Varga: Septatonic

Arohana: sa-ri-gu-ma-pa-dhi-ni

Avarohana: ni-dhi-pa-ma-gu-ri-sa

Vadi (dominant note): dhi

Rasa: Bhakti

Frequently used korvai or swara combinations:

sa-ri-sa-ni-dhi-ni, ma-pa-dhi-ni, ri-sa-ni-dhi-ni

Harikambhoji is among the oldest raga-s known. We know from the Sangam literature in Tamil that a musical instrument of that ancient age called yazh had seven strings and that, beginning with its first string, it was tuned to produce the seven swara-s of a pann called Kodippalai. Pann is the ancient Tamil name for what is now called a raga and the scale of Kodippalai is equivalent to that of Harikambhoji.

Seven different pann-s were created using the seven stringed yazh. Harikambhoji was developed using the first string for sa, a different pann was created using the second string for sa; and so on. Surprisingly, this musical scale seems to have existed in other cultures as well in ancient times, as witness the G mode used by the English; the mixolydian mode – an authentic Church mode – with the ascending scale going from G to G in the Western notation; and the Arabian djorka.

In Harikambhoji the interval between swara-s in the arohana and avarohana is equal and hence the raga will lend itself well to teach beginner’s lessons in Carnatic music. Many Tevaram songs are rendered solely in this raga. The rendering especially of Tirutaandakam verses without metre, rendered between two Tevaram songs, reveals how the structure of this raga allows the performer to dwell at length on each note, thus enhancing the beauty of the song and investing it deeply with the emotion of bhakti. Yes, one must listen to Tevaram masterpieces to fully appreciate and understand the Harikambhoji raga. Venkatamakhi, who devised the melakarta scheme of classifying raga-s into 72 parent scales, has identified Harikambhoji as one of the parent raga-s. Known as the 28th melakarta raga, and also known by the name of Harikedaragaula in the tradition of the Dikshitar school, Harikambhoji is a sampoorna raga – a septatonic mode using all the seven notes. All the notes are jeeva swara-s, that is, essential for the image of the raga and therefore they are given equal importance. Within this framework, emphasis is given to the rishabha (ri) and the nishada (ni), the only two notes of the raga in which oscillation is allowed to some extent. Believe it or not, this raga went into oblivion after the age of the Tamil pann and owes its reappearance, indeed its resurgence, entirely to Tyagaraja who composed several masterpieces in it. Each of these quintessentially portrays the architectonics and the soul of the raga. What is more fortunate for us, several great musicians have each put his or her own stamp on individual compositions, thus leaving us, in available recorded discs and tapes, a great source of learning as well as listening pleasure. How can anyone forget Entara neetana and Dinamanivamsa rendered by Ariyakudi, Undedi Ramudu by Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Enduku nirdaya by Semmangudi, Rama nannu brovara by M.S. Subbulakshmi as well as by Semmangudi, and Rara phanisayana by GNB! Kanchipuram Naina Pillai was renowned for his rendering not only of the kriti Vinatasuta in Jayantasena by Tyagaraja but also of another Vinatasuta, this one in Harikambhoji.

The latter too carries Tyagaraja’s signature, but it is believed scope for etching the melodic contours of the raga indelibly on our minds. This is an illustration of the fact that repetitions of song lines, offering subtle variations, provide more scope than alapana alone does for bringing out the swaroopa of a raga. Papanasam Sivan has composed more than half-a-dozen kriti-s in this raga, all in Tamil. The song Pamaalaikinaiyundo his tribute to the poetic genius of Subramania Bharati, was made his own by another Subramania known by the more popular name of Madurai Mani Iyer. It was a marvellous and soul-satisfying experience. Sivan’s other songs in Harikambhoji include: Enathu manam, Kamala padamalarinai, Karpagambika ramana, Paadamalar tunai, Sankara dayakara and Undenru urudikolvai maname. Koteeswara Iyer, who has composed a piece in every melakarta, has offered us Neeye gati in Harikambhoji, while Mysore Vasudevachar’s offering is Kripatonu. A second composition of Sadasiva Rao in this raga worth mentioning is Pannaga sayana. It is a common occurrence in life that a son sometimes becomes more famous or popular than his father even if the latter is or was no slouch himself. Thus, although Harikambhoji is a very important melakarta raga, one of its janya or derivative raga-s – Kambhoji, is much more in vogue. The greater popularity of Kambhoji illustrates another fact, namely that the omission of a few notes from a melakarta raga makes the resulting janya raga easier not only for the musician to handle but also for the listener to appreciate.

Harikambhoji is the parent of more than 70 janya raga-s, in addition to Kambhoji. Among the more popular are: Bahudari, Dwijavanti, Kapinarayani, Kedaragaula, Khamas, Kuntalavarali, Mohanam, Natakurinji, Sahana, Sama, Surati, Umabharanam and Yadukulakambhoji. According to B. Subba Rao’s Raganidhi, there is no direct parallel to Harikambhoji in the Hindustani system, but the Khamaj thaat of the latter corresponds to the Carnatic melakarta of Harikambhoji. The raga Khamas, a janya of Harikambhoji, is actually descended from the Hindustani Khamaj thaat. It is indeed very close to Harikambhoji, the difference being that in it the rishabha is omitted and the kakali nishada is touched in the ascent. Another difference, much easier to spot, is that in Harikambhoji the notes chosen for karvai or elongation are ri and gu, while in Khamas the emphasis is on the latter half of the ascending scale.

Neither Muthuswami Diskhitar nor Syama Sastry employed this raga, but a number of post- Trinity composers have. Mysore Sadasiva Rao has given us the popular Telugu piece, Saketanagara natha. The line taken up for niraval in this song ‘rajita amara pala’, allows a singer unsurpassed.

Select compositions in Harikambhoji

Avataramenduku – Jhampa (Tyagaraja)

Chani todi tevey – Adi (Tyagaraja)

Dinamanivamsa – Adi (Tyagaraja)

Enathu manam – Adi (Papanasam Sivan)

Enduku nirdaya – Adi (Tyagaraja)

Entara neetana – Adi (Tyagaraja)

Innamum – Adi (Ambujam Krishna)

Kamala padamalarinai – Adi (Papanasam Sivan)

Karpagambika – Adi (Papanasam Sivan)

Karangulina – Ata (Muthiah Bhagavatar)

Kripatonu – Adi (Mysore Vasudevachar)

Lali laliyani – Adi (Tyagaraja)

Neeye gati – Adi (Koteeswara Iyer)

Ninnuchala – Adi (Pallavi Seshayyar)

Okamata – Roopakam (Tyagaraja)

Paadamalar tunai – Adi (Papanasam Sivan)

Paadukaathennai – Adi (Muthuswami Kavi)

Pahimam – Adi (N. Krishnamacharyulu)

Pamaalaikinaiyundo – Adi (Papanasam Sivan)

Paniyin vintuli – Triputa (Arunagirinathar)

Pannaga sayana – (Mysore Sadasiva Rao)

Parkaparka – Misra Chapu (Gopalakrishna Bharati)

Rama nannu brovara – Roopakam (Tyagaraja)

Rara phanisayana – Roopakam (Tyagaraja)

Saketa nagara – Roopakam (Mysore Sadasiva Rao)

Sangeeta vinodini – Adi (D. Pattammal)

Sankara dayakara – Khanda Chapu (Papanasam Sivan)

Smara manasa – Adi (M. Balamuralikrishna)

Sree Visweswara – Adi (Muthiah Bhagavatar)

Tarakam unai – Adi (Muthuswami Kavi)

Undedi Ramudu – Roopakam (Tyagaraja)

Undenru urudikolvai – Roopakam (Papanasam Sivan)

Unmaiyum neetiyum – Adi (T. Lakshmana Pillai)

Vandaadum solai – (Kalki Krishnamurthy)

Vallagadanaka – (Tyagaraja)

Vinatasuta – (K.V. Srinivasa Iyengar)

Yengey tedukinrai – Adi (Periasami Tooran)

Some film songs based on Harikambhoji


(Listed in the order of song, singer, film and music composer)

Pazha muthir cholai – K.J. Yesudass in Varusham 16, Ilayaraja

Orunaal oru kanavu – K.J. Yesudass and Anuradha Sriram in

Kannukul nilavu, Ilayaraja