Compositions of Dikshitar

Over 400 kritis with the Guruguha signature are in vogue today.  The Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarshini written by Muthuswami Dikshitar’s direct musical descendant Subbarama Dikshitar  contains 229  of these kritis plus about 35+ nottusvara sahityas in the Prathamabhyasa pustakamu.

Unlike other vaggeyakaras, Dikshitar had a larger picture in mind as he created his masterpieces. Looking at the vast body of work, a direction and a flow are seen in the nature of compositions, the ragas and talas chosen and the subject matter covered.

First of all, rooted in non-duality, Dikshitar’s compositions are dedicated to the various facets of divinity. Secondly, Dikshitar who has been referred to often as the eternal pilgrim travelled around composing music in praise of the temples that he visited. Thirdly, he was an exponent of Sri Vidya worship and was well exposed to the agamas, Vedanta and Jyotisha, and musicology  and this expertise shows up in his compositions. Fourthly, as inferred from his nephew’s work, Dikshitar stuck to the musicological tradition established by Venkatamakhi and his compositions seem to illustrate the world of ragas as envisioned by the 17th century genius of Venkatamakhi.

Thus we have several groups of compositions within the body of Dikshitar’s work.

  • The Kamalamba Navavarana Kritis – dedicated to Kamalamba enshrined in Tiruvarur – envisaging Devi in the form of the nine avaranas or sheaths as depicted in the geometric form that is the Sri Chakra. Eleven kritis figure in this treatise.
  • The navagraha kritis: Seven kritis dedicated to the celestial bodies presiding over the days of the week. The talas chosen match the seven talas featured in the alamkara lessons that form the building block of Indian rhythmic theory.
  • Pancha Bhuta Stala Kritis: Five kritis dedicated to Shiva enshrined at Kanchipuram, Chidambaram, Tiruvannamalai, Kalahasti and Jambukesvaram (Tiruvanaikkaval).
  • Panchalinga Kritis: Five kritis dedicated to Shiva enshrined in Tiruvarur in the forms of Vanmikalingam, Achalesvara, Hatakesvara etc.
  • The Tyagaraja Vibhakti kritis: Eight kritis in praise of Tyagaraja enshrined in Tiruvarur – featuring the eight case endings.
  • Nilotpalamba and Abhayamba Vibhakti kritis: Eight kritis each on Nilotpalamba (Tiruvarur) and Abhayamba (Mayiladuturai) again featuring the eight case endings.
  • Kritis on Rama: There is quite a body of compositions in praise of Rama by Dikshitar.  Eight of these are collectively referred to as the Rama vibhakti kritis.
  • Shodasa Ganapati Kritis: There are several kritis in praise of Ganesha. 16 of them collectively are known as the Shodasa ganapati kritis.
  • Guruguha Vibhakti Kritis: A group of 8 kritis in praise of Guruguha or Skanda said to have been written at Tiruttani. This group features Sri Nathadi Guruguho Jayati Jayati – considered to be the first composition of Dikshitar.
  • Raganga Raga Kritis: Kritis illustrating the 72 Raganga ragas that form the basis of Venkatamakhis’ world of ragas. 
  • Other Kritis: There are other well known kritis that clearly do not fall into the groups listed above. (Examples include: Sri Mathrubhutam, Cheta Sri Balakrishnam etc.)
  • The Nottusvara Sahityas: Although not much is known about this genre of music, this represents a group of 39 compositions based on western tunes that arrived in India with the British East India company. These do NOT belong to the Karnatic music repertoire as these represent a genre that is neither completely Indian nor completely western. The lyrics here are very similar to the lyrics that Dikshitar uses in his kritis. However the music is of western origin.

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