Carnatic Compositions – The Essence and Embodiment

Upfront and In-Depth  Song and Semantics

-Aparna Munukutla Gunupudi

Our intent for this essay is to highlight the great features of the language, emotion and melody (rAgam) of a krithi (song/composition) and also to provide the song for your listening pleasure.  Most of you may know these krithis, but when you discover the distinct features of a krithi, you may enjoy a new beauty or an attribute in the krithi.

Note: Krithi is defined as a song containing pallavi, anupallavi and charanam that have high musical value and can be sung elaborately with improvisations.  Whereas Keerthana also has a pallavi, anupallavi and charanam but is sung in a single form or simpler pattern.


Composer: TyAgarAja

talam: Adi

Language: Telugu

Singer: T. Chandra Bhanu

Pallavi: srI gaNapatini sEvimpa rArE srita mAnavulArA

Anupallavi: vAgAdhipadi supoojala chEkoni bAga naTimpucu veDalina

caraNam: panasa nArikElAdi jambU phalamulAraginci

ghana tarambunanu mahipai padamulu ghallu ghallana nunchi 

anayamu hari caraNa yugamulanu hrdayAmbujamuna nunchi
vinayamunanu tygarAja vinutuDu vividha gatula dhittaLAngumani veDalina

As soon as you hear this krithi, a beautiful picture of dancing Ganapati with kapittha hastha mudra (a hand gesture depicted for lord Ganesha) and raised foot, surrounded with the lamps, incense, flowers and fruits, appears in front of you, immediately wanting you to bow to him.  This krithi is composed with very simple words and easy flow.  Tyagaraja says in pallavi, let us all worship lord Ganapathi.  Later in anupallavi he describes Ganapati as happily dancing after receiving the worship from Brahma and other gods.  Next, in the charanam Tyagaraja praises him as the one who, after accepting the offerings from devotees such as jackfruit, coconut and other fruits, descends to the earth, dancing around with various steps while chanting upon lord SrI Hari. It is interesting to note that even though Ganapati is son of Siva, we see that the composer refers to him as worshipping Sri Hari. From our sastras, we learn that mother, father, teacher and the lord as the four revered people.  It may be the author’s intent that since Ganapati is worshipping Siva as father, he considered Hari as his lord.  As the composer installs this picture of Ganapati in your mind, we can deduce that Tyagaraja is an incredible visual artist.

Another important element for this song is that it is the opening song of an opera/ballet Prahlada Bhakta Vijayam.  Tyagaraja wrote three operas – Seetarama Vijayam, Prahlada Bhakta vijayam and Noukaa Charitham.  The songs from Seetarama Vijayam are not available now but fortunately the full song list of other two operas are available for us.  Since this song is part of the opera, I want to discuss a few features of the operas.  According to Natya sastram, opera is defined as follows:

“anubhAva vibhAvAnAm varNanA kAvayamuchyate

teshameva prayOgastu nAtyam gItAdi ranjitam”

When an emotion is expressed it becomes a poem (kAvyam) and if you add music, it becomes a sravya kAvyam (musical poem or an opera) and if you add dance, it becomes a delightful drusya kAvyam (a ballet).  Musical poems can be sung either in a group or by a single person.  Like any other literary work, opera also has to comply with certain rules.  A great author Dandin in his KAvyadarsa states that it should have nAndi, PrasthAvana, act formation, character determination, mangaLa vAkyam and so forth.  Following such rules, this song is the nAndi song for Prahlada Bhakta Vijayam.  Sahitya Darpanam defines nAndi as follows:

“Asirvachana samyuktA stutiryasmAt prayujyate

deva dwija nrupadInAm tasmAn nAndi iti sanjnita”

Which means that the author has to praise gods or learned or the king and receive their blessings.  Accordingly, Tyagaraja praises Sri Ganapati in this song.  This opera has five acts consisting of 45 songs, dialogues, narrator’s speeches etc. It narrates the entire story of Prahlada, his ardent devotion to Sri Hari, the obstacles he faces from his father Hiranya Kasyapa.  Tyagaraja mentioning Sri Hari (hari charaNambujamula) in the nAndi/opening song could be the suggestive tone of Prahlada’s devotion to Sri Hari as primary subject of the opera.

The follow on song in this opera is “vasudevayani Vedalina E dauvArikuni ganare” in Kalyani rAgam sets the perfect scene in front of us.  Dauvarikulu are the traveling singers or street singers.  Those were the days that had no posters, fliers, announcements or advertisements.  So as the street singers sing this song, people gather and start to follow him.  Entertaining with dance and music, the street singers slowly lead them to the theater, where sutradhAri (master of ceremony) will engage them to stay for the show with his skillful dialogue at the opening scene.

A few other songs in the opera are “sAgarundu veDalenido sAreku ganarAre” describing the ocean god bringing out Prahlada, when he was dropped in the ocean by his father and vinatAsuta rArA nA vinati gaikonara – Ghana nAgapasamula khandincha rArA” a song requesting garuda to rescue Prahlada by killing the cobras as they were let to bite Prahlada to death.  This is just a sample from a large yet melodious opera and hope you will enjoy them all at your convenience.  Each one of the songs in this opera is very rich in literature and composed in melodious rAgams.  They give a beautiful picturesque view of the setting and effortlessly traverse the audience into that emotion.

The power of music is profound

The joy of music is sweet and sound

The awe of music is abound

Music makes the world go round


Tanikella Chandra Bhanu is an accomplished Carnatic musician and graded artist in All India Radio.  She teaches music at Sri Durgabai Deshmukh Music College.  She has performed extensively in India and abroad and currently lives in Bangalore. Please watch “Sri Ganapathi Sevimpare” Krithi by her below here:

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2 thoughts on “Carnatic Compositions – The Essence and Embodiment”

  1. అపర్ణ గారి ఆర్టికల్
    యెంతో ఆసక్తికరంగా సాగింది . వారికి నా నమస్సులు .🙏

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