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Issue No. 26

இதழ் 26 [ ஆகஸ்ட் 16 - செப்டம்பர் 15, 2006 ]
2ம் ஆண்டு நிறைவு - மகேந்திரர் சிறப்பிதழ்


இந்த இதழில்..
In this Issue..

தேடலும் தெளிதலும்
கதை 7 - கொம்மை
மகுடாகமம் - பரசிவம் - தங்கவிமானம்
பேரறிவாளர்
விசித்திரசித்தர் கல்வெட்டுகள்
சத்ருமல்லேஸ்வராலயம் - II
The Creation of the Pallava Grantha Tamil Script
Links of the Month
SamkIrNa Jaathi
பகவதஜ்ஜுகம் - அர்த்தமுள்ள அரட்டை
சங்கச் சிந்தனைகள் (தொடர்)
நாத்திகர்களா? போலிச்சாமியார்களா?
Issue No. 26 > English Section
SamkIrNa Jaathi
லலிதாராம்

Mahendra-I:

If one has to pick a single important period in history of south India, to me it would undoubtedly be around the first half of the seventh century. To be specific, the reign of king Mahendra-varma-I should be considered the most significant period in south Indian. The number of firsts he has to his credit would suffice, at least, to fetch him a place among the greatest kings if not the greatest ever. The long list of 'birudas', several rock-cut inscriptions and his literary works give us a glimpse of this multi-faceted genius. His accomplishments in the fields of temple architecture, music, painting and literature reveal him as a thorough innovator and a trendsetter.

Objective:

While other articles in this issue would elaborate on many of the above-mentioned facets of Mahendra, I would like to analyze one of his 'birudas', viz. SamkIrNa Jaathi. It is an attempt to examine several plausible theories about the meaning or meanings of this title, and I would have realized my goal if this essay provides at least some leads for future researchers to arrive at a satisfactory solution.

samkIrNa

The title 'SamkIrNa Jaathi' appears both in Mahendra's Pallavaram Cave-Temple and in his 'laLithaankura' Cave-Temple, Trichy. Over the years, there have been several hypotheses proposed by different scholars to interpret this title of Mahendra's. Before examining various suggestions put forward by scholars, let us analyze the term 'SamkIrNa jaathi' using a Sanskrit dictionary.

The Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionary suggests the following meanings for 'SamkIrNa':

1. Poured together, mixed, crowded with, joined or combined with
2. Mingled, confused, disordered, adulterated, polluted, and impure
3. Born of a mixed marriage
4. Mixed, miscellaneous, of various
5. Sprinkled
6. Contracted, narrow
7. Scattered, strewed, spread
8. A man of mixed caste
9. (In music) a mixed note or mode
10. A kind of riddle (of a mixed character)
11. Confusion
12. Wandering about confusedly, going to various places
13. An elephant with mixed characteristics
14. Mixed birth or caste, impure through proscribed intermarriage

While the term 'jaathi' too has several meanings, there are not many of them that fit in with the meanings of 'samkIrNa'. However, the meaning that readily fits in with some of the above mentioned meanings of 'samkIrNa' is 'fixed by birth' or 'position assigned by birth, rank, caste, family, race, lineage'.

When analyzing these two terms: The primary meaning of the expression 'SamkIrna Jaathi' seems to be 'Mixed birth'. Meanings such as 'confused birth', 'puzzling birth', and 'illegitimate birth' are also possible. (I wonder why scholars haven't also consider theories that suggest Mahendra belonged to a community or caste that was 'spread out' or 'contracted/narrow/sprinkled' or 'wandering about confusedly and going around places.)

Theories

In the early 1900s, Gopinatha Rao suggested such a meaning for 'SamkIrNa jaathi' and proposed that 'Mahendra could have born out of an inter-caste marriage'. While we know of Mahendra as the son of King Simhavishnu, not much is known about his mother. Dr. Kalaikkovan says, "Although there is a theory that she could have belonged to the Vishnukundin dynasty, there is no solid evidence to prove that." Even though many scholars have dismissed Gopinatha Rao's theory, he still finds support from some other scholars, e.g., Michael Lockwood.

Lockwood addresses this problem of interpretation from a different perspective. When Mahendra mocks at himself by assuming titles like 'Matta-vilaasa' (meaning 'Drunken sport') or 'Virasa' (meaning 'Obscene'), this meaning 'Mixed-birth' could also add to the names that reflect Mahendra's sense of humor.

Mixed Birth or Music?

H. Krishna Sastri opposed Gopinath Rao's interpretation of 'SamkIrNa jaathi' in his article (Epigraphia Indica, Vol. 17, p.16) and suggested that it might rather be related to the musical acumen of Mahendra. Other scholars have also questioned Gopinath Rao's interpretation, and some have even asked 'what king would boast of his mixed birth?'. While one can dismiss these scholars as being too sober and serious to appreciate Mahendra's sense of humour, we need sufficient backing to suggest that Mahendra had a 'mixed birth'. There is evidence in their copper plates that the Pallavas belonged to the 'Bharadvaaja gotra' (and, therefore, had a Brahmin background). This fact would reflect on all the Pallavas and not specifically on Mahendra. At best, one can consider this meaning as the last resort, i.e if no other plausible explanation is possible; one can take this as a remote suggestion to Mahendra's birth.

In today's South Indian classical music (which is pretty much the same as during Krishna Sastri's time) the term 'SankIrNa jaathi' has been in vogue. It occurs as a technical term of the 'taaLa' cycle. In the widely used 35 taala scheme, 'laghu' denotes the first part of the 'taaLa' cycle followed by other parts like 'dhrutham', 'anu dhrutham' etc. This 'laghu' is of five kinds and 'samkIrNa' is one such kind, denoting 9 counts for the 'laghu'. 'Sankiirna laghu' is also called 'SankIrNa jaathi'. The use of the term 'SankIrNa jaathi' in classical music and Mahendra's expertise in music as suggested by the inscriptions at Maamandur and Kudimiyaanmalai (although there is an ongoing debate on whether the Kudumiyaanmalai inscription belongs to Mahendra) and indications from other birudas like 'Pala-paadi' must have led Krishna Sastri to link Mahendra with the 'sankIrNa laghu' of our contemporary Carnatic music. He even suggested that Mahendra was an inventor of a 'new taala'. Although, scholars like Mayilai Seeni Venkatasami agreed with him, this theory has run into criticism, and was opposed by the renowned musicologist P. Sambamurthy. (It was tough to locate Sambamurthy's original article, but a brief discussion is available in the 'Dictionary of South Indian Music and Musicians', Vol. 2, p. 344.)

Raaga or Taala?

In Sambamurthy's view, the 35 taalas (that possessed 'SankIrNa jaathi' in a few of them) couldn't have existed during the seventh century. The early literary works, such as the 'Naatya Saastra', 'Brihaddesi' or even the 'SangIta Ratnaakara', do not mention this taala scheme. In fact, musicologists attribute the '35 taala' scheme to Purandara Dasa (1484-1564), who lived almost 800 years after Mahendra. The system that was in vogue before the '35 taala' system was the scheme of '108 taalas'. The '108 taalas' typically had only a 'chatusra laghu'. That is a 'laghu' with four counts and a laghu with nine counts was literally 'non-existent'. In this way, Sambamurthy refutes Krishna Sastri's position and concludes with the following strong words, "To import the idea of 'sankIrNa-jaathi laghu' into the music of the seventh century will be a perversion of history."

Of all the available theories, Sambamurthy's theory seems to me to be the most plausible theory. According to him 'jaathi' was the term that connoted raaga in ancient times. Bharata in his 'Naatya Saastra' gives ten lakshanas for jaatis. He does not the use the word raaga therein. Chapters 28-33 of the 'Naatya Saastra' deal in detail with many musical aspects. Apart from the Vedas and the Sangam literature (which has only been touched upon but not analyzed by musicologists), the 'Naatya Saastra' is considered to be one of the earliest literary works on music. It is generally dated to the 5th century A.D. The 'Naatya Saastra' does indeed refer to musical scales as jaatis. The 'Brihaddesi', written by Matanga, also mentions jaatis and their characteristics. Scholars have differing views on the age of the 'Brihaddesi'. It is safe to place it somewhere between the 6th and 8th centuries A.D. In this way, most of the dates proposed by scholars can be accommodated! Sambamurthy also says, "It is interesting to note that Maatanga has classified raagas into Suddha, Chaayaalaga and Sankiirna. Thus the title can only mean that Mahendra-varman, was an expert in the exposition of Sankiirna raagas."

Brihaddesi and SamkIrNa

Sambamurthy, however does not 'quote' the lines in Brihaddesi that suggest such theory. According to him, the Brihaddesi classifies ragas into 3 kinds, "A suddha raga was one in which there was no suggestion of any other raga. A 'chayalaga raga' was one wherein there was the suggestion of another raga. A 'samkIrNa raaga' was a mixed raga. Herein, traces of two or more ragas were discernable."

Although this theory fits in nicely, I wanted to trace it back to the first hand resources. Getting hold of Brihaddesi itself being a big ordeal, I decided to refer other works and talked to some present day musicologists.

A similar classification is mentioned in the famous book of Vidya Sankar's. However, she does not trace such a classification to Brihaddesi. S. Ramanathan, another renowned musicologist, has discussed this in a lecture demonstration. However, he calls the third kind a 'misra' raaga and not 'samkIrNa' and goes on to say, such a system of combining 2 or more raagas is still in vogue in the Hindustani style of Indian classical music and they are called 'misra raagas'. I discussed this classification with present day musicologists Dr. S.R. Janakiraman and Dr. Srivatsa. Dr. Janakiraman agreed that the 'suddha, chaayaalaga, sankiirna' classification does exist, however, that need not necessarily go back to the Brihaddesi. Dr. Srivatsa strongly felt that this classification is mentioned in the Brihaddesi.

After some hunting around, I did manage to find a copy of Brihaddesi published by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. The book contains the original Sanskrit text and an English translation. I am Sanskrit illiterate. Hence, I had to rely on the translation to read the book. After repeated reading of the chapters that described jaathis and ragas, it was very disappointing to note that the term 'samkIrNa' does not appear in chapter two that describes jaathis and in chapter three that describes raagas. (By the way the term raga appears in this literary work for the first time in the history of music.)

Chapter two has a general definition of jaathi, "jaathis are called as such because they are born of the organizing grouping of sruthi, graha, svara etc. The experience of rasa is born of jaathis or begins with them. Or jaathis are known as such because of being the cause of birth of all ragas and the like. Or jaathis are like the jaathis (castes). Just as in human beings there are castes such as Brahmin and the like that are both pure and mixed, similarly these jaathis are also twofold (suddha and vikrutha)."

Although there is mention about 'mixed jaathis', there is no mention of the term 'samkIrNa' in this chapter.

Chapter three defines ragas: 'That which is a special dhvani, is bedecked svara and varna and is colourful or delightful to the minds of the people, is said to be a raaga.' The raagas are classified as 'suddha', 'bhinna', 'gauda', 'saadhaaraNa', 'bhAshA' and 'vibhAshA. Again, the 'samkIrNa' is conspicuously absent in this classification.

SamkIrNa -- at last!

Interestingly, Chapter Four deals with 'bhAshAs'. The editor, in her vimarsa, says, "The whole portion on bhAshAs according to Yaasthika, seems to form part of an independent text. We have retained it in our reconstructed text as it embodies very valuable material."

It is in fact in this chapter that we encounter the term 'sankiirna'. "The four types of 'bhAshAs' mentioned here stand for varieties of raagas that are self-sustained (mUla), mixed (samkIrNa), regional (dEsi) and that bear the chaayaa (reflection or shadow) of a raga." It is this classification that matches closely with the one mentioned by Sambamurthy. However, it is difficult to say whether these portions actually date back to 6th or 7th century.

Summary

To summarize, it is clear that jaathis, which were the earlier forms of raagas were scales of pure and mixed nature. The did exist even in 7th century. Although there is no direct usage of the term 'samkIrNa' in the original text of the Brihaddesi, the lexicon meaning of 'samkIrNa' denoting 'mixed' and the reference of jaathis to raagas in the earlier musical literature give us enough evidence to relate Mahendra's title to a 'mixed scale'. One can stretch this hypothesis a little bit and agree with Sambamurthy's theory that Mahendra was adept in the exposition of 'samkIrNa ragas'. Another of Mahendra's titles, 'Pala-paadi' (which means 'One who has the ability to sing many things) is closely related to his title, 'SamkIrNa jaathi'.

I gather some courage to use my creative license to propose that, Mahendra being a ‘Vichitra chitta’ could have also intended the term ‘samkIrNa’ to mean ‘he was a confusing raga’ or ‘not so easy a raga to handle or decipher’.

Of the three different theories available, there is more evidence for the one which proposes that the primary significance of this title, 'SamkIrNa jaathi', relates to a 'mixed musical scale', while the other two theories lack solid support.

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to Ms. Vidya Jayaram for getting me in contact Shri S.R. Janakiraman. I can't thank Dr. Janakiraman enough for patiently listening my queries. It was indeed his words that gave me confidence to go ahead and record my ideas. I share a similar feeling of gratitude towards Dr. Michael Lockwood for throwing new light on the man who was King Mahendra. Last but not the least, my sincere thanks to Dr. Kalaikkovan and Dr. Nalini for all the motivation and encouragement they provided me when we met in person and also through their book 'Mahendrar KudaivaraigaL'.
this is txt file
       
இப்படைப்பு குறித்த தங்கள் கருத்துக்கள் வரவேற்கப்படுகின்றன. கீழுள்ள படிவத்தில் தமிழிலோ ஆங்கிலத்திலோ பின்னூட்டமிடலாம். தமிழில் பின்னூட்டமிட ஏதேனும் ஒரு தமிழ்ச் செயலி பின்னணி செயல்பாட்டில் இருக்க வேண்டும்.
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