Pentatonic Raagam 4 – Suddha Saaveri – the serene

In the process of writing this column, I was amused to realize that the pentatonic raagams, in fact resemble the Pancha PanDavas of the Mahabharataa. Though the pentatonic raagams’ alikeness to the PanDavas are coincidental and deftly concocted, the parallelism seems prevalent in the twins Nakula - Sahadeva and the pentatonic twins Suddha Saaveri - Suddha Dhanyasi. The twin raagams Suddha Saaveri and Suddha Dhanyaasi are like the twin peas in a pentatonic pod and so are the PanDava twins.

The fourth pentatonic raagam Suddha Saaveri prances along rather playfully into the prime precincts of pentatonic suburbia. Belonging to the AuDava-AuDava raagam fraternity, Suddha Saaveri is adorned by S R2 M1 P D2 S+ in the AarohaNam ( ascent ) and S+ D2 P M1 R2 S in the AvarohaNam ( descent ). The scale of Suddha Saaveri is arrived at by performing a tonic up-shift ( Shruti Bedam ) of one note to the scale of HindoLam. In the same lines, the scale of Suddha Saaveri can also be acquired by performing a two note up-shift to that of Madhyamaavati or a three note up-shift to that of Mohanam. Being the janya (child ) raagam of the 29th Melakarthaa raagam Dheera ShankaraabharaNam, Suddha Saaveri inherits it’s blissful and mirthful demeanor.

Conceivably, the serene and atmospheric aura cast by Suddha Saaveri has beckoned the best of Carnatic music composers of yore to architect bewitchingly divine ballads that have endured to stand the test of time. Saint Thyagaraja and Harikeshanallur Mutthiah Bhagavatar have composed a plethora of songs in Suddha Saaveri. Eminent and illustrious treatises on Suddha Saaveri include Aanalekara ( Geetam, Purandara Daasar ), DhaariNi Telusu KonTi, KaalaharaNa, LakshaNamulu gala, Neekevari bodhana, Orula Naadhuko ( Thyagaraja ), Ranjita Kavi Kunjara ( KoTeeswara Iyer ), Shankara Gangaadhara, Shri Mahaabala Shaila Vaasini, Shreemat Simhaasaneshwari, Himagiri Tanaye ( Harikeshanallur Mutthiah Bhagavatar ), Viduruni Vinda Vijyeebhavaa ( Annamaacharya ), to name some. One of the other Carnatic Music Trinities, Muthuswami Dhikshitar composed several songs in the same scale as Suddha Saaveri but called it Devakriya. His compositions, Maduraamba samrakshatu maam, Lalitaambikaam Chintayaamyaham, Shri Guruguha, Shri VaTukanaatha, Sandhyaa Deveem are attributed to Devakriya, according to the Dhikshitar school. However, there was also a raagam called KarnaTaka Suddha Saaveri which is the janya (child) raagam of the 1st Melakartha raagam, Kanakaangi, with a scale of S R1 M1 P D1 S+ as the AarohaNam and the the avarohaNam as S+ D1 P M1 R1 S. The Hindustani music does proudly boast of the raaga called Durga which has the same scale as Suddha Saaveri. It is said to incite the emotions of Veera ( Valor) and appropriate to be performed at night.

Music directors of tamil movies have also been assiduously attracted and enthralled by the musical disposition of Suddha saaveri that they have produced quite a few songs based on it. ILayaraaja has been so mesmerized by the beauty of this raagam that he has scored quite a few numbers based on it. The following are ILayaraaja’s compositions: MalargaLil aaDum ILamai ( KalyaNaraman ), Kaadal Mayakkam ( Pudumai PeNN ), Kovil maNi Oasai ( Kizhakke Pogum rayil ), maNamagaLe ( Devar magan ), Raadha Raadha Nee Engey ( MeenDum Kokilaa ), Ore Jeevan OnDre Ullam ( Neeyaa – partially ). Other composers that have tuned songs based on Suddha Saaveri include numbers like Seetaiye ( Sivakavi ), reTTaikkiLigaL ( Ore oru gramattile ), taamta deemta aaDum ( Pagalil Ore Iravu ) and VaaDikkai Marandadum eno ( Kalyana Parisu ) to name a few I have observed.

Music, over the years has evolved and undergone phenomenal changes in the competent and experienced hands of avant-garde musicians that employed empirical and innovative modus operandi to achieve a sizeable degree of distinction in their journey towards a symphonious Shangri-la and we all as connoisseurs of the fine art have a moral responsibility to make sure it is accomplished.

- Gopal Venkatraman, Troy, MI.