Varnam in Sanskrit means colour and it very aptly defines the form as it brings out the swarupa of a raga in all its colour and dimensions. The sahitya of varnam is of negligible importance and is only used as a vehicle for raga delineation. Varnam stands out distinctly for its ability to show the contour of a raga, its typical gamakas, the pauses, its gait and gamut. The texture of each note and the various shapes it assumes in combination with other swaras can be sensed in a varnam.
In this context, the Ata Tala Varnam in Bhairavi is said to be a master piece as it brings out the different gamakas in Bhairavi. It is a dictionary of Raga Bhairavi. It is said that its composer Pacchaamiriam Adiappaiah took many years polishing it to perfection. Even today this ata tala varnam is considered incomparable and its rendition at the beginning of a concert lends intellectual weight to the concert.
Bhairavi Ata Tala Varnam
The composer of the Bhairavi Ata Tala Varnam is Pachchimiriyam Adiyappayya who lived in the 18th century.He is the guru of Syama Sasthry, one of the trinities of the Carnatic Music. Adiyappayya is well known for contributing the musical form Tana Varna. For this reason, he is known as the “Tana Varna Margadarsi”. He was also a great Vainika.
Though Adiyappayya has composed many krithis and varnams, his varnam in Bhairavi raga “Viriboni”, set to Khanda Jathi Ata Talam, the first of its kind, remains unsurpassed.
Kamboji Ata Tala Varnam
Among the genius of Swathi Thirunal’s court were Vadivelu and his three brothers Ponnayya [b. 1804], Chinnayya [b. 1802] and Sivanandam [b. 1808] known as the Tanjavur Quartette (Nalvar). Vadivelu was for sure recognized by Swathi Thirunal as a great asset to his court.
Kamboji Ata Tala Varnam was composed by Vadivelu.
Happy Learning 🙂