Varali – this is one melody that has evoked mixed reactions in the Carnatic world. A widely held belief was that teaching Varali would give rise to discord between a teacher and their student. Hence, in the past, it was rarely taught and students had to learn by just listening to their teacher and other musicians sing the raga in public. Raga Varali is rich in gamaka and sung in a slow to medium tempo. The compositions in the raga include Tyagaraja’s philosophical Etijanmamidi to Muthuswamy Dikshithar’s tribute to the goddess Meenakshi at the temple in Madurai, Mamava Meenakshi and Papanasam Sivan’s call to Lord Muruga in Kavava Kandavava.
Here is Bombay Jayashri singing Mamava Meenakshi at the Sydney Opera House, Australia.
Listen to how Madurai Mani Iyer beckons Lord Muruga in his rendition of Kavava Kandavava.
As far as I know, there is no Hindustani raga that corresponds to raga Varali.
As the structure of the raga is complex, it is not easy for students to grasp Varali. This could also be one of the reasons why we don’t get to hear the strains of this melody on the silver screen.
For those who want details, Varali is a janya of 39th Mela raga Jhalavarali. The scale reads as follows.
When I hear M.S. Subbalakshmi singing the song, Shriman Narayana in the wee hours of the morning, the day starts on a bright note. It could be a combination of the singer’s voice, the melody and the lyrics but the effect is always the same. The song is a benediction to Lord Venkateshwara and the melody has a meditative nature. Raga Bowli is a morning raga where the notes are sung in a flat, gliding manner. While Shriman Narayana is sung in a slow tempo, the song Brahma okate in raga Bowli by the same composer Annamacharya is sung in a fast-paced manner and has an uplifting effect. In the latter song, the composer talks about how there is only one God who resides in each one of us. The songs of Annamacharya are simplistic yet emotive, tugging at the heart strings.
Here is a version of MS Subbalakshmi singing Shriman Narayana in raga Bowli.
Here is a version of Brahma Okate sung by Sudha Raghunathan.
Tyagaraja’s Melukovayya is part of the Utsava Sampradaya kritis, a collection of songs by the composer which describes the process in which he worships his favourite deity, Rama. Melukovayya is a beautiful piece in raga Bowli where the composer entreats the Lord to wake up as his various devotees are waiting impatiently with their special prayers and objects of worship.
Here is a rendition of Melukovayya by M. Balamuralikrishna
As far as I know, there is no Hindustani equivalent to raga Bowli.
I haven’t heard many songs being sung in this melody on the silver screen.
The Tamil song Senthazham Poovil sung by Jesudas from the hit movie Mullum Malarum, was composed by Illayaraja and is based on the raga Bowli.
For those who want details, raga Bowli is a janya of the parent raga Mayamalavagowla (15th) and the scale of the raga reads as follows.