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'Srutirmaata, layah pitah' (sruti is the mother, laya the father) is the governing principle of all music

Review

Indian truths rediscovered 

Dr K Varadarangan's efforts at studying relative frequencies deserve the attention of all musicologists, writes Vasanthamadhavi  

Srutis and Srutibheda (English)
Available in the US with
Prof K V R Chary,
116, Treeline Drive,
Deptford, NJ-08096
Tel: 856-2329559

'Sruti' is the first word heard by any music student. Though sruti is a part of everybody's life in one form or the other, much remains to be known about bit.

Right from Vedic times, sruti has been described in various ways and has acquired many meanings. In fact, the word has actually been used to refer to the Vedas themselves, as in 'sruti, shaastra, puraana, nigamaagama.' It forms the foundation on which the divine mansion of music is built.

'Srutirmaata, layah pitah' (sruti is the mother, laya the father) is the governing principle of all music. Omkar, which Indian musicians believe is the origin of all sounds musical and non-musical, is considered the most sacred form of sruti.

Books like Prof P Sambamurthy's South Indian Music, C Subrahmanya Iyer's The Grammar of South Indian Music and Kukkila Krishna Bhatta's Bharatiya Sangeetha Shaastra deal in some detail with srutis and its bhedas. Srutis and Srutibheda by Dr K Varadarangan is a masterly work, complete and exclusive. He journeys widely in the domain of sruti.

In the first chapter, Dr Varadarangan makes a survey of sruti-related terms and lays a sound base for further observations. In the next chapter, he takes up the idea of modal shift of tonic. In concerts, musicians (especially vocalists) apply this technique in ragas like Hindola, Todi and Shuddha Saveri to display their mastery over the swarasthaanas. By shifting the aadharashadja to a different note without changing the sruti, and singing the notes of the original raaga, one can get a different raaga. However, this is only a small practical application; Dr Varadarangan elaborates on the larger implications of srutibheda. He also introduces the idea of srutibheda chakras and explains their properties with examples.

Chapter 3 shows how the relative frequences of the 12 swarasthanas can be derived using the srutibheda sutras. Earlier musicologists have defined the frequency values for each of the seven swaras and the 22 srutis. They did this with the help of dhruva (fixed frets) and chala (moving frets) veenas.

That within an octave there can be only 22 srutis has been established beyond any doubt by Indian musicology. In this book, Dr Varadarangan has approached the subject from a new perspective, and, remarkably, his analysis leads him to the same conclusion. His manner of expressing frequencies in cents instead of ratios is really advantageous. Comparison of Western and Indian musical scales sets one thinking about the importance of gamakas in Indian music, particularly Karnatak music.

Over the next three chapters, srutibheda possibilities -- applicable to parent and derived raagas as also to individual swaras -- are explored methodically and exhaustively. Determining the srutibheda possibilities of any raaga is made simple by Table 5.5 on pages 82-83 in Chapter 5.

The idea of dividing the scale into three segments ie, poorvaanga, madhyanga and uttaranga, to constitute the six vrindas (defined by madhyama and panchama), 11 chakras (defined by rishabha and gandhara) and 11 raagas within a chakra (defined by dhaivata and nishadha) to tabulate the 726 kramaswara raagas is indeed unique. Chapter 8 lists srutibheda possibilities for all these 726 raagas.

In the final chapter, Dr Varadarangan studies a few ragathayamalika compositions. We may note that in a few kritis of Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar, this srutibheda idea is put to practical application.

To sum up, Dr Varadarangan's book deserves to be in every serious music lover's collection.

Vasanthamadhavi

(The reviewer is a well-known vocalist and principal, Ragasree College of Music, Bangalore)

What exactly can the new
Srutibheda software do?


This program computes the srutibheda possibilities of kramaswara ragas. It is is an exe program running on MS-DOS.

The program computes the srutibheda possibilities of ragas using the relative frequencies of the 12 swarasthanas. The program has a large database of ragas.

Sbheda is a free software, a copy of which may be obtained by writing to its creator at kvrangan@yahoo.co.in.

The user has to type the swaras that appear in the arohana of a raga. The program asks the user to enter the swara variant number in the order of R G M P D N. Simply type a number below the corresponding letters, using standard notation for the swaras (such as R 1 for suddha rishabha, R 2 for chathusruti rishabha, R 3 for shatsruti rishabha, and so on.

If a swara in the above sequence does not exist in the scale of the kramaswara raga, simply type the number 0 below it. If a swara exists, type the swara variant number going by standard notation. If panchama exists in the raga's scale, type the number 1 below the letter P. Otherwise enter 0.

The input scale may have any number of swaras between 1 and 6. When only one swara is entered, the scale has only two swaras, viz., shadja (implicit) and the given input swara. (This is known as a 'dwiswari' raga). When 6 swaras are entered, it represents a melakartha or janaka raga. Note that shadja is implicit in the scale and the user has to input only the other swaras -- R G M P D N -- as applicable to the raga.

For example, the sequence 2 3 0 1 2 0 denotes raga Mohana. The sequence 1 1 1 1 1 1 represents the first mela Kanakangi and the sequence 3 3 2 1 3 3 represents the last mela Rasikapriya.

A detailed output of the program is contained in the file RAGLIST.OUT, which is a text file. The output contains:

A. Name of the raga, relative frequencies of the swaras that appear in it and the input swaras (for cross-checking).

B. The output scales, taking in turn every swara of the input scale as a moorchana swara. It also displays the relative frequencies and swaras appearing in the output scales. The names of the output ragas are also displayed. If a meaningful scale results after srutibheda, but no name is available, the message 'valid but name not found' appears. If the sequence of swaras in the output scale does not make sense (say two madhyamas appear one after the other), the message 'invalid' appears in the output.

Note: If the value of a frequency is shown as zero, it only means that the particular swara does not exist in the raga's scale.

This program may also be used to determine the srutibheda possibilities of ragas which are not of the kramaswara type. For example, one can find the srutibheda for raga Arabhi, say for rishabha moorchana, as follows:

1. Run the program for the scale of Suddha Saveri. (This is the scale of Arabhi in the arohana). Note the swaras of the output raga for this moorchana, viz., the first output raga, which turns out to be raga Suddha Dhanyasi.

2. Run the program for Sankarabharana. (This is the scale of Arabhi in its avarohana). Again note the swaras of the output raga for rishabha moorchana, the first output raga. The resulting scale is found to be that of raga Kharaharapriya.

3. Form the new scale with the output in step 1 as arohana and the output in step 2 as avarohana. In the example above, the resulting scale of the new raga under rishabha moorchana has the swaras of Suddha Dhanyasi in the arohana and the swaras of Kharaharapriya in the avarohana. This scale is that of raga Abheri.

We may continue the above steps for other moorchana swaras of Arabhi. We find raga Mohana Kalyani originating from madhyama moorchana, and raga Kedara Gowla resulting from panchama moorchana. The raga originating from the dhaivata moorchana has a valid scale (swaras of Hindola in arohana and swaras of Natabhairavi in the avarohana) but no name is found in the literature for this scale.

4. Using the same procedure as above, we can find the output ragas for ragas with dissimilar arohana and avarohana. Even bhashanga ragas may be tried. We may find many 'valid' scales but they may not have names. We may give our own names if the resulting scale has a pleasing effect.

K Varadarangan

Want a free copy of the software?

Read interview with Dr Varadarangan



Published on 14 October 2002




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