Varna Lakshanas

  • Varnams are scholarly compositions belonging to Abhyasa ganam category. They are like pillars.
  • The composition of varnam is of very high standards. It has the Raga bhavam, Raga ranjaka prayogas, raga visesha sancharas, and several apurupa prayogas. Dhatu and Janta phrases in at appropriate places. Analysing and understanding of these aspects are the first steps in Manodharma sangeetham (Raga Alapana, Swara Kalpana, Neraval etc.)
  • Varnams are practiced by the students of music after a course in geethas, swara jathis and Jathi swarams.
  • The practice of varnam in 3 speeds strengthens the knowledge of laya.
  • Just as swara jathis are stepping stones to varnams, varnams are stepping stones to kritis
  • In learning music, varnams are the foundations of ragas and gamakas.
  • Structure of Varnam:
    • The sahityam part of a varnam is very minimal, and relates to Bhakti or Srungara rasam or it may be in praise of patron or a description of a particular raga.
    • Varnams are compositions under Chithra Tara Margam. So they have 4 aksharams per kriya.
    • A varnam has two parts. First part is known as Purvanga and it is followed by Uttaranga.
    • These two are of almost equal length.
    • Purvangam consists of:
      • Pallavi
      • Anupallavi
      • Muktayi Swaram
    • Uttarangam consists of:
      • Charanam (also known as Ettugada Pallavi, Upa Pallavi and Chitta Pallavi)
      • Ettugada Swarams (also known as Charana Swarams or Chittai Swarams)
  • Varnams usually have
    • The length of the first ettugada swara is one avartha, if in Adi or Ata tala or 4 avarthas in rupaka tala.
    • The length of the last ettugada swara may be 2,3 or 4 avarthas if in Adi or Ata tala and 16 if in Rupaka tala.
    • The number of avarthas of intermediate ettugada swaras may be 1,2,3 or 4.
    • The total number of ettugada swaras in a varnam may be 3, 4, or 5.

Types of Varnams:

  1. Tana varnam:
    • In a tana varnam, Pallavi, Anupallavi and Charanam alone will have sahityam.
    • The emphasis is on the melodic and rhythmic combinations rather than sahityam.
    • Tana varnams are found in Adi, Ata, Jhampa, Khanda Jathi Triputa, Chaturasra, Ata and other such talas.
    • Tana varnams present the swarupa of their ragas in a nut shell.
    • The hrasva nyasa, dirgha nyasa and alpa nyasa admissible in a raga are clearly illustrated in Tana varnams.
    • Tana varnams are intended for being practiced in Thrikala.
    • Tana varnam is a concert form.

Examples: Adi Tala Varnams:

ChalamelaDurbarTiruvottriyur Tyagayyar
DayanidheBegadaSyama Sastri
Era napaiMukhariPatnam Subramanya Iyer
Era napaiTodiPatnam Subramanya Iyer
Evari bodhanaAbhogiPatnam Subramanya Iyer
Inta chalamuBegadaVina Kuppayyar
Inta chowkaBilahariVina Kuppayyar
Inta modiSarangaTiruvottriyur Tyagayyar
JalajakshaHamsadhwaniManambuchavadi Venkatasubba Iyer
KamalambaKalyaniRamaswamy Dikshitar
KarunimpaSahanaTiruvottriyur Tyagayyar

Ata Tala Varnams:

ChalamelaSankarabharanamSwati Tirunal
ViriboniBhairaviPachimiriyam Adiyappa
VanajakshiKalyaniPallavi Gopala Iyer
SarasijanabhaKambhojiVadivelu
  1. Pada Varnam:
    • Pada varnams are also called Chouka kala varnams and Ata varnams.
    • These compositions are heard in dance concerts.
    • The entire composition here in has a sahitya.
    • Pada varnams are set to slower tempos and is intended to give full scope to convey the bhava.
    • There are pada varnams in Rupaka tala.

Examples:

TITLERAGATALACOMPOSER
ChalamelaNatakurunjiAdiRangaswami Nattuvanar
Dani korikanuVasantaMisra JhampaRamnad Srinivasa Iyengar
Dani SamajendraTodiAdiSwati Tirunal
E MaguvaDhanyasiAdiMysore Sadasiva Rao
EntaniKhamasTisra EkaSubbarama Dikshitar
PankajakshiKambhojiAdiMaha Vaidyanatha Iyer
Sami EndanaiSuratiTisra EkaSubbarama Dikshitar
Sami ninnekoriAtanaKhanda AtaPatnam Subramanya Iyer
  1. Ragamalika Varnam:
    • These are the compositions where in each section is in a different raga.
    • The Navaragamalika varnam has 9 ragas.
    • The Dinaragamalika Varnam is in 8 ragas.
    • The Ghanaragamalika Varnam is in 9 Ghana ragas.

Examples:

Valachi VacchiNavaragamalika 
Inta KopamelaraGhanaragamalikaVina Kuppayyar

Ganakrama – Order of Singing

  • First the purvangam is performed followed by Uttarangam.
  • In the purvangam, each avartham is performed once in the first speed. Once the Muktayi swaram is performed, the entire purvangam is repeated at a second degree of speed, in the same manner and concluded by performing a portion of the Pallavi at first speed.
  • Then in uttarangam, charanam should be sung first and then every chittai swaram followed by charanam have to be sung.
  • Almost every varnam has an ‘Anubandham’ in the end, which is not prominently sung modernly.