Shot in the early morning environs of the sandstone-carved Tiger Caves in coastal Mahabalipuram, this performance bridges two time-zones of the Hindustani raga system. Todi in the Carnatic system is a murchanakaraka raga which means, it is built in convoluted pathways. This embeds in it, the opportunity to migrate to other ragas through tonal shifts – somewhat of a ‘wormhole’ that serves as a passageway to other ragas and back.
In this presentation, K Bharat Sundar delineates the pathos of Todi, shape-shifting it through Re (2nd) to the romantic territory of Kalyani and comes back to Todi through Ni (7th).
K Bharat Sundar is an award-winning Carnatic vocalist from Chennai. He is seen wearing a ‘tilak’ on his forehead - a tradition in south India that symbolises the synthesis of the most powerful energies of the universe - Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer). The red dot (kumkum) in the middle represents ‘shakti’ or goddess Durga, the destroyer of evil.
The tilak is drawn with the residual ashes of a ‘yagya’ or ‘homa’, a vedic fire ritual that is practiced in India – an act symbolic of sacrifice and detachment to the material world. The horizontal lines are known as ‘vibhuti’ (meaning ‘halo’), a ‘shaivite’ custom that emerged from the worshippers of Shiva. The ashes are a metaphor for the transient nature of human soul - a reminder that one should not get caught up in the material world. The vibhuti indicates embracing the eternal cycle of death and rebirth that forms the foundation of vedic philosophy.
In the early-morning silence, Sundar uses only a tanpura to support his voice. The chirping of birds captured in the recording reveal the interconnectedness of Indian classical music and nature.
Todi is the 8th melakarta in the sampurna meḷa system. It was given the name Hanumatodi to be made to conform to the katapayadi sutra. It is the second raga in the second chakra (Netra chakra). In the asampurna meḷa system, the 8th mellakarta was Janatodi. Its arohana and avarohana are as follows:
Sa Ri1 Ga2 Ma1 Pa Da1 Ni2 Ṡa - Ṡa Ni2 Da1 Pa Ma1 Ga2 Ri1 Sa.
Kalyani is the 65th melakarta in the sampurna mela system. It was given the name Mechakalyani to be made to conform to the katapayadi sutra. It is the fifth raga in the eleventh chakra (Rudra chakra). This raga was known by the name Santakalyani in the asampūrṇa melaa system. Its arohana and avarohana are as follows:
S R2 G3 M2 P D2 N3 Ṡ - Ṡ N3 D2 P M2 G3 R2 S.
K Bharat Sundar
Ragamala in Todi