This is another entry about a favorite Carnatic Music raga of mine, although it is quite different from earlier ones. This is more from a personal side and is really inspired by one particular rendition of a song in that raga, and the special place it has in my life. The raga is jujAvanti (also known as dwijAvanti), and the song (krithi) is muttusvAmi dIkshitars cEtah SrI bAlakrishNam, and that special rendition is by the late Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer (SSI).

The krithi is on Lord Krishna, especially little Krishna. The lyrics and meaning (see here) are in typical Dikshitar mould – i.e. flowery Sanskrit woven exquisitely in general praise of the deity. However, I find that the raga jujAvanti is woven magically here to make it seem like a perfect lullaby – even though the words don’t necessarily convey that. In Carnatic Music, lullabies are typically in nIlAmbari (another wonderful raga). But to me, here, jujAvanti seems to set the lullaby mood perfectly. Perhaps, the reason is due this little “story” behind this interpretation.

I must have listened to that particular rendition by SSI a 100 times or more it seems, as it was a very frequent request of my little one to listen to when she wanted go to sleep. She did not always require music to go to sleep, but at times she wanted it, and it was almost always this song, and this particular rendition. I have tried lobbying for a soothing nIlambari, a serene SahAna, or a joyous kAnaDa/rItigauLa. I have even tried a different rendition of the same song by the same artist i.e. SSI! But nope – she wanted only this one. I would play it, and she would lie quietly listening to it, almost in a trance, and soon doze off. Sometimes, when she would take took a bit longer to go to sleep, and the song would end. She would ask for the song to be repeated.

Many a times I have lied next to her waited till she fell asleep – listening to this song, completely mesmerized by it as I am sure she was too. Many a times, I have noticed that she had fallen asleep in the middle of the song. Even though other urgent duties beckoned me then, the serenity that had set in my mind, and in the room as it seemed, was so enveloping that I cringed to disturb it even an iota. I would wait till the end of the song (I especially liked the kalpanaswara part), and wait a few more minutes savoring the peaceful feeling it left in me.

This indeed is our song. My daughter is a bit older now, and the times she requests music at bed-time has dropped significantly, but when the occasion arises, she does fall back to her old-faithful cEtah SrIbAlakrishNam.

Ok, here is the krithi part of the song, that special rendition by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer:

I really adore the kalpanaswara part – meditative, magical, intoxicating – you name it! Hence I present it as a separate audio file:

I don’t know who the violinist is ( is it Lalgudi Jayaraman?), but what a magnificent job! Sometimes contrasting the tune by playing a different note, or same note in higher octave, sometimes matching in lower octave for a extra touch of serenity. The mrdangist (don’t know who again), is also excellent matching the mood. All in all a simply magnificent team effort!

Now for the technicals.

The technicals

I actually did not want into technical stuff in this post – because for some reason I wanted this post to simply be about my enjoyment of that particular rendition. It is sort of like how I used to enjoy all Carnatic music long go – when it was all about soaking in the magic of the melody. Besides knowing what raga, I didn’t know much about the technicals. It was sort of like taking an enjoyable ride in a luxurious car, and not wondering about, what car, how much horsepower, what are the gizmos etc. But nowadays, I do wonder about the gizmos as I take such rides. So I will indulge in little bit of technical analysis although this time, I do not have the patience and energy for a detailed analysis – like I had with rItigauLa. I guess I am too eager to publish πŸ˜‰ ! But I feel that this is more about the previous non-technical section rather than the following technical section. But I hope you like it. Once again – advanced apologies for any mistakes, misinterpretations). Btw, there is already some technical analysis at Nadha Sudha Rasa Blog.

Raga name: jujAvanti is the name of the raga as it appears in the historical texts of/for the Dikshitar school, and of course as a raga mudra (signature) embedded in one of his compositions (more about that below). The name dvijAvanti appears in sangraha cUDAmaNi, the sampUrNa mELa system’s authoritative reference i.e. the system that is compatible with Tyagaraja’s school, and also what is prevalent today. This name seems to have more prominence nowadays. The raga is considered a import from North India, and for very good reasons. It has a hindustanic touch, and certainly shares the same melodic undercurrent as the Hindustani jaijaivanti (more below).

akhilANDESwari dispute: The other krithi in this raga attributed to Dikshitar is akhilANDESwari is mired in controversy. Is considered by some scholars as a spurious krithi by some scholars and they offer a combination of following arguments:

  • It is not present in sangIta sampradAya pradarshini – although that is not a good enough reason by itself.
  • There are supposedly some problems with the lyrical construct of the words (although details are hard to come by) which is unlike Dikshitar.
  • The raga flavor is quite different from that of cEtah SrIbAlakrishNam, and hence it must not have been tuned by dIkshitar. Basically cEtah SrIbAlakrishNam emits fairly palpable scents of yadukulakAmbhOji – in akhilANDESwari, it is way more fleeting. More on this below.

The counter-argument is that cEtah SrI bAlakrishNam does not employ any raga mudra, but akhilANDESwari does. Also there is this argument that is not unlike Dikshitar to portray different flavors of a raga, particularly imported ones – a nice synopsis of this argument is presented in that Nadha Sudha Rasa Blog article mentioned above.

Swaras: Let us focus on the rishabham and the gandhAram(s).

  • rishabham: The main life blood swara is the catuSruthi rishabham (R2). cEtah SrI bAlakrishNam starts with ri – actually three of them in succession. The importance of ri should also be very apparent in the kalpanaswara section. The rishabham is frequently emphasized – either with gamaka or a elongated flat one. It is frequently used in combination from below as in pa` ri or da` ri or ni` ri, where the ri is elongated. In my opinion, this is a major contributor to the serenity that the raga exudes. Sometimes such a ri employs the gAndhAra as a anuswara – I believe, the type of gamaka commonly found in Hindustani music.
  • gandharams The rAga employs both antara gAndAram (G3) as well as sAdhAraNa gAndAram (G2). The latter is the bhashAnga swara (foreign to the mELa/”scale”), which occurs only in ri g* ri – a phrase that occurs many times in the kalpanaswara section – a significant contributor to the intoxicating effect of the raga.

Raga flavor differences between cEtah SrI bAlakrishNAm and AkhilANDESwari:
Here is a rendition of akhilANDESwari by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer:

Take a close listen to it and compare it with cEtah SrI bAlakrishNAm. While obviously the same raga, and even the same type of mood, the flavor of akhiLANDESwari is different. I think the big differences are:

  • Long notes and slides, and jumps: akhilANDESwari uses more long notes, and long caressing slides (e.g. akhi lA…N D….ES wari in pallavi, nikhila lO…. ka in anupallavi). I also employs a lot of jumps in the form of pa ri…. (e.g. rak sha mAm in pallavi, nit yAt mIkE in anupallavi, guruguha nu.. tE in caraNam) etc. I think all of these combine to give a more Hindustani touch, as these type of constructs are common in Hindustani music. In contrast, the jumps and slides are not as frequent in cEta SrI bAlakrishNam. Also the ri in Eta SrI bAlakrishNam is more frequently shaken i.e. more of a Carnatic style, compared to akhilANDESwari, where it is almost always flat and elongated (except for the ga anuswara).
  • yadukulakAMbhOji factor: The resemblance to yadukulakAmbhOji is very palpable in cEta SrI bAlakrishNam – but relatively heavily muted in akhiLANDESwari.

    Basically the resemblance to yadukulakAmbhOji is ga to sa part of the octave – particularly the upper half. I think cEta SrI bAlakrishNam hovers in that territory more than akhilANDESwari. Perhaps the effect of the frequent jumps, long notes and the long slides make it even less frequent as well as less palpable in akhilANDEswari.

jujAvanti and jaijaivanti – similarities and differences

It is clear that the carnatic jujAvanti (both flavors) is clearly related to the hindustani jaijaivanti. You can see and listen to a nice version of jaijaivanti on YouTube here.

The usage of both gAndharams as well as rishabham is identical – in particular the elongated ri, as well as the ri-ga*-ri with sAdhAraNa gAndhAram. The only difference may be the presence of the carnatic kampita style on rishabham on jujAvanti (one of its similarities to SahAha).

But there is a significant difference: jaijaivanti employs kAkali nishAdam (N3) – or maybe a nishAdam with a kAkali touch like in brndAvana Saranga (?). This is of course disallowed in jujAvanti In the sample above. e.g. this nishadam occurs in the 0:14-0:15 time range. You can get a better feel for this as well as jaijaivanti in general, by reading this fantastic article by Rajan Parrikar’s here. In particular, listen to the discourse on the raga by Pandit Ramashreya Jha, as it is truly excellent (i liked it and was able to follow it in spite of not knowing a word in Hindi!). Pandit Jha clearly demonstrates the ni – in the context of differentiation two flavors of jaijaivanti (not to be confused with the they are not like the two flavors of the carnatic jujAvanti). In the dEsh flavor, the kakali ni can occur as in pa ni sa, and in the other (bhAgesree/Gara flavor), it can occur as ga ma da ni sa.

I think even if this were kaisiki nishadam, such phrases would be disallowed in jujAvanti – where ascent from ni is rare and could even be avoidable (?). I think it does admit an ascent from ni, but only in specific contexts and approached from high (e.g. SSI sings ri ga* ri sa` na` da` na` cEtaSri in that kalpanaswara section)

Similarities to other Ragas

jujAvanti supposedly can exude flavors of other ragas like SahAna and kEdAragauLa. I do not see the kEdAragauLa connection. I can sort of see the SahAna connection e.g. say as in ga ma pa ma ga ma ri…, or ri~~~ ri ga ma pa ma ga ma – but I think the SahAna resemblance is very fleeting. For example, I don’t think I have sensed it in cEta SrI bAlakrishNam in all these listens. I got the initial sense for yadukulakAmbhOji flavor without explicitly looking for it although it may have been initially triggered by the pa da sa’ pa phrase in the kalpanaswara section). In any case, the yadukulakAmbhOji flavor is easily more palpable.