Taala Vendargal : Thiru Gnanasambandar and Sri Shyama Sastry
Professor, Department of Music, Queen Mary's College, Chennai - 600004, INDIA
A comparison presented on the styles
and usage of tala structures in the compositions of the doyens among the
trinities of Dravidian Music (Thiru Gnanasambandar) and South Indian Classical
Music (Sri Shyama Sastry).
"Music is the highest art
and to those who understand, it is the highest worship"
- SWAMY VIVEKANANDA.
Music is the invaluable art that
is the gem that adorns the crown of Indian culture.The saint singers of
South India spread the cult of bhakti (devotion to god) that flourished
from the time immemorial through Naadopasana.
The immortal divine soul-stirring
compositions of the saints influenced not only the eminent, enlightened
personalities but also the lay man, beast and even plants. The strict adherence
to 'Sampradaya' (tradition) through generations, paved way for fostering
our art with all sanctity retaining their innate values.
Their immense faith is even more
ascertained through their songs which proclaim that those who sing these
hymns with music and utmost reverence will be liberated from bondage in
this birth and beyond. Gnanasambandar in his 'Thiruvalamchuzhi thiruppadigam'
quotes thus -
"Gnanasambandan vaai navittriya tamil malai aadaritthu,
Isai katru vallar solla kettu
Vadhiyaavini marumaikkum immaikkum
On similar lines, we find that Sri
Shyama Sastri in his very first krithi in Saveri Raga "Janani nathajana
paripaalini pahimaam Bhavani...." declares that Bhavani is the universal
mother and the omniscient supreme energy who will liberate us from all
sins ("sakala jana paritaapa paapa haarini").
Sri Adi Sankara Bhagavathpada in
his "Bhavani Bhujangam" also emphasises that chanting thrice, the very
name of "BHAVANI" will free one from sorrows, passion and fear and thus
leading him to liberation. Such is the power of devotional music !
SRUTHI AND LAYAM
"Sruthir maatha Laya pitha"
- The duel basic factors that adorns any musical composition are
Sruthi (pitch / melody) and Layam (rhythm).
Layam literally means the tempo.
There are three tempos in Sanskrit tradition Viz., Vilamba - Madhyama
- Duritha layas. On the contrary, in the Tamil tradition the tempos
are classified according to their degrees such as Mudhal - Varam
- Kudai and Thiral nadais. Thevaram is in the Varam
Nadai, since it glorifies the god it is termed as "The-varam".
Now let us take a detailed look at
the lives our principle subjects of this topic.
THIRU GNANA SAMBANDAR
Thiru Gnana Sambandar the child
prodigy of the "Thevara Moovar", belongs to the 7th century
A.D. He was better known as "TAALA VENDHAN" (the unparalleled King
of Rhythm). Having been fed with the divine milk of Goddess Parvathi, he
was bestowed with poetical excellence (Kavitthuvam). His
poetry abound in literary and musical values, is an inseparable aspect
of all the "Padigams" of this divine child "Aaludaiya pillai".
In the place called Thirukolakka,
the Supreme Mother blessed him with "Golden Cymbals" (Thiru
Taalam), which testifies for his mastery over the metrical "Saahithyam"
(Thevara Hymns). Chekkizhaar, the author of "Periya
Puranam" quotes that Gnana Samabandar composed multi faceted rhythmic
aspects in his hymns - "Senthamizh maalai Vigarpa ..... Panninar
The time measures that are still
prevailing at present, are all found in Gnana Sambandar's Thevaram. It
is an evident fact that the Thevara Padigams are metrical and the time
measures were introduced according to the Kattalai.
Shyama Sastry is one among the musical
trinities of Carnatic Music and an ardent devotee of Kanchi Kamakshi,
is adept in the art of music and mastered all the intricacies of
music and taala prastaaras. His guru Sangeetha Swamy, presented
him the invaluable "Lakshana Grantha" - the ultimate treasure
trove for musicology.
The intricate time measures such
as those present in 'Viloma Chapu' - a variety of Chapu tala,
adorn his compositions along with the mellifluous flow of words and melody
full of the Bhaava and Raaga. His krithis in
Vilamba-Madhya-Durita layas portrayed his mastery over the
Rhythm. It gives the Rasikas a special delight and liking towards his compositions
which are enriched by the presence of multiple rhythmic structures. Some
of his Kritis bear testimony of the above.
In Kritimani Maalai
Volume IV Page - 6, the Saint Thyagaraja has commended that the compositions
of Sri Shyama Sastri are to be rendered only with due practice encompassing
Raaga, Taala, Laya and Gamaka. "Raaga-Taala-Laya-Gamakangal porunda
nandraaga payindre Shyama Sastriyin paadalgalai paadavendum". Though
the compositions of Sri Shyama Sastri are few in number, the melody and
rhythmic aspects are found in abundance in his compositions.
COMPARISON OF THE TWO GREAT COMPOSERS
Gnana Sambandar has contributed
a lot to the realm of time measures in Tamil Music. The popular taalas
of Thevaram are Roopaka, Triputa, Mattya, Jhampa, Chaapu, Ata and
Anga tala. The taala is determined with the help of Kattalai.
The first composition of Gnana Sambandar "Thodudaiya Seviyan"
is set to be in Roopaka taala of the first Kattalai. Below are a few of
his compositions that speaks for itself the variety of taala structures
he has adopted for his hymns.
1. Thodudaiya Seviyan -
2.Neeru Servador -
Chatusra Jathi Triputa
3.Chirai Aarum - Thisra
4.Maadhar madappidiyum -
5. Manninaervizhi Maadharaar -
6. Marundavai Mandiram -
7.Vaanavargal Thaanavargal -
The "Thirutaala Jathi"
of Gnanasambandar, was poured out of ecstasy with Chandam
- a metrical aspect of Kattalai and other rhetorical beauties
that adorns them. In this particular Padigam(Hymns) the numbers - Ondre,
Irande, Moondre, Yezhae also confirms the prosodic beauty of his
compositions. It signifies that the Padigam is set in the pattern of "Pari
Padal" where the intricate time measures are aplenty. The rhythmic
structures thaka-takita- thaka dimi etc are concurrently
established in a single phrase and it would be visualized in the Paripadal
song No. 30 "Thenul Theral Nee".
Thirutaala Jathi studded with the rhythmic aspects were highlighted by
the divine composer Sri Sundaramurthy Swamigal in the padigam
No. 642 "Naalum Innisaiyal" . Sambandar
himself records that his compositions are with Chandam by the following:
- Namasivaya Padigam
b)Chandamar Chentamil -
Song No. 305
c)Seerinmali Chentamil -
Song No. 333
- Song No. 126
The Thirutaala Jathi Padigam
connotes that the tala structure can be fractionally divided according
to the formation of the song. The first line of the composition is taken
e)Bandaththal ..... -
5 takita thaam
f) Vandeppal..... - 6
taka taa taa
g) Payindru Nindra -
7 takita taa taa
h) Umber Appaale - 8
takita taka takita
i)Servar Yenorkaan - 9
takita taka dimi taa
j)Payil gana munivargaluum
- 10 taka dimi taka thaam taka
"Bandaththal" can also
be rendered in Tisra-Chatusra-Kanta-Misra-Sankirna Nada.
The layas structure of the above
padigam portrays that there is an apparent and actual rhythm that glorifies.
Turning our attentions back on the
works of Sri Shyama Sastri and identifying those aspects
of rhythm that we find similar to that of Gnana Sambandar, we notice that
he has composed Krithis which are set in Tisra Nadai and
with Chatusra Gathi Saahithyam that reveals his imagination.
Viz., "Sankari Sankuru" in Saveri Raaga.
Sankari (4) Samkuru (4) Chandra
Mu (4) khi (4) Akilan (4) deswari (4)
Here the taala is set in Tisra and
Saahitya in Chatusra.
The Composition "Himaadri Suthe"
in Kalyani set in Tisra gathi also seems to be adopted from
the style of the divine child. Compare thevaram "Niraamaya" and "Himaadri
The krithi "Karuna Judu"
in Sri Raagam is a unique composition of Sri Shyama Sastri
which is rendered both in Adi/Misra Chapu by different schools.
It is also sung in Chatusra/ Misra gathi elsewhere. The excellence
in Layam found in the above example proves to us adequately on Sri Shyama
Sastri's dual rhythmic compositions that compares well with Thirugnana
We infer from the above discussions
that Sri Shyama Sastri followed the foot steps of Thiru Gnana Sambandar
and his krithis are revelations of his regard for the laya aspects of a
composition that falls in line with "Thirutaala Jathi".
The taala exponent Thiru Gnana Sambandar
paved way for the emergence of the different taala systems in Tamil music
which was later advocated by the taala veteran of Thiruvaaroor, Sri Shyama
"Pancha Marabu Arivanaar", V P K Sundaram
-Kazhaga Publications 1991.
"Thiruththondar Puranam", Sekkizhaar
- Gangai Puthaga Nilayam 2000.
"Thiru Gnana Sambandar Swamigal Thevaram"
- (Talamurai) Thirupananthal Matam 1996.
"Great Composers I & II" - The Indian
Music Publishing House Madras 1978.
"Kirtana Sagaram I, II, III, IV, V"
- The Indian Music Publishing House Madras 1996.
Shyama Sastri's Composition T K Govinda
Rao Gnana Mandir Publication 1997.
Dr.K.R.Seethalakshmi is a
Professor, Singer and an eminent Musicologist for over 26 years, specializing
in the works of Sri Muthuswamy Dikshithar's "Kamalamba Navavarnam" and
the Traditions of Tamil Music. She is currently holding the position of
a Reader in the Department of Music, Queen Mary's College for Women, Chennai.
Next inline for the Head of the Department, she holds a Doctorate in Music
on "Tamil Ilakkiyathil Keerthanayin Valarchi" and is bestowed
with a lot of accolades, articles and seminars to her credit and has been
instrumental in making her department into one that can offer Research
programs. She is
a very active and cheerful personality and well-known for her mellifluous
voice, crystal clear presentations and student-oriented training. She performs
and speaks at a variety of conferences all over India on the subjects of
different forms of Music, Theory, History and on Composers of all ages.
She has also hosted a few programs at her College in collaboration with
the "Ramalingar Pani Mandram" of Sri.N.Mahalingam,
an advocate in fostering traditional Tamil Music.
When not otherwise busy, she loves
spending time with family and friends and on travel to pilgrimages.
You can contact her for any references,
questions or comments at email@example.com