Natalie Savelyeva

Chapter 3. Introduction of Varnam and Svarajati into Dance

Emergence of Varna as musical composition took place in early 18th century, according to historical review of composers of the early varnas. The next question is, during which period the Varna appears in dance repertoire and in which context this composition was employed. It is widely known, that after Tanjore Brothers Varna holds the central place in Sadir Margam. The overview of dance compositions, which preceded and possibly influenced development of Varna as a dance format during 17-18 centuries, is given below.

Indian dramatic art comprises three indispensable components, poetry, music and dance in form of dance-drama. This if the triple concept of "Ilai-Isai-Natakam" of Indian dramatic art.

Royal courts of Tanjore were adorned with poets, musicians, Natyacharyas and dancers of outstanding excellence. During Nayak and Maratha rulers of Tanjore, the court became the center of art. Many literary works were composed under patronage of the royal scholars.

Ancient dramatic tradition is based on the format of Prabandha. This term is used in literature, poetry, music and dance dramas to denote certain class of compositions, which comply to strict rules. In literature, music and dance, this format was followed up to 18th century.

Ancient musical system, referred to as "Gandharva", underwent considerable transformation during medieval period. New instruments were introduced, the concept of Raga was developed into codified system of Melakarta as we know it today. Following the evolution of Raga system, new compositions which were used to codify Raga Lakshana and portray Raga Svarupa were developed. Starting from the age of Annamacarya, Cinnaya and Perayya ("Tallapakam Fraternity"), the new triple structure of musical composition, Pallavi-Anupallavi-Carana, was introduced. All those major innovations resulted in emergence of new compositions, such as Keertana, Padams and Kriti composed in Telugu and Tamil in contrast to Sanskrit Prabandhas.

Development of new literary genres such as Ula, Kuravanji, Yakshagana and Bhagavata Mela Natakas; enriched repertoire of dance dramas and, accordingly, new dance forms emerged, which were later on adopted as separate dance items performed as part of Sadir kutcheris.

Development of Sadir Margam and incorporation of Varnam and Svarajathi into it

(See also Appendix V)


Many researchers point out the important role and influence of Prabandhas on development of new compositions in music and dance. However, Prabandha is very generic term. It denotes wide range of compositions.

"Prabandha" is a generic term meaning a composition comprising musical and poetical components. Six constituent elements (angas) of Prabandha are Svara (tone syllables), Biruda (words of praise or epithets), Pada (regular words), Tala (musical metre), Pata (drum syllables) and Tenaka (auspicious syllables). Except the tenaka (derived from "tena"), the rest five angas are found in present day compositions.

Other characteristics of Prabandha include poetical metre (chandas), melodic form (raga), melodic line (varna), tonal embellishments (gamaka), mood or sentiment (rasa), language (bhasa) and musical setting or main sections (dhatu.) Saringadeva gives the following definition of dhatu:

"Dhatu is said to be a special way of establishing the raga in melodic lines (varna). It is truly synthesis of the raga." (Sangita Shiromani, Prabandha section, sloka 60)

Four dhatus of Prabandha are Udgraha, Dhruva, Melapaka and Abhoga. Udghraha opens the composition and corresponds to Pallavi. Dhruva is the constant part of a composition ("dhruva" means constancy) and stands for Charana. Melapaka is that connecting the Udgraha and Dhruva and corresponds to Anupallavi. Abhoga is the fourth section and includes Alapa and Analapa. Antara is the additional fifth Anga, which can be placed between Dhruva and Abhoga. Udgraha and Dhruva are the two essential and indispensable angas.

Ancient Prabandhas were arranged in four classes: (1) songs of pure cycle (Suddha suda), (2) intermediate songs (Alikrama) to be inserted in pure cycle, (3) songs of mixed cycle (Salaga suda) and (4) separate songs (Viprakirna). Suddha suda songs were regarded as "pure classical" songs, and Salaga suda (from "chayalaga) were considered as pseudo-classical. Prakarana songs intended for theater and drama and described by Bharata Muni are of Salaga suda class. (E.T. Nijenhuis)

It could be said that Prabandhas influenced development of new musical forms. As result of this amalgamation, many new compositions emerged during medieval period, which later on became classical and irreplaceable part of music and dance concerts.

For instance, prabandhas Vartani, Svarakarana and Svarartha (where Svara anga is more prominent) could be compared with today’s' Svarajati.

Patakarana and Bandhakarana (where Pata or Solkattus are more prominent) could be compared with Svara Pallavi and Jakkini, which influenced later composition of Tillana and Jatiswaram.

Virudakarana (where Birudu or the words of praise are more important) could be compared with Divyanama keertanas developed by Purandaradasa. Ela and Jhombada (where Rasa or emotional flavor is prominent) can be compared with Padam.

Dhenki and other prabandhas set to combination of different talas can be compared with Suladi and modern Talamalika compositions. Ragakadamba and other songs set to combination of ragas can be compared with Ragamalika.

Finally, such Prabandhas as Citrakarana, Misrakarana, Varnasvara, Kaivada, Ghata, Pancabhangi, where the combination of all major elements (angas) of prabandha finds place, could be compared with present day Varnam.

Structure of Prabandha

Literary works during Nayak Period

Acyutapa Nayak (1560-1600) facilitated development of Bhagavata Mela Natakas. He gave the village of Acyutapuri (modern Melattur) to 500 Brahmin families of "Bhagavatars" which later on became the center of Bhagavatamela Nataka tradition. Many lustrous composers and Natyacharyas such as Kasinathayya, Veerabhadrayya and Venkatarama Sastri, originated from the lineage of Melattur.

Raghunatha Nayak (1600-1634) was a scholar, composer, vina player and a great patron of arts. His minister Govinda Dikshita wrote treatise on the theory and practice of music, "Sangita Suddha." Raghunatha Nayak composed many Kavyas (including Parijataharana Prabandha, Valmiki Charitra, Gajendra Moksham, Nala Charitram and Rukmini Krisnavivaha Yakshagana.) In his poem "Valmiki Charitra" Raghunatha Nayak describes celestial dancer Rambha as exponent of Desi Natyas such as Perani, Danda Lasya, Kundali. (Dr. Seetha, Tanjore as seat of music)

Vijayaraghava Nayak (1634-1673) composed many Yakshaganas (Prahlada Cheritramu, Putanaharanamu, Raghunathabhyudayamu, etc.) Venkatamakhi was his minister. He invented 72 Melakarta Ragas and wrote "Caturdandi Prakasika." Eminent poet of his court was Cengalvakala Kavi, author of "Rajagopala Vilasamu", Telugu Prabandha. In the section "Sabhanatyavarnana" the uthor lists the names of dancers skilful in particular compositions: Rupavati – Choupada, Champakavati – Sabda chintamani, Murti – Jakkini, Komalavalli – Korvai, Lokanayaki – Nava pada, Ratnagiri – Darupada, Bhagirati – Perani. (Dr. S. Seetha.)

During the period of Vijayaraghava Padas became very popular. Ksetrayya himself was said to have received royal honors by singing 1000 padas in the court of Vijayaraghava. The dancers in the court were said to have performed Madana padas, Dutya padas, Navarata Malika and other "Laksya natyas" according to description given in "Rajagopala Vilasamu." The latter work also mentions royal poetess Pasupuleti Rangajamma, who composed fine Yakshaganas and Prabandhas in Telugu (Usaparinayamu, Mannarudasa, Ramayana Sangraha, Bharata Sangraha and Bhagavata Sangraha.)

Yakshagans of Vijayaraghava Raja comprised many Daru and dialogs in prose inserted between the Darus. Reference to repertoire of royal court is given in "Raghunathanayakashyudayam" Yakshagana of Vijayaraghava Nayak. Different dancers were said to show excellence in particular kinds of compositions: Rupavati - in Padacali, Candrarekha - in Perani, Sasirekha - in rare Kopus and singing of Jakkini, Lokanayaki and Kiravani – in Darupada-Kelika and Durusaina Kopu. Some sang Koravanji, Sivalila and Gujurati-desi. Darupada-kelika (also referred to as "dhruvapada") is a composition with Sringara Rasa comprising two-three Caranas sung in slow tempo. "Durusaina" means aggressive and fast. "Kopu" means variation of music and dance. Thus, "Durusaina Kopu" is a type of dance in which song is rendered in fast tempo accompanied by brick dance movements.

Many other literary works including Kuravanji, Ula, and Vidu tutu (messenger poems) were composed during the period of Nayaks. Those works are good sources of information on dance, as they were composed purposely for stage performance. The plot and subject of those works is often connected with life of artistic community itself or royal settlement.

"Muvaraiyan Virali Vidu Dutu" was composed around 1650 on Muvaraiyan Thiruvenkatanathan of Vasvanallur, Tirunelvelli district, by the poet Mallaiyur Thiruccitrambalakavirayar, a contemporary of Thirumalai Nayak of Madurai. The Virali is centered around the life of dancing girls. Solo dance given the name of "Bharatam" is described in this poem as follows (according to Dr. R. Nagaswami):

"She started with Pushpanjali, and standing in Vaisnavasthana, and adored the deity with Pataka Mudra. The legs slightly moved, she held both the hands in Padma Kosika, near her heart, then she performed many enchanting dances."

Note: An interesting fact is, that between the dancing the heroine also played veena and recited a vocal song.

"Kulappa Nayakkan Virali Vidu Tutu" was composed during the rule of Vijayaranga Chokkanatha Nayak of Madurai, by the poet Supradipa Kavirayar. His heroine, Madan Abhishekan, is said to belong to Taliyilal family, who had the priviledge of dancing with Tattu to Lord Chokkanatha of Madurai Temple. She had to depend upon for dance and therefore yield to Nattuvanar, Kutasaikkaran, Patakan, Srutikaran, Kaittalakkaran and Ekkalakkaran. She performed dance in 1000 Pillar Hall of Madurai temple to accompaniment of Kaittalam, Kaiveenai, Palakai Titti, Venu, Sruti, Raga (instrumental music) and Sangeetha (vocal music). … The dancer started her performance with Pushpanjali followed by Pillaiyar Kauthuvam, Ilaya Nayanar Kauthuvam (on Subramanya), Eduppu, Alari (as mentioned by Nandi) Toduttal, Kaie Calain, Daru, Jate, Suruimadittal, Sangeetam, Prabandham, Padacari, Abhinaya, Koppu eduttai (Korvi), Perani, Jaggani, Sailakuvidyai, Kuttu, Desikam, Nayamangalam."

Hence, in the context of research in varnam, the following points are important.

  • During the Nayak period, prevalent forms of dance drama were Yakshaganas, Bhagavatamela Natakas.
  • Such literary genres as Kuravanjis, Ula and Vidu Tutu were staged in form of dance dramas as well.
  • The format of Prabandha was very important in literature, music and dance. In music, Chaturdandi format of the concert was followed. In dance, certain kinds of Prabandhas were employed either as the separate items within the frame of court performance or as part of dance dramas.
  • Daru was important form of dance widely employed either in Yakshaganas and Bhagavatamela Natakas, or as part of court kutcheri.
  • New form of Pada became popular and was adopted in court dance kutcheris.
  • The other dance compositions performed at courts and used in dance dramas, which are of interest in the context of research in varnam, include Sabda, Kauttuvam and Giti.
  • Varnam and Svarajati do not figure in music and dance repertoire of those times.

Early Maratha Period

Raja Sahaji II (1684-1712) was royal composer and musicologist. He wrote "Sahaji Raga Lakshanamu" which deals with theory of rare ragas, and several literary works, such as Pallakiseva Prabandha, Tyagaraja Vinoda Cirta Prabandha, Candrasekhara Vilasa Nataka and Pancabhasa Vilasa Nataka. In his Prabandhas several Darus and Padas appear. More then 200 separate Padas and Darus are ascribed to Sahaji, composed in different languages, Sanskrit, Marathi, Telugu and even Manipravalam. In addition, several Ashtapadis written by unknown author are ascribed to Sahaji. Sahaji also composed several Natakas on different deities, Radha Bhamsidar Vilasa Nataka, Sri Krisna Vilasa Natakamu, and Sita Kalyanamu.

The court of Raja Sarabhoji I (1712-1728) was adorned with many poets and musicians. The court poets continued tradition of Yakshaganas, for instance, Girirajakavi composed famous Yakshagana "Lilavati Kalyanamu."

Tulaja I (1728-1736) composed treatise "Sangita Saramrita" on theory and practice of music, including section on dance "Nrittaprakaranam." He was also composer of Yakshaganas, Sivakamasundari Parinaya nataka, Raja ranjana Vidya Vilasa Nataka (the latter comprises many Darus.) In addition, several Padas in Marathi and Sanskrit are scribed to Tulaja.

Ekoji (1736-1737) composed Tyagesvara Kamalamba parinava natakam, Vignesvara Kalyanam, in addition, there are 86 padas ascribed to him.

It can be concluded, that Maratha rules followed tradition of Nayaks and supported such dramatic forms as Yakshagana and Bhagavatamela. Early Maratha kings composed many Natakas intended for performance at court. The Padams took important place in court performances of this time.

Sonti Venkata Subbayya and his Lineage


Daru is wide class of compositions employed in Telugu and Tamil dance dramas (Natakas) and operas such as Yakshagana, Bhagavata Mela Natakas and Kuravanji Natakas, Therukkiithu, etc. Daru evolved from ancient wide class of compositions called "Dhruva Prabandha," which were employed in Sanskrit drama.

The term "Dhruva" is traced to stage songs mentioned in Natya Sastra of Bharata Muni. Five types of Dhruvas correspond to different aspects of the drama:

  • Pravesika is the song of entrée, indicates the character, his feelings, condition and situation.
  • Aksespa is revelation song is used to reveal the flavor of a particular situation.
  • Nishkrama is the exit song.
  • Rasadika is the touching song designed to convey to the audience, in attractive form, the inward feeling of an actor so far as to touch the heart of the hearer.
  • Antaram is the stop-gap song introduced during the interval of the actor, moving and walking about and inspecting something on the stage.

Darus inherited many features of those Dhruva songs. For instance, Pravesika Dhruva has parallel in Patrapravesa (entrance of a particular character on the stage) or Daru of Bhagavata Mela and Kuravanji Natakas composed in medieval period.

Daru became popular during Raghunatha Nayak rule at Tanjore, who popularized Yakshagana. Accordingly, different classes of Dhruva Prabandhas are described in detail in "Sangita Suddha", the treatise ascribed to the king Raghunatha (but most probably composed by his ingenious and highly learned minister, Govinda Dikshitar, the father of Venkatamakhi.) Daru attained perfection and prominence during Shahaji and Tulaji kings rule. Drisya Kavyas of king Shahaji (Sankara Pallaki Seva Prabandham and Visnu Pallaki Seva Prabandham) blend together two traditions, of Prabandha and Yakshagana. Salam Daru and Jakkini Daru are special kinds of Darus composed by Shahaji.

Bhagavata Mela Natakas of Melattur Venkataramana Sastri (famous composer of "Prahlada Charitram") comprises many Darus. Each character is announced with Patra Pravesa Daru. Konangi Daru is sung on appearance of divine clown (usually this type of Daru is set to Kamboji raga and svaras are in Tara sthayi.)

Famous opera "Ramanatakam" of Arunachala Kavi contain 200 long Darus, each three or more charanams long.

Classical Carnatic composers also composed Darus. Darus are mentioned in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini along with rules regarding singing the Darus. Ramaswami Dikshitar composed Anuloma-Viloma Daru in Sanskrit, "Sarasadala nayana", in Gangatarangini raga and Rupaka tala. Muthuswami Dikshitar composed Telugu Daru "Ni sari Sati" in Sriranjani raga and Rupaka tala.

Regarding Sahityam, Daru is a story song. It includes dialogs, description of historical events or Puranic lore, delineation of different romantic affairs and situations, praise of deity, kings and patrons. Sahityam is of great importance in Daru.

Setting of Daru is similar to Keertana. A few Darus include Anupallavi. Majority of Darus comprises of Pallavi and many Caranams. All Caranams are sung to the same tune. Daru is usually set in Madhyama kala, with some exceptions in Vilamba kala. Chapu tala is the major tala used in Daru, Adi and Jampa talas are employed occasionally. Sancaras and Sangatis are not very applicable in Daru. Regarding the music, Rakti ragas are preferred for Darus, as they give scope for expression of different Bhavas of Daru.

Svagadha Daru denotes musical soliloquy with the tune, which theme is recollection of past events. Pralapadaru portrays sorrowful state of mind. Heccharika Daru is employed to salute the monarch. Padavandana Daru refers to approaching the deity’s sanctum sanctorum step by step followed by retracing steps.

Thendral Daru, Venilla Daru and Manmatha Daru deal with experiences of the courtesans of the royal courts, who are described to be in love with the hero (the king.) Those Darus are considered as forerunners of Javalis. They were very popular during Maratha rules of Tanjore.

Pravesika Dhruva has parallel in Patrapravesa (entrance of a particular character on the stage) or Daru of Bhagavata Mela and Kuravanji Natakas composed in medieval period. It represents the arrival of various characters enacted on the stage.

Salam Daru is paying obeisance to a deity. Those Darus were composed for many deities enshrined in famous kshetras.

Jakkini Daruvu is combination of Jathi, Swaras and Sahitya. The first part comprises only of Jathis, and Sahitya is found in the second part. Jakkini comprises a number of charanams set to the same melody. There is scope for pure dance Nritta as well as Abhinaya. There is also scope for steps in all three tempos, as it includes passages in Vilamba and Madhya kala.

Jakkini Daru appears in midst of drama or opera to add some color to the situation. This solo dance item used to be performed by female character. The word "Jakkini" or "Jaggini" could be distorted form of Sanskrit "Yakshini" which denotes a female holding small drum and dancing to its sound.

Jakkini is one the five daruvus of Dhruva Padams that were introduced in classical Sanskrit dramas, Yakshaganas and Natakas of Medieval period. In Prahlada Charitram of Vijaya Raghava Nayaka in introductory verse, wherein he describes the numerous compositions which were in vogue in his time, it is mentioned that Jakkini Daruvulu should be performed in the middle of the drama. Vijayaraghava Nayaka and Melattur Venkatarama Sastri had composed Jakkini Daruvu in Telugu.

Varnana Daru is descriptive item explaining the personality of the character, place, incident, scenery, etc.

Samvada Daru denotes a musical dialogue or conversation between two characters issued from some confusion. Examples of such Darus are found in Tulaji’s Sivakamasundari Parinaya Natakam.

Daru influenced emergence of Svarajati (used in dance) and Pada varnam. Based on the format and model of Daru new styles of musical compositions were introduced, such as Daru varnas later on.

Note: Krishnaswami Ayya composed rare Tillana Daru in Suruti raga and Rupaka tala. It begins with Jathis in Tillana manner followed by Pallavi, Anupallavi and Charana. At the end of Charana new Jathi passage is sung and the Daru concludes with Pallavi.

Later Maratha Period

In the later Maratha period, almost all the forms of compositions that are in vogue today were developed, both in music and in dance, including Padas, Svarajatis, Varnas, Keertanas, Ragamalikas, and Tillanas. All those compositions shared the same structure, including Pallavi, Anupallavi and Charanams. The Maratha kings patronized many famous musicians and poets of the time, studied art from them and composed poetry, music, dramas themselves.

"It is during the rule of King Pratapa Simha (1739-1763) and his second son Tulaja II (1763-1787) that a significant metamorphosis of court dance begins. This change was characterized by the development of technical and virtuosic dance compositions such as the Svarajati, specifically meant for the solo female dancer, which differed from the existing repertoire of padas, shabdams, and other genres of court dance. Virtuosic forms such as Svarajati integrated all the elements of courtly musical style (lyrics, spoken rhythms, sung rhythms, svaras) and brought together abstract and lyrical dance in a single, albeit very lengthy, composition. The chief architects of these virtuosic forms were musicians and dance masters." (Divesh Sonerji).

The history of Svarajati starts in the court of Pratapasimha (1739-1763). Veerabhadrayya, who is considered as composer of the first Svarajatis, was court Vaigeyakara of Pratapasimha. He composed several Svarajatis and Salam Darus on his patron. It is also said, that two daughters of Pratapasimha, Sukanya and Sanya, were accomplished Sadir dancers.

The court of Raja Tulaja II (1763-1787) was adorned with such expert musicians as Sonti Venkataramanayya and Adiyappayya and eminent Natyacharyas Mahadeva Annavi, Subbarava Oduvar (father of Tanjore Brothers).

By the time of Tulaja, such forms as varnam and Svarajati had already been introduced into music (by Karvetnagar Govindasamayya (1680-1710) and further on by Adiyappaya).

Regarding varnas composed for dance, Dr. Raghavan in his article mentions, that K. Ponnia Pillai acclaimed Subaraya Oduvar as the author of famous Huseni Svarajati. He also mentions that Subaraya also composed tana varnam in Ananda Bhairavi, Adi "Pandamela na sami" in honor of the Mallarji, the son of Dattaji (the minister of the Raja Pratapa Simha.)

Raja Serfoji II (1798-1832) continued tradition of patronizing Bhagavatamela natakas and even had separate Bhagavatamela troupes in his court.

Period of Raja Serfoji was also the time of the famous Trinity of Tanjore. This time Kriti took important place in Carnatic Music concerts. Muthuswami Dikshitar was patronized by Raja Serfoji. Many other excellent musicians adored his court – Sankarabharanam Narasayya, Todi Sitaramayya, Anai Ayya Brothers, Pallavi Doraisvami Iyyar, Tanjore Brothers, Muvvallur Sabhapatayya, Kottayur Sivakkolundu Desikar, Vedanayakam Pillai, Pallavi Gopalayya, Sonti Venkata Ramanayya (Guru of Tuagaraja), Veena Perumalayya, Athana Appayya, Dharmayya Ramasamayya, and Varahappayya Dikshit.

Raja Serfoji himself composed the work "Vividha Karnataka Raga Ragini" which comprises dance numbers set to several ragas and Suladi talas (akin to ragamalika and talamalika.) Raja Serfoji also composed several Suladis known as "Saptasagara Suladi." Apart from that, he composed one Kuravanji nataka (Devendra Kuravanji) and one Lavani nataka (Tristhali Vatrecha Lavanva.)

Raja Serfoji composed twelve Natakas in Marathi, and four Natakas in Sanskrit. In the context of this research, Nirupana-Natyaprabandhas of Raja Serfoji are of the utmost interest (see Appendix III.) All those Nirupanas were included into "Korvayanche Sahityache Jinnas" (Dance-pieces in Marathi by A. Krishnaswami Mahadick Rao Saheb) Nirupana-Natyaprabandha comprises several dance numbers of Sadir-attam repertoire and were performed by the court dancers.

Note: Very interesting fact is, that among the items enlisted in Natyaprabandha, Varnam and Svarajati figure as two essential part of the drama. One more interesting feature is, that Varnam and Svarajati figure as completely separate items of different structure.

The brothers Chinnayya Pillai (1802–1856), Ponnayya Pillai (1804–1864), Sivanandam Pillai (1808–1863) and Vadivelu Pillai (1810–1845) were employed at the court of Raja Serfoji. They developed unique system of training of dancers and introduced a new format of dance Margam (see Appendix V to compare the formats of Sadir-attam kutcheri in different historical periods.)

In contrast to the format of Nirupana, where the single theme was narrated by one or more dancers using 18 different items set to the same raga and tala, Tanjore Brother's Margam includes several different themes to be portrayed by single dancer through several dance items set to various ragas and talas.

Note: Interesting fact is, the in those days not so much distinction was made between Tana and Chowka varnas, except certain difference in tempo. For instance, according to guru Kittappa, Tanjore Brothers composed Tana varnas, which were intended for dance.

"The Tana varnams composed by them are well suited for dance. They have composed it on their Guru, on their clan deities (Kuladevathai), on their kings, and on the ministers as well. These tana varnams are filled with Ragabhava. Their structure was as follows: Pallavi, anupallavi and Charanam. After Anupallavi, Mukthai svaram comes, which has sollukattu, sahityam, and swaram. At the end of the swaram "tat dhin gina tom" is placed and pallavi starts again. There are 3 to 4 chittai svarams as well." (K. P. Kittappa Pillai.)

Varnam and Svarajati in Nirupanas by Raja Serfoji

"Until the later half of the 18th century, we find that Darus and Padas formed the major part of the repertoire of the Dasi-attam. A study of the Serfoji’s Nirupanas, reveals the incorporation of newly emerged dance forms of the period such as Varnam and Tillana, in addition to the already existing Darus and Padas. There dance forms (varnam, tillana and pada) also figure in the format later systematized by Tanjore Quartette, which only indicate the potent influence exercised by the Nirupana format on the Tanjore Brothers. " (V.S. Radhika)

In Sanskrit, "nirupana" means description, setting or decision. In general, Nirupana is defined as "text of the story interspersed with songs." Nirupanas were used in Harikatha Kalakshepa. Nirupanas were of two types, nirupanas comprising songs and prose passages and nirupanas comprising only of the songs.

Nirupanas of Raja Serfoji comprise only songs to be performed in dance. In his Nirupanas, the single theme (Ekartha), usually based on Puranic story, is elaborated with help of 18 songs, each set to particular dance format (dance item.) The music of Nirupanas was composed in pure Carnatic style. The set of dance items included into Nirupana shows that this drama was enacted using three main components of dance (Nritta, Nritya and Abhinaya). Nirupanas of Raja Serfoji were enacted by one or more danseuses at courts and in temples during festivals.

Note: The interesting fact is, that Nirupana could be performed either in solo format (by single dancer) or by several danseuses. It could be concluded that the format of Nirupana was developed based on existing tradition of solo dance performance accepted at courts of those times.

In the dissertation of V.S. Radhika, the text of Nirupana "Sakhite Nayakice Srama Nayakasakalavuna Sanghatanopaya Karane" is given and description of content and nature of the dance items used in this Nirupana is described in detail. This Nirupana is set to Arabhi raga and Adacau (Misracapu) tala. The theme of this composition is Vipralambha Sringara. The heroine (Nayika) depicts to her Sakhi her distressed condition due to separation from her beloved (Nayaka), who is Lord Krishna. Sakhi acts as love messenger and persuades Krishna to join his lady love. The story of Nirupana is elaborated using the following 18 dance items:

  1. Jaya Jaya – invocatory song in praise of the lord (Krisna in present drama), includes Pallavi, Anupallavi and Carana. Lines of Sahityam begin with the word "Jaya!" (victory.) This is similar to Biruda section of Prabandha.
  2. Saranu – a hymn to the lord ("saranu" means complete surrender) including many epithets of the Lord. It comprises Pallavi, Anupallavi and Carana. Lines of Sahityam begin with the word "Saranu."
  3. Alaru – Nritta set to Solkattus, includes three sections, Tattakara (starting chain of sollus like "dhalangu taka diku taka tadin ginathom"), Alaru (min section of solkattus) and Aditya (short rhythmic teermanam, a finale set to faster speed.)
  4. Sollu – solkattus rendered with music, as in Tillana, includes three Caranas of Solkattus followed by short Jathi section all ending with rhythmic phrase "Tdin gina thom." Persecutor of this Sollu possibly is Yathi Nritya, mentioned in the treatise "Sangita Darpanam" ("dance to accompaniment of musical piece composed of syllables such as that "tattatha dadhi – ti thai thai thai tha").
  5. Sabda – (the term itself denotes rhythmic dance syllables or Tala Solkattu, and also word or sound.) Comprises jathis (solkattus set tot talam) and sahityam (short lyrical passages interspersed with jathis, which give rise to the story of Nirupana; this item concludes with short Teermanam.)
  6. Varnam – expansive item of Nirupana, Includes Pallavi, Anupallavi followed by svara passage with Sahitya; concluding section comprises Ettugada Pallavi followed by several svaras with sahitya. In this Nirupana Varnam, the Sakhi describes to the Nayaka the distressful state of the Nayika.
  7. Pada – Abhinaya oriented item. The only difference from Abhinayapada is presence of svara passage in the text of Pada (also referred to as "Svarapada") after completion of classic triple of Pallavi, Anupallavi and Carana. This item resembles present day Keertana more then Padam.
  8. Svarajati – in Nirupana Svarajati has no Pallavi and Anupallavi sections. It has 4-6 alternating passages of svara and sahitya.
  9. Abhinaya Pada – exactly conform to traditional Padams, include Pallavi, Anupallavi followed by 2-3 Caranas. Nirupana Abhinaya padas are based not only on Sringara, but also on devotional themes (this depends upon the story.)
  10. Tillana – like contemporary tillanas, include solkattus (long passage) and a few lines of sahitya, followed again with the passage of solkattus (cadence).
  11. Abhinaya Pada
  12. Jakkini – ancient dance form, figured in the middle of dance dramas, mentioned in works of Vijayaraghava Nayaka, who composed many Jakkinis. Sahaji composed Jakkinidaru prabandha comprising five darus set to different ragas. Jakkini in Nirupana, is combination of Solkattu, followed by Svaras and verses of Sahitya.
  13. Gita – texts of «Sangita Muktavali» of Devabacarya (Sangita Muktavali of Devanacarya, TMSSM Library, ed. by N. Venkataramanan) and «Sangita Darpana» of Damodara (Sangita Darpana of Catura Damodara ed. by N. Venkataramanana, TSM Series, No. 32, p.217 ), mention Gita prabandha (or Gita) as certain dance item. In Nirupana, Gita includes svara and sahitya interdispersed with syllables like "sa-ng-u"
  14. Prabandha – the form is similar to Gita, includes svara and sahitya interwoven along with brief line of sollus inserted in between svara passages (not all Nirupanas include this part).
  15. Triputa – composition of Prabandha type, With three angas, svara, sollu and sahitya. These three angas are assembles arbitrary, so very difficult to distinguish them (sahityam may be absent at all).
  16. Sloka varna – verses set to definite ragas. Tulaja I quoted sloka varnas as lakshanas of particular ragas in "Sangita Saramrita". Sloka varna of Nirupana includes sahityam and svaras set to tala. Sahityam is descriptive, like in varnam. Here the theme of the whole drama is approaching the finale.
  17. Koutta – penultimate item in the format of Nirupana. According to "Bharatarvarnava" of Nindikeshvara, Kouta or Koutuka is defined as a composition in particular talas formed of instrumental sounds intermixed with words in praise of a deity. In Nirupan, Koutu starts with solkattus intermixed with sahitya. Each section of Sahitya is followed by brief Jathi section. Sahitya of Kouta brings in finale of the Nirupana.
  18. Mangale – concluding benedictory song, Which is rendered by musicians only. Includes Pallavi, Anupallvi and Carana.

Jaya Jaya and Saranu are benedictory songs akin to Todaya Mangalam. Todayam and Saranu were included as introductory songs in Yakshaganas (Sacipurandaramu and Sati danasuramu) by Sahaji II Raja. Those songs were sung with musicians, only afterwards dancer appeared on the stage.

Alaru and Solkattu introduce pure Nritta without any meaning. The beginning of the story is given in Shabda. Varnam contains the most important scene of the drama. In this Nirupana, varnam gives detailed description of heroine's sufferings given by her Sakhi. Varnam contains the message of the heroine to her beloved. The intrigue of the play is - how he would react to it. The same theme is further developed in Pada, which follows the Varnam.

In Svarajati, the Sakhi suggests the hero to take an action. This is the second major scene of the play. Sakhi addresses the Lord in her own name. Her application is accompanied with descriptions of emotional tortures of the Nayika, akin to Varnam. Svarajati is again followed by Abhinaya Pada, where the heroine is described as Virahot Kandita Nayika.

A descriptive Pada is followed by Tillana, Nritta item comprising short sloka where the Sakhi addresses the Lord again in her own name and asks him to save her friend. Tillana is again followed by Abhinaya Pada describing emotional conditions of the heroine.

Jakkini is older forerunner of Tillana brings in Nritta passages and short line of Sahityam, which again contains application of Sakhi.

The following Giti, Prabandha, Triputa bring the drama to conclusion, which is given in Koutta. It contains philosophical idea of "Nijasukha" or real happiness in unity of Jeevatma and Paramatma. Mangale concludes the performance with expression of benediction and gratitude.

Different stages and nuances of Vipralambha Sringara are described in this Nirupana using different settings (Varna, three Padas, Svarajati, Giti, Prabandha and Triputa.)

Structure of Nirupana

The interesting conclusion to be made here is (1) the structure of varnam and Svarajati of those days; (2) the fact that both the items were used in the same setting of drama as separate and independent items featuring different structure; (3) function of Varna and Svarajati in the context of Nirupana as dance drama.

  1. Varnam includes Pallavi and Anupallavi, but Muktayi Svara is not identified as such directly. It comes immediately after Anupallavi, followed by one avartana of Sahityam (which is not given any name in the manuscript), which can be identified as Ettugada Pallavi. It is followed by number of Svaras with Sahityam. Thus, it is possible that Varnam had no strict division into two sections, as today. Pallavi and Anupallavi were followed by chain of svaras with corresponding lines of sahityam, and refrain (Ettugada) was repeated after the each Svara-Sahitya line.
  2. Similarity of the beginning part of Varna and the structure of Pada, and similarity of the Ettugada portion with the structure of Svarajati and Daru should be mentioned here.
  3. Structure of Svarajati is akin to Varnam without Pallavi and Anupallavi. Thus, it is possible that Varnam was developed based on Svarajati by amalgamation of Pallavi and Anupallavi following the format of Pada (as one of the theories suggests.) The structure of Huseni Svarajati described below is the same, as it starts with svaras, followed by Ettugada line and Jathis.
  4. Close similarity between the structure of Svarajati and Daru should be mentioned here.
  5. Varnam was part of dance drama. It was central piece, incorporating the major event taking place in the middle of the drama. In case of the Nirupana discussed, it is monologue of Sakhi addressed to Krisna, i.e. indirect message of the heroine to her beloved enacted through Sakhi. The analysis of the meaning of Sahityam (see Appendix III) demonstrates the above thesis.
  6. Svarajati in turn, incorporates other important scene, there the Sakhi addresses the hero in her own name and suggests the action to be taken by the lovers to reach happiness and understanding.

One Interesting Svarajati in Huseni

The evolution of Svarajati as a dance form can be illustrated on the example of one very famous Svarajati in Huseni raga. Today, Huseni Svarajati is known in two versions. "Emayaladira na samiki emani bodhinchera" and "Emandayanara na samiki emandu pettenura".

In Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, Subbarama Dikshitar printed Huseni Svarajati in the version "Emandayanara" in the name of Adiyappayya with foot note: "It is believed that the sahityas for these Svarajati svaras were created by Merattur Venkatarama Sastri, who was adept in handling Telugu language." In Appendix, Subbarama Dikshitar notices, that Adiyappayya was contemporary of kings Pratapa Simha (1741-1764 AD) and Tulaja II (1765-1787 AD) of Tanjore, His mudra was "Venkatarama" and he followed the style of Veerabhadrayya. Of Melattur Venkatarama Sastri he writes, that he lived during the rule of Raja Serfoji (1800-1832 AD) and Raja Shivaji (1832-1855) of Tanjore and he was master of composing Kaisiki Vritti, the most graceful style of poetic compositions. According to Sahityam, "Emandayanara" Svarajati was composed in praise of Pratapa Simha king, the patron of Adiyappayya.

"An additional aspect is the fact that this Svarajati is a scaled down version of the legendary Melattur Veerabhadrayya’s original Huseni Svarajati raising the question as to Adiyappayya’s authoring a composition of such a nature. The Svarajati and its companion pieces (composition having the same dhatu or musical setting, but different matu or lyrics) namely ‘Emayaladira’, ‘Pahimam Bruhannayike’ etc are ascribed to members of the family of the Tanjore Quartet and forms part of their family manuscripts." (with reference to Ravi Rajagopalan)

The interesting story is contained in the article by V. Raghavan. He discovered one manuscript at Saraswati Mahal Library containing the oldest version of Huseni Svarajathi under the name of Veerabhadrayya. Dr. Raghavan describes this discovery as follows:

"When going through manuscripts in the Saraswati Mahal Library, Tanjore, I came across in a manuscript (Burnell No. 11618, New Catalogue, Vol. XVI, No. 10901, page 7327), a Useni Svarajati in Adi of which the manuscript specified the author as Veerabhadrayya. I immediately copied it down and found it might very well be deemed to be the original of the Usini Svarajati with which we are very familiar. It is a very long composition and is on the patron deity Varadaraja at Merattur, the village of Veebhadrayya. Merattur, it is well known, was called Achyutabdhi, a name which clearly shows tht it was given to the place by the second ruler of Tanjore Nayak dynasty, Achyutappa NAik, A.D. 1561-1614, who probably gifted the village to a number of Brahman families from Adhra and Tamil devoted to the arts of music and dance –dramas. In the same manuscript, immediately after this Svarajati, a Pada of Veerabhadrayya in Mohana, Adi, on Varadaraja of Achyutabdhi, begins with the words "Modisaya myaragadani" is also given with svaras."

Further on, Dr. Raghavan says, that in Melattur dance tradition it is believed that Huseni Svarajati with sahityam "Emayaladira na samiki emani bodhinchera" is Venkatarama Sastri’s composition, that Thiruvarur Kamalam learnt this Svarajati directly from Venkatarama Sastri, and later on, one more devadasi, Thiruvarur Jnanam, learnt this item from Kamalam. He sais, that "Emayaladira" version was composed on the minister Mallarji, the son of Dattaji. Dattaji was the minister of the king Serfoji and was in charge of the Royal Seal and external affairs. Mallarji occupied the same office as the father, from about 1799 to 1831. The lyrics of Anupallavi contains cooresponding reference: "pratApasimha vajIrA", where "vaJirA is derived from "vazIr'", an Urdu word meaning a "dignitary" or "prime minister"; and the whole phrase means "minister of Pratapa Simha."

Dr. Raghavan also quotes the opinion of Bharatan Narayanaswami Iyer, who states that Venkataramana Sastri used older Huseni Svarajati on village deity Varadaraja for his own composition in praise of Mallarji.

Dr. Raghavan also mentions, that K. Ponnia Pillai acclaimed Subaraya Oduvar (who lived in the second part of the 18th century and was the father of Tanjore brothers) as the author of this Svarajati, as Subaraya also composed tana varnam in Ananda Bhairavi, Adi "Pandamela na sami" in honor of the same Mallarji.

Dr. Raghavan opines, that Huseni Svarajati of Veerabhadrayya was the ultimate model for the famous Svarajati we know today. Thus, there are three versions of this Svarajati – the one notated in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini ("Emandayanara"), the second is the one ascribed to Venkatarama Sastri ("Emalayadira") and the notation from Saraswati Mahal Library manuscript, published by Dr. Gaghavan in Tamil (see Appendix I for the copy of the notation in Tamil with English transliteration of the article).

The notation of the Svarajati from Sangita Samradaya Pradarshini shows not so much difference from existing popular version of "Emalayadira". The only difference is sahityam of Pallavi and Anupallavi. Also, SSP version has no sahityam for Muktayi svara, while contemporary used version of "Emalayadira" has full set of satyam. Music (svaras) and Pata (jathis) are the same. The second part, Ettugada pallavi, Ettugada svaras and sahityam, shows no difference at all. Meaning and the whole tone of the composition differs. The "Emandayanara" version is more frivolous, like the song of a courtesan. Anupallavi of "Emalayadira" version brings in more spirit of devotion, as the name of God is mentioned and the hints to his care of devotees is given here. Two versions of Svarajatis are compared in the table below.

Two versions of Huseni Svarajati - comparison of Sahityam, and Pata
"Emandayanara" Svarajathi (as notated in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini) "Emalayadira" Svarajathi (as notated in books of BM Sundaram, for instance)

EmandayAnara nA sAmi

nIkE mandu beTTenurA nA sAmi

What woman with slow gate (sounds similar to "poisonous woman") poisoned your mind, my Lord (sAmi)?

EmAyelAdirA nA sAmi nI

kEmani bOdhincera nA sAmi

What female-rogue poisoned our mind?


kAminI jana citta cOrA ghanuDau

pratApasimha vajIrA prEma mIraga

nannucEra pilicitE rAvEmi nIkidimera

You are a heartthrob for many girls, Minister of Pratapasimha. You stole my heart and I want you to be with me. Why don’t you come?

bhumini velayuchunnaTi

acchyuta varidhi lona nelakoni

bhaktulaku abhishta mulano sangethi

birudun vahinchina shri kara varada

You are flourishing on the Earth, Achyutha (Lord Vishnu) who reside in the ocean of mulk! You gave boons to devotees and bear the title of Sri Karavarada(one who gives auspicious boons).

No Any

OhO Emani delpudu priyamu cAla galadani

kanukoNTini paLiyaNTini ninu mecciti gadarA

ghanambuga ninnu valacina nanu jEra biluvaka itu

jAlamu cAlura tagadura palumAru ninu valaciti gadarA

madirencavemi sarasuda mari mari ni

Jathi – Svara - Jathi

tarita kukujam tari

taka jam jam tari kita taka

taka num tari tari kumtari

taka dhimita dhimi dhom

tAritA kukujum tari

taka jum jum tari kita taka tA

taka jum tari tari kun thari

taka dhInuta kita tA

p p , , p p s s , , s s n d n s

g r , , r s n rsr n d p m

p p , p s s ,s n d n S

G R , S n S R n d p m

tahata jamtari kitataka

takataka digidigi takadhrimi dhom

takadhi dhalamgu takatadhimginathom

ta harta jum tari kita taka

taka taka digi digi taka digi thOm

thaka dhit dhalAngu taka tadIn ginathom

Ettugada Pallavi and Svaras

auraurA bAgAya marEmiyala

sarOjAkSi valalO dagilinA nenaru maracitivi

auraurA bAgAya marEmiyala

sarOjAkSi valalO dagilinA nenaru maracitivi

1: ciruta nATi modalu ninnE valaciti kada auraurA 1: ciruta nATi modalu ninnE valaciti kada auraurA
2: addira sAmi teguvaganidEmi munu celimini dalacavu 2: addira sAmi teguvaganidEmi munu celimini dalacavu
3: ninnugAni yorullanE jUDalEnu yanucu nammikalu kommanucu manambAra nosamgitivi 3: ninnugAni yorullanE jUDalEnu yanucu nammikalu kommanucu manambAra nosamgitivi
4: EmEmO lAlimpucu tElimpucu nImEnu nIdani cAlA A nATanuNDi nI sarilE raTamcu sarOjAkSa nI sarasa jEri canuvu mIri marim gUDinadencakane 4: EmEmO lAlimpucu tElimpucu nImEnu nIdani cAlA A nATanuNDi nI sarilE raTamcu sarOjAkSa nI sarasa jEri canuvu mIri marim gUDinadencakane

Svarajati of Veerabhadrayya, found in the manuscript cited above, demonstrate different structure (see Appendix I for notation.).

1) First the Ettugada svaras with sahityam are given. Totally, eleven svaras are numbered in the manuscript. For instance, that is the first svara:

2) After svaras, there is long Jathi comprising Patas (solkattus) and given along with sahityam, but without any svaras (it is numbered under "12")

3) Jathi is followed by two lines of sahityam, which probably comprise Ettugada Pallavi.

sa-mi nenaralla kandara- | sa-la meccu kondhara- ||

a-maguva po-dhanalu | adhanimai nilipu |

4) Two pairs of lines following the "pallavi" represent mixture of words (pada), svaras and solkattus (pata).

mari | na-dhipre-ma maracithivaka nannevu accudha varadha ||

S- NN D N P D M P M dhanaje-nutha dhimi |

je-nutha je-nna- | R- R G- M P M P- N

D N- S- je-naku tath tha dhim gina tho-, || sa-mini ||

Comparing the structure of Veerabhadrayya Svarajati, the later Svarajati of Adiyappayya and later version of Venkatarama Sastri (which could also be altered during the time, so we have to appeal to the present day style of presentation), The following conclusions can be made:

  • Initially, "Svarajati" comprised only one section, which is close to present day Ettugada section. This composition comprised set of svaras with sahityam, the analog of pallavi (which was probably used as refrain), and solkattus (jathi). In addition, one small "mixed-up" portion was added in conclusion, which resembles Muktayi jathi-svara of present day Svarajati. This portion comprised svaras, padas and solkattus. Structure of this ancient Svarajati bear many features of Daru.
  • Later Svarajati of Adiyappayya comprises Pallavi and Anupallavi, followed by Jathi and Ettugada portion. Muktayi svara is absent and no any sahityam is given for Jathi portion concluding the Purva ranga section.
  • Svarajati used in Abhyasa gana (examples are Svarajatis of Syama Sastry given in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini) include Pallavi as refrain and set Caranams in form of svaras with sahityam.)
  • Present day "dance" Svarajati includes Pallavi-Anupallavi section and Jathi-svara section (in place of Muktayi svara of Varna), and Ettugada section.

It can be concluded, that Svarajati evolved as independent composition in 17-18 centuries. In dance, Svarajati was incorporated following the setting of Daru. Svarajati was employed in Nirupana-Natyaprabandha along with Varna. On those stage, the formats of the two compositions were different. Later on, Svarajatis composed for dance were added with Pallavi-Anupallavi section similar to the same sections of Pada or Kriti. Later on, Muktayi section was introduced silar to the structure to Pada varna, with the only difference which is usage of Pata (solkattus) along with svaras and sahityam in this section.