By Dr. Shreekantham Nagendra Shastry
‘Dasa Vidha Raga Navati Kusuma Manjari’ - a Musical and literary prabandham composed by ‘Laya Brahma’, ‘PanchaMukhi Parameshwara’ Shrimadajjada Adibhatla Narayana Das, is a rare musical wonder, in which Shri Narayana Das expertly brought together theoretical and practical aspects of Karnatik Classical music. He gave us a complete work which in a nutshell, achieves ‘Lakshya – LakshaNa’ Samanvaya, confluence of Theory and practice. A musical work of this vast range and inherent depth is very rare in our literature and also in oral traditions.
The very importance of the ‘Manjari’ lies in creating Lakshya (Musical form) for many ragas which are only to be found in Shaastra (Theory). The structure of the ‘Manjari’ can be briefly explained as follows. It has a total of 10 ‘Navatis’ in 10 types of Raga-classes or (Jaathis). Each ‘Navati’ comprises 9 ragas making it a total of 90 Ragas in the entire composition. Languages used are Samskritam (In AarohaNa maalika) and Telugu (In Avarohana Maalika), which also demonstrates Shri Das's lyrical and musical prowess. Shri Narayana Das included ‘Raaga Mudra’ in each raaga's composition similar to that of Muttuswami Deekshitar's tradition, in such a way that ‘raaga mudra’comes as a reference to ‘Bhagavati/Devi’.
Shri Naryana Das named this musical essay ‘ Panchamukhi’, which also refers to the 5 faces of Bhagavan Shiva namely, Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Ishana. Panchamukhi has 5 taalas /Angas which are to be performed simultaneously in 1 cycle (Avarathanam) by using various physical movements which include hands, thighs and head. A 6th anga can also be used and then it can be called ‘Shanmukhi’. In our classical texts this can be referred as ‘Laghu shekhara’ which is a part of ‘Taala Shodasanga’.
The ‘Manjari’ has enormous scope and possibility to demonstrate in 5 types of Laghus and also in all SuLaadi Sapta taalas.
Scholars and Musicians alike have hailed this musical essay as ‘Peerless, Unique and Unprecedented’ which is no exaggeration. Shri Narayana Das had performed Manjari in Shanmukhi by keeping a ‘lemon fruit’ on his head on February 1, 1933 during the 14th anniversary celebrations of ‘Sri Vijayarama Gana Pathasala', the famous music college at Vizianagaram, of which he was the principal.
Now, after a gap of almost 83 years, ‘Dasha Vidha Raaga Navati Kusuma Manjari’ demonstration is being attempted by Prof. Srikantham Nagendra Shastry, the torch bearer of Chintalapalli Music tradition of Karnataka and his disciples. The specialty of this presentation would be 9 participants demonstrating ‘Navatis’ simultaneously. Each individual is conceived as a form of ‘Navati’. The troupe will try to show different possibilities and facets of the ‘Manjari’ in its presentation. This will also be the ‘first- of- its- kind’ attempt, where in Panchamukhi and Shanmukhi are being presented in ‘Goshti’ (Troupe). Shri Nagendra Shastry has studied the work in detail. Possible typographical errors in the alignment of the notation and the lyric in the printed text are taken care of and will be presented in line with the prevailing current musical tradition.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Shreekantham Nagendra Shastry is the flag bearer of the ‘Chintalapalli Parampara’ of music which has an 800-year lineage. The ‘Chintalapalli Parampara’ itself belongs to the disciple-lineage of two of the three ‘Sangita Trimurthis’ of Karnatic music, Saint Thyagaraja and Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar.
Dr. Shastry may be said to be the lone exponent of ‘Pallavi singing’ in 16 ‘Kalas’ today.
Dr. Shastry has been teaching and demonstrating music and rendering innumerable music concerts for over three decades. He is currently professor of music in the Maharani Music College, Bengaluru.
Dr. Shastry has produced over 5000 pages of literature including books and articles on music and musicology.
Dr. Shastry has received innumerable honours and awards including ‘The Pandit Adibhatla Narayana Das Memorial Award’, instituted by ‘Sangitha Jagruthi’, a cultural, literary and music organisation of Bengaluru.