#11-Purvikalyani – An Aesthetically Melodious, Pleasant and Popular Raga

Purivikalyani is a janya raga from the 53rd mELakarta gamanashrama.  It is a Vakra Shadava sampurna raga, i.e. it has six notes on the ascent and seven notes in the descent. purvikalyani has another name Poorvakalyani. The scale mentioned in the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini is s r g m p D s – S n d p m g r s, which is Gamakakriya and which is also called Poorvakalyani.  Despite being a raga that can be rendered at all times, rasikas know that the effect is profound when this raga is rendered just after sunset. .

Here is an interesting explanation for the name purvikalyani Raga. In the Hindustani system, Poorvi is a raga which is akin to our Panthuvarali (Kamavardhini) Mela. The poorvanga portion of purvikalyani has the same swaras of Panthuvarali or N.Indian Poorvi Raga.  The Uttharanga of purvikalyani has the swaras of Kalyani Raga. Being a combination of Poorvi and Kalyani, the raga has come to be known as Poorviklayani. purvikalyani in Hindustani style is known as PuryaKalyan.

The raga has a profound effect  on  reducing Anxiety and  Abdominal pain. Also said to promote harmony and bring a  pleasant feeling.

The structure of purvikalyani is as follows

Arohana: S R1 G3 M2 P D2 P S
Avarohana: S N3 D2 P M2 G3 R1 S

(Suddha rishabham, anthara gandharam, prathi madhyamam, chathusruthi dhaivatham, Kakali nishadham)

Jiva Swara – R, M ,D ,N.

Nyasa Swara – G , P , D

Prayogas/Sancharas – G M D S- P D N D P M – G M D M N D S – D S R G – S N S R G R- G M PD P M G R G – M P D P S D R S- S R G M P M G R S – P M D P S N D P-  G M P D P S etc. This is a raga which is not burdened with restrictive usages. In gamaka Prayogas M is oscillated. When N is rendered from Arohana, Nishada stands slightly elevated than the Kakali Nishada (rather close to Thara Shadjam). Janta Swara prayogas GG RR SS adds to the beauty of the raga. The phrase D N M D S S is a ranjaka prayoga. Purvikalyani with all the unique curves and prayogas can be termed as a “Gamakavarika raga”.

Swaras of purvikalyani undergo melodic gamaka when rendered with imagination. This is a bhava rich aesthetically melodious raga of Carnatic Music with ample scope for Raga Alapana, Thanam, Kalpana Swaras,Niraval etc. A widely rendered raga in concert platforms this raga is suitable for all rasa bhavas including Viraha. “Satre vilagi irum pillaai” by Gopalakrishna Bharati is a very touching and noteworthy composition in this raga. This raga claims to possess all forms of songs like Thana Varnams, Krithis, Keethanams, Padams, Javalis and Ragamalika Compositions. Thyagaraja swami’s Jnanamosagaradha – a masterpiece song in this raga was mainly popularised by Dr. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.

Immortal Compositions

Undoubtedly the the grand composition Meenakshi Memudam of Sri.Muthuswami Dikshithar comes to my mind first when I think of Purvikalyani. My Guru Sri. Vijayarajan Master had great likeness for this particular Krithi and his eyes welled up with tears whenver he sang the lines “Meena Lochani Paasa Mochani”. Both the compositions Meenakshi Memudam and  Kasi Visalakshi composed by by Sri. Muthuswami Dikshithar have the raga mudra “Gamakakriya”. The ragamudra occurs in the charanam of Meenakshi Memudam Dehi- “Veenaagaana dasa Gamakakriye”.The attribute, in this passage is to Devi Meenakshi, not to the raga. ‘You are the one who created the 10 gamakas in music..You are as sweet as the honey..Oh!The one who resides in Madurai..Give me the Moksha-the ultimate moksha’, sang the great Muthuswamy Dikshitar in this immortal composition. DK Pattammal and her brother D.K.Jayaraman used to render this kriti most evocatively.

Meenakshi, also called as Maatangi, is the yogic counterpart of Goddess Saraswati and is considered to reside in the Vishuddhi Chakra present in the throat in the human body.Therefore, she is responsible for our voice.It is believed that by invoking her, one gets command over the voice(speech as well as music).Dikshithar’s masterpiece  mInAkShi mEmudam dEhi,reflects his deep devotion and the music literally moves one’s heart. The creation is so sublime . Dikshitar here refers to Goddess Meenakshi as one who cuts asunder the bonds of passion and liberates Her devotees. This song was to play an important role in the last moments of Dikshitar’s life. It is said that Dikshitar’s soul departed from this world on Deepavali day  as his disciples were rendering the anupallavi ‘Meenalochani Paasamochini Maanini Kadambavanavaasini..’(O fished- eyed one, the liberator from bondages) from the kriti Meenakshi memudam in raga Gamakakriya.

Dikshitar’s descendant Subbarama Dikshitar, in his monumental Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini states that the note that brings to life this raga is the gandhara (ga).He also states categorically that Gamakakriya is also called Poorvikalyani thereby laying to rest all doubts raised by a few that the two names pertain to different ragas. Subbarama Dikshitar has also published in his book a Tana varnam by Sonti Venkatasubbayya, the guru of Tyagaraja, in this raga. While he gives only mInAkshi of Muttuswami Dikshitar in the book he also writes about the existence of EkAmranAtham bhajEham, a composition of Dikshitar’s dedicated to the deity at Kanchipuram. This is a  heavy and difficult composition in this raga, satisfactory renditions of which has made only by late Sri Ramnad Krishnan and Sri B Rajam Iyer.Besides these, kAshi vishAlAkshIm is yet another composition of Dikshitar’s in this raga.Ragamudra is present in the Charanam of Kasi Visalakshi – “Kali Kalmasha Naashini Gamakakriyaa Modini…”All shades of this particular raga is inherent in these three major compositions.

It is not an exaggeration, if one calls the five compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar as Gamakakriya Pancharatna. The composition “Navaratna malineem natajana paripalineem” is considered as a protection, a kavacha, against poisoning, voodoo by enemies – parakarma mantra tantra samhara samhara. Mark the word in this composition “Nava vidha vishaadi aabhicharaadi naasineem”.

Similarly, Syama Sastri’s Ninnuvinagamari needs no introduction, as it is a favourite composition of those who revel in vocal and rhythmic techniques. It is a matter of regret that musicians do not render the last Charanam “Tamasambu seya” in this composition, which is a lovely passage highlighting the impatience of Syama Sastri in obtaining Devi’s grace. A Tamil composition “Ennerammum ninnaamam” is also attributed to Syama Sastri, the authenticity of which is questioned by some scholars. It is an interesting fact that Syama Sastri in the kriti “Enneramum un namam” has set the first 3 phrases as Pantuvarali and only the 4th phrase very clearly  brings out Purvikalyani.

The Zamindar of Uttruturai (Tirunelveli district) was a scholar well versed in Tamil and classical music and was a patron of music. He had invited Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan to render a concert. Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan wanted to do something unique. He created the Damarooka Tala with 27 aksharas and composed a Pallavi with two avartanas in this tala.

The Sahitya goes like this

“Shambo Nataraja Deva Pahimam (Avarthana one)
Kaameswara-chit  Sabhesa mampahi “(Avarthana two)

The Sahitya is “Shambo (7 aksharas) Natara (5 aksharas) Ja (3 aksharas) Deva (5 aksharas) Pahimam (7 aksharas) (first avartana over) Kaameswa (7 aksharas)  ra-chit (5 aksharas) Sa (3 aksharas) bhesa (5 aksharas) mampahi (7 aksharas). As this resembles the kettle drum, udukkai or Damarooka held by Siva, he named it Damarooka Tala. The raga in which Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan chose to render this Pallavi was Poorvakalyani.

There is concrete and tangible reference to this raga by Govindacharya in the Sangeeta Choodamani, duly establishing this raga’s existence in the pre-Trinity period:

Jaataa tu Poorvakalyani Gamanasramanamelatara
Sanyaasam saamshakam chaiva Sa shadja grahamuchyate
Sampoornam vakram arohe apyavarohe samagrakam
Sa-ri-gaa-ma-pa-dhaa-ni-dha-sa; ni-dhaa-pa-ma-gaa-ri-saa

This raga is of pre-Trinity existence and shot to prominence through the compositions of the Trinity. PoorvaKalyani is one of the select twenty eight ragas in which we have at least one composition by each member of the Trinity.

Gopalakrishna Bharati, the creator of the immortal Nandan Charitram, has two very popular songs to his credit in pUrvikalyANi. The first is saTTrE vilagi irum and the second is kAraNam kETTu vAdi popularised by GN Balasubramaniam. The kriti paramapAvana rAma by Ramanathapuram ‘Poochi’ Srinivasa Iyengar is considered to be the song most representative of all aspects of pUrvikalyANi. This was made famous by Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar. Tanjavur Sankara Iyer’s shri rAjarAjEshvari is also a well known work. nI mATalE, a jAvali by Pattabhiramayya in this raga was popularised by Brinda and Muktha. PUrvikalyaNi has been used for light pieces as well.  The raga has also seen use in a few film songs. Given its versatile nature and the ease with which emotions can be depicted in it, it remains an all time favourite raga.

Major Krithis

Pankajakshininne – Varnam – Adi
Ninnukori- Khanda jati Ata- Sonti Venkatasubayya(Guru of Tyagaraja Swamigal) – proof that this raga was popular in the pre-Trinity period

Gamakakriya Pancharatnam of Sri.Muthuswami Dikshithar

Meenakshi memudam dehi – Adi – Muthuswami Dikshitar –  (has been sung in praise of Madhurai MeenakshiAmman)
Ekamranatham -Adi- Muthuswami Dikshitar (dedicated to the deity at Kanchipuram)
Kasi Visalakshim- Roopaka -Muthuswami Dikshitar (a Krithi on Goddess Visalakshi)
Navaratnamalinim- Khanda Eka -Muthuswami Dikshitar (protection, a kavacha, against poisoning, voodoo by enemies)
Tiruvateeswaram Namami- Muthuswami Dikshitar (has been sung in praise of Champakavalli Amman)

Gnanamosagarada – Roopaka – Tyagaraja
Paripoornakama – Roopaka – Tyagaraja
Paralokasadhaname – Adi – Tyagaraja

Ninnuvinaga mari- Misra Chapu / Viloma Chapu -Syama Sastri
Enneramum Ninnanaaman-Misra Chappu-Syama Sastri

Devadeva jagadeeswara- Adi- Swati Tirunal
Panchabana tanuhara -Adi- Swati Tirunal

Allide nammane – Adi – Purandaradasa
Paradaivam unai – Adi – Papanasam Sivan
Bodhendra Gurumoorti – Adi – Papanasam Sivan
Ksheerasagara sayee – Adi – Papanasam Sivan
Purandara vinute – Misra Chapu –  Muthaiah Bhagavatar
Ananda natamaduvar – Roopaka – Neelakanta Sivan
Murugan tunai – Adi – Periyasami Tooran
Unnai marandu – Adi – Periyasami Tooran
Satre vilagi irum pillaai – Roopaka – Gopalakrishna Bharati
Karanam kettu vadi – Adi – Gopalakrishna Bharati
Sri Rajarajeswari – Khanda Chapu – Tanjavur Sankara Iyer
Iniyagilum Ninai – Adi- Ambujam Krishna
Edutturaippay – Roopaka – Ambujam Krishna
Neematale mayanura Adi – Javali- Pattabhiramayya

Favourite Filmy Raga

The raga has seen use in very few film songs.I couldn’t find a single tamil song from film industry set to this raga. But a few Melodious Malayalam Album and Film songs were identified and has been uploaded for listening pleasure.

Allied Ragas – Purvikalyani and Panthuvarali

The presence of Suddha Rishabha, Antara Gandhara and Prati Madhyama in Purvikalyani Raga in the Poorvanga does establish similarity with Ramakriya (Pantuvarali). A good and experienced musician knows that the Rishabha in Poorvakalyani is Dwisruti Rishabha, by which we can distinguish this from Ramakriya. Vakratva in Arohana is another distinguishing factor, which however, is present only in the Arohana, imposed by some great person. The swara-samvaditva found in raga Kalyani is absent in raga Poorvakalyani.  Poorvakalyani is distinct from Pantuvarali and Kalyani.

I conclude this review by making a note that the “pa-dha-pa-sa” or “ma-dha-sa” factor has great significance.  Take Anandabhairavi, which has “pa-dha-pa-sa”. Take Bilahari or Mohana, with “pa-dha-sa”. Certain ragas like Mohanam, Anandabhairavi, Bilahari and Purvikalyani, generate a sense of exhilaration, happiness or ananda when heard. This is perhaps the reason why one raga got the name Anandabhairavi. Poorvakalyani belongs to this great and exclusive group of ragas. It promotes rasanubhava of Sringara, Adbhuta,Viraha and Santa rasas and unalloyed bliss or equanimity called Ananda. indeed, it is a great raga. What is there in a name?  Old, indeed is gold; but remember forever that gold is always gold, as Poorvakalyani is Poorvakalyani.

Featured Composition with Meaning: (From T.K. Govinda Rao’s book)

Ragam: Purvi Kalyani/Gamakakriya (53th melakartha Janyam)
Talam: Adi
Composer: Muthuswami Dikshitar


mInAkSi mE mudam dEhi mEcakAHNgi rAjamAtaHNgi
Meaning: O goddess Meenakshi, the bluish (“mecha”) hued one (“kaangi”), the Raaja Maatangi, give (“dehi”) me (“me”) bliss (“mudam”)!


mAnamAtRmEyE mAyE marakata chAyE shivajAyE mInalOcani pAshamOcani mAnini kadambavanavAsini

She is the knower (“maana”), the knowledge (“maatru”), the known (“meye”) and also the means of knowledge (“maaye”).
She is of the hue (“chaaye”) of emerald (“marakata”) and the beloved (“jaaye”) of Siva.
She has eyes (“lochani”) that resemble fish (“meena”).
She removes (“mochani”) all bondages (“pasha”) of the world.
She is the eternal one (“maanini”), who resides (“vaasini”) in the forest (“vana”) of Kadamba.


madhurApurinilayE maNivalayE m
alayadhvaja pANDya rAja tanayE
vidhuviDambana vadanE vijayE
vINAgAna dashagamakakriyE

madhumadamOdita hRdayE sadayE mahAdEva sundarEshapriyE madhumuraripu sOdari shAtOdari vidhiguruguhavashaHNkari shaHNkari

She is enshrined (“nilaye”) in the holy city (“puri”) of Madhura.
She is adorned with gemset (“mani”) bangles (“valaye”).
She is the daughter (“tanaye”) of Malayadhvaja Paandyaraaja.
The beauty of Her face (“vadane”) outshines (“vidambana”) that of the moon (“vidhu”).
She is the victorious one (“vijaye”).
She plays (“kriye”) the ten (“dasha”) kinds of Gamakas on the Vina.

She is delighted (“modhita”) with the sweetness (“madha”) of honey (“madhu”).
She is compassionate (“hrudaye”). She is the beloved (“priye”) of Mahadeva-Sundaresha.
She is the sister (“sodhari”) of Vishnu, who is the enemy (“ripu”) of demons Madhu and Mura.
She has a slender (“shaath-“) waist (“udari”).
She captivates (“vashankari”) Brahma (“vidhi”) and Guruguha. She is Shankari.

Enjoy the Bhaava Rich  Poorvikalyani 🙂

Download Poorvikalyani

6 thoughts on “#11-Purvikalyani – An Aesthetically Melodious, Pleasant and Popular Raga

  1. It is such a beautiful and informative review.Being very bonded by Sri Muthuswamy Dhikshitar krithis myself,i loved the explanation of Meenakshi memudam dehi.

  2. tamil songs in poorvikalyani
    Amudhe tamizhe from koyil pura
    eythilum engu irupan-Bharathi
    Neelakuyile unnodu -Magudi
    santhika thudithen-vedam puthithu

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