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Govinda-lilamrita: Rasa-lila musicology

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This section of Govinda-līlāmṛta contains a great deal of information taken from the Sanskrit texts on music, namely it would seem Saṅgīta-darpaṇa. Not much additional information is given, so the main purpose seems to be to show that the Rāsa-līlā is the stage for Krishna and the gopis to display the complete gamut of Indian musical knowledge. The elaborations from Saṅgīta-darpaṇa are found in Vrindavan Chakravarti’s commentary to Govinda-līlāmṛta.


81 Krishna and the gopis sing fifteen types of gamaka (trills) accompanied with wonderful beats that enchant the mind.

Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: The sensational art of making a melody pulsate (svarasya kampaḥ) is called gamaka. “A gamaka is any graceful turn, curve or cornering touch given to a single note or a group of notes, which adds emphasis to each rāga’s individuality” (Wikipedia). According to Saṅgīta-darpaṇa, there are fifteen different gamaka styles which are called: tiripa, sphurita, kampita, nīla, āndolita, bali, tribhinna, kuvala, āhata, unnamita, plavita, hankrita, mudrita, namita and miśrita. Other Indian music texts give other numbers of gamakas.

82 They sing two kinds of nibaddha songs, namely śuddha and sālaga. The śuddha-nibaddha songs are of three types: prabandha, vastu and rūpaka.

Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: “A song (gāna) or an instrumental piece which is bound (nibaddha) or composed, with a well-defined tāla, mātra, laya, etc. The opposite of nibaddha is anibaddha (not bound, unstructured, improvised).” Nibaddha songs follow a prescribed pattern having two basic parts, dhātu and aṅga. Dhātu comprises songs with rhyme. There are four parts: The first line is udgrāhaka, the second line is called melāpaka, the line that is repeatedly sung, i.e., the refrain, is called dhruva pada (usually the first line), and the last line that includes the padakartā’s (song writer’s) name is called ābhoga. The verses that are not repeated are called antara-pada.

Aṅga are the six limbs of a song such as svara (the notes or melody), viruda (a passage extolling the song and usually including the author’s signature), pada (a passage of meaningful text), tenaka (the meaningless words), pāṭha (a passage of onomatopoetic sounds such as dang-dang-di-dang, etc.), and tāla (section governed by rhythm or beat). Songs that are comprised of these parts are called nibaddha-saṅgīta. The three types of nibaddha songs are:

prabandha—songs that have all of the above mentioned dhātus and aṅgas. vastu—songs that have the first three parts of the aṅga. rūpaka—songs having the first two dhātus and the first two aṅgas.

There are five classifications of prabandha:

  1. Those having all six aṅgas are called medinī,
  2. Those having five are called nandinī.
  3. Those having four are called dīpanī,
  4. Those with three are called pāvanī,
  5. Those with two are called tārāvalī.

Sālaga nibaddha songs are also called rasa-laga and chaya-laga because they are the shadow of śuddha-nibaddha-saṅgīta. When sālaga songs are accompanied by many types of instruments it becomes śuddha-sālaga music. This includes nine types of tāla, which are adi, yati, nasaru, ajna, triputa, rūpaka, jhampaka, matha and ekatali.

83 Thus Vrajasundar and the Vraja sundaris sing prabandhas (complete compositions), having many different types of svaras (melodies), pāṭha (variegated sounds), rāgas, grahas (beginning melodies) and nyāsa (concluding melodies).

Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: The special notes that are sung at a song’s beginning are called graha-svaras, and the concluding notes are called nyāsa. As Krishna become pleased with the gopis’ singing, he praises them, smiles at them and offers various types of rewards to increase their paramānanda.

84 Krishna and the gopis sing the three types of rāgas: sampūrṇa (having all seven notes), ṣāḍava (having six notes) and auḍava (having five svaras).

Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: Some of the sampūrṇa rāgas are: shri nata, karnata, megha mallara, dravida, gaudi varati, gujjari, todi, malavashri, saindhavi, sincuda devaki, ramakiri, manjari and belavali.

Some of the ṣāḍava rāgas are gauda, karnata, dhanasi, desi kolahala, ballali, ashavari, khambavati, harshapuri, mallari and humcika.

Some auḍava rāgas are: shrikantha, bhauli, gauri, kiri, madhukari, chaya and nilotpala.

85-87 They sing rāgas such as: mallāra, naṭṭa, sama, kedāra, kāmoda, bhairava, gāndhāra, deśāga, vasanta, karnāṭaka, mālavā, gurjjarī, rāmakirī, gaurī, āsāvarī, goṇḍakirī, toḍī, belāvalī, maṅgalā, varāṭikā, deśa-varāṭikā, māgadhi, kaushikī, pālī, lalitā, paṭa-mañjarī, subhagā and sindhuḍā.

Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: The svaras (melodies) which can enchant the three worlds are called rāgas and rāgiṇīs. In the Rasa lila there are more than sixteen thousand varieties that Krishna and the gopis sing. In these verses only a few are mentioned. Moreover, these rāgas and rāgiṇīs may be known by different names in various provinces. But there are basically six major rāgas and thirty-six major rāgiṇīs. The rāgas are male and the rāgiṇīs are female. The six major rāgas each have six wives that are listed below :

  1. Vasanta rāga: a) Gurjari, b) Vibhasha, c) Todi, d) Panchami, e) Lalita, and f) Paṭa Manjari.
  2. Malaya rāga: a) Dhanasi, b) Manasi, c) Ramakeri, d) Sindhura, e) Ashavari, and f) Bhairavi.
  3. Sri rāga: a) Belapari, b) Gauri, c) Gandhari, d) Subhaga, e) Komari, and f) Vairati.
  4. Mallara rāga: a) Belavali, b) Pravara, c) Kanadi, d) Madhavi, e) Kodi, and f) Kedarika.
  5. Hindola rāga: a) Mayuri, b) Dipika, c) Deshakari, d) Pahadi, e) Varadi, and f) Marahatta.
  6. Karnata rāga: a) Natika, b) Bhupali, c) Ramakiri, d) Gada, e) Kamodi, and e) Kalyani.

When these rāgas and rāgiṇīs mix with the other uncountable rāgas and rāgiṇīs an infinite variety arises. The sweet-voiced Vraja sundaris sing these with smiling faces and roaming eyes while showing many different hand mudras. Then Krishna embraces them, kisses them, and transfers his pan into their mouths to increase their pleasure.

88-90 The gopis play four classifications of instruments which are distributed to them by Vrinda: ghana (ringing), tata (stringed), ānaddha (skinned, i.e., leather covered percussion instruments), and śuṣira (winds). Such instruments include the muraja, damaru, dampha, mandu, mamaka, murali, pavika, vamshi, mandir, karatala, vipanchi, vina, kacchapi, kari-nasika, svara-mandalika and rudra vina.

Rasa-taraṅginī Tīkā: The tata (stringed) instruments are as follows: vina, sitara, violin, alavani, brahma vina, kinnari, laghu kinnari, kacchapi, vipanchi, ballaki, jyeshtha, chitra, ghashavati, jaya, hastika, kubjika, kurma, sarangi, parivadini, trisari, shatatantri, nakulaushtha, kamsari, audambari, pinaki, nibaddha, pushkala, gada, rudra vina and the svara maṇḍala.

The ānaddha (skinned percussion) instruments include various kinds of drums: the mridanga, tabla, dolaka, madala, muraja, dhakka, pataha, chaṅgava, panava, kundali, bheri, ghatavadya, barjhara, damaru, sthamaki, sandu, hadukka, maddu, dingima, upaṅga and dardura.

The śuṣira (wind) instruments include : The vamshi, pavika, madhuri, tittira, shankha, kohala, bhodai, murali, bukka, shringika, svaranabhi, shriṅgalapika and krama-vamsha.

The ghana instruments (ringing percussion instruments) include the various kinds of bells, gongs and cymbals: kartals, kamsa, jaya ghanta, suktika, kampaka, ghata-vadya, ghantatodya, gharaghara, jhanjatala, manjira, karttu and jangura.

Thus Vrinda brings all of these instruments and gives them to the sakhis. Then Krishna plays his various flutes, Radha plays her alavani vina and Lalita, Vishakha and others take up the kacchapi, vipanchi and rudra vina, etc. And as they play together an indescribably wonderful concert fills the entire universe.

 

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