SHOBHILLU SAPTA SVARA
by Dr. P. P. Narayanaswami
[Editor's Notes: 1) Click here for this article in PDF format with Sanskrit and diacritical English notations 2) Click here for the standard transliteration scheme 3) Click here for a synopsis on the same theme by Dr. V. V. Srivatsa, that was published on Carnatica a few months back ]
taM nAdaM saptadhA k.rtvA tathA SaDjAdibhiH svaraiH |
nAbhI h.rd kaNTha tAlUSu nAsAdantoSTayoH kramAt ||
SaDjashca .rSabha gAndhArau madhyamaH pa~ncamastathA |
dhaivatashca niSAdashca svarAH sapta prakIrttitAH ||
sa”ngIta makarandam (11th century)
Meaning --- that nAdaM (described earlier in this work), passing through the navel, heart, neck, tongue, nose, teeth, and lips, generates the seven svarams -- SaDjam, .rSabham, gAndhAram, madhayamam, pa~ncamam, dhaivatam and niSAdam respectively.
The very same theme has been echoed in the following popular k.rti of Saint tyAgarAja:
rAgam: jaganmOhini tALam: rUpakam
shObhillu sapta svara sundarula
bhajiMpave manasA |
nAbhI h.rt kaNTha rasana
dhara .rk sAmAdulalo
vara gAyatrI h.rdayamuna
sura bhUsura mAnasamuna
shubha tyAgarAjuniyeDa ||
Meaning --- glory to the sapta svarams, the seven most beautiful sounds in the universe!! Worship the beautiful goddess presiding over the seven svarams, which glow in the navel, heart, throat, tongue, and nose (of the human body) and through .rk and sAma vEdams, the heart of gAyatrI mantram and the mind of gods and holy men and tyAgarAja.
Thus, reflecting these seven svarams, and penetrating them onto such instruments as vINa, Saint nArada created the divine sa”ngItam; further Lord brahmA grasped the sa”ngItam that emanated from the sAma vEdam --- as mentioned in the following shlOkam from sa”ngIta makarandam.
Evam svarAn samAk.rSya vINAdiSu nidhAya ca |
tEna cAhatanAdEna sa"ngItamakarOt tadA ||
sapta svarAn samuddh.rtya vINAdiSu nidhAya ca |
sAmavedAdidaM gItaM saMjagrAha pitAmahaH ||
Adi sha”nkara, in his “shyAmala navaratnamAlikA stOtram, uses the same idea, and salutes Goddess shyAmala, through these seven svarams, in the following verse.
sa ri ga ma pa da niratAM tAM
vINAsaMkrAnta kAntahastAntAm |
shAntAM m.rdula svAntAM kucabhara-
tAntAm namAmi shivakAntAm ||
(shlOkam 5 in shyAmaLa navaratnamAlika stOtram)
These seven svaras have been further glorified in many other compositions of saint tyAgarAja. No description of tyAgarAja compositions will ever be complete without mentioning his numerous k.rtis on the theme of sa”ngIta prashamsa (praising the Glory of divine Music, the nAdabrahmam).
In the k.rti, “mOkSamu galadA'' (rAgaM sAramati), he says:
prANAnala samyogamu valla
praNava nAdamu saptasvaramulai baraga
Meaning --- prANa (the vital breath), in conjunction with anala (fire) within, produces praNava nAdam (the celestial sound OM), and from it (the OM), in turn the sapta svarams (the seven notes) are generated.
To realize the nature of nAdam that originates from mUlAdhAra cakram is a divine bliss and salvation. A true devotee, who has the deep knowledge of svaram and rAgam is indeed liberated from this world forthwith. This is the theme of tyAgarAja's majestic k.rti, “svararAga sudhA rasa'' in rAgam sha”nkarAbharaNam.
In another k.rti, “nAdasudhA rasambilanu'' in rAgam Arabhi, tyagarAja adds:
svaramulArunnokaTi ghaNtalu, vara rAgamu kOdaNDamu
dura naya dEshyamu triguNamu nirata gati sharamurA
sarasa sa”ngati sandarbhamu gala giramulurA
dhara bhajana bhAgyamurA
Meaning --- nAdam itself has taken the human form of Lord rAma, the seven svarams have become the seven bells of his bow; the rAgams have become the bow itself; the three gaits, ghana, naya, dEshya have become the three strings of the bow; the rhythmic gaits have become the arrow.
Again, in the k.rti “nAdatanuM anishaM'' in rAgam cittara~njani, he bows to Lord shiva, by declaring
sadyojAtAdi pa~nca vaktraja
sa ri ga ma pa dha nI vara sapta svara
Meaning --- I salute Lord sha”nkara, the embodiment of nAdam, who is delighted in the art of the seven svarams, sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni, born of his five faces, namely, sadyOjataM, aghOraM, tatpuruSaM, IshAnaM, and vAmadEvaM.
Lord rAma is described by tyAgarAja in the k.rti “sAmaja vara gamana'' (ragam hindOLAm) as
vEda shirO mAt.rja saptasvara nAdAcala dIpa
Meaning -- shining like a beacon of light on the mountain of nAdam of the seven svarams born of the praNava (OM), which is the matrix of the vEdAms.
In the kalyANavasantaM composition “nAdalOludai'', tyAgarAja asks the mind to attain the bliss of brahman, by immersing in nAdam, with all its rAgams composed of the seven beautiful svarams, bestowing delectable fruits, which the trinity, all the gods and great sages have worshiped.
People have been deceiving the world by claiming that they are proficient in rAgam and layam, without realizing the subtle significance of svaram and mUrccana. nAdam which emanates from the body is of the form of the almighty praNavam. This is the content of the tyAgarAja composition, “vara rAga laya'' in ce~nju kAmbhOji.
In the aThANA composition ”shrIpapriya sa”ngItOpAsana ceyavE'', he prays to the mind: Worship the music which is dear to Lord shrIpati, who moves among the seven svarams, and is sung by tyAgarAja, who knows the glory that every rAgam has incarnated as a graceful form and is dancing with tinkling anklets.
Through the anupallavi segment, “mudamuna sha”nkara k.rta sAma nigama vidulaku nAdAtmaka sapta svara'', of the mAyamALavagouLa k.rti “vidulaku mRokkEda'', Saint tyAgaraja offers obeisance with joy to those who are well-versed in the divine music of sAma vEdam. promulgated by Lord shiva.
In the bEgaDa piece “nAdOpAsana cE sha”nkara nArAyaNa'', he unequivocally asserts that Lord sha”nkara, nArAyaNa and brahmA have attained their distinctive glory through nAdOpAsana, and have become the upholders of the vEdams; they constitute the life of mantram, yantram and tantram and they are all free souls reveling in svaram, rAgam and layam.
tyAgarAja firmly believes that to be liberated from this world, to become a jIvan mukta, as taught in the bhagavad gIta, and the upaniSads, one must have the full blessings of Lord brahmA with the gift of knowledge of music (sa”ngIta j~nAnam). We find this fact clearly portrayed in the song “sItAvara sa”ngIta j~nAnamu'' in rAgaM dEvagAndhAri.
In the shrI rAgam song, “ nAmakusuma'', he asks us to place the supreme Lord on the bejeweled pedestal of nAdam and svaram, and worship his feet. Mere knowledge of music without bhakti (devotion) does not lead us to the right path, says tyAgarAja in the dhanyAsi k.rti “sa”ngIta j~nAnamu''. In the AndOLika k.rti “rAgasudhArasa pAnamu'', tyAgarAja suggests in the caraNam that nAdam, svaram and praNava mantram, are of the very form of Lord sadAshiva. The list goes on.
The following is a partial list of tyAgarAja k.rtis devoted to the glorfication of divine music.
Ananda sAgara garuDadhvani
mOkSamu galadA sAramati
nAdOpAsana cE bEgada
sa”ngIta shAstra mukhAri
sa”ngIta j~nAnamu dhanyAsi
shObhillu saptasvara jaganmOhini
svararAga sudhA sha”nkarAbharaNam
vararAga laya ce~ncukAmbhOji
Besides tyAgarAja, many composers have showered praise on the sapta svarams, and nAdOpAsana. For instance, kOTIshvara Iyer, in his 62nd mELa k.rti in rAgam .rSabhapriya, in his “kanda gAnAmudam” series has sung:
SaDja .rSabhapriya gAndhAra madhyama
pa~ncama dhaivata niSAda vidha
saptasvara sangIta . . . .
The treatise sa”ngIta dAmodaram (author: Damodar Mishra 1653 AD) mentions that in a conversation, Lord shiva tells Goddess pArvati that the seven svarams were born respectively on the seven days of the week, starting with SaDjam on Sunday, and ending in niSAdam on the Saturday.
The animals, whose sounds imitate the seven svarams have been mentioned in various sanskrit works. They are respectively, peacock (sa), cow (ri), sheep (ga), the krau~nca bird (ma), the pika bird (pa), horse (dha), and elephant (ni).. We find the following shlOkam:
Sadjam mayUrO vadati gAvAst.rSabhabhASiNaH |
ajO virauti gAndhAram krau~ncaH kvaNati madhyamam ||
puSpasAdhArne kAlE pikaH kUjati pa~ncamam |
dhaivatam hEStE vAjI niSadam b.rhatE gajaH ||
(amara kOsham - prathama kANDam, nAtya vargam)
Several musicological treatises (sa”ngIta makarandam, sa”ngIta dAmOdaram, sa”ngIta sarvArtha sAra saMgraham) give detailed description of the many features of these seven notes. These include the day of birth, janma nakSatram (birth star), janma dvIpa (birth places - islands), rAshi (constellation), rAshyadhipati (the ruler of the constellation), jAti, vaMsham, va.rNa, .rSi, dEva, abhimAna dEvatA, chanddhas (metre), gOtram, color, dress, ornaments, cosmetics, weapons, flowers, food and rasa (expressions). Other aspects of the seven notes that we find are their vAhanams (vehicle), wives, span of life, forms and trees.
Many of these descriptions have been brilliantly captured in a set of seven beautiful paintings (depicting the seven svarams), by the famous musician, musicologist, and painter, sangIta kalA AcArya shri S. Rajam, in his superb work, “Musings on Music''. Once can view these pictures at: http://www.saigan.com/heritage/music/mus2.htm
These treatises have gone further by specifying the a”nga nyAsam, and dhyAna shlOkam for each of the seven svarams, just like those we chant while invoking a particular prayer such as the sahasranAmam, rudram and so on. Also given are the geometrical diagrams, “sapta svara bIjAkSara SaDkONam”, arranged in a hexagonal shape formed by two upside down equilateral triangles.
We collect some of these rare descriptions in a tabular form below:
sa”ngIta sarvArtha sAra saMgraham
Hence, it is no wonder that Music is nAdabrahmaM, the seven svarams have been elevated to the status of goddesses, and musicians and musicologists have been worshipping them with great reverence and devotion.
The following seven stanzas, called “sapta svara dhyAna shlOkams'', has been mentioned in the work: “sa”ngIta kalpadrumam'' by Dr. L. Muthiah Bhagavathar (Malayalam Edition, Kerala bhASA Institute, Trivandrum 1977).
sapta svara dhyAna shlokam
vINAkvaNaccravaNa jAta kutUhalena
dEvEna kAmaripuNA parirabhyamANAm |
SA.DjIm samastajananImanisham namAmi ||
yasyA mahatvamavadhArayituM pravrttAH |
padmAsanOpi parihAsya dashAM prayAti
tAmArSabhIm shukanibhAmanishaM namAmi ||
vINAvinodakutukAm m.rdumIlitAkSIm |
dEvIm dayArdra h.rdayAm praNatIm gatESu
gAndhAramAsthitavatImanishaM namAmi ||
mandAra kunda kumuda pratirUpa rUpAm
indIvarAyata vishAla vilola nEtrAm |
candrAvataMsa paricumbita pAdapadmAm
tAM madhyama svaramayImanisham namAmi ||
vANI na kEvalamahAri yayA vijitya
prItipradA pikakulAt sa ca varNabhedhaH |
dEvEndra shEkharita pAda saroja rENum
tAM pa~ncama svaramayImanishaM namAmi ||
yasyA vapurnavasudhA rasa nirvishESam
pItaM tadapyati tarAM nayanairmahEshaH |
ApIyamAnamahitOpi dadhAti dEvaH
tAM dhaivatImanug.raNannanishaM namAmi ||
varNairashESa janatA h.rdaya"ngamAbhAM
sarvaiH samasta guNa nirbhara vibhramA"ngIm |
garvapriyAM shashikalA kalitAvataMsAM
naiSAdi dEvi bhavatImanisham namAmi ||