Pancharatna kriti (Telugu: పంచరత్న కృతి (or) పంచరత్న కీర్తనలు | Sanskrit: पंचरत्न कृति | Tamil: பஞ்சரத்ன கீர்த்தனைகள் | Kannada:பஞ்சரத்ன கீர்த்தனைகள் | Malayalam: പഞ്ചരത്ന കൃതി) is a set of five songs [Sanskrit: pancha – five, ratna – gem, kritis = songs] in Carnatic classical music, composed by the 18th century Indian composer, Tyagaraja.
Tyagaraja and the Pancharatna Kritis:
Kakarla Tyagabrahmam, popularly known as Tyagaraja (May 4, 1767 – January 6, 1847) composed thousands of devotional compositions, most in priase of Lord Srirama, among which the five Pancharatna Kritis have their own significance. Four of these Pancharatna keerthanas are in Telugu and one in Sanskrit. They are set to music in five ragas: Naata, Goula, Arabhi, Varaali and Sri.
A brief note on each Thyagaraja’s Pancharatna Kritis :
Tyagaraja praises Ramachandra in this song. one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. He eulogizes Ramachandra is the cause of all bliss in the universe. This is the only Pancharatna Kriti that was composed in Sanskrit. All the other kritis were composed in Telugu, which was used in the court of the Maratha king Sarabhoji who ruled this area in 18th century.
In this second Pancharatna Kriti, Tyagaraja lists all the errors he has committed in his life . The sins described include: just wandering around as though being satisfied with a full meal, giving sermons to people who are really not interested in listening or who do not have the capability to understand, self-styling oneself as a great person, and mistaking the dross for the real thing. Interestingly he lists four categories of people to whom he has made the claim of greatness; the ignorant, the riff-raff, the low social folk and women. In a play on words, he reproaches those who desire wives and progeny.
This Pancharathna Kriti has been set to Arabhi raga. This kriti is written in a playful tone, rich with metaphor and simile without a surfeit of adjectives – all the while arresting the attention of the singers. In this krithi, Thyagaraja sings the greatness of the lord in a smple and lucid manner. The style adopted in this kriti is very sweetand impressive in comparison with the other four.
This is the last song or performed of the five Pancharatna Kritis, but it is considered by some to be the most haunting and beautiful. It consists of the story of Duryodhana and Dushasana’s analogies to the Ramayana. This composition is rarely taught, and rarely heard in concerts, owing to a widespread superstition that it leads to a rift between the student and the teacher.
Endaro Mahaanubhaavulu is believed to be one of the early kritis of Tyagaraja. The song is a salutation to praise of all the great saints and musicians down the ages. Tyagaraja clearly delineates and lists the ‘Mahanubhavalu’, or great ones, in the kriti itself, mentioning the saints Narada and Saunaka, among others. In this poem, Tyagaraja describes the greatness of devotees of the Lord. The belief in Kerala and Tamilnadu is that Tyagaraja composed the kriti spontaneously in his joy upon hearing the divine music of the Malayali singer Shadkala Govinda Marar. But according to the Walajapet disciples’ version of the origin of the kriti, it was composed and learnt by Tyagaraja’s disciples before the arrival of Marar. This, according to P. T. Narendra Menon, was the legendary, historically significant meeting between two great musicians. Since the kriti ‘Endharo mahanubhavalu’ is said to have been composed by Tyagaraja at a young age, it is possible that after hearing Marar sing and in appreciation of the greatness of Marar, Tyagaraja could have asked his disciples to sing the kriti on this occasion.
The melodic forms of these compositions (Naata, Goula, Aarabhi, Varali, Sri) are the five Ghana ragas of Carnatic music also called the ghanapanchaka. These 5 ragas lend themselves to elaborate improvisations.They are suited to playing tanam on the veena. Naata and Varaali are the most ancient of the Carnatic ragas and date back to over a thousand years ago.
A difficult musical challenge has been taken up successfully by Tyagaraja in three of these compositions. The raga Naata has a particularly distinctive use of the dhaivatam note or swara (A in the C scale of Western classical notes). Tyagaraja has avoided the ‘dhaivatam’ completely in the first Pancharatna Kriti without losing the swarupa, or character, of the ragam. Similarly gandharam is an accidental note of some beauty in Goula (E in the C scale). Tyagaraja avoids this too, except in one instance, without losing the character of the ragam. Finally, he avoids the accidental dhaivatam in Sri ragam, again a note that is present in some very characteristic sancharas (phrases) of this ragam.