His compositions are in Sanskrit, Malayalam, Telugu, Marathi, Kannada and Hindi. His works on the subject of Music are many and are found in such distant places as Poona, Agra, Mysore etc. He has attempted almost in all the Musical forms like Gita, Swarajathi, Padavarna, Tanavarna, Kirtanas, Padam, Javali, Ragamalika, Tillana and Group Kritis. They are considered valuable both from the musical point of view and from literary standard. He set a new style in compositions and in technique. Almost all his compositions are addressed to his Ishta Devata, Lord Padmanabha.
Group Kritis are set of songs composed on a particular theme, or particular deity. The compositions in the group kritis may be usually of five or nine. Sri Thyagaraja has to his credit, the groups like Pancharatna Kritis, Kovur Pancharatnam and so on; Muthuswami Deekshithar has Navagraha Kritis, Navavarna Kritis, Panchalinga Kritis, etc. and Syamasastry has the famous Navaratnamalika Kritis in praise of the Goddess Meenakshy of Madurai. Maharaja Sri Swathi Thirunal has composed the groups like Navaratri Kirtanas, Nava Vidha Bhakthi Kirtanas and Utsavaprabandha Kirtanas.
The Navaratri Kirtanas comprise a set of 9 songs. Sung as the principal song, sung one on each day on the nine day Navaratri Festival in Trivandrum. These particular songs are sung by great Vidwans, with raga Alapana, Tanam, Niraval and Swaram, along with other Kirtanas in front of Goddess Saraswathy in the Navaratri Mandapam. The sahityas of these songs are poetic and charming. The ideas are also very beautifully brought out in them. The songs are composed in Sanskrit language. Out of these nine songs, while the one in Sankarabharana raga has a pallavi, anupallavi and 4 charanas, the other eight kirtanas have a pallavi, anupallavi and 3 charanas. While the six kirtanas are set to Adi tala, the three in Bhairavi raga, Sudhasaveri raga and Nattakurinchi raga are composed in Chapu tala or Tisra Triputa tala. The last Kirtana ‘Pahi Parvatha’ in Arabhi raga, is the very popular one among the nine songs. The nine Navaratri Kirtanas are:-
1. Devi Jagajanani - Sankarabharana - Adi
2. Pahimam Sri - Kalyani - Adi
3. Devi Pavane - Saveri - Adi
4. Bharati Mamava - Todi - Adi
5. Janani Mamava - Bairavi - Chappu
6. Saroruhasanajaye - Pantuvarali - Adi
7. Janani Pahi - Sudha saveri - Chappu
8. Pahi Janani - Nattakurinchi - Chappu
9. Pahiparvatha - Arabhi - Adi
Of these nine kirtanas, the first three songs are in praise of Goddess Saraswathy, the next three on Goddess Lakshmy and the last three in praise of Parvathi. The ragas used for these songs are Sankarabharana, Kalyani, Saveri, Thodi, Bhairavi, Pantuvarali, Sudhasaveri, Nattakurinchi and Arabhi: - Five janya ragas and four Melakartha ragas. In all those songs the raga bhava is clearly and beautifully brought out.
Another set of 9 songs describe clearly the nine types of Bhakti. These nine songs are collectively known as Nava Vidha Bhakti Kritanas or Navaratna Malikas. The Maharaja possessed an absorbing devotion to Sri Padmanabha, his Ishta Devata and all his compositions are characterised by Uttama bhakti. The nine kinds of Bhakti namely, Sravanam, Kirtanam, Smaranam, Padasevanam, Archanam, Vandanam, Dasyam, Sakhyam and Atmanivedanam are described beautifully, through 9 Kirtanas. Thses 9 Kirtanas are also addressed to Lord Padmanabha. The sahityas are in Sanskrit language The nine songs are:
1. Bhavatheeyakatha - Bhairavi - Adi - Sravanam
2. Thavakanamani - Kedaragoula - Jhampa - Kirtanam
3. Satatam - Neelambari - Chappu - Smaranam
4. Pankajaksha tava - Thodi - Rupaka - Padasevanam
5. Aradhayami - Bilahari - Chappu - Archanam
6. Vande deva deva - Begada - Rupaka - Vandanam
7. Paramapurusha - Ahiri - Chapu - Dasyam
8. Bhavati Viswaro - Mukhari - Chappu - Sakhyam
9. Devadeva Kalpayami - Nadanamakriya - Rupaka - Atmanivedanam
Except the one Kirtana, ‘Pankajakshatava’ in Todi raga all the other 8 songs are set in Janya ragas like Bhairavi, Kedaragoula, Neelambari, Bilahari, Begada, Ahiri, Mukhari and Nadanamakriya. Among these 9 songs, four Kirtanas are set to Chappu tala, three in Rupaka tala, one in Jhampa tala and one in the Adi tala. All the nine Kirtanas are beautiful ones.
Another set of 12 Kirtanas are composed in Malayalam Language and with Sanskrit slokas. This group is known as Utsavaprabandham. The 12 songs describe the ten day festival in the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple of Trivandrum.
Utsavas are conducted as ten-day festivals twice a year in the months of Alpasi (October – November) and Panguni (March – April) with all pomp and gaiety in the city of Thiruvanandapuram. The songs are:
1. Pankajanabhotsavam - Mohanam - Chappu
2. Panjasayaka - Neelambari - Adi
3. Pankajakshanam - Todi - Rupaka
4. Kanakamayam - Huzeni - Rupaka
5. Andolika Vahane - Anandabhairavi - Chappu
6. Syananduresan - Kurinji - Adi
7. Indirapathy - Navaroz - Rupaka
8. Sibikayil - Managalakaiseki - Rupaka
9. Neelappuri - Yadukula Kamboji - Rupaka
10. Saradindu sama - Kamboji - Chappu
11. Nagasayananam - Pantuvarali - Adi
12. Sarasijanabham - Sourashtram - Chappu
songs, except the two in Pantuvarali and Todi ragas, all the other ten songs
are composed in Janya ragas. Five
songs are set to Rupaka tala, four songs are set to Chappu tala, and three
songs are set to Adi tala. This
group is a Manipravala Prabhandham.
Of these songs, the songs ‘Panjasayaka’ and ‘Sarasijanabha’ have the sections pallavi, anupallavi and three charanas, but the song ‘Pankajanabha’ has pallavi and four charanas. Other nine songs have pallavi and a number of charanas, but no anupallavi. These Utsava prabhanda kirtanas have been composed by Maharaja to give a graphic account of the utsavam in his ecstasy and bhakti in Lord Padmanabha.
During the Utsavas, each day the above said procession takes place inside the temple twice a day-in the evening and in the night. For these functions, only particular compositions are palyed through the Nagasvaram. On the first day for the procession, the varnam ‘Sarasa Sundara’ in Neelambari raga is played with raga and swara in detail and then a kirtana’ Pankajahabhotsava’. On the second day, for the evening procession ‘Kalyani’ Kirtana in Kannada raga is played with elaborate raga; for the night procession Sankarabharana raga varna ‘Chalamela’ and the kirtana ‘Panjasayaka’ are played. For the third day evening, Atana raga varna ‘Sarasijanabha’ and ‘Kanakamayam’ in Todi raga. For the night Kamboji Ata tala varna Sarasijanabha and anyone kirtana. For the fourth day evening “Kanakamayam” and “Panjabawa thanu’. For the night chakravaga raga kirtana “Sarasijanabha” and ‘Vande deva deva”. For the fifth day evening Saveri raga varna “Saveritha tanuja” and “Andolika” Vahane’ for the night Sururtti raga padam “Viditam te’ and ‘Tavaka namam’ in Kedaragoula raga. For the 6th day a varna ‘Savamarusha’ and ‘Syananduresan’ are played. For the night a varna and ‘Krishnakaruna’ in Anandabhairavi raga. For the 7th day bhairavi raga varna ‘Sarasa nayana’ and ‘Indirapathy’ are played. For the night ‘ Samininne’ varna in Yadukulakamboji and ‘Pari pahimam’ in Kalyani raga. For the eighth day evening Dhanyasi raga varna ‘Ha hanta vanechilahom’ and ‘sebikayil’ in Mangala Kaiseki raga. For the night ‘Chalamela’ varna and Saradindu in Kamboji raga. For the 9th day evening “Saturakamini” varna and “Neelappuri” in Yadukulakamboji raga. For the night ‘Jalajanabha’ in Kedaragoula raga and ‘Saroruhasana’ in Pantuvarali raga. For the 10th day evening ‘Nagasayanam’ and one sri naga kirtanam and with this the procession moves out of the temple through the western nada for Arat. At that time the Kalyani varna ‘Satura’ is played first. Then Khana raga varna Bhairavi, Kamboji, Sankarabharanam are played and during the Arat time, ‘Nagasayanam’ in Pantuvarali and ‘Rajeevaksha’ in Sankarabharanam are played. When they return a kalyani Note is played first and then the “Saradindu” and Sarasijanabha Kirtanas and padas till they reach near the temple. When they reach the ‘Sankuchakra mandapam’ very near to the temple ‘Ha hanta’ and ‘Jalajanabha’ are played. Then ‘Sarasijanabhanin’ in Sourashtram & ‘ bhujangasayine’ are played finally when the idols Padmanabha, Narasimha & Sri Krishna are taken inside the temple. With this the festival comes to an end.
Whenever the idols are taken out and placed in the Vahanam for processions, then it is a rule that the note in Kalyani raga should be played first always. The kalyani note begins with ‘G G gs s r g o’
Thus only particular kirtanas and varnas fixed for each day and for each function are played during the Utsavams. Only Sri Swathi Thirunal Maharaja’s compositions are used. Likewise, there are particular songs to be played during particular festivals like ‘Ponnu Seeveli’, ‘Lakshadeepam’ and so on.
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