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Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji's music: A bird's eye view 

Jaitra Varanasi 

Nada Sagara program for Meditation & Healing Concert; April 6, 2015;

Sydney, Australia

"Vadyodanchaddivyanamasankeertana kala nidhim NadabdhimSachchidanandamSadgurum tam Namamyaham ShivayaGuraveNamaha"

Saint Venkatamakhin played a pivotal role in the formation of `Swara Ragaprasthara’, which has given rise to the 72 Melakarta framework. Musicians beginning from the musical trinity to the contemporary ones contribute to the musical society through their compositions based on this framework. Born in this divine lineage, Sri Jayalakshmi Mata has written and composed several bhajans in Kannada capturing the essence of Bhagavata and Ramayana. Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji has taken birth as the illustrious child of this noble Mother. An ocean of music Himself, Sri Swamiji, with His bhajans and unique style of sankeertanas has swayed His devotees in the ocean of Nada. 

 

The art of healing through music has been almost lost in time for generations. Sri Swamiji has done yeoman service by reviving and bringing this art back into limelight through demonstrations and musical performances and popularized it as 'Raga Ragini' music system. In 1987 in Holland, Sri Swamiji redefined the concept of concerts of music for meditation and healing. Played like a baby in His loving arms, the synthesizer has been fondly given a novel name, "Modern Veena". Having composed and rendered numerous bhajans on this "Modern Veena” in his own unique way, He has become a pioneer to such styles. Such a landmark contribution to music is worthy of applause. In these concerts, Sri Swamiji plays His unique compositions named 'Celestial Music' on the "Modern Veena" accompanied by the 'celestial music troupe'. The popularity of these concerts grew to such an extent that once the concert had to be hosted at the Lal Bahadur cricket stadium, Hyderabad in order to accommodate thousands of eager audiences with the conceptualized title "Raga Sagara". The series of Raga Sagara concerts are more than 300 in number and continue to increase. Every theater for performing arts of formidable size and reputation has hosted these oceans of music. The Royal Albert Hall, London; Esplanade Hall, Singapore; Lincoln Center, New York; DUCTAC, Dubai are a few to name. Several prestigious cultural podiums in India and abroad have been blessed with the opportunity of hosting these celebrated concerts. Expert musicians from different parts of the world consider it a privilege to play along with Sri Swamiji and to be a part of His team. Audiences continue to share experiences and these inputs are used as data for clinical research on music for healing by qualified doctors that are giving favorable results in certain aspects. 

 

To support this research, a music healing room fully equipped with tools for musical research was established in Dattapeetham, Mysore, India. Equipments that facilitate relaxed and comfortable listening have been set up. Various aspects of healing with music are being studied and researched. Universities have identified and incorporated Sri Swamiji's music as a topic for advanced independent studies. 

 

A musician, who is at par with none is beyond assessment and music itself falls short of words to describe has redefined bhajans with His creative talent. Following narrative gives short insights into the salient aspects of His musical genius. 

 

1. Swamiji as a composer 

Pancha Tattva Raga Malika 

Based on the inseparable concord between ragas and the five elements (earth, water, fire, wind, sky) Sri Swamiji invented a special technical composition referred to as Panchatattva raga malika, played on the “Modern Veena.” This technique was recorded in 1992 in His birthplace Mekedatu, a scenic village in Karnataka state. Recorded on a bright full moon night in nature’s lap, this work continues to mesmerize listeners.

 

In this unique work, Sri Swamiji has composed and played ragas Ragavardhini, Manavathi, Lathangi, Vishwambari and Kharaharapriya in five different Gathis i.e., Tishra, Chaturashra, Mishra, Khanda and Sankeerna (rhythmic time signatures). Having adopted the technique of grahabheda (key shift modulation) while performing the final raga Kharaharapriya Sri Swamiji played Thodi, Kalyani, Harikambhoji, Nathabhairavi, Shuddhathodi/Bhavani and Shankarabharanam. 

 

The mesmerizing swara patterns continue to ring in my ears even today. I still remember the time spent with Mridangam Maestro Guru Karaikudi Sri R. Mani who repeatedly narrated, with great excitement, his experiences during the recording of Pancha Tattva Raga Malika. 

 

Musical doyens and vidwans like Lalgudi G Jayaraman, G. J. R. Krishnan, Dr. N. Ramani, Guru Karaikudi R. Mani, Vikku Vinayakaram, A. K. C. Natarajan, Srirangam Kannan, my friend and colleague R. S. Ramesh and myself accompanied Sri Swamiji in that recording. 

 

Swaraksharakritis 

 

Composing Swaraksharakritis is an unparalleled complex style of musical compositions. The lyrics of these compositions consist exclusively of the solfa syllables - saptaswaras (Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni). When an exponent in music sings this type of compositions, the audience feels as if the musician is rendering improvised swara patterns. However, the inherent lyrical aspect in the swarakshara compositions could be understood by a layman, only when their meaning is explained. The composer can only include Tala mudra, Raga mudra, and his/her pen name if desired. Owing to their intricate uniqueness, composition Swarakshara Kritis is highly challenging and hence they are few in number. Being an adept in music and possessing great creativity, the ocean of music that Sri Swamiji is, such compositions are easy for Him. He has composed scores of Swarakshara Kritis. Reviving the dormant art form of Swarakshara kritis and bringing it back to limelight is a small example of His contributions to music literature. 

 

Compositions in Apoorva Ragas 

 

In addition to the most commonly sung ragas, Sri Swamiji has composed many Kritis in rare ragas seldom known even to expert musicians. Here are some examples: Vitapi - Sri Mata Maam Patu, Sallapam Maanasa Mandira, Kokilam - Saptamatruke, Nartaki Bhaavayachitte, Gown Ambamaadhyaamaha Meede, Vaasanti Ganagana Mrogedu, Varam Shankaram Shankarm, Nava maalika- Talli Girija, Seernantineepriya - Devi Ship Dayite, Veenaadhari Vande Vande Vaanim, Yogini -Vande shivam and many more.

 

Ragas created by Sri Swamiji 

 

  1. Eshanana: Sa Mai Pa (Govinda Sananda- considered a swaraantara raga carrying, only four notes which is seldom the case with ragas). 

  2. Dvipadi: Sa Pa (Cholai Mal, - composition on one of the deities of the temple; of Arupadai Veedu (one of Lord Subrahmanya's temple), This is the only raga with just two notes. This is the only such composition in the entire universe of music Sri Swamiji has made an excellent composition with an elaborative musical framework. 

  3. Anagha: Sa Ga Ma Da Sa Daasa posha (Again a swarantara raga) 

  4. Sachchidanandini: Sa Ga3 Pa Da2 shiva kriti (This is also a swaraantara raga) 

  5. PuttugamSri: Sa Ri1 Ma1 Da1 Ni2 Sri daasaamya and many more. 

 

Niroshtaka compositions

While singing the notes Ma and Pa it is inevitable for the lips to join. Ragas without these notes come under the Niroshtaka family. The word ‘nir’-means to say ‘no’ while ‘oshti’

means the 'lips.’ The ragas of this family carry only 5 notes i.e., Sa Ri Ga Da Ni. Put together, there are only 36 ragas of this kind. Sri Swamiji has made many compositions in several ragas from this Niroshtaka family. Though Sri Swamiji’s compostision in Putrika raga is very easy to sing, the novel aspect of this composition is that the lyrics are also Niroshtaka along with the notation. Only Sri Swamiji has made an astonishing presentation of maintaining Niroshtaka feature even in the lyrics. 

 

The bhajan is: 

 

Rajam: putrika (niroshtaka); Tālam: ādi

 

Pallavi: 

jagadīśā guru dattā

karunā tē niratiśayā 

 

Carana:

atilōkā nandakarā 

nija saccidānanda ghanā ....1 

nanu sakalē jagati gurō 

radhikatarō nāsti sadā ....2 

jayatu hari rjayatu harō 

gurudattō jayatu sadā ....3 

 

 

Group Kritis 

 

Sri Swamiji is a prolific composer. He has gifted the world with thousands of kritis. He has composed several Bhajans, Sankeertanas on various Gods like Ganapathy, Dattatreya, Devi, Vishnu, Hanuman, Subrahmanya, Ayyappa and several compositions on those Gods whose names are rarely heard such as Ashwini Devatas, Hayagreeva, Dakshinamurthy, Yama dharma Raja, Brahma, Surya Deva, Gomata (celestial cow), Garuda, Vayu (God of Air), etc. 

 

Some of his group kritis are: Tripura Navavarana kritis, Bhagavata Saptaha Kritis, Dwadasha jyotirlinga kritis, Lalitatrishati kritis, Latitopakhyanam kritis, Saptaswara kritis, Swarakshara kritis, Tattvakritis, Dashaavataara kritis, Ashtaadashasaktipeetha kritis, Surya devata kritis and on many other deities and subjects.

 

Versatility in compositions 

 

As a Spiritual Master, aside from discourses on scriptures, He has graced us with a bunch of kritis on Vedanta. The entire gist of vedantic lessons ranging from rudimentary to mature levels have been woven into a garland of Vedanta kritis. With the intention that all human beings should achieve philosophical outlook (tattvachintana) apart from their momentary, earthly pleasures and happiness, Sri Swamiji has blessed the society with multiple compositions replete with philosophical thoughts, tattvachintana. 

 

On every Yugadi, the New Year day for the people of the Deccan region in India, Sri Swamiji composes a new Yugadi bhajan with detailed information about that particular lunar year and a message of universal peace. Sri Swamiji has composed many patriotic songs to encourage patriotism, especially in young children who are the future citizens of the country. Further to address the interests of common man, Sri Swamiji has written many Satyar folk songs in simple language to communicate the gist of that particular subject with subtle spirituality. 

 

Thousands of listeners flock to experience Sri Swamiji's magnetic voice and His spell-chanting music. Creating a Guinness world record for leading "most people chanting at a single event” stands testimony to this magnetic phenomenon. The Hanuman Chaalisa was chanted 27 times by over 128,918 people in a sprawling venue in the town of Tenali, Andhra Pradesh, India for global peace. Conceptualization of such a mass event is another demonstration of Sri Swamiji's creative genius. 

 

In recognition of Sri Swamiji's multi-faceted contribution to the society, Krishna Devaraya University, Bellary, India, has conferred an honorary doctorate on Him. 

 

 

2. Nada Nidhi Title 

 

Avadhoota Dattapeetham confers the prestigious title of "Nada Nidhi" every year on artists in recognition for their unsurpassed rendering of services in the field of music. Dr. Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji honors the divine talent within the artistes by conferring the title on them. This prestigious award from Dattapeetham will be a milestone in the career of the musician. 

 

Musical Stalwarts and Vidwans such as Semmangudi Srinivasa lyer, Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna, Nedunoori Krishnamurthy, Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, M. S. Gopalakrishnan, Nookala China Satyanarayana, T. V. Gopalakrishnan, S. P. Balasubrahmaniam, Ajoy Chakraborth Pt. Jasraj, V. G. Jog, Pt. Ramnarayan, Umayalapuram K. Sivaraman, Annavarapu Ramaswamy, Yella Venkateshwara Rao are some of the proud recipients. 

 

Violin Maestro Sri. L. Subrahmaniari was honored with a special title "Nada Chakravarthy.”

 

 

3. Nadamantapa 

 

Nadamantapa is a cultural auditorium, a brain child of Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji, at the Avadhoota Dattapeetham. Uniquely constructed, it has twenty-two Tanpuras to represent the 22 swarasthaanas, 72 small pillars as an outer ring and atop the nadamantapam to represent the 72 Melakartas in Carnatic music and the world’s only Saptaswaara Mantapa dedicated to seven notes of music is installed here. The walls are adorned with the portraits of different musical and spiritual saints and

composers from Indian and western music. To enrich the listeners with the nectarine essence of music, the universally acclaimed Bose audio system is also installed in this auditorium. The spacious stage can accommodate more than one hundred and fifty musicians, while the auditorium can accommodate over five thousand people. There is no exaggeration if I say that this is the only auditorium of its kind in the entire world. 

 

Vidwan Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam, Mridangam Maestro, along with 108 Mridangists performed the Laya madhura Mridanga Yajna on this stage. Another program, Sachchidananda Vadya Vaibhavam, consisting of 113 musicians on various instruments was also conducted. Over the years several programs with similar number of musicians have taken place on this stage. This magnificent auditorium, Nadamantapa is feather on the cap of Avadhoota Dattaeetharn. 

 

On 20 December 2009 the world's greatest and best piano makers - the Steinway and sons’ D model grand concert piano, a majestic instrument, the tremendous and awesome choice of the world's greatest pianists arrived at Nadamantapa. Besides Sri Swamiji playing it frequently, globally acclaimed pianists get an honor of playing on it.

 

 

My involvement 

 

In 1982, while I was doing my graduate studies, Sri Swamiji visited my hometown, Machilipatnam and at my parents' Smt. Suvani Varanasi and Sri Yagneswara Sarma Varanasi's behest, I accompanied Sri Swamiji on violin for the first time. During the 20-day tour that followed, unknowingly a nurturing bond got established within me towards Him. Years passed by and I had His darshan during my frequent visits to Mysore to accompany Him during festivals. In 1990, Sri Swamiji blessed me with the divine opportunity of accompanying the group that was travelling with Him to Europe which marked my admission to the exclusive 'Celestial Message Troupe' that bonded me with Dattapeetham forever. Beginning from the popular album Mata till now, Sri Swamiji has graciously given me innumerable opportunities to compose music for His different musical albums and render my services in the Naadanidhi studio. My sincere salutations to Sri Swamiji for

preserving in me the skills of composing orchestras in different styles of music that I acquired during my career in the Film industry and by giving me the golden opportunity of working on the musical aspect of His albums. In the past 25 years, by His sheer grace and love, I was blessed with several precious experiences such as interacting and working with world renowned musical stalwarts. I also had the rare and coveted experience of knowing and working on apoorva ragas. Everyday marks a new milestone and every moment is a new experience. Isolating and expressing only certain incidents would be a dishonor to my association with Him. I can surely say that the amount of music knowledge and the exposure that I acquired with the august association and guidance of Sri Swamiji is more valuable and informative than that I got in my music graduation. For being the visible teacher who guides my musical work the invisible force that makes me work, I fall short of expressions to thank Him am indebted to Sri Swamiji for life. 

 

In 1993, during the eight-month world tour, Sri Swamiji performed a long chain of concerts and bhajan sessions. Dozens of churches, auditoriums and temples reverberated with Sri Swamiji's mellifluous voice and nada produced by His "Modern Veena" - synthesizer. To date, Sri Swamiji has performed hundreds of Raga Sagara concerts. 

 

I will be thankless if I do not mention the names of my musical teachers and lecturers Late Smt. T. Seetamahalakshmi, Sri A. M. Sarma, Sri. Pudukottai R. Ramanathan and Smt. Challa Prabhavati, from A B C Ds till my baccalaureate degree in music whose lessons brought me to the ultimate Guru, my Sadguru. Carrying forward these emotions I would like to quote Saint Tyagaraja in his Kriti in the raga Gourimanohari –

"Guru lekaetuvantiGunikiteliyakapodu". This Kriti elaborates on the significance of Sadguru in one's life. 

 

EtatSarvam Sachchidananda Sadguru Charanaravindarpanamasthu 

 

Jaya Guru Datta  Sri Guru Datta