nIlOtpalAmbA gauLAnta-rAga k.rtis
of muttusvAmi dIkSitar

P. P. Narayanaswami

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Day 2 >>



A group of nine k.rtis was composed by shrI muttusvAmi dIkSItar on Goddess nIlOtpalAmbA, the consort of Lord tyAgarAja of the mammoth temple at tiruvArUr.  All these k.rtis have a unique feature  --- they are all set in rAgams with names ending in the phrase “gauLa”, so they are called “gauLAnta rAga k.rtis”.  These rAgams are respectively, nArAyaNagauLa,  nArIrItigauLa, kannaDagauLa, kEdAragauLa, gauLa, mAyAmALavagauLa, pUrvagauLa, and chAyAgauLa, with the rAgam nArIrItigauLa featured in two compositions.  All these rAgams belong to the shuddha madhyama mELams (in cakrams 3, 4 and 5), and the only mELa rAgam appearing in this group is mAyAmALavagauLa.   Eight of these k.rtis commence with the eight vibhaktis (declination) of the proper name “nIlOtpalAmbA/nIlOtpalAmbikA”, and the last one begins with “shrInIlOtpalanAyikE”.

The k.rtis are:

  1. nIlOtpalAmbA jayati, nArAyaNagauLa (28), mishra cApu (parthamA vibhakti)

  2. nIlOtpalAmbAm, nArIrItigauLa (20), mishra cApu  (dvitIyA vibhakti)

  3. nIlOtpalAmbikayA, kannaDagauLa (22),  Adi (tritIyA vibhakti)

  4. nIlOtpalAmbikAyai, kEdAragauLa (28) Adi (caturthI vinhakti)

  5. nilOtpalAmibikAyAH, gauLa (15) , rUpakam (pa~ncamI  vibhakti)

  6. nIlOtpalAmbikAyAH, mAyAmALavagauLa (15) mishra cApu (SaSThI vibhakti)

  7. nIlOtpalAmbikAyAm, pUrvagauLa (29) rUpakam (saptamI vinhakti)

  8. nIlOtpalAmbikE, chAyAgauLa (15), rUpakam (saMbodhanA vibhakti)

  9. shrI nIlOtpalanAyikE, nArIrItigauLa (20), rUpakam (saMbodanA vibhakti)

The only k.rti among these that is found in subbarAma dIkSitar’s sa”ngIta sampradAya pradarshini is the last one, the nArIrItigauLa k.rti,  “shrI nIlOtpalanAyikE”.  However, the lyrics of these nine k.rtis are found in all standard books on dIkSitar compositions (TKG, Vina Sundaram Iyer, K.N.Shrinivasan, etc). Since two among these k.rtis are set in the same rAgam (nArIrItigauLa), and  only one among these nine begin with “shrI”, some musicologists believe that only first eight of them qualify to be in the vibhakti series group, and the ninth is a separate composition in its own right.  Each one is set in one vibhakli, as is a regular practice by dIkSitar in many of his group compositions. The prathamA vibhakti k.rti in nArAyaNagauLa has the madhyamakAla sAhityam in a different vibhakti, which prompts some to believe that it is a revert vibhakti k.rti (like the Ahiri k.rti of the kamalAmbA series), and hence they hold the view that the set is therefore incomplete,  with prathamA vibhakti k.rti alone missing!.

In any case, avoiding these issues and conjectures, all these k.rtis are beautiful, and shower praise on goddess nIlOtpalAmba, so we attempt to present each one of them with meaning, during the nine days of this navarAtri season 2004.  Since dIkSitar’s vocabulary is of a high order, and some sanskrit phrases he employs do not have correct English equivalent, we must confess that our translations will be only approximate, and we do not get into intricate details of the shrIvidya philosophy, and tAntrik doctrines contained in these compositions.

The composer has beautifully carved out the rAga mudra in eight of them. The kEdAragauLa k.rti, alone has no rAga mudra.  Mudras for nArAyaNagauLa, pUrvagauLa, and chAyAgauLa are direct, where the composer praises nIlOtpalAmabA who is  “pleased with (mOdinyam, prakAshinyAm) this particular rAgam”.  Raga mudra for gauLa, and rItigauLa  are used in a slightly altered  form as  “kauLa”, “rItikauLinIm”, and “rItigauravE”.  For the remaining two, the rAga mudra comes as the name of geographical locations (mAyAmALavagauLAdidEsha,  kAshIkannaDagauLadEsha),  The usual lyrical beauties, alliterations, and “prAsams” that are very typical of dIkSitar’s k.rtis , are generously sprinkled in all these compositions.

Unlike the kamalAmbA navAvaraNa series, this group does not contain any systematic exposition of the shrIvidya/shrIcakra   philosophy,  even though slight references are noticed here and there.  While the kamalAmbA series starts with a dhyAna k.rti, and ends in a ma”ngaLa k.rti (a total of eleven k.rtis), here we do not have these two categories, and we only eight k.rtis one in each vibhakti, and an extra k.rti in one of the earlier vibhaktis. Also, these nIlOtpalAmbA k.rtis are not as popular as the kamalAmbA series. The rAgams pUrvagauLa and chAyAgauLa are rare and difficult, and compositions are very rare.


Most of these songs are rarely heard in concerts. In the past, Alathur Brothers and M. L. Vasantakumari used to sing the kannaDagauLa piece, “nIlOtpalAmbikayA”. M. Balamuralikrishna has rendered the nArIrItigauLa k.rti “shrI nIlOtpalanAyikE” in a Sangeetha label audio cassette.

In a rare turn of events, the New York based Engineer Dr. V. Sadagopan posted a letter in the CMANA Newsletter Sangeetham, requesting for an audio rendition of these k.rtis for his on-going study and research.  Several months later, he was surprised to receive in the mail, a recording of these compositions, sung by Hema Ramanathan, in the typical Kallidaukkuricci style.

Perhaps this is the first audio recording of all these compositions.

Recently, two more recordings of the entire series are made available commercially,  respectively rendered by:

  • Kalavati Balakrishnan, GuruguhA~njali (Audio cassette)

  • S. Sowmya, Carnatica (Both CD & cassette)


Seven temples in the vicinity of tiruvArUr are designated as sapta viTa”nka kSEtrams of tyAgarAja (sOmAskanda), and the foremost among them is the vIthiviTa”nka tyAgarAja of the majestic tiruvArUr temple. The tyAgarAja shrine is located to the south of the valmIkinAtha (p.rthvI li”ngam) shrine within the same prAkAram.  The consort of tyAgarAja is nIlOtpalAmbA, the goddess of blue lotus. In tEvAram songs, she is affectionately addressed in tamil as “alliyankOtai”.  The nIlOtpalAmbA shrine is located in the second prAkAram on the right side.   The unique feature is that here, nIlOtpalAmbA is depicted as blessing her second son, skanda (subrahmaNya) with her hand on his forehead.  The kamalAmbA shrine is in the south east corner of the temple, a little away, and is traditionally and ritually unconnected with the main shrine of tyAgarAja.  While kamalAmbA represents the “yOga shakti”, nIlOtpalAmbA is supposed to represent the “bhOga shakti” of the Lord.  Hence, in these songs we find references to sh.r”ngAra rasa, kAmakala tantra, and so forth. It is to be observed that dIkSitar never associated kamalAmbA with tyAgarAja, and considered only nIlOtpalAmbA as the consort of the deity.  


We commence the series with the k.rti in the first (prathamA) vibhakti

prathamA vibhakti k.rti

 1. nIlOtpalAmbA jayati

rAgam: nArAyaNagauLa (28)  tALam: mishra cApu


 nIlOtpalAmbA jayati

nityashuddhashubhadAyikA shrI


 mUlAj~nAnaharaguruguhajananI  phAlalocanI

purANI pannagaveNI natavANI


shivakAmeshvarI sha"nkarI sh.r"ngArarasakarI

pAshA"nkushadharI paramadayAkarI


nArAyaNagauLa rAgamOdinyAM

bhuktimuktimaccittaM vilayatu

This k.rti is set in the prathmA vibhakti (nominative case), except for the madhyamalAka sAhityam (last three lines).

anvayam (word order) -  (nityashuddashubhadAyaikA,  … … . , nIlOtpalAmbA jayati; maccittam bhavarOgaharananipuNavaradAyinyam , …. …  vilayatu. All the phrases in pallavi, anupallavi, and caraNam  (except the last three lines) in the prathamA vibhakti, qualify nIlOtpalAmbA.  The last three lines are set in saptamI vibhakti


Word for Word Meaning:

nIlOtpalAmbA – Goddess nIlOtpalAmbA the goddess of the blue lotus. The phrase “utpala” arises from the root “to burst open”. The blossom of the blue lotus has the botanical name  Nymphaea Caerulea.

jayati – is victorious, triumphant

nityashuddhashubhadAyikA  - (who is)  eternal (nitya) pure (shuddha), and bestows (dAyikA) on her devotees all auspiciousness (shubha)

shrI – glorious, radiant, beautiful (usually used as a honorific prefix for dEvi)

mUlAj~nAnaharaguruguhajananI –  (who is) the mother (janani) of guruguha (subrahmaNya), the dispeller (hara) of basic/root  (mUla) ignorance (aj~nAna) 

phAlalocanI – (who is) the one with a (third) eye (lOcana)  on her forehead (phAla)

purANI -  (who is) ancient, or premordial

pannagaveNI –  (who has) hair tresses (vENi) resembling a (black) serpant (pannaga)

natavANI –  (who is) worshipped (nata) by goddess of speech, sarasvati  (vAnI)

shivakAmeshvarI – (who is) the goddess,  very dear to  Lord shiva

sha"nkarI  -  the one who bestows auspiciousness (shaM = ma”ngaLam)

sh.r"ngArarasakarI – (who is) the creator of erotic sentiments (sh.r”ngAra rasa)

pAshA"nkushadharI – who bears a noose (pAsha) and a goad (a”nkusha)

paramadayAkarI –  (who is) extremely (parama)  compassionate

Here the vibhakti changes:

bhavarOgaharanipuNavaradAyinyAM – (in the one) who is adept I(nipuNa) in granting the boon (vara) of freedom from the cycle of birth and death (bhava rOga hara)

nArAyaNagauLa rAgamOdinyAM – (in the  one) who is delighted  with the nArAyaNagauLa rAgam

bhuktimukti – enjoyment, and release from bondage

maccittaM – my  (mat) mind (cittam)

vilayatu – be fixed in, dwell in, dissolved in, immersed in

Free Translation:

Goddess nIlOtpalAmbA, goddess of blue lotus, who is radiant, eternally pure,  and who always bestows auspiciousness on her devotees,  is triumphant.

(who)  -- is the mother of guruguha (subrahmaNya),  dispels the root of all ignorance,  has the third eye on her forehead, is the premordial one, has serpent-like black tresses, and is the one worshipped by sarasvati, the goddess of speech.

(who)  is the one dear to Lord shiva,  who is auspicious, and is the cause of erotic sentiments, who bears a noose and a goad, the ever compassionate.

To attain enjoyment, and liberation, let my mind be immersed in her, who is pleased with the rAgam nArAyaNagauLa, and , the one who is adept in granting boons of freedom from the life-death cycle.


The rAga mudra is constructed in a direct fashion without juggling words.  In the phrase "guruguha jananyAm” , dIkSItar not only presents his own mudra (signature), but perhaps refers to the fact that in the sanctum sanctorum of the nIlOtpalAmbA shrine, there is an idol of an attendant, next to her idol, holding Lord subrahmaNya, and goddess blesses him by placeing her hand on his head. The fact that Goddess sarasvati and lakSmi worshiping Goddess Parvati can be found in various k.rtis of dIkSitar, For example:

shrIramA sarasvatI sEvitAM shri lalitAmbAm bhAvayE (nAsAmaNi)

 In this group itself, on many occasions, dIkSitar refers to lakSmi and sarasvati attending on pArvati.

rAgam nArAyaNagauLa

rAgam nArAyaNagauLa is a janyam of meLam 28, harikAmbhOji

ArohaNAm: s r m p n d n S

avarOhaNam:  S n d p m g r g r s

svarams featured are: catushruti ri, antara ga, shuddha ma, kaishiki ni.

A shADAva – sampUrNa rAgam with vakra sa~ncAram in both ArOhaNam and avarOhaNam; The note Ga is omitted in the ArOhaNam; Ni  and ma are chAya svarams;  ri is both jIva and nyAsa svaram; A madhyama kAla pradhAna rAgam, suitable for tAnam singing; A scholarly ragam that was once very popular, but these days rarely heard in concert platforms; An auspicious ghana rAgam that belongs to the dvitIya (second set) ghana pa~ncakam. 

VE”nkatamakhi defines nArAyaNagauLa (upA”nga janyam No. 6), under the asaMpUrNa mElam “harikEdAragaULA”  (ri gu ma pa dha ni) as:

syAnnArAyaNa gauLastu saMpUrNO nigrhAnvitaH |

ArOhE ga dha varjashca vinyAsat vidyatE kvacit ||

mUrccana ArOhaNam: r m p n d n s

avarOhaNam: n d p m g r g r s

In addition to  a lakSya gItam by vE”nkatamakhi, a sa~ncAri by subbarAma dIkSitar, and the k.rti, “shrI rAmam” by muttusvAmi dIkSitar, the book “sa”ngIta sampradAya pradarshini” gives an unusual “kaivAra prabandham” in maTya tALam, by vE”nkatamakhi.

Selected Compositions:

kaivara prabandham, maTya tALam (vE”nkatamakhi)

maguva ninne kOri, ata tALam, tANa varNam (vINa kuppayyar)

shrI rAmam ravikulabdhisOmam (muttusvAmi dIkSitar)

kadalEvADu (tyAgarAja)

Next: Day 2 - nIlOtpalAmbAm (nArIrItigauLa) >>


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