Natalie Savelyeva

Gandharva tradition of music: definition of murchana

Gandharva tradition of music is described in ancient texts on music and drama, such as Natya Sastra of Bharata Muni, Dattilam of Dattila, Brihaddesi, and later medieval works, such as Sangitaratnakara, Sangitasiromani, Sangitasuddha, to mention a few.

Grama, Murchana and Jati are technical terms that were used in such works like Natya Sastra of Bharata and Dattilam of Dattila. These two works were written between the 1st or the 4th century A.D. The musical tradition described in these works is called "gandharva".

Definition of Murcana

Murchana-s are defined as the sequential order of the seven svara-s which are treated as the bases for the melodic aspect of a song/composition.

According to (6), the scales (murchana) and tonal patterns (tana) of the ancient Indian music were especially meant to be played on stringed instruments of the harp type. Already in the Natyasastra these two melodic elements are associated with the harp-vina, bit not mentioned in connection with the human voice.

According to natya sastra, Dattilam, and all later texts, there are fourteen murcanas, seven in Sadja grama, and seven in Madhyama grama.

In Dattilam and Sangitaratnakara seven murcanas in gandhara grama are also mentioned by names, but without any further definition. The authors note that as Gandhara grama "dwells in heavens", music composed in this grama cannot exist on the earth. The possible reason is that in those days tuning of instruments in gandhara grama was a problem, because this grama comprises additional svaras (such as g2, for ex), which were not described among suddha or saddharana svaras in those days.

Murcanas
Sadja Grama Madhyama Grama Gandhara Grama
No. Name Graha svara No. Name Graha svara No. Name Graha svara
1 Uttaramandra sa 8 Sauviri ma 15 Nanda ga
2 Rajani ni 9 Harinasva ga 16 Visala ri
3 Uttarayata dha 10 Kalopanata ri 17 Sumukhi sa
4 Suddhasadja pa 11 Suddhamadhya sa 18 Citra ni
5 Matsarikrita ma 12 Margi ni 19 Citravati dha
6 Asvakranta ga 13 Pauravi dha 20 Sukha pa
7 Abhirudgata ri 14 Hrisyaka pa 21 Alapa ma

Graha Bheda - rules for deriving murcanas

Two basic rules for deriving murchanas are:

  1. Commencing swara (tonic) is shifted (in descending order);
  2. Intervals between adjacent swarasthanas remains the same: 4 3 2 4 4 3 2 in sadja grama and 4 3 4 2 4 3 2 in madhyama grama.

The method of deriving murchana-s by changing the commencing svara-s and at the same time keeping the intervals between the svara-s constant is called "Graha bheda" (Modal shift of Tonic) today.

Even though the seven svara-s, namely, sa ri ga ma pa dha ni exist in both the grama-s (sadja and madhyama), the order of their sruti intervals differs.

Interval between madhyama and pancama (4 in sadja and 3 in madhyama grama) is the basic difference between two gramas (as defined in Natya Sastra). In this case, Madhyama grama starts from ma (i.e. tonic is different)

Sadja Grama: (4) sa (3) ri (2) ga (4) ma (4) pa (3) da (2) ni
Madhyama Grama: (4) sa (3) ri (2) ga (4) ma (3) pa (4) da (2) ni

The method comprising shift of tonic to Sa is also mentioned in treatises. Using this method, we start from Sadja grama, with Sa as tonic and increase Ga for two srutis (i.e. suddha ga becomes antara Ga). If now we rename the notes, starting from Ma as tonic, we will get the same Madhyama grama mentioned by Bharata Muni.

Sadja Grama: (4) sa (3) ri (2) ga (4) ma (4) pa (3) da (2) ni
Shifting ga: (4) sa (3) ri (4) ga (2) ma (4) pa (3) da (2) ni
Madhyama Grama: (4) ma (3) pa (4) da (2) ni (4) sa (3) ri (2) ga

In the same way, if a murchana of madhyamagrama had to be converted to sadjagrama, dhaivata should be lowered by two sruti-s and named as gandhara. If dhaivata is named as gandhara, then the following svara-s namely nisada and sadja would be called madhyama and pancama.

Madhyama Grama: (4) ma (3) pa (4) da (2) ni (4) sa (3) ri (2) ga
Shifting da: (4) ma (3) pa (2) da (4) ni (4) sa (3) ri (2) ga
Sadja Grama: (4) sa (3) ri (2) ga (4) ma (4) pa (3) da (2) ni

Sadja Grama Murcanas

Sadja Grama Murcanas
No. Name Intervals in srutis between svaras Graha svara Svarasthanas according to definition Svarasthanas after shifting tonic to Sa Name of the closest Melakarta raga
1 Uttaramandra 3-2-4-4-3-2-4 sa s R1 g1 m1 p D1 n1 s R1 g1 m1 p D1 n1 Karaharapriya (22)
2 Rajani 4-3-2-4-4-3-2 ni n1 s R1 g1 m1 p D1 s R2 G1 m1 p D2 N1 Sankarabharanam (29)
3 Uttarayata 2-4-3-2-4-4-3 dha D1 n1 s R1 g1 m1 p s r2 g2 m1 M1 d2 n2 Combination of Hanumatodi (8) and Bavapriya (44), as it has M1, but no pa
4 Suddhasadja 3-2-4-3-2-4-4 pa p D1 n1 s R1 g1 m1 s R1 g1 m1 M2 d1 n1 Combination of Natabhairavi (20) and Shanmugapriya (56), as it has M2, but no pa
5 Matsarikrita 4-3-2-4-3-2-4 ma m1 p D1 n1 s R1 g1 s R2 G1 m1 p D1 n1 Harikamboji (28)
6 Asvakranta 4-4-3-2-4-3-2 ga g1 m1 p D1 n1 s R1 s R2 G2 M1 p D2 N1 Mecca Kalyani (65)
7 Abhirudgata 2-4-4-3-2-4-3 ri R1 g1 m1 p D1 n1 s s r2 g2 m2 p d2 n2 Hanumatodi (8)

Sadja Grama Murcanas

Madhyama Grama Murcanas

Madhyama Grama Murcanas
No. Name Intervals in srutis between svaras Graha svara Svarasthanas according to definition Svarasthanas after shiftinc tonic to sa Name of the closest Melakarta raga
8 Sauviri 3-4-2-4-3-2-4 ma m1 M2 D1 n1 s R1 g1 s R1 G1 m1 p D1 n1 Harikamboji (28)
9 Harinasva 4-3-4-2-4-3-2 ga g1 m1 M2 D1 n1 s R1 s R2 G1 M1 p D2 N1 Mecca Kalyani (65)
10 Kalopanata 2-4-3-4-2-4-3 ri R1 g1 m1 M2 D1 n1 s s r2 g2 m1 p d2 n2 Hanumatodi (8)
11 Suddhamadhya 3-2-4-3-4-2-4 sa s R1 g1 m1 M2 D1 n1 s R1 g1 m1 M2 D1 n1 Combination of Karaharapriya (22) and Hemavati (58), as it has M2, but no pa
12 Margi 4-3-2-4-3-4-2 ni n1 s R1 g1 m1 M2 D1 s R2 G1 m1 p D1 N1 Sankarabharanam (29)
13 Pauravi 2-4-3-2-4-3-4 dha D1 n1 s R1 g1 m1 M2 s r2 g2 m1 M1 d2 n1 combination of Hanumatodi (8) and Bavapriya (44), as it has M1 instead of pa
14 Hrisyaka 4-2-4-3-2-4-3 pa M2 D1 n1 s R1 g1 m1 s R2 g2 m2 p d2 n2 Natabhairavi (20)

Madhyama Grama Murcanas

Gandhara Grama Murcanas

Gandhara Grama Murcanas
No. Name Intervals in srutis between svaras Graha svara Svarasthanas according to definition Svarasthanas after shifting tonic to Sa Name of the closest Melakarta raga
15 Nanda 3-3-3-4-3-2-4 ga g2 m1 M2 d2 n2 s r2 s R1 g2 m1 p D1 n1 Karaharapriya (22)
16 Visala 4-3-3-3-4-3-2 ri r2 g2 m1 M2 d2 n2 s s R2 G1 m2 p D2 N1 Sankarabharanam (29)
17 Sumukhi 2-4-3-3-3-4-3 sa s r2 g2 m1 M2 d2 n2 s r2 g2 m1 M2 d2 n2 Combination of Hanumatodi (8) and Bavapriya (44), as it has M2, but no pa
18 Citra 3-2-4-3-3-3-4 ni n2 s r2 g2 m1 M2 d2 s R1 g1 m1 M2 d2 n1 Combination of Natabhairavi (20) and Sanmukhapriya (56), as it has M2, but not pa
19 Citravati 4-3-2-4-3-3-3 dha d2 n2 s r2 g2 m1 M2 s R2 G1 m1 p D1 n2 Harikamboji (28)
20 Sukha 3-4-3-2-4-3-3 pa M2 d2 n2 s r2 g2 m1 s R1 G1 m2 M2 D1 n2 Combination of Harikamboji (28) and Vacaspathi (64), as it has M2, but no pa
21 Alapa 3-3-4-3-2-4-3 ma m1 M2 d2 n2 s r2 g2 s R1 g2 m2 p d2 n2 Natabjairavi (20)

Gandhara Grama Murcanas

Audio examples of Murcanas

Further apart from the seven svara-murchana-s, there also existed some murchanas, which were devoid of one or two svara-s and were called tanas; these also formed the basis for the musical forms.

Conclusions

The following points are to be noted regarding these.

  1. The number of svara-s that should normally occur in a murchana is seven. Those svara-s that occur in addition to these seven are the sadharanasvara-s.
  2. The sadharanasvara-s are not individual svara-s, but are assigned names from the seven svara-s only. That is kakali nisada is a variety of nisada and antara gandhara is a variety of gandhara.
  3. A Sadharanasvara occurs in a murchana only when the respective grama svara is weak.
  4. The Sadharanasvara is a weaker note that than the grama svara; hence it cannot become the commencing svara of a murchana.

The interval of any particular svara would not change in the murchana-s based on the grama. On the other hand, the commencing svara changes.

References

  1. The Natyasastra. English translation with critical Notes by Adya Rangacharya, Munishiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010
  2. Dattilam by Mukund Lath, Motilal Banarsidass Pvt. Ltd., 1990
  3. Grama Murcchana Jati by Premalatha Nagarajan
  4. The Traditional Indian Theory and Practice of Music and Dance By Jonathan Katz (Editor), Publisher: brill academic publishers (Sep 1992)
  5. Influence of Sastra on prayoga: the svara system in the post-Sangitaratnakara period with special reference to south Indian music By N. Ramanathan
  6. Sangitasiromani. A Medieval Handbook of Indian Music edited by Emmie Te Nijenhuis, E.J.Brill, Netherlands, 1992
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