Today is Sivaratri when thousands of people worship Lord Shiva. He is believed to have performed the cosmic dance (Tandava) on this day. The melody that comes to my mind is raga Shankarabharanam. The word Shankarabhanam refers to the ornaments of Lord Shiva. The raga is very popular with composers and performers. It is sung in a slow tempo where the notes are caressed and rich in gamaka. Whether it’s Tyagaraja’s Swara Raga Sudha extolling the greatness of the melodic seven notes to Dikshithar’s Akshaya Linga and Dakshinamurthe describing the glory of Shiva to Shyama Shastri’s Saroja Dala Netri describing Shiva’s other half Devi, the compositions in Shankarabharanam are deeply moving and elaborate with sangatis(variations in presenting lyrics).
The first time I heard M.S.Subbalakshmi singing Saroja Dala Netri with the neraval at the phrase “samagana vinodhini”, it was electrifying. I hope you have the same experience when you listen to this clip.
The Hindustani equivalent to Shankarabharanam is raag Bilawal. Here is a rendition of raag Bilawal by Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.
The Telugu movie Shankarabharanam which was a phenomenal success when it was released in 1979 described the life of a (fictional) Carnatic musician who was famous for his rendition of this raga.
For those who want details, Shankarabharanam is a parent raga (29th Mela) with the following scale.
SR2G3M1PD2N3S – SN3D2PM1G3R2S
Shanmukhapriya as the name suggests is a melody that’s believed to be a favourite of Lord Shanmukha. But the beauty of the melody captivates all music lovers. There are several Tamil compositions in this raga either praising Lord Shanmukha or his father Lord Shiva, many of which have been composed by Papanasam Sivan such as Sharavana bhava enum and Aandavane. Dikshithar who called this raga Chamaram has composed an invocatory song to Lord Ganesha, Siddhi Vinayakam. Parama purusha, another song in this raga and a composition of Annamacharya praising Lord Balaji of Tirupati is sung mostly in the high octave.
I can think of none other than the stalwart Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer when I hear Siddhi Vinayakam.
M.S Subbalakshmi’s rendition of Parama Purusha has an outstanding neraval in the latter half of the song that brings out the nuances of the raga. With a happy blend of melody and lyrics the neraval is precise and deeply soul-stirring for the listeners.
There is no Hindustani equivalent to this raga.
The song Kanakkul nooru nilava featuring actors Amala and Raja in the Tamil movie Vedham Puthithu was based on Raga Shanmukhapriya.
In the classic Tamil movie Thillana Mohanambal the song Marainthirinthu Paarkum was based on this raga. The song is about Shanmukha which incidentally is also the name of the hero in the movie.
For those who want details, Shanmukhapriya is the 56th Mela raga with the following scale SR2G2M2PD1N2 SN2D1PM2G2R2S