Saturday, June 4, 2011


This raga derives its name from the two words “Amrit” and Varshini”. It means one which showers “amrit” or the elixir of immortality.

A particular incident, which occurred in connection with this raga, may be of interest to the reader. During his visit to Ettayapuram,  a small village in Tamilnadu, the great composer Muthuswamy Dikshithar (late 18th century and early 19th century) was shocked to see people suffering owing to a draought. He looked up at the sky and sang in praise of the goddess Devi in the raga Amruthavarshini. The moment he uttered the words “salilam varshaya, varshaya” there was a heavy downpour and the place was flooded.
Then he had to appeal to the Goddess “Sthambhaya; sthambhaya” meaning, stop’ stop”
Even today musicians sing – “Amruthavarshini” raga to invoke the Rain God. The corresponding raga in Hindustani music is “Malashree”
This word means, literally, “entwined twins”. In the context of music, it may:
01.  A mixture of two classical systems of music or
02.  Two different types of musical instruments or
03.  An unusual combination of vocal classical and instrumental music. For e.g. a musical performance between Sarod player (Hindustani) and a vocal artist (carnatic)
In jugalbanshi, both musicians act as lead players, and a playful competition often ensues between the two performers.

Jugalbanshi kindles the curiosity of the audience as well as the artists to see how the twins work in such a mixture. Both the artistes should be well matched and complement each other with their respective style of singing. Normally the two artists take a raga and elaborate the alapana, sahithyam, swara prastharam and niraval for more than an hour in their instruments or in their systems. The audience is able to appreciate both the factors, common and contradictory. Sometimes, in a vocal concert, the attempt by the artists to sing in the other style will be very interesting and will win audience appreciation.
Sruthi petti is a small wooden instrument that works on a system of bellows. It produces a continuous drone during a music concert. It is used along with other accompaniments in a kutcheri. It is normally kept in front of the vocalist on the dias. Adjustable buttons allow tuning in an electronic sruthi petti. The “tambura” is another traditional drone instrument used in concerts. However, tamburas are increasingly being replaced by the electronic sruthi pettis. In modern days we see electronic tamburas also. The drone itself is an integral part of a performance and furnishes stability (the basic pitch)

A small wooden reed (a thin wooden piece which will vibrate when air is blown over it) is fixed to one end of a close fitting wooden frame. The loose end has a slight upward curve. When air pressure is applied under the reed, th reed obstructs air flow, allowing only a small, high-velocity flow at the tip.

Here the elasticity of the reed lets it get back to its original place in the frame. Each time the reed passes through the frame, it interrupts the air flow. These rapid, periodic interruptions of air flow create the audible vibrations perceived by the listener.
This is one of the very common percussion instruments, next only Mridangam as an accompaniment in a kutcheri. The word “ghatam” means clay. But the composition of clay for “ghatam is different from other earthern pots, which we use as utensils. The ghatam is made from a special clay mixed with graphite dust to make it stronger. Probably this is the reason for ghatam having a bluish or grayish patch. We may all think that the ghatam is fragile, but it is not so. Even though it will break if you drop it on the floor, it is very strong and can withstand the strong thumpings of the powerful hand of the ghatam vidwan.

There are two types of ghatams.01. Madras ghatam and 02. Manamadurai ghatam. The tone of the pot must be good and its sides should be of even thickness all around to produce an even tone. Manamadurai ghatam is of this type. This type of ghatam also produces a sharp metallic, ringing sound which is favoured by some players.

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