Hindola is one of my favourite rāgas. The equivalent of Hindola in the Hindustani system is a rāga called Malkauns. Many feel that the manner in which it is rendered in South Indian classical music is different. In my opinion, however, Hindustani musicians have used Malkauns in a more aesthetic, mature, and creative manner as compared to the Carnatic musicians, barring a fewlike Dr. M Balamuralikrishna and Dr. Nagavalli Nagaraj. In fact, there is a view among Carnatic musicians that Hindola is not purely classical but is more suited for the semi-classical genre – light music or film music. In my view, however, the classification of a rāga as classical or otherwise is unimportant. What is more important is the ability of the rāga to captivate the listener.
Musicologists opine that any rāga that doesn’t comprise of Ri (rishaba) and Pa (panchama) cannot effectively stimulate rasa. Hindola, which is devoid of both, has defied the opinion and stands out as an extremely enjoyable rāga.
In Hindustani music, typically, the focus is on the creative ability of the artist but in Carnatic music, the focus shifts to the methodical rendition by the artist and the ability to be creative within a set framework. But I have enjoyed listening to Jugalbandhis involving Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna where one can appreciate the features of both the styles, which combine to produce sublime music. It is only then I could realise how the Carnatic style that is rich in musical embellishments (gamakas) when blended with the śruti-bound, wholesome style of Hindustani, produces an integrated experience.
Many people believe that Hindustani and Carnatic styles have different fundamentals. This prejudice is common both among performers and connoisseurs. But from the perspective of enjoyment, we should put such prejudices aside and just enjoy both styles equally. Therefore, I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy rāgas that I like in both styles, rendered by various vocalists and instrumentalists.
Saint Tyāgarāja is arguably the best vāggeyakāra (one who composes both lyric and music) that Indian music has seen. His two compositions, Sāmajavara gamana and Manasuloni marmamu, have become extremely popular and have got imprinted in the minds of connoisseurs. While Sāmajavara gamana is like the Angel Falls, Mansuloni marmamu is like the Mānasa-sarovara (Manasarovar). While one composition is like the majestic walk of an elephant from the Sindh region,(‘sāmajavara’ means a great elephant), the other is contemplative, trying to understand the different aspects of the mind; it is like an innocent cow (‘manasuloni marmamu telusuko’ means ‘to understand one’s own mind’). While one is like a peacock during rains, the other is like the swan after the rains have passed. While one is like having a lover in the vicinity, the other is akin to lovers being separated (sambhoga and vipralambha śṛṅgāra). In terms of rhythm, tempo, and musical phraseology, the two contrast each other like the poetic styles of Kālidāsa and Bāṇa.
In Hindustani, Pad lagan, Rangraliya, and Koyaliya bole are a few compositions (often called ‘cheez,’ the Urdu word for ‘item’) that immediately come to mind. In Hindustani, the exposition of a rāga by a musician happens mostly independent of lyrical content. Of course, the tempo/rhythm of the lyric does serve as a guideline. I believe, rather than the meaning of lyrics as in Carnatic music, the beauty of lyrical simplicity comes out better. Apart from Tyāgarāja, in the compositions of the other vāggeyakāras, the lyrical meaning and the emotive appeal of the rāga don’t necessarily resonate with each other. Sometimes even without the music, the lyrics seen in isolation appear ordinary. While this is a critical opinion, it is not far from truth.
The cheez resembles our folk songs even more than that of Gāhāsattasaī, Vajjālagga, Āryāsaptaśatī, Bihārīsattasaī, and Amaruśataka. They are also emotively beautiful.
Perhaps without Kṣetrajña (Kṣetrayya), Annamācārya and Purandaradāsa, Carnatic music would have been devoid of such beauty.
Though Hindustani items (cheez) are short, they give a sense of beauty in suggestion. Speciality of these items is in their simplicity, lucidity, brevity, and most importantly, the ability to aid in the enhancement of the music. The lyrics of the cheez enhance the dominant and transitory emotions (sthāyī and sañcārī bhāvas) and take us to a different world, which is beyond expression. Anyway, not all items are like this; some of the recent ones are less than ordinary. In any case, in my opinion, the Hindustani cheez is best suited for creative music. Let us come back to Hindola.
Hindola has kampita gamaka (oscillatory transition) that does not sound pleasing in isolation. Using kampita gamakas separately, masking the flow of svaras in the rāga is a wrong practise that has been started by those who have limited vocal capacities. I would go on to say that those who don’t have the vocal range to traverse all the three octaves should refrain from being performers. That is like a dancer who cannot attain perfect body position or an avadhāni who cannot speak well or doesn’t have extempore creativity. Those with such vocal limitation can only hope to be learned in music but cannot be performers. Fortunately many musicians of recent years are trying to better themselves of such shortcomings. But to cater to and to be recognised by a few prestigious audiences of Madras, in the name of gamakas, artists are oblivious to śruti and sing without a sense of aesthetics – such practises are a bane to music. Among these, if the jāru-gamakas (gliding transitions) aren’t handled properly, then the music itself slips. To handle such ragas, without integral presentation but only with momentary attractive phrases, is difficult. Of course the above can be applied to all rāgas, but in well-established/formatted rāgas like Bhairavi or Shankarabharana or Varali or Nattai, special phrases corresponding to respective rāga, which occur repetitively can be observed by listeners. The rāgas like Hindola, Brindavani, Sindhubhairavi, and Dwijavanti are not like this. They can pose a tough challenge to an experienced artist too. Instead of wandering about in search of the melody of each svara, to be able to produce good, entertaining, but purely emotive music is necessary.
The scale of Hindola is “sa-ga-ma-dha-ni”. Ma-dha-ni are the jīvasvaras. The descending slide from ni, tonal stagnancy in dha, reversal at ma and the flight from sa to ga provide unimaginable musical effect. The contemplative gāndhāra and the majesty of ṣaḍja provide Hindola a sense of sensual grandeur, while being peaceful. Each svara in itself contributes to the attractiveness and tranquillity of the rāga. There is compactness in its delivery, agony in its movements and grandeur in its persuasion. A mixture of sublime and sensual emotions constitute Hindola. Moreover, since there are no secondary notes, all svaras provide special but clear impression of themselves.
When the ni of Hindola changes, it becomes Chandrakauns. But in Chandrakauns the charm of Hindola gives way to agony. The tranquility experienced in Hindola is experienced as pain in Chandrakauns.
Jayantasri is another allied rāga, with its special phrase of ma-pa-ma in the descending scale. Just as Hindola, Jayantasri is also a derivative of the twentieth Mela (main, complete scale), Natabhairavi. While the ārohaṇa of Hindola and Jayantasri are the same, the avarohaṇa has an addition of panchamam and the twist created by ma-pa-ma phrase (Sa-ni-dha-ma-pa-ma-ga-sa). The additional svaras though limit the scope of the rāga, provide the effect of persuasion and softness in agony.
This is the translation of an essay in Kannada by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh from his anthology Kalakautuka. Translated by Vishwanath Chandrashekara and edited by Arjun Bharadwaj and Hari Ravikumar.