Kharaharapriya Raganubhava

A Report by V. Padmasini & Geetha Iyengar

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Carnatica, in association with Sri Krishna Sweets revived its popular Raganubhava series on the 2nd of August 2003, with a session on Raga Kharaharapriya. The aim of such sessions has always been to increase the acquaintance of the lay rasika to the finer technical aspects of our music. An informal atmosphere, with knowledgeable speakers who build a good rapport with the listeners, makes for an enjoyable voyage of discovery of the timeless structure and foundation of music and arts. The discussion is on a selected raga, its origin, structure and nuances with illustrations by rendering compositions and phrases. Previous Raganubhava sessions dealt with ragas like Sahana, Saveri, Anandabhairavi, Begada and Kedaragowla, to name a few.

At the function organized at the Raga Sudha Hall in Luz, Chennai, Shri. Mohan Parasaran, Chairman of the Carnatica Archival Centre (CAC), spoke of the interest shown by rasikas in these programmes and said that this function is a revival of this series that was disrupted in December last year. The discussion panel consisted of eminent musicologists Dr. V. V. Srivatsa and Dr. Pramila Gurumurthy and vocalists Smt. Rama Ravi and Sri. V. Subramaniam.

The opening sequence was a voyage down memory lane, with a selection of vintage Kharaharapriya recordings of stalwarts like Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, ‘Tiger’ Varadachari and M. D. Ramanathan from Carnatica's archives. As one rasika remarked, Carnatica has carefully preserved the work of these musicians and she recalled listening to such recordings at previous programmes.

Dr. Srivatsa then opened the discussion by tracing the origin of the raga to the 18th century and explained the meaning of the name - "slayer of the rakshasa Khara". Ramakarnamrita by Adi Sankara has the first sloka set to Kharaharapriya, he said. “The child is the father of man and in the Carnatic music world Kharaharapriya can be said to be its equal as it is a prachina ragam. The Sangeetha Ratnakara of the 13th century talks about ‘Sri’ as the purna prasiddhi raga and Sri Venkatamakhi also had accorded importance to Sriragam .The inception of Kharaharapriya into the musical arena was in the later 18th century before the advent of the musical trinity. Among the trinity, Saint Thyagaraja alone has composed in Kharaharapriya . However Kharaharapriya did not have either the Keerthi or Prasiddhi then”. Dr. Srivatsa also brought out another little known aspect pertaining to the use of the raga in singing the opening verse in the Ramakarnamritam. Haran is the name of a rakshasa in the Ramayana. Haranai kondra Haran (he who killed Haran), hara-haran (Rama) -- the raga that is dear to that Haran (Rama) -- HARAHARAPRIYA. Hence the use of Kharaharapriya in the opening verse. Kharaharapriya forms the Janaka raga, of Shriragam in the sampoorna paddhati. Although Janaka ragas came later than the janya ragas, at present they precede the latter. “In the musical structure the raga has an unique place devoid of doubts and debates. It is a bahuratna, ghana rasa pradhana ragam. It can neither be considered as another Sahana as is the view of many since it does not spell ‘Karuna rasa’ fully nor as Sama since the ‘Shanta rasa’ of Sama was not totally represented. Manodharma could reach its zenith in Kharaharapriya and it is a raga which would shine if sung for 8 minutes or 8 hours. It is normally said that gAmbhIryam (grandeur) and majesticity do not go hand in hand but Kharaharapriya is an exception.”

Dr.Srivatsa was followed by Dr. Pramila Gurumurthy who traced the history of the raga through the times. First, she demonstrated the raga by singing the Arohanam and avarohanam and also how the pUrvAnga and UtharAnga were in a vAdhi samvAdhi style, i.e. chatusruti rishabham -- chatusruti dhaivatam, sadhAarana gAndhAram -- kaisiki NishAdam. There are 4 chakras Indu, Netra, Agni and Veda. In the fourth chakra, the fourth mElam, number 22, is Kharaharapriya. She also quoted Prof. S. R. Janakiraman in saying that where the raga Bhairavi was bhAva pUrnam, Kharaharapriya shone because of the swaraprasthAras. That the raga is excellent to be traversed in 3 kAlas was demonstrated by her by singing the swaras sa, ri, ga, ma in the lower octave in slow tempo and pa da ni da pa ma pa in middle speed and pa da ni da pa ma ga ri in faster tempo. The opening line ‘Pahi rama rama yanutsu’ was sung to show how Thyagaraja had brought out the complete bhAva of the raga in a single line. The absence of the raga in Tamil Isai (Pann and Thevaram) but the presence of its scale in the Pavai group with the name Kodi Paavai was pointed out. This is found at the back of the Silappadikaram in ‘adiyarukku nalaudaya’, when talked about along with the 7 ‘Moorchanaigal’. The important fact is that the raga has a lot of Janyas and Thyagaraja has many compositions to his credit in these ragas. The place of the raga Saindhavi was also discussed. Saindhavi, a nishAdAntya ragam considered as one of its janyas had found its way as the janya raga of the 22nd melakartha raga ‘Shree’ in various texts till it was first seen in Govindacharya’s Sangeetha Choodamani that the 22nd melakartha raga was Karaharapriya. The northern equivalent of Kharaharapriya is the raga Kafi. She demonstrated the difference in singing of the raga between the two regions and also the special use of antara gAndhAra and kAkali nishAda and shuddha dhaivatam in the northern bAni .

Kharaharapriya allows much scope for expansion with brighAs as well as without. Vidwan V.Subramaniam brought out these features in an expansive Kharaharapriya AlApana by starting with the rishabham, singing a few sancharas with the note as centre and then traversing the whole length of the raga in ascending order with a few sancharas for each till the rishabha of the higher octave. It was followed by a simple tAnam. Dr.Srivatsa giving his comments on the rendering of V. Subramaniam pointed out the style in which the raga was demonstrated as the ‘pannadam’ style where one swara after another was built and reached the top and then came down in the same order. All were chhAya swarAs, i.e. any swara taken as the basis can bring out the bhAva of the raga. Sometimes when the rishabha was taken for sanchAra, a note of shatsruthi rishabham could also be heard and the same was true of gAndhara, where sometimes the sanchAra yielded the komala gandhAram. The use of nishAda as nyAsa swaram is unique to this raga. A musician once remarked the contours of Kharaharapriya are classic, not cantankerous. This is because the anuswarams or gamakas in this raga give it a unique beauty and an unusual lilt. He also brought out the fact that if a little deviated at the nishada, the raga could get a similarity with Bhairavi. The how of this was later demonstrated by Smt. Rama Ravi. He concluded by saying “the raga is easy for manodharma but is not to be trifled with either”.

Rama Ravi’s exposition for the day was on the gamaka aspect of the raga. She laid stress on the fact that the interval combination of swaras in the raga made it a ‘janaranjaka’ (easily appreciated) rakti raga. Ragas were classified as swasthAna rishabha rAgam and gamakasruti rishabha rAgam. Kharaharapriya is an example of the former though gamakas added greater beauty. The gamaka effects were brought out by her by choosing to oscillate the gAndhAram. She also brought out the fact that when chatusruti rishabham and sadhArana gAndhAram were present in a raga, the swaras ri and dha were stable and ga and ni could be oscillated. The extent of oscillation remains same for both notes. The concept of singing the succeeding note, stretching it from the preceding note, i.e. singing Ga as an oscillation of ri and ni as an oscillation of dha were also shown. Three-swara combinations for complete gamakas like "ma ri ga", where the tune is stretched to ga through ma first and then ri later ga, and "pa da ni" where it stretches to sa and returns were also brought out by her effectively. The pallavi line of Thyagaraja’s "Chakkani rAjamArgamu" was used to demonstrate the gamaka concept in the raga. ‘Nidhi yodu maravu’ was the line chosen to show the gamaka effect in the top octave. She also showed how accent, elongated or short, of a particular swara could highlight a song or the rendering of a raga, with the help of "Chakkani rAja". Gliding forth from one swara to another was also shown. All swaras in the raga can be gamaka-oriented. When wider range of gamakas in ga are given, the ma almost becomes plain, whereas when the oscillation of the Ga is less and ma more, then the bhava of bhairavi is shown. Chain of continuous swaras, the pratyAhata gamakam could also be seen a lot in this raga.

Dr.Srivatsa sang a few opening lines of several songs at the end of the talks and brought out the absence of the raga in padams, jAvalis and tillAnas. He ended the discussion with the observation, "Kharaharapriya is a raga full of bhAva, sAhitya bhAva, a sarvaswara rakti raga, a favourite of all and that which will continue to exist for many more years". Throwing open the floor for questions from the audience, the panelists were able to clear some of the doubts of the rasikas. Sri. B. Rajam Iyer was one of the distinguished members of the audience and he appreciated the tempo and quality of the discussion.

A thematic eka-raga concert by T. M. Krishna, accompanied by B. U. Ganesh Prasad, Srimushnam Raja Rao and E. M. Subramaniam followed. Krishna, in his energetic, inimitable style did a wonderful alapana of Kharaharapriya before expounding on  "rAma nI samAnamevaru". A special 4-kalai ragam-tanam-pallavi ensued. He rounded off with the evergreen "Navasiddhi Petraalum". An eventful, informative evening came to a close, with many in the audience requesting such programs at more frequent intervals.

Inputs from: Geetha Iyengar, V. Padmasini

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