Varali – Raga Ruminations

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.


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