The recently released book Athishaya Vara Prasadini, which contains notations of 50 rare Carnatic compositions, is a treasure for Carnatic musicians.

Notating Carnatic compositions is not an easy task. The reason is that the Carnatic music system is based on gamakas. That is also the reason why one may not often come across meticulously written notation books on Carnatic compositions. However, Athishaya Vara Prasadini stands out as a rare exception.  Compiled by Carnatic musician and guru Maragatham Ramaswamy,  the book contains 50 kritis by 24 composers. Some of the compositions in this book include rare ragas, which are not commonly heard on Carnatic concert platforms.

Maragatham Ramaswamy

Maragatham had her training in music from stalwarts such as TM Thyagarajan, Ramnad Krishnan, KV Narayanaswamy and Thanjavur S. Kalyanaraman.  Her style of rendering is greatly influenced by the GNB bani. She was deservedly felicitated with the Best Teacher Award by the Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival and the Sangeeta Acharya Ratnam from Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.

Notating gamakas

Athishaya Vara Prasadini is a book to be treasured by all music enthusiasts. Besides kritis of the music trinity – Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Deekshitar, Shyamashastri – and, Purandaradasar and Swati Tirunal, she has also included kritis of Spencer Venugopal, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, Sudhananda Bharati and V, Raghavan.  

The layout of the book is pleasing to the eye and the notations are laid out with dexterity.  Maragatham has taken care to jot the lyrics in italics and she has also provided a guide to pronunciation and notation for reference.  The author has also furnished a detailed notation of various sangatis of a kriti. Her swara gnanam or knowledge about the swaras is evident in the notations and she has even provided a symbol for the gamaka. This will help the vocalists as well as instrumentalists.

The title of the book, Athishaya Vara Prasadini is the first line of the Pallavi, of a kriti in Mandari raga by Harikesanellur Muthaiah Bhagavathar, which is included in this book.

However, the Janaka Ragas of the kritis could have been mentioned in the book. Had it been included; the learners would have found it easier to figure out the nuances of the raga as many of the ragas are rare. The 16-swara concept is also not observed. In raga Nattai, the swaras in the Arohanavarohana is mentioned as R3, G2. It would have been notated as R3 and G3 in the 16-swara system. Of course, no other kritis in vivadi ragas are included in the book.

Athishaya Vara Prasadini, recently released by Ramapriya Arts Foundation, Chennai, is a treatise and is a must-buy for all Carnatic music aspirants and musicians. The efforts taken by  Maragatham Ramaswamy are commendable. The clarity in the notations and the precision in the sahitya are laudable. The book is printed in bold letters enabling easy reading.

The book, priced at Rs 750, is available at Srutilaya and The Karnatic Music Book Centre, Chennai.

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Narayanan Desamangalam is a reputed musician, guru and composer. He is the Head of Department, Music, Chetana Sangeet Natya Academy, Thrissur.

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