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The richness of Dikshitar’s compositions (

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on August 29, 2009

The-richness-of-Dikshitars-compositions-082009-1This article is targeted towards listeners who are familiar with the kacheri repertoire in karnatic music.

Often times, we run into conversations where the superior quality of Dikshitar’s music is stressed. What is it that contributes to this degree of excellence? What are the features to look for in order to appreciate a rendition of the kriti-s of Dikshitar?

In this article, we identify and elucidate five different factors that contribute to the individuality of Dikshitar’s repertoire. The first two are clearly definable as they relate to the technical aspects of the composition in question. The other three aspects go beyond the individual composition and cover a wider and deeper knowledgebase.

Here are the five aspects to look for in the repertoire of kriti-s created by Dikshitar.

Aspect 1: Sophistication in the delineation and exposition of various ragas

  • i) unique gripping portraits of raga
  • ii) a slow and majestic gait that exhudes raga bhava in every microtone (sruti) rendered

A proper rendition of a kriti of dikshitar places demands on the vocalist’s ability to maintain sruti suddha (tonal purity), breath control and the ability to deliver upon jaarus (glide across pitches) spanning more than an octave in some cases.

Aspect 2: the beauty of the sahityas (= literature) and the various forms of textual ornamentation such as

  • i) alliteration
  • ii) skilful use of the name of the raga
  • iii) skilful use of the signatuare of the composer ‘guruguha’

A proper rendition of a kriti of Dikshitar places demands on the vocalist’s ability to render sanskrit lyrics with precision, breath control and the ablity to render ‘madhyama kala sahityas’ with pauses for breath at the right instances so as to render the textual phrases as they ought to be.

Aspect 3: the presentation of details surrounding the deity being addressed — with references to the following

  • i) stala purana (legends related to the temple where the deity is enshrined)
  • ii) reference to Indian puranic lore
  • iii) agama and tantric worship traditions
  • iv) deep philosophical knowledge rooted in the Upanishadic realm
  • v) jyotisha and other realms of knowledge

Given his pluralistic orientation, Dikshitar’s kritis are addressed to a range of deities enshrined at various places in India (particularly in the state of Tamil Nadu with a rich temple heritage) that he visited during his lifetime.

Aspect 4: Variety in the usage of ragas and talas

Dikshitar has composed in all of the 72 raaganga ragas that were enunciated by the parampara of the musicologist Venkatamakhi and in several of the janya (child) ragas. He has also written kritis in a range of tala cycles that have been off limits for most other composers.

Aspect 5: A well laid out scheme of groups of compositions, as in

– the vaara kritis, the panchabhuta linga kritis, the kamalamba navavarana kritis , the tyagaraja vibhakti kritis and so on.

The five aspects above result in the following.

Aspect 6: A marked degree of sophistication that weaves the technical brilliance and the knowledgebase described above into a pictorial essay with the most superior sense of aesthetics.

Mastery over aspects 1 and 2 are necessary conditions for a technically sound rendition of a kriti of Dikshitar, however they are not sufficient for a wholesome rendition of the works of Dikshitar. What is essential for this, is a basic appreciation of the background of the kriti and some of the elements outlined in 3) and an understanding of the context of the compositions (4 and 5 above).

When a Dikshita kriti rendition is complete with all of the five elements above in place, the performer begins to feel a sense of awe as they experience the fullest impact of Aspect 6 and in the process they get transported to a different world. And the effect shows on the listener too.

Kanniks Kannikeswaran

“The author can be reached at

(Source: 08/2009 – | Religion – Temples & More)

Dr. Nagavalli Nagaraj (vocalist) – Dikshitar Kriti “Akhilamdeshwari

Jugalbandi: Dr.Nagavalli Nagaraj & Ranjani Nagaraj (daughter) – Dikshitar Kriti “Mahaganapathim”

Violin maestros Mysore Sri M.Nagaraj & Dr.Mysore M.Manjunath… Raag Kambhoji

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