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Musical Forms in Sangita Ratnakara

Item Code: NAM428
Author: N. Ramanathan
Publisher: Sampradaya, Chennai
Language: English
Edition: 1999
Pages: 563
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5 inch X 7.0 inch
Weight 1.24 kg
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Book Description

About the Book

Sampradaya is a voluntary organisation committed to the preservation and propagation of South Indian music traditions. It has been engaged in the task of documenting and archiving rare and disappearing traditions of South Indian music over the last couple of decades. It has also conducted workshops, concerts, lecture demonstrations and symposia with a view to disseminating resources in South India music traditions. Sampradaya's actives have been financially supported by the Ford Foundation.

About the Author

Born in 1946, N. Ramanathan received the Bachelor of Music Degree from the Sri Venkateswara University, with Violin as main practical subject. He joined the Banaras Hindu University of Musicology in the Faculty of Performing Arts. He received the Degree of Master of Music in Musicology and continued in the same Department to receive the Ph.D. Degree. He is at present Professor & Head of the Department of Indian Music at the University of Madras. He is also the Chairperson of the School of Fine and Performing Arts of the University of Madras.

Involved in teaching and research guidance, he has presented papers in seminars in India and abroad and has contributed articles to journals. A book "Essays on Tala and Laya" containing a collection of his articles has also been published. He has been associated with a number of research projects. He is performer of South Indian Art Music on the violin and used to perform over the All India Radio and Doordarshan (Television).


This book 'Musical Forms in Sangitaratnakara' is based on the thesis 'A Critical Study of the Treatment of Gita in Sangitaratnakara of Sarngadeva' for which I was awarded the Ph. D. degree by the Banaras Hindu University in 1980. Some modifications have been made in the thesis prior to its publication as a book. Some musicological ideas got revised while writing papers recently. For instance, the absence of the term 'kriya' (of tala) in the pre-Abhinavabharati texts was noticed only later. Changes have also been made in revised editions of Sangitaratnakara, Volumes I and III of the Adyar Library and the Brhaddesi by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. The Sangitasiromani that had been available only in the form of a manuscript has also been published.

Almost twenty years have elapsed since the preparation of the thesis. Yet, if I am still persisting with its publication in a book form, it is partly because the work still does not seem to have become outdated and partly because professor Prem Lata Sharma, my teacher and supervisor, had been constantly urging me to bring it out. Now that the book is coming out, her absence in the mortal world is being felt all the more.

I am grateful to Sampradaya for undertaking to bring out this publication. This would perhaps add another dimension to their activities, theatof 'Sastra-Sampradaya'.


Sampradaya is very happy to bring out the book "Musical Forms In Sangitaratnakara" by Professor N. Ramanathan who heads the Department of Music at the University of Madras. This is an important step in the direction of Sampradaya's goal of disseminating knowledge of classical music traditions.

Sampradaya is a Chennai-based organisation engaged in the documentation and archiving of South Indian music traditions. Constituted as a Society in 1981, it has consistently identified and documented rare traditions of South Indian music. Sampradaya has, through all these years, sought out masters for their precious repertoire; it has also interviewed them about their life, times, the state of music and other matters of concern to the historian and researcher. While it has concentrated on Karnataka music, the classical music tradition of South India, Sampradaya has not neglected the other, varied, traditions of music that the South has nourished: temple music, folk music, dance music, drama-music, all find a place in Sampradaya's overall vision.

Dissemination of musical resources has an important place in Sampradaya's agenda, in pursuit of which it has organised workshops with the assistance of experts. A six months course to impart the sophistication and wealth of the Veena Dhanam school of music conducted by T. Brinda and T. Vishwanathan; a two weeks intensive course conducted by maestro T.R. Govindarajan to impart traditional technique, repertoire and subtleties of the great tavil tradition of Tanjavur to aspiring young tavil students: these have been some of Sampradaya's attempts to disseminate musical resources.

Research and publication are also important areas of concern to Sampradaya. The present publication is based on the research work of Dr. N. Ramanathan in which he has focussed on a specific aspect of one of the most important treatises in Indian music - the Sangitaratnakara. Among the various kinds of music that exist, it is the Classical or Art Music that has always been accompanied by theoretical writing of a descriptive and prescriptive kind, i.e. sastra. Thus in India we have a large number of treatises that deal with music as an independent art form or as a limb of other art forms like drama and dance. These were written in Tamizh and Sarnskrta in the earlier period, and later in many other regional languages too. In his erudite article, "Some Names in Later Sangita Literature", Dr. V. Raghavan rates Ssngitsrstniiker« of Sarngadeva first among the texts of the medieval period, comparable with the works of the ancients, Bharata, Dattila and Matanga.

About the text itself Dr. Raghavan has this to say - "The work is not original but is the only standard work known for long and largely drawn upon and borrowed by all later writers for whom it set the model... The importance of the work is also known from the many commentaries upon it. Next perhaps to Bharata's Natya Sastra, it is the only music work on which other music scholars have written commentaries .... The place occupied by Sarngadeva and his work are known not only by the above-noted commentaries in Sanskrit and Hindi and the translations in regional languages but also by the fact that up to the 18th century all music works reproduced or paraphrased the Ratnakara for their earlier part dealing with ancient music."

I am glad that this important work has been taken up for a detailed study, for this is a step in understanding the music of the past. It is obvious that a written account of that music cannot really re-create it for us, but can only throw light on the thinking on music that went on in that period. But even theoretical studies do result in several discoveries about the art. For instance, 'sangtta' is today understood as 'music', but, as Ramanathan points out in the first chapter of this book, in earlier times there was a composite art form called sangita, that was constituted by the three arts of music, drumming and dance (gitarn, vadyarn ea nrttam ea tray am sangltamucyate).

Morever, an acquaintance with the technical terms with the help of which the subject was handled, and thereby, a grasp of the concepts in which the thought on music was formulated in the earlier period, will equip us better for thinking about the classical music of our own times.

Samgadeva deals with prabandha-s in chapter 4 of his work. In ancient Tamil music Tevarams and Divya Prabandhams had a single section format, with identical music for all the stanzas. Later came the two-sections format known as kirtana - a pallavi and caranam-s, Finally, the last three or four centuries saw the advent and development of the modern, three-sections, krti format (with a pallavi, anupallavi and one or more caranarn-s]. The krti may be considered to have been pioneered by the Tallapakkam fraternity, enriched by Purandaradasa and perfected by the "Trinity" of Karnataka music - Tyagaraja, Muttusvarni Diksitar and Syama Sastrt.

However, the prabandha as expounded in the Ratnakara is by no means the primitive, single-section format of ancient times. Samgadeva speaks of dvi-dhatu, tri-dhatu, and even catur-dhatu prabandha-s. The four-limbed prabandha has an udgraha (like a pallavi), a Melapaka, which is a brief link between the first and the third limb, a dhruva which is the constant and indispensable limb (and hence dhruva); and finally an abhoga, the finishing touch. "The process of evolution through centuries has transmuted the four sections of the prabandha into the pallavi, anupallavi and caranarn of the modern Krti." (R. Ranga Ramanuja Ayyangar, "Sangeeta Ratnakara, A Study.")

It is well known that Or. Ramanathan is a highly erudite musicologist of our times. Backed up by diligent research, his book throws light on the somewhat bewildering details of Sarngadeva's treatment of musical forms.

Besides, I believe there are two other reasons why musicians will find a study of the Sangitaratnakara rewarding and inspiring. In the first place, it will help us to remember and reaffirm the highest ideal our forefathers believed in and practised: nada vidya as both the means and the goal. This will be a rejuvenating antidote to the frenetic pace and pressures of modern life. Secondly, the Prakima Adhyaya is illuminating, though sometimes disturbingly, joltingly critical. It deals with the credentials of a composer, merits and shortcomings of a musician, the criteria of good and bad voice culture. Samgadeva comes down heavily on such foibles as clenched teeth, grating noise, snorting sound, gaping mouth, hoarse discordant shouting, unsteady rhythm, crooked posture, uncouth gestures and mannerisms, eyes closed tight, incoherent mumbling, cloying nasal twang, hectic fitful jumps from octave to octave with intent to impress and leaving wide gaps in the flow of melody! Strong words of advice, these, from Sarngadeva, for self analysis and self-improvement. After all, music is a life long quest for higher, finer levels of aesthetic perfection. Therefore every bit of introspection can help as a signpost on this odyssey.

I am sure this book will be of interest, not only to scholars of the history of music, but also to musicians and students of classical music. I hope that it will kindle the curiosity of the rasikas of music too.

I would like to place on record Sampradaya's gratitude to the Ford Foundation for the consistent financial support it has been extending all these years to Sampradaya in its activities in the service of music. The present publication too has been possible because of the support of the Foundation.

Sampradaya also acknowledges the good work done by Sri Maruthy Laser Printers with all diligence and commitment.

It gives me great pleasure to commend the book to the fraternity of music lovers.


The Present work is not intended to be an exhaustive study of Sangitaratnakara. It was envisaged as an inquiry into one part that treatise, namely, the delineation of Gita in it. However, in my attempt to define the field of study, I have to get picture of the entire work.

Sangitaratnakara, my study revealed, has been conceived as a treatise on Sangita. HTe term 'Sangita' as defined by itsauthor. Sangadeva, Comprehends Gita, Vadya and Nrtta. My enquiry into the nature of sangita led me to the conclusion that sangita signified a performance in with gita, vadya and nrtha were combined. While performances of this nature whichare described by Bharata in the Natyasastra are termed Marga by our author, the performances which did not conform to such strict rules and which catered to the tastes of people of different lands are termed Desi. And form Sarngadeva's treatment of the three elements of this sangita, it becomes clear that he wished himself to the delineation of desi. On this subject, Sangitaratnakara is a vey important treatise, for there are very few works available from the period earlier to the writing of this treatise which describe desi. Brhaddesi, in which all the three aspects of desi appear to have been dealt with, is not available in its complete form. Form two other works, Somesvars's Manasollasa, and Nanyadeva's Bharatabhasya (Sarasvatihrdayalankarahara), some information can be gathered about desi. But Sangitaratnakara is the only available work in which the unified nature of sangita is clearly perceptible.

Sangita appears to have been a performance dominated by gita. The word gita can be roughly translated as melodic music. Sangadeva emphasises the primacy of gita both in sangita and in the scheme of his work. In the very firstverse of thework he salutes gita concerns himself with the entire field of gita, and not merely thegita component of sangita.

Following Abhinavagupta, the commentator on Natyasastra, Sarngadeva demarcates gita into the realms of Gandharva adn Gana. Gana is thatgita or music which is performed for the entertainment of a public. And gita aspect of sangita falls into this category. As far as the gita aspect of sangita is concerned, Sarngadeva's interest lies in delineating the desi forms alone. He is not concerned with the gita or ganaemployed inmarga sangita.

Gandharva is the entire body of music that was performed 'for pleasing the gods' or, if one may so, its sake. Gandharva was not meant for the entertainment of a public. The musical forms comprising gandharva are defined as sacred, well-regulated (niyata) and productive of the highest good. Unike his selective interest ingana forms, Sarngadeva's interest in gandharava covers the whole field.

Some of the gandharva forms seem to have had a very ancient tradition. The Gitaka- are the oldest and they been presented as perfectly determined forms in ancient works like Natyasastra and Dattilam. Sarnagadeva is entirely guided by earlier works in his presentation of gandharva forms, and accords an elaborate treatment to the gitaka-s, incorporating all the information contained in Natyasastra and Dattilam. And he seems to have largely guided by Abhinava's commentary on the Natyasastra in interpreting the prescriptions of the ancients. Thus Sarngadeva's treatment of gitaka-s consolidates all the information provided in ancient texts on these forms.

The analysis of a gitaka can be viewed as a model of structural analysis in music. Every aspect of the form is identified, named and classified. The tala structure id analysed into the various tala components or talanga-s which determine the division of the gitaka into sections. All aspects of tala, its duration, execution, etc. are minutely described. The melodic aspect is systematically analysed into melodic limbs or varnanga-s, which are again defined and classified. The pada aspect is similarly classified. Apart from the exhaustive description of each element, Sarngadeva presents in detail other features like the repetition or variation of text or/and melody, modification of the tala structure, and alternative versions of the various features of gitaka-s.

In Sarngadeva's treatment of nirgita, another gandharva form, we again find a detailed structural analysis. And the nirgita-s include aspects of melody which have a special relation with instruments. So I have treated these two forms as the prime examples of gita (melodic form), and have a detailed account of the treatment accorded to them in Sangitaratnakara.

In direct contrast, other gandharva forms like jati-gita-s have been presented with the minimum of structural analysis in Sangitaratnakara. I have tried to carry a structural analysis of these forms as far as this was possible without wandering into the realm of conjecture.

Much as I would have wished to do a detailed analysis of all the prabandha-s, I have been deterred from undertaking this task by their great number. Besides, these have been dealt with in great detail in other research contributions like, 'Time Measure and Compositional Types in Indian Music: A Historical and Analytical Study of Tala, Chanda and Nibaddha Musical Forms' by Dr. Subhadra Chaudhary .

In my study of Sangitaranakara, wherever I have encountered elements or features of musical forms already detailed in Natyasastra, I have had to depend on Abhinavagupta's commentary to get a clear conception. Sarngadeva seems to have expressed the ideas present in Natyasastra through Abhinava's interpretation of them. Whether it be the description of dhatu-s of vina-s or the definition of amsa or thedelineation of the varnanga called 'crtta' in sitaka-s, we fined Sarngadeva has expressed Bharata's views as interpreted by Abhinava. In he introduction to the translation of Sangitaratnakara, Vol. I, by Dr. R.K. Shringy and Dr. Prem Lata Sharma, Dr. Sharma has compared Sangitaratnakara to the dehali-pradipa (a lamp on the threshold of a room illuminating both inside and outside), as it illuminates the ancientand medieval traditions. However, for me, Abhinava's work has been the dehali-pradipa that has illuminated the earlier work Natyasastra and the later work Sangitaratnakara.

Commentaries on Sangitaratnakara have been quite helpful. I have consulted Simhabhupala's and Kallinatha's commentaries at every step and occasionally referred to the 'Setu-vyakhay' of Gangarama. In Some contexts I found the interpretations of the commentators not reflecting the spirit of the earlier thinking. In this I have derived more help from Kumbha's magnum opus Sangitaraja, for he seems to have been quite familiar with the earlier text, especially with Abhinavagupta's work.


Preface vii
Foreword ix
Introduction xi
Acknowledgements xiv
List of Abbreviations xv
Chapter I: Gita 1
Section I Gita and Sangita 1
Gita as a Constituent of Sangita 1
The Constituents of Natya 3
Gana 4
Vadya 5
Natya or Abhinaya 6
Organic Relation between Sangita and its Consituents 7
Marga Sangita and Desi Sangita 8
Sangita and Sangitaka 15
Nrtta, Netya and Natya 18
Nartana 23
Post-Natyasastra Developments in the Textual Tradition 26
The Treatment of Sangita in Sangitaratnakara 27
Gita in Desi Sangita 30
Vadya in Desi Sangita 31
Nrtta in Desi Santia 32
Desi Elements Outside the Sangita Form 32
The Tradition of Prabandha-s 35
Section II The Narture of Gita 43
Definition of Gita 43
Vadya as Contrasted with Gita 44
The Concept of Svara-sandarbha 49
Gita' and Related Terms 53
Gandharva and Gana 55
Section III Sarngadeva's Treatment of Gita 66
A General Survey 66
Melodic Forms 72
Chapter II: Prakarana Gita 77
A Note on Tala 78
Kala and Pata 84
Marga 87
Margakala-s 92
Ekakala, Dvikala and Catuskala States of Tala 94
Padabhaga 98
Martra 99
Khandatala-s 118
Parivarta 119
Laya 119
Laya of Aksara, Pada and Vakya 121
Yati 122
Graha 123
Prakarana Gita-s in Earlier Texts 130
Sarngadeva's Approach to Gitaka-s 131
The Structure of the Gitaka 138
Tala 138
Vastu 141
Anga 142
Other Details of the Tala Aspect of Gitaka-s 153
Modified Forms of Gitaka-s 155
The Svara Aspect of Gitaka-s 159
Vidari 160
The Pada Aspect of Gitaka-s 170
Niryukta 171
Padaniryukta 172
Aniryukta 172
Organisation of the Components of Gitaka-s 179
The First Set of Seven Gitaka-s 182
Madraka 182
Aparantaka 194
Ullopyaka 215
Prakari 235
Ovenaka 242
Rovindak 255
Uttara 261
The Second Set of Seven Gitaka-s 265
Chandaka 265
Asarita and Vardhamana - Mutual Relation 269
Asarita-s 271
Vardhamana 299
Kandika Vardhamana 300
Ten Parivarta-s 304
Asaritabhasa Vardhamana 306
Vardhamanabhasa Asarita 312
Panika 319
Rk, Gatha, Sama 324
Common Features 324
RK 328
Gatha 328
Sama 329
Chapter III: Nirgita 330
Vina-s 331
Dhatu-s 334
Vrtti-s 342
Jati-s 344
Gitanugata Vadya 347
Nirgita Compositions in Ancient works 350
Sangadeva's Approach Nirgita-s 352
The Term Nirgita and its Synonyms 358
General stucture of Nirgita 359
Nirgita-s Description 369
Asravana 369
Arambha 381
Vaktrapani 388
Sankhotana 394
Parighattana 397
Margasarita 402
Lilakrta 404
The Three Asarita-s 408
Chapter IV: Jati-Gita, Kapala-Gana and Kambala-Gana 410
Jati-Gita, Kapala-Gana and Kambala-Gana 410
Definition and Scope 410
A Note on Svara 413
The Svaradhyaya of Sangitaratanakara 413
Sarira 415
Nada and its Creation 416
Sthana 418
Sruti-s 419
Svara 424
Srutijati-s 426
Sudha and Vikrta Svara-s 427
Four Types of Svara-s - Vadi, Samvadi, Vivadia and Anuvadi 431
Other Topics in Nadaprakarana 435
Grama 435
Murcchana and Tana 438
Murcchana-tana and Jati 440
The Later Deelopment of Murcchana-s 444
Sadharana 446
Jati-Sadharana 452
Varna 453
Alankara 455
Jati-s 456
Suddha and Vikrta Svara Jati-s 457
Samsargaja Jati-s 457
Jati Laksana-s 459
Jati-s and Jati-gita-s 464
Jati-gita-s in Various Texts 468
The Structure of Jati-gita-s 471
Prastara 484
Kapala-gana 486
Prastara 489
Kambala-gana 490
Chapter V: Aksiptika 491
Introduction 491
A Note on Raga Classification 494
Grama-raga-s 494
Giti-s 494
Gamaka-s 495
Gramaraga-s and Natya 496
Gramaraga-s and Their Sub-Varieties 497
Desi Raga-s 499
The Structure of Aksiptika-s 501
Prastara 505
Chapter VI: Alapti and Prabandha 506
Anibaddha and Nibaddha Gana Forms 506
Alapti and Prabandha 507
Sthaya-s 508
Varieties of Alapti 510
Raga-alapti 510
The Structure of Raga-alapti 512
Rupaka-alapti 514
Pratigrahanika 514
Bhanjani 515
Prabandha-s 515
Dhatu-s 515
Anga-s 517
Jati-s of Prabandha-s 520
Varieties of Prabandha-s 520
Classification of Prabandha-s 520
Melodic Basis of Prabandha-s 522
The Tala Basis of Prabandha-s 523
Uttama and Adhama Prabandha-s 525
Bibliography 527

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