Sage Narada in the Carnatic World


Devarishi Narada, one of the prime devotees of Lord Sri Vishnu is the most renowned sage in Hindu mythology. It is believed that Lord Shiva was Narada’s Guru who started him on his musical journey. Legend has it that Narada’s foremost contribution to the world of classical music is the introduction of the instrument ‘Veena’ historically termed as Mahathi. Narada is also believed to have influenced two of the greatest composers of Carnatic music, Sri Purandara Dasa and Sri Thyagaraja. Here is a note of the influence the renowned sage had on the two composers.

Sri Purandara Dasa

Sri Purandara Dasa revered as ‘Sangeetha Pitamaha’ , is regarded as an incarnation or avatar of Narada. Sulaadis of Sri Vijaya Dasa and Madhvapathi(Son of Sri Purandara Dasa), highlight that Narada was sent to earth by Lord Sri Vishnu for uplifting people through music. Narada through Sri Purandara Dasa is believed to have inspired the ‘Dasa Pantha’ or the Dasa Tradition that still prevails in parts of Karnataka.

Sri Purandara Dasa systematized Carnatic music by prescribing a syllabus pattern which is still predominant even after 6 centuries. If we analyze this pattern we appreciate that it is purely conceptualized and systematic.

Sri Purandara Dasa was the first person to select Raaga Mayamalavagowla explicitly for beginners. The intention of choosing only this raga for beginners is on the underlying principle of ‘Frequency coupling’. Swaras that occur in this raga are S R1 G3 M1 P D1 N3 S. If we observe the pattern, (S,R1) (G3, M1)(P,D1)(N3,S) as pairs of swaras, we see that the frequency between each pair matches with every other pair. Undoubtedly a beginner’s mind is observed to be most at ease while grasping the frequencies of Mayamalavagowla than any other raga. This concept can definitely be appreciated by a music teacher when an effort is made to replace this raga with any other raga for beginners.

Sri Thyagaraja 

Biographies of Sri Thyagaraja reveal that Narada appeared to Sri Thyagaraja as an old man and bequeathed him with long lost treatises on music namely ‘Swararnava’ & ‘Naradiya’ which served as a Rosetta stone for Sri Thyagaraja. These treatises enabled Sri Thyagaraja  to understand higher intricacies of music. Sri Thyagaraja also composed krithis on Narada, one of them being ‘Sri Narada Muni’ in Raaga Bhairavi. A musical drama called ‘Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam’, written by Sri Thyagaraja  exemplifies Narada’s teachings to Prahalada.

While this is just a small glimpse of Narada’s influence over Carnatic Music, it is worthwhile to commend the sage for giving the classical music its very “life” in the form of shruthi as he is believed to have introduced the Veena into the world of music.

– Archana Sirsi for Twaang

Picture Courtesy Bahgavatam Katha


5 thoughts on “Sage Narada in the Carnatic World

  1. Wonderful writeup on the history and background of carnatic music .Benefits today s younger generation to appreciate the greatness of carnatic music .Naradaa s connect to carnatic music is well explained…waiting for more such blogs on carnatic music.

  2. A very intetesting write up about the history of carnatic music. A must read for today s younger generation to enhance their knowledge about the greatness of carnatic music.The reason for selecting Mayamalavagowla and not any other Raaga is very well explained.Enjyed the blog and looking forward for many more of the kind.

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