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Wednesday, October 04 2023

Sri Tyagaraja – a New Raga in Carnatic Music by Mahesh Mahadev

Sri Tyagaraja a New Raga in Carnatic Music by Mahesh Mahadev
Photo Credit : By Author

Bengaluru: Musicians, music lovers and enthusiasts perceive the yearly Tyagaraja Aradhana in Thiruvaiyaru as a special blessing which is considered very auspicious keeping their musical spirits high throughout the year. They consider it as a privilege and honour to perform and take part in it. Music Composer Mahesh Mahadev, a film and classical music composer from Bengaluru, however, wanted to pay his musical homage to Saint Sri Tyagaraja, by creating a new raga “Sri Tyagaraja ” named after this great saint and musician. He has composed a Carnatic classical composition in this raga. Sri Tyagaraja, an ardent devotee of the god Rama, expressed his devotion towards the Lord in his songs, kritis, which consolidated and defined the tradition of Carnatic classical music. The name of the raga itself defines the saint who dedicated his life to the Lord Sri Rama, one who saw Lord through his musical works, one who was a musical composer par excellence. 

Mahesh Mahadev, who has created a number of classical ragas, considers the creation of the new raga “Sri Tyagaraja” in homage to the great saint Tyagaraja to be a great blessing from the Saint himself. He claims that the fact that the raga was created, composed, the lyrics were written, it was notated, and the recording all took place in just three days is an unforgettable moment for him. A composition or song establishes any raga firmly. Without this, it is impossible to imagine the raga’s shape and flow. Mahesh Mahadev has written and composed the Sanskrit Carnatic kriti “Sri Ramachandram Bhajami ” set to Adi Talam in this new raga. The kriti praises Lord Sri Rama and contains the name of the raga (known as raga mudra) in the Charana portion. This musical composition’s notation and audio were released on the 176th Tyagaraja Aradhana at the sacred Jeeva samadhi of Tyagaraja in Thiruvaiyaru, Tamil Nadu. This new musical creation and composition were well-received by vidwans, musicians, musicologists and music lovers. 

A fascinating raga, Sri Tyagaraja has gamakas that pour bhakti rasa and karuna rasa, as well as subtle glides. Sri Tyagaraja is a janya raga (derived scale) of the 59th melakarta scale, Dharmavathi. The raga is asymmetrical and devoid of dhaivatham. It is a pentatonic hexatonic scale (also known as an audava-shadava raga in Carnatic music; audava means “of 5,” while shadava means “of 6”). This raga’s arohana and avarohana are SG2M2PN3Ṡ and ṠN3PM2G2R2S respectively. The notes used in the ascending scale are shadjam, sadharana gandharam, prati madhyamam, panchamam, kakali nishadham with chathusruthi rishabham included in the descending scale. 

Dr Priyadarshini who is a film and classical singer has added soul to this new composition through her mellifluous rendition by handling subtle gamakas at the gandhara, nishada, taken with a deep inflection from the panchama which is the distinguishing feature of Sri Tyagaraja raga. The lovely lyrical phrase in the aupallavi veera raghavam rajeeva

nayanam janaki prana jagadanandakarakam explicitly conveys the meaning of Lord Rama being the brave descendant of Raghu (Veera Raghavam), who is lotus-eyed (Rajeeva Nayanam) and a bestower (“Kaaraka”) of happiness (“Ananda”) to the world (“Jagada”), and is sita’s (“Janaki”) loving husband (Prana). 

The skillful handling of pieces with slow, medium, and fast paces, as well as the phrases SGR,ṠNPM – MPNP,MGR, explicitly shows the raga in the rendition of the kriti. Priyadarshini says, “At the 176th Tyagaraja Aradhana in Thiruvaiyaru, I performed a Carnatic vocal solo concert and sang the Pancharathna kritis.” “I feel immensely blessed to render the kriti in a new raga named after Sri Tyagaraja also.” “It is definitely a blessing from almighty, my parents and guru to get such precious opportunities.” “There was so much of positive vibration while recording the kriti, and I had a huge responsibility to give full justice to the kriti as it is the first composition in this raga, there she claims that “Sri Tyagaraja’s blessings and Music Composer Mahesh Mahadev’s guidance, inspiration made it happen with such ease. 

Mahesh Mahadev and Dr Priyadarshini presented this kriti at Sri Thyagarajar Illam, the residence where Thyagaraja spent his entire life and wrote innumerable kritis. The musicians and music enthusiasts who were present there enthusiastically praised this creation and the composition, describing the kriti as soul touching one. Another unforgettable experience is described by Mahesh: “We also rendered this kriti in the house of Sri Tyagaraja’s descendants, where the shining idol of Lord Rama and Sita with Hanuman worshipped by Tyagaraja himself is kept, musicians and other devotees present in this priceless shrine felt happy for this musical work and appreciated it wholeheartedly.” 

Mahesh Mahadev, who has created many Carnatic ragas including Srirangapriya, Rajasadhaka, Muktipradayini, and Amrutakalyani, has also invented new ragas in Hindustani music. One raga which he has named Bhimsen, he has written and composed Bandishes too. He says, “I believe that Indian Classical Music has a huge raga repertoire, but invention is something that can never stop, it is infinite, and we can never predict how or when musical creations can occur. I have composed a number of songs and kritis while travelling to the recording studio, too.” “These things just happen all of a sudden,” he said. “One of my raga creations happened overnight; a new raga was born at 1 am, I have written many kritis and songs & my pen name is Sri Skanda” he said. Mahesh Mahadev is currently composing for many Tamil and Kannada movies. He is also working as a lyricist in Kannada movies. 

For Raga notation, you may visit

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