I continue today with my posts on Pancharatna Kritis. For those landing on my blog for the first time, the first section is here.
Dudukugala is composed in the Raga Gowla in the Telugu language. In this composition, the poet paints himself as a sinner, which is surprising because he seems to have led a fairly blameless life. But does not the best of poetry arise from personal angst? Tyagaraja says in one charanam ‘ Not realising that the human form is difficult to obtain, I didn’t strive for Supreme Bliss but instead became a slave to arrogance, jealousy, lust, avarice and infatuation, and went to ruin’. And so has every Saint lamented from time immemorial; the battle of Sainthood seems to be the battle with one’s own self. For a full translation, see here.
Tyagaraja’s works can be appreciated on so many levels – for the beauty of the poetry, for the lyricism of his compositions, for his scholarship in the development of ragas and structures in Carnatic music, for his lighting the way in Bhakti marga (the way of devotion). I have but limited understanding yet I find much to marvel at and enjoy in his works.
In paintings, one works to achieve both contrast and similarity. In the Raga structure of Indian music, one plays with what would be called a limited palette in art i.e.. only a certain subset of possible notes. This limited palette can be chiaroscuro with great variations in tone (term used in visual art), like most of Rembrandt’s works. Or they can be high-key impressionistic works like Monet’s Rouen Cathedral, West Facade in Sunlight, where there is very little variation in tone. Both are beautiful, but in different ways. There may be drama in chiaroscuro, but there is peace and resonance in low-contrast works. The same beauty can be found in low-key works, again of little contrast but with a play in slight variations which is so pleasurable to the senses.
In Dudukugala, in the second charanam (stanza), the notes r r s s ; r s r M m s r M | ns r g M – sr G , m r r s s dance around in the lower half of the octave with the next charanam playing a variation in the same playing field. Not chiaroscuro, but impressionism! Ah, what a nectar to my ears this music is!! To more about this raga, click here.
Watch below Dudukugala as sung in the festival at Thiruvaiyaru to celebrate this Saint-poet.
To appreciate the beauty of the musical notes, listen to the instrumental version by child-prodigy turned Maestro U.Shrinivas on the Mandolin.
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