Contributions Of The Saint-bard

Purandaradasa has been justly termed the father of Carnatic music. He was not merely a composer, but a lakshanakara of the highest calibre. The system of South Indian music, as we now have it, is entirely his gift. His greatest achievement is that he systematized it, gave it laws and placed it on such secure foundations that it has continued to remain the same in its essentials. All the famous raga-s bear the same complexion today as they did in his time. He was the master of both lakshya and lakshana. It was therefore possible for him not only to give correct shape to the raga-s but to comjxjse thousands of kirtana-s to serve as illustrations of them. To him belongs the credit of having rescued Carnatic Music from the chaos and corruption of alien influences from which the music of the North could not altogether escape.

He fixed the main outline of all the raga-s in vogue in his time with such clarity and precision that there was no chance of their being ever mistaken or distorted. Dhanyasi, Mohanam, Begada, Madhyamavati, Surati, Sahana, Varali, Arabhi, Nata, Atana, Darbar, Kanada to mention a few are rendered today exactly as they were in his day. It is true certain raga-s have undergone some change of complexion. It is doubtful if the change is for the better. The Trinity scrupulously respected the traditions of Sri Purandaradasa. Dikshitar and Syama Sastri followed him in raga and tala aspects only. Tyagaraja modelled his compositions on those of the great dasa in bhava as well as in raga and tala.

The first great change effected by Purandaradasa was to introduce of the Malavagaula scale as the basic scale for music instruction. Th e ancient suddha scale was Kharaharapriya. It was derived by the application of chatussruti interval to sadja panchama and madhyama. Later the sruti values of the notes of the resultant scale were enumerated. In North India as well as in South India the tradition of Bharata's system was forgotten. Ignoring that Bharata's scale started from sadja, the pandits of North India treated the note with reference to which the srutis of sadja were given, as the initial and basic note and arrived at the Sankarabharana or Bilaval scale. Purandaradasa however, adopted the Malavagaula scale as its derivation from sadja panchama and madhyama was based on a process identical to the derivation of the ancient classic scale with this significant difference that h the derivation a dvisruti instead of a chatussruti interval was used.

A dvisruti interval is, beyond question, easier to negotiate than a chatussruti interval. And that is the reason which underlies the selection of Malavagaula scale. Not content with prescribing the scale, he framed a graded series of lessons which even today prevails in the teaching of music. Th e svaravali-s, janta varisai-s% alankara-s, and gita-s form the surest road to the mastery of Carnatic music with all its intricacies of svara and tala prastara-s. [The excerpts published here are from the late T V. Subba Rao's .'Studies in Indian Music'. The chapter of this book devoted to Purandaradasa highlights the immense contributions of the saint-bard to the development of the lakshana aspect of Carnatic music. A lawyer by profession, Subba Rao was also an eminent musicologist who plaved active roles in the Music Academy and elsewhere and helped spread the study of music at the University level].