Scientific Names For Raga-s: D. Pattanimal Proposes A System

What do the following well-known compositions have in common: Tyagaraja's Evarimata. Dikshitar's Sri Subrahmanyaya Namaste, Vasudcvachar's Mori mart vachuna and Papanasam Sivan's Kana kann kodi vendum ?

If someone were to ask this of composer D Pattammnal, might reply that they are all in the raga     28-nishada poojya.

28-nishada-poojya? Sounds crazy, doesn't it, to identify Kambhoji in this manner? Or any raga with a combination of numerals and note names?

Pattammal looks like a woman possessed when she explains her newly discovered approach to identifying raga-s of certain types — the upanga varja raga-s — in a scientific manner, but she feels it is the way raga-s have been named all along that is crazy. Most of the raga-s do have beautiful names — all one has to do is glance through B. Subba Rao's lour-volume Raganidhi to find corraboration for this statement — but. says. Pattammal. the names that are in vogue do not give anyone a clue as to their melakai la parentage and the applicable swarasthana-s. This did not bog her down much but suddenly one day recently she got the idea of giving name tags to raga-s — existing ones us well as those which may yet be created — in a manner that would immediately offer its biodata to the student or practitioner.

Pattammal explained the salient features of her system to SRUTI, choosing to disclose it to the wider.public through this magazine.

"My scheme applies only to varja raga-s, that is, the raga-s which are formed by leaving out, cither in the ascent or the descent or in both, one or more swara-s, but keeping the orde r of the other swara-s unchanged. An example is Mohanam. where ma and ni have been dropped both in ascent and descent. In this case, ma and ni are varja or deleted.

"Th e total numbe r of varja raga-s is 34776. Of course, only a limited number of these can actually be sung. Of these, 6144 should be deleted because they are duplicated. My scheme will therefore be applicable to 28632 raga-s.

" This figure is based on the fact that, for each of the seventy-two mclakarta raga-s. as many as eight varja scales and 483 varja raga-s arc possible, according to Pattammal. She explains further:

"Knowing the names of all the varja raga-s is impossible. A few thousand were named in the past by our ancestors, but it is not clear why these names were given. Another point is that, for the same scale, different names have been given by different persons, so that, in several cases, the same raga is known by more names than one.

"Even without this background, it is out of the question for anyone to have a complete record of the names of 28632 raga-s and be expected to remember them. And although only about six hundred of these are in use at present, there is still the difficulty of remembering their scales. It is therefore important that we find an easy method for naming the various possible varja raga-s based on scientific principles of music and on the science of mnemonics so that this difficulty may be overcome.

"My system can be explained as follows. Of the eight kinds of scales with omitted notes, the first three kinds, which account for forty eightVarja raga-s are: sampurna shadava (7+6) shadava-sainpurna (6+7) and shadavashadava (6+6). For these three kinds ol varja-krama-s. or scales with omitted notes, my proposal is: to state the numbe r ol the mclakarta. Followed lirst by the name ol the varja-swara in the arohana or ascent and then the name ol the varja-swara in the avarohana Of descent. II either arohana or avarohana is sampurna. we use the word poojya' to denote it

"Take Kambhoji for instance. In this raga. uishada is the varja swara in ascent; the descent is sampui na. We will therefore call the ruga 28-nishada poojya. that is. the mclakarta numbe r lirst. the varja swara in the arohana next and finally, since avarohana is sampurna . the word poojya. (Poojya in Sunski ii means zero, and the word is used in a double negalive sense here — that is. to denote that no swara is varja). Instead, if we were to name Sriraujani, wc Could call it 22-panchama-panchama. or 22 ubhaya panchama. which means panchamu is the varja swara in iHith arohana and avarohana.

"This proposal lakes care of the lit si three kinds of varja-krama-s. I propose a different approach for the other five kinds of varja-krama-s which only have five swai as going up or down. In a live-note stale, any two out of the six swara-s ri. go, ma, pa, da. ni will be omitted. For all the 483 varja scales which have live notes IB the arohana or avarohana oi both, only fifteen scale combinations are possible — and these appear repetitively. It follows that, if we name each of these fifteen combinations, we can cover all the483 ndteomitted stales. Better still, if the names can be made self-explanatory by using appropriate logic, remembering the names would become even simpler. This is what my system docs, by giving the fifteen combination names like mukha. kara. kala and so on. Mukha (face) is one. Kara-s (hands) are two. Kala-s (the seasons) are four. Guha (Subrahmanya or Arumuga) is six. Chakra (mela chakra-s) is twelve. And so on. Simple, isn't it?

"With this approach to the naming of the live-note ra^a-s. the scheme is complete. For example, Dhanvusi has five notes in arohana, sa-ga-ma-pa-ni and a sampurna avarohana. It is a janya raga of Hanumatodi oi Todi (mcla-H). Th e varja swara-s in the arohana are ri and da. Under the new scheme ri-da is the fourth in the list of fifteen varja combinations I have prepared. The number four indicates kala, so the raga's name is 8-. kala poojya. Another example, this time of an audava-audava (5 + 5) raga. is Mohanam.

The varju swara-s in both arohana and avarohana are ma and ni, and the varja combination ma-ni is the twelfth in the list of fifteen. Twelve indicates chakra; and so the name for Mohana will be 28-Ubhaya chakra (meaning chakra in both arohana and avarohana). "To sum up the scheme for naming all varja raga-s, in sequence, is: the melakarta numbe r (whose janya raga is the raga being christened), the arohana varja-swara(s) and the avarohana varja-swara(s)." A quick review indicates that the system is aimed at giving scientific names to upanga varja raga-s somewhat like the botanical names for plants and flowers which have othe r popular names as well. If taken up. the approach underlying the system would be  useful in producing a reference dictionary.

The new names will not replace the more popular names but might help in identifying its mcla, varja and other aspects quickly. I'attammal claims the new system will help achieve "a tremendous reduction in the strain on memory. " First, as against the need to remembe r 483 scales with omitted notes, the new system will require that only twentythree names in all be remembered — the names of six swara-s (except sa), the fifteen varja swara combinations and the words ubhaya and poojya. Familiarity with the melakarta scheme and knowledge of the SWB1 "asthana-s arc assumed, of course. I'attammal hopes that "the simplicity of the system will appeal to musicians, musicologists and discerning listeners." She stands ready to explain the system in full detail to any interested group.