The Ragavibodha is a masterpiece on musicology from the 17th century. It was composed by Somanatha to address the existing contradictions between the ancients' theory and prevailing performance practices; thus making it an indispensable treatise, to be included in the Kalamulasastra series of the IGNCA.
Somanatha is by far the most important and the most original of all the sixteenth and seventeenth century writers on music as he produced the Ragauibodha, an outstanding treatise on the subject. The Riigavibodha is a distinctive text because it is embellished with a contemporaneous auto commentary by the composer himself, making it easier to comprehend his theory and viewpoint. It also has the author's music illustrations that reflect the music of his time and serve as a bridge between the music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and that of the present-day. Moreover in this treatise, the author has invented twenty-three notational symbols and names for the Vadanabhedas that he has culled from the ancients' legacy of gamakas etc.; thus rendering it as the first work in the textual tradition that has attempted the aural possibility of visible symbols.
In the present edition of the Ragauibodha of Somanatha, Dr. Ranganayaki Ayyangar has given an authentic text and complemented it with a faithful and lucid English translation. She also has painstakingly illustrated the musical notations of Somangtha by herself, which are reproduced in the appendix.
Dr. Ranganayaki Ayyangar (25.12.1927). Disciple of the great masters such as Namakkal Sesha Ayyangar, Sangita Kalanidhi Thiruppamburam Swaminatha Pillai and Sangita Kalanidhi Mudikondan Venkatarama Aiyar, Ranganayaki became a concert singer of note, both in public platforms and the All India Radio. She won the scholarship awarded by the Government of India in the period 1957-59.
Ranganayaki did her Doctorate on Somanathas Ragavibodha in the University of Philadelphia and later joined the University of Illinois and taught ethnomusicology to graduate students at Champagne, Urbana. She also had a stint of teaching in the University of Mysore during 1965-68. Back in India, in the late nineteen seventies she joined the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi in the Music Department, retiring as its head. In the early eighties, she served for a couple of years in the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi as its first documentation officer.
Going back to her roots in Chennai, Ranganayaki served with distinction as the head of Sampradaya, a Ford-Foundation-aided institution, devoted to the cause of preserving the musical traditions of South India. Later, she was the Editor of the works of Swami Dayananda Saraswathi and brought out several publications till 2007.
She has brought out two important works titled (i) Analysis of the melodic, rhythmic and formal structure of Carnatic krithis, as exemplified in the krithis of Shri Syama Sastri, Shri Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Shri Thyagaraja (1965); and (ii) Composition in South Indian Music (1978).
The Kalamulasastra series of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) explores the interactions between the theory and practice of India's arts. So far in this series, we have published seminal musicological texts, such as Matralaksanam, Dattilam of Dattila Muni, Puspasutra, Brhaddesi of Matanga Muni, Nartana-nirnaya of Pandarika Vitthala, Tarjuma- i-Manakutahala va risala-i-Ragadarpana of Faqirullah, Sangitopanisat Saroddharah of Vacanacarya Sri Sudhakalasa, Caturdandi Prakasika of Venkatamakhin, SangitanaraYana of Purusottama Misra and Ragalaksanam of Muddu Venkata Makhin along with Sri Kavi Karnera Pala and Krsnagiti of Manavedan.
The present project, Ragavibodha of Somanatha is yet another text on musicology from the 17th century and is a masterpiece, as it emerges out of a dire need of its composer to address the existing contradictions between the ancients' theory and prevailing performance practices. It is a matter of immense satisfaction and pleasure for us at IGNCA that the critical edition and English translation of Ragavibodha is being placed in the hands of scholars, musicologists and connoisseurs of Indian music.
Prof. Ranganayaki V. Ayyangar has painstakingly edited and translated this text and has supplemented the edition with a very scholarly introductory chapter, in which she has described in great detail the Manuscripts, Lithograph versions and Printed versions of Ragavibodha as well as its contents, metres, etc. She has also critically analysed the compelling reasons that drove Somanatha to compose this masterpiece. The translation rendered by Prof. Ayyangar is as masterly as the text itself. She has, for the first time, decoded and presented the musical notation of Somanatha, which constitutes Appendix of this volume. We thankfully acknowledge her substantial contributions in making this project a reality.
I congratulate the team of Kalakosa Division especially Dr. Sudhir Kumar Lall, managing editor of this volume, for his tireless efforts in bringing the output submitted by Prof: Ayyangar to this stage of publication. We are sure that scholars the world over will welcome this significant contribution by IGNCA and will benefit from it. We look forward to receiving feedback from the readers of this publication. If any errors or lacunae are noticed, we would welcome your comments, so that we can appropriately rectify them in future editions of Ragavibodha.
When Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts asked me to translate Somanatha's Rngaoibodha, I jumped with joy, because I had used Ragaoibodha for my Doctorate thesis. I thank Dr. Vatsyayan profusely.
In this translation work some editorial decisions were taken. They are:
1. All Sanskrit words and words of other languages except English, would be in italics;
2. English equivalents or near equivalents for technical terms in other languages would be given in parentheses on the first appearance of the word;
3. The plural of the words would not be italicized.
4. Footnotes are given seriatim, except in Chapter III, where endnotes have been used.
5. Explanation of the diacritical marks used in this translation work as well as a key to pronunciations are also given.
At the outset, I must thank my Guru H.H. Swami ji Dayanand Saraswati. Pujya Swamiji encouraged me to undertake the translation work. He led my faltering steps to complete the task and has always blessed me with his asirvada. His blessings have been a source of great inspiration for me.
Somanatha's Ragavibodha is an epic work. When I undertook the translation work, I was amazed at Somanatha's thoroughness.
Mr. Srividya of the TVS Educational Society helped me with typing out the English manuscript.
I must place on record my grateful thanks to many people who have all helped me in manifold ways in preparing this translation. They number enough to write a book! Amongst the many, mention must first be made of Swami Sakshatkritanada Saraswati Maharaja, Pandit Satkari Mukhopadhyaya, Prof. Abhiramasundram, Dr. Geetha Ganesh, Bhanu Mami, Kumari K. Chandra, who computer-typed the edited Sanskrit text, and others have helped me in completing my task. Mention should also be made of Smt. Lavanya Sundaram, my sister, Smt. Mythili Rajagopal and Ms. Survi Massey who patiently typed the Introduction.
Somanatha completed Ragavibodha, his treatise on music, in Saka era Saumya, in the month of Asvina on the first day of the bright fortnight, which happens to be a Monday with Hasta star.' This corresponds to the Gregorian date, 18 September 1609 AD.
The author, Somanatha, talks very little of himself in his work. All he says is that his mother was one Jhampamba and that his father was Mudgala Sun. His paternal grandfather Menganatha was reputed to be a scholar of scholars. The word 'Suri' in his father's name also indicates that he was a scholar. Mudgala Suri was not only his father, but also his teacher.
We believe that he was not a sectarian; he starts his work by worshipping God Rama through an ancient prayer-verse and he ends the work as an offering to God Umamahesvarah, i.e. Siva. N. A. Gore feels that he was a Siva-devotee." Somanatha claims that he belonged to the family named Sakalakala. This family had other scholars as well,"
Somanatha did not write his work on music, Ragavibodha, at the behest of any king or patron. We believe that he wrote it because he was a musician and also a scholar; he could not, perhaps, reconcile with the prevailing contradictions between the ancients writings and contemporaneous performance-practices. He gives this very reason as the raison detre for the work.
Somanatha has written, besides Ragavibodha, three other works in Sanskrit, namely,
i) Jatimala: Based on different kinds of women, besides some nayikas,
ii) Anyoktimuktavali : This work ostensibly describes nature, trees, birds, etc. but in reality describes human nature; and,
From this, we can conclude that his interest was not only in music but that he was a real humanist as well. It is not very difficult to approximate the period when he lived. He had completed Ragavibodha, according to his own statement, in1609 A.D. Gore assumes "that his literary activity extended from 1600 to 1625 A.D. and assigns him to "a period comprising the last quarter of the 16th and the second quarter of the 17th century A.D. We agree.
Somanatha is believed to have come from Andhradesa, So claims Kunhan Raja in his introduction to Ragavibodha by Somanatha without citing any internal or external evidence; other scholars follow him and state the same thing. Bhatkande in his work' A Comparative Study of some of the Leading Music Systems of the 15th, 16th, 17th & 18th Centuries' relegates Somanatha to the South. Actually, we have argued elsewhere that he may have conveniently come from northern Deccan. Nijenhuis says in her Introduction to The Ragas of Somanatha that Somanatha was a South Indian musician and wrote about Karnatic music, This is not true; Nijenhuis, however, acknowledges further along in her Introduction that some of his ragas are of the North Indian variety and the rest of the ragas can be called South Indian. We strongly believe Somanatha plausibly belonged to a place (and a period,) where (when) the North-South schism was yet to crystallise.
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