Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Raga Chintamani- A guide to Carnatic Music through Tamil movie songs


My knowledge of Carnatic music is quite primitive. I can recognize only 2 Ragas- Mayamalava Gowla, the basic raga any music student will be thought first, and Madhyamavathi-because of its simplicity- only black reeds of the harmonium. I used to play songs belonging to some other ragas as well, such as "రార వేణు గోపా బాల రాజిత సద్గుణ జయశీల-Raara Venu Gopa Baala" of Bilahari raga and "Lambodara lakumikara (a.k.a Sree GaNa naatha, Sindhoora varNa...)" & "ಕೆರೆಯ ನೀರನು ಕೆರೆಗೆ ಚೆಲ್ಲಿ -Kereya neeranu kerege chelli" of Malahari raga, but never studied ragas seriously.
With this limited knowledge I am reviewing a book titled Raga Chintamani, guide to Karnatik music through tamil movie songs, compiled by Sundararaman Chintamani.(Author's Blog)

Raga Chintamani is a simple book which contains all ragas of Karnatic music listed in alphabetical order. Arohana and Avarohana (Ascend and descend) of each raga is listed, along with any interesting/useful information related to the said raga. After this all tamil movie songs, composed using this particular raga are listed along with their movie name. The collection of tamil movie songs is pretty exhaustive, some 1800+. But I couldn’t make much sense out of it, as my knowledge/interest in tamil movies is near zero, except few whose Hindi versions have been popular. The book also has music related quiz in each page, some introduction to various types of ragas in the beginning and a comprehensive appendix of all tamil movie songs and their ragas at the end, as well as a quick biography of few doyens of Tamil film music.

"If people can recognize the raga of a cine song, they can also appreciate the classical music in the same raga. If they are able to listen to 10 cine songs in Kalyani, they can easily identify many classical songs that are set in Kalyani..." Author writes, explaining the purpose of the book.

Would have been great if someone could bring out a similar book in other languages-Kannada, Telugu etc.

Some key information/observations from my side (from this book and in general)

1. The harmonium or a keyboard has only 2 reeds for ri, ga, da and ni. But Carnatic music has 3 sub divisions for these (Shudhdha Rishabha, Chatushtrati Rishabha, Shadhyati Rishaba, Shudhdha Gaandhaara, Saadharana Gaandhaara, Antara Gandhaara, Sudha Nishadha, Kaishaki Nidhaadha, Kaakali Nishaada and so on) I am having utter confusion, how to identify the third one. I think G1 is seldom used. The first Ga we encounter is G2 and the one next to it is G3 but which is D3 and R3? Do the differ per raga? Ni used in MayamaLava Gowa is Ni3-which one is Ni1 and Ni2? Can anyone clarify the confusion for me?
2. Avarohana of some ragas are quite complex- for example Kapi- Arohanam: S R2 M1 P N3 S
Avarohanam- S N2 D2 N2 P M1 G2 M1 D2 P G2 R2 S N3 S (I can make 2 more ragas out of this lengthy Avarohana...)

Gopala Gopala song of Humse Hain Muqabula (Errani Gorrani Gopala of Kadalan)
Kuchi Kuchi Rakamma of Bombay. Roja Jaaneman (Kadhal Rojave) of Roja are all composed in kapi raga

3. Madhyamavathi raga is believed to have powers of washing away your sins attained by singing apaswaras (singing improperly)- If you sing a song of madhyamavati raga at the end of the concert, all your sins will be destroyed. So after irritating your audience for hours and forcing them to stuff cotton into their ears, be sure to sing a song in Madhyamavathi raga. If you’re not sure what song is of Madhyamavathi-here’s one Kannada song- ಬಾರ ವಿಘ್ನ ನಾಶಕಾ ವಿನಾಯಕಾ, ಬಾರ ಬಾ, ಬಾ ವಿವೇಕ ದಾಯಕ... Baara vighna naashakaa vinayaka, Baara baa baa viveka daayakaa…

4. Amritha Varshini raga is believed to be the one that can cause rains. It is not clear which raga can be used to stop rains (and Bihar flood may be)

5. Madhyamavathi raga consists of only black reeds of keyboard- Sa ri ma pa ni sa- Sa ni pa ma ri sa. Is there any raga that is made up of only white reeds? There has to be one- because this is how I play twinkle twinkle little star- gaga nini riri ni dada dada mama ga (all while reads-but it is odd to have both da –D1 and D2 in same raga) (Ragas that begin and end with Ni are called Nishadhantya ragas)

6. Which raga is “Appadi podu Podu….”? Anyone has an idea?

7. Tu hi re-Tu hi re song of Bombay is composed in Hari Kambhoji. The song- Telephone dun main hasne vaali of Hindustani (Telephone Manipol of Indian in Tamil) looks kind of modern, but sung in good old Anandha Bhairavi

8. Looks like there is a tamil movie named Kadhal ViruS (love virus)-Nice name I must say...

Where to buy it?
Raga Chintamani is priced at Rs 200 and is available only with few select shops in Chennai (Mylapore/Royapettha area in particular) Try this link or try the option below:

Send a letter giving your full postal address and requesting to send a copy of Raga Chintamani by VPP. This person, with whom I spoke to, said he can dispatch the book by VPP within a day or two, postage charges Rs 30, total VPP amount-Rs 230
Mr. Vinod Kumar,
The Karnatic Music Book Centre
23-A, Sripuram First Street, Royapettah, Chennai 600014
Ph: 044-28113253
Disclaimer: This blogger is not involved in any way in the sale of this book and will not be answerable to any possible complaints such as delay, payment issues, non delivery etc. You'll have to deal directly with the seller in case of any disputes.

Watch these movies related to Music if possible: Morning Raga (English+telugu, Shabana Azmi), Ananda Bhairavi (Kannada), Upasane (Puttanna KaNagaal, Kannada)

Images from 3rd party websites.

Other posts on Music: Bangalore police Ban live music * My favorite lyrics * * A poem I wrote * Summer of '05 * Review: Unwind Centre music school *
Other book reviews: The 3 mistake of my life * 2 States (Chetan Bhagat) * It happened in India * Bapu * Merchants of Deception * Not a penny more, not a penny less * Zero percentile by neeraj Chhibba

May 2009 update: Mr Sundararaman and his book are featured in ERGO: Refer adjacent image for full article.


Simulation said...


Thanks for spending your time in reviewing the book. Quite interesting. I can answer some of your questions later.

A review in your blog is definitely a step towards promotion.

Thanks again, Sundar

Raveesh Kumar said...

hmm... Nidhi's foray into new genre of writing. Keep going.

guruve said...

karnaataka sangeetada pustakada vimarshe Odi santOsha aaytu.. "chintamani" kooda ondu raagada hesrirbEkalvaa?? karnaataKa sangeeta aadhaarita mattondu kannaDa chalana chitra "hamsageete". idu "taa raa su" ravara hamsageete kaadambari aadhaarita. idralli shaamashaasry rachita himaadri sute haaDu uttamavaagi mooDi bandide. movie nODilla.. aadre pustka bahaLa chennaagide..
tamiLu chalanachitrada haadugaLannu kELde irOvrge "raaga chintaamaNi" ashTu upayOga aagolla ansutte..

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ Sundar

My pleasure

@ Raveesh

@ Guruve

Yes-not that useful to non tamil users. Can be used to learn some fundamentals of various ragas...


Simulation said...


Can you please translate what Guruve has mentioned in Kannada?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

dear Sundar, this is what guruve said:

"happy to read book review on karnatik music. "chintamani" is also name of a raaga right?

"hamsageete" is another music based movie based on "ta ra su" (a kannada writer) 's novel named hamsageete. I haven't seen the movie but songs r very good and so is the novel. I feel "raaga chintamani" may not be that useful to those who do not know tamil.

Simulation said...

"Chintamani" is a Raga discovered by Shyama Sastri, one of the Musical Trinities.

Saithilak said...

Oops! am clueless on this topic! :)

Laddoo said...

I'm interested in getting a copy of this book. I live in Blr and wud appreciate if you can pass on the contact info for getting it via post.
Thx, LD

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ Sundar,

Thanks for that additional info

@ Saithilak...
its ok... Sa ri ga ma pa da ni Sa is very easy- try playing sometimes....

@ Laddoo,

At this point I am not sure how you can order this. Requesting Sundar to intervene.

There're 5 shops listed who sell this book- I randomly called few of them- some numbers were not working, some didn't speak english, some said they don't have a copy and some said they don't have a provision to send it by post.

Sundar: Please suggest- if anyone outside Chennai wish to buy a copy of this book whom to contact?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ LAddoo:

You can try this:

Looks like following shop can send the book by VPP

Send a letter to
Mr. Vinod Kumar,
The Karnatic Music Book Centre
23-A, Sripuram First Street, Royapettah, Chennai 600014

Ph: 044-28113253

Stating your full postal address and requesting them to send a copy by VPP

Postage charges Rs 30 and order will be despatched within a day or 2.

Disclaimer: This blogger is not involved in any way in the sale of this book and will not be answerable to any possible complaints such as delay, payment issues, non delivery etc. You'll have to deal directly with the seller in case of any disputes.

Hope this helps

Simulation said...


You are right; The Karnatic Music Book Centre as well as Shanthi Dress Needs address the need of outstation people in getting this book. Both these firms have enough stock of the book and would be able to deliver.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Sundar.

Laddoo said...

Thanks a lot Nidhi, for putting in so much of effort to find a way!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

My Pleasure

R.V.Ramani said...

Very nice with hidden humor like P.G.Wodehouse books.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ RVR,

I've heard a lot of PGW, but couldn't fully read any of his books..

divya3377 said...

Good review effort.Gained knowledge reading the aticle and comments. thanks.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@ Divya
We're glad it was useful...

the iconoclast said...

"twinkle twinkle little star" is of the (western) C major scale, which corresponds to the raga "Sankarabaranam".

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks for that information. Sorry for delayed response