Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan

– Sumithra Vasudev

The Melaragamalika is a masterpiece and one of the longest compositions in the repertoire of Carnatic music. Though the Ragatalamalika of Ramaswami Dikshitar is popularly known as the ‘108 Ragatalamalika’, only 62 raga sections of that composition are available to us today. This makes the Melaragamalika one of the longest compositions of our music.

It comprises the 72 melakarta ragas. The author of this work, Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan, also known as Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer, was a well-known musician and composer of the post-Trinity period. This series of three articles will deal with his Melaragamalika in detail. In the first article we attempt to introduce this ragamalika, and explain its origin and structural features.

The author

Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan was born on 26 May 1844 in a family that recognised and encouraged his musical aptitude. He lived till 1893 and within the short span of 49 years he made remarkable achievements which have been spoken and written about by many. Detailed information about Sivan’s life can be obtained from the works of U.Ve. Swaminatha Iyer and Vasudevanallur Subbiah Bhagavatar. A composite cover story on Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan was published in Sruti 227 (August 2003).

Basis for the melaragamalika

The 72 mela classification is the basis of the Melaragamalika. This system of classifying ragas as janaka or parent ragas and janyas or derivative ragas, had its roots in the 16th CE work Chaturdandi Prakasika. The text outlines the computation of 72 melodic scales, and this theoretical framework gradually, in many stages, led to the development of the 72 melakarta ragas… read more