In Carnatic Music, we have a number of different forms of compositions like geetam, swarajati, varnam, kriti, javali and thillana. The mainstay of this music is, of course, the kriti which normally has a three-part form of pallavi, anupallavi and charanam. Yet I recall that when my mother spoke of these, she called them kIrtanam in Tamil. ‘Are these two names interchangeable?’ I wondered while listening to the rather uniquely structured kriti which is my chosen song of the day.
The word kriti comes from the Sanskrit root कृ, kR to do. यत् क्रितम् तत् कृतिः That which is created is a kriti, so in a general sense, it just means a creation. kIrtanam no doubt comes from कीर्तन kIrtana, to praise. Given that in Hindi, kirtan is more like a bhajan than a classical composition, I tend to think of it in the same terms. What is the difference between the two in Carnatic Music?
Seeking comprehension on the net, I found a very interesting article by eminent musicologist T.S.Parthasarathy in the journal Shanmukha (April-June 2005) . Not only was my question answered but I also learnt a number of other things, some of which I note below for your interest.
The word kriti to denote a musical composition was first used by Kalidasa (5th-6th centuries) in his Raghuvamsa. But this did not refer to a composition such as we know in Carnatic Music today. This structure owes its origins to the dhruvas and charanas of the Ashtapadi by Jayadeva (14th century). Though the pitamaha of Carnatic Music Purandaradasa (15th century) refers to his own compositions as kritis in his song Vasudeva Namavaliya, his compositions have various composition-form names. The majority are called kirtanas. Tyagarja defines a kriti in his Sogasuga Mrudanga Talamu as containing yati (a pattern of swaras & words in a beat), visrama (rest), sadbhakti (true devotion), virati (pause), draksha rasa (grape flavour?!) and navarasa (the nine sentiments).
In normal parlance today, the words kriti and kirtanam are often used interchangeably. However, according to another eminent musicologist Prof. P.Sambamoorthy, there is a difference which I summarize below :
An older form (14th century); kritis evolved later from kirtanas
The lyrics are strictly devotional.
The melody and rhythm are simple; the music is subordinate to the lyrics.
The charanas are all sung to the same dhaatu (melodic-rhythmic structure as opposed to maatu which denote the lyrics) and the anupallavi is dispensable.
They are set to common ragas and are without ornamental angas like chittaswaras, sangatis etc.
It may be devotional, didactic or introspective in character.
The accent is on musical excellence; the words take a secondary position.
The charanas may have difference dhaatus.
Sangatis (melodic variations) are a characteristic feature; a kriti lends itself to musical interpretation of the raga.
It normally has a pallavi, anupallavi and charanas. It can be enriched by ornamental angas like chittaswaras etc.
Coming back to my inspiration for educating myself today, Sri Raghuvara Aprameya by Tyagaraja, is interestingly different. It has four charanas, each set to a different melodic pattern. Some artists sing only the sahitya, but others sing the swaras as well, like they do for the Ghana Raga Pancharatna kritis. And interestingly, some sing the charanas in two speeds. What a delightful piece of music it is! Tyagaraja praises Rama as the one who enjoys music arising from swara and laya; well, if the music is like this, surely even God cannot but enjoy its magnificence? Set to raga Kambhoji, it has a brisk but contended mood which I enjoy very much indeed. For lyrics and translation, see footnote.
My favourite rendition of this kriti is by D.K.Jayaraman who sings the swaras and renders the charanas in two speeds.
Alternate Link: Click here and download song 8 (free membership to Sangeethapriya needed).
I was inspired today while listening to young Bharat Sundar make a very credible effort in his rendition below (alapana 48:17, kriti 1:08:08). He sings the swaras but renders the charanas only at one speed.
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Tyagaraja
Raga : Kambhoji
Language : Sanskrit
श्री रघुवर अप्रमेय मामव
श्री रघु कुल जलनिधि सोम श्री राम पालय
सारस हित कुलाब्ज भृङ्ग संगीत लोल
विरोचन कुलेश्वर स्वर लयादि मूर्छनोल्लसित नारद विनुत
श्री भास्कर कुलाद्रि दीप श्री भागवत विनुत सुचरण
सीता नाथ त्यागराज नुतानिल सुताप्त सुगुणाभरण
shrI raghuvara apramEya mAmava
shrI raghu kula jalanidhi sOma shrI rAma pAlaya
sArasa hita kulAbja bhRnga sangIta lOla
virOchana kulEshvara svara layAdi mUrCHanOllAsita nArada vinuta
shrI bhAskara kulAdri dIpa shrI bhAgavata vinuta sucharaNa
sItA nAtha tyAgarAja nutAnIla sutApta suguNAbharaNa
O Best (vara) of the Raghu clan, O Unfathomable one (apramEya) ! Protect (verb अव् av) me (mAma)!
O Lord Rama, the nectar (sOma) in the ocean (jalanidhi) of the splendid (shrI) Raghu clan (raghu kula), [perhaps equating with the churning of the milky ocean, which brought forth the nectar of immortality] take care of me (pAlaya) !
O bee (bhRnga) hovering over the Lotus (sArasa) of the Solar dynasty (abja=lotus, hita=friend of, kula=dynasty – friend of lotus=Sun)! O enjoyer of music (sangIta lOla)!
O Lord (Ishvara) of the Solar (virOchana=sun) dynasty (kula)! One who is made joyful (ullAsita) by musical notes (svara), rhythm (laya) and melody (mUrCHana) etc (Adi)! One praised (nuta) by Narada!
O bright (bhaskara) lamp (light) of the solar (adri=sun) dynasty (kula)! One whose feet (su charaNa) are worshipped (vinuta) by the blessed (shrI) followers of Vishnu (bhAgavata)!
O Lord (nAtha) of Sita! One who is praised (nuta) by Tyagaraja! O friend (Apta) of Hanuman, the son (suta) of the God of wind (anila)! One who is adorned (AbharaNa) by virtues (suguNa)!