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Pancharatna Kriti

A pancharatna kriti (Sanskrit pancha, meaning five & ratna, meaning gem) is one of a set of five kritis (songs) in Carnatic music, composed by the 19th century Indian composer Tyagaraja.

Tyagaraja and the Pancharatna Kritis

Tyagaraja lived in the late 18th century and early 19th century in Tiruvayyaru in Tanjore district in Tamil Nadu. His compositions are considered to be some of the finest in Carnatic music. These five kritis are set to music in five ragas: Naattai, Gaulai, Arabi, Varaali and Sri; all these ragas are 'ghana ragas' (heavy ragas), lending themselves for elaborate improvisations.


The Pancharatna kritis oare written in praise of his deity, Rama. They are set in Adi Talam and each raga (tune) represents the mood of the song and the meaning of its lyrics. They are actually set in the style of a Ragam Tanam Pallavi (RTP) with the charanas (stanzas) substituting for the kalpana swaras (improvisatory passages) in the pallavi section of the RTP.

The Pancharatna Kritis are:

  1. Jagadananda Karaka - Raga Naata
  2. Dudukugala - Raga Gaula
  3. Sadhinchene - Raga Arabhi
  4. Kanakana Ruchira - Raga Varali
  5. Endaro Mahanubhavulu - Raga Sri

The melodic forms of these compositions (Nata, Gaula, Arabhi, Varali, Sri) are the five Ghana ragas of Carnatic music also called the ghanapanchaka. They are so called because they are suited to playing tanam on the veena. Nata and Varali are the most ancient of the Carnatic ragas and date back 1000 years. In fact, the roots of raga Nata (also called Naatai, Natta) can be traced to Ancient Tamil music, rendering it more than 2000 years old.

A particularly difficult musical challenge has been taken up successfully by Tyagaraja in three of these compositions. The raga Nata has a particularly distinctive use of the 'dhaivatam' note or swara. Tyagaraja has avoided the 'dhaivatam' completely in the first pancharatna kriti without losing the swarupa of Nata ragam. Similarly 'gandharam' is an accidental note of some beauty in Gaula. Tyagaraja avoids this too (except in one instance) without losing the character of the raga. Finally, he avoids the accidental 'dhaivatam' in Sri ragam, again a note that is present in some very characteristic sancharas of this raga. It requires musicality of a very high order to do something like this not once but three times in very common and much loved ragas like these.

Lyrical synopsis

Jagadanandakaraka (Raga Naata)

In this song, Tyagaraja praises his lord Ramachandra. He eulogizes Ramachandra as one who is the cause of all bliss in the universe. This is the only pancharatna kriti that was composed in Sanskrit. All the other kritis have been composed in Telugu which was used in the court of the Maratha king Sarabhoji who ruled this area in the 18th century.

Dudukugala Nanne (Raaga Gaula)

In this second pancharatna kriti, Tyagaraja lists all the errors he has committed in his life and asks who but Rama would redeem such a sinner. Many of these so-called sins continue to bedevil the human race today and the message of Tyagaraja is therefore timeless. Among these sins are included: just wandering around as though being satisfied with a full meal, giving sermons to people who are really not interested in listening or too incompetent to understand, self-styling oneself as a great person, and mistaking the dross for the real thing. Interestingly he lists the four categories of irrelevant people before whom he has tried to pass off as a great man; these are respectively teliyani, natavita, shudrulu and vanitalu (the ignorant, the riff-raff, the shudras or low caste folk and women. In a beautiful play on words, he bemoans those who crave for satulu (wives) and sutulu (progeny).

Saadhinchane (Raaga Arabhi)

This pancharathna krithi has been well set on the easiest of ragas, Arabhi. This Krithi has been carved out in a language full of liberty, teasing tone, metaphor and simile without having a surfeit of adjectives - all the while arresting the attention of the singers. Thyagaraja in this krithi, appeared to be telling the greatness of the lord in a lucid manner most enthusiastically. The style adopted in this krithi is very sweet in comparison to the other four kirthanas.

Oh Lord you are an opportunist, You deceived your parents Devaki, Vasudeva as also the gopikas who surrendered to you, You mischievously smile when Yashoda innocently folded you with love at the thought that she too would be disappointed on being separated from him, You falsified the aforesaid words of Sruti and Smruti. You have somehow not come to me despite the fact that I was overjoyed in keeping your memory always in my heart, You preached patience, tolerance in the face of adversity freedom from anger, satsang etc; and coolly accepted my pujas, You give bhakti and peace, Despite all this you have steadfastly not come closer to me to the end, Thus this kirthana, a gem amongst the five kirthanas which bring out the thought and reminiscences of Shri Thayagaraja; is a great gift to the singer and bhaktas

Kanakanaruchira (Raaga Varali)

This is the least sung or played of the five pancharatna krities, but it is considered by some to be the most haunting and beautiful. It consists of the story of Dhriva and draws analogies to the Ramayana. Because of a superstition that if a student is taught this song, a misunderstanding will arise between the student and the teacher, this song is rarely taught and even more rarely heard in concerts.

By looking at your divine innocent face daily one can get more and more happiness. Maharishi Hanuman,, Sita, Indira, Devas, Purandara made their heart pure by looking at your ornament decorated form. Please include me also in that lot, you have attracted everyone alike!! Is it not beautiful to watch Sita blush and treat the lord like a new groom and stand dumbfounded. You gave salvation to five year old Dhruva who was ill treated by his stepmother, Will you not shower your grace on me?? I am fully confident that someday I will receive your grace.

Endaro Mahanubhavulu (Raaga Sri)

In this poem, Thyagaraja described the greatness of the devotees through the ages. He pays his salutations to the great men who live in all the ages.


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