Raga Simhendramadhyamam is a very popular raga that inspires and enthralls listeners. It holds a special place in my heart for several reasons.
As a teen, I had participated in the Music Academy Vocal Music for Ladies competition. When it was my turn to sing, the song chosen by the judges was “Ninne nammiti”, a composition of Mysore Vasudevachari in raga Simhendramadhyamam. As I waded through the raga, the song, the neraval and finally the swaras, I fumbled with the korvais or the concluding notes. I experienced a moment of panic before S.Rajam, one of the judges and a well known musicologist calmly told me to continue singing. I did finish the song on a high note (or rather the right note) and ended up winning the first prize.
Raga Simhendramadhyamam appears to be popular not just with musicians but also composers. Whether it is “Ninne Nammiti”, “Pamarajana Palini” (Dikshithar), “Needu Charana” (Tyagaraja), “Rama Rama Gunaseema” (Swati Tirunal) or “Asaindadum Mayil” (Oothakadu Venkatasubbaiyer), most songs in raga Simhendramadhyamam have notes in the upper octaves. The raga has ample scope for gamaka and has a seven-note straight scale with no twists in the structure. Muthuswamy Dikshithar referred to this raga as “Sumadyuti”.
Here is a classic rendition of raga Simhendramadhyamam by M.S.Subbalakshmi followed by the song, Rama Rama Gunaseema. The neraval for the lines “Munimanasadhama” from the charanam shows a gradual build-up of the lyrics from a slow, meditative pace to a fast-paced climax highlighting all the facets of the raga.
The song “Guha Saravanabhava” in the movie Sevasadhanam starring MS Subbalakshmi was one of the earliest appearances of this raga on the silver screen. This song was composed by Papanasam Sivan. Illayaraja has used this raga extensively in many Tamil movies. One of his songs “Ananda Ragam” from the hit movie, Paneer Pushpangal was based on this raga.
The famous Bengali song “Baje koruno Shure” of Rabindranath Tagore is also based on raga Simhendramadhyamam. The song was part of the music score for Satyajit Ray’s movie “Teen Kanya”.
Outside of Indian music, the melodic scale of this raga can also be heard in Hungarian Gypsy music.
There is no Hindustani equivalent of this raga. But here’s a poignant rendition of this raga by sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar.
For those who want details, raga Simhendramadhyamam (Mela 57) has all the seven notes and the following scale. SR2G2M2PD1N3S SN3D1PM2G2R2S