We are awestruck by the structure of the Pallavi.
The first two lines flow smoothly.
In the next line ‘KanavugaLin..’ is followed by a beautiful sangati that first stays in a couple of notes and then comes down following the avarohana pattern.
We see the same pattern in the next line.
The sweet voice of Vani Jayaram joins just towards the end of the pallavi.
The Flute now captivates us as it calls joyously. Its call is replied by the Veena.
The Dilruba now coalesces with the Veena giving us a very intense feeling. The Veena is so happy that it begins to sing rapturously with the Mridangam nodding its head happily.
The joy continues in the densely structured Charanam.
The way the Raga is delineated is amazing.
‘Poongiyil Sonnathu Kaadalin Mandiram’and ‘Poovinai Thooviya..’give the raga in a burnished form while ‘Naayagan Kai Thodavum’ show us the vibrant hues of Abhogi.
In ’Manjaththile..’Abhogi fondles us.
The tantalizing trajectory of the Swaras shows us the intrinsic beauty of the Raga.
To start with, it is reposeful.
It then becomes powerful.
It is then free flowing and pulsating.
A class act!
A pageantry of sorts!
Joie de vivre!
As unique as the number five.
His Music-Joyful not just today, but forever!
அவரது இசை இருந்தால் இன்றைக்கு மட்டுமல்ல, என்றைக்குமே ஆனந்தம்தான்!