Set to Raag Gambheera Nattai in Adi talam, Kalinga Narthana is an attention-grabber of a composition by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyar’s (1700-1765). The esteemed Carnatic vocalist, Aruna Sairam adds powerful dimensions to it, making it the show-stopper of the evening. Giving apposite accompaniment to this experiential performance are Satish Patri on the mridangam, Jyotsna Srikanth on the violin and RN Prakash on the ghatam.
This thillana emerged in the 19th century and gained popularity with the renditions of the famous Harikatha exponent, Late Brahmashri Needamangalam Krishnamurthi Bhagavathar. Though essentially suitable for classical dance performances and Harikatha (a traditional Hindu discourse that explores stories from epics through music), this piece has become a popular presentation in Carnatic vocal music because of its charming and vibrant gait.
Kalinga Narthana is a narrative about Lord Krishna’s mythical battle with Kaliya, the fearsome five-headed snake who boiled and poisoned the waters of the Yamuna River. ‘Kalinga Narthana,’ literally translates to ‘dance of the Kaliya serpent’ and is recorded in the Indian epic Mahabharata, which is also the world’s longest epic believed to have taken place 5000 years ago.
Sairam’s poetic interpretation of the thillana is extraordinary. Defying conventions, she adds her inimitable charm and drama to this piece by delivering an upbeat, groovy recitation of the thillana in her sensuous, sonorous voice. As she doles out the syllables of the thillana with authority, Kumar and Prakash play in excellent synchrony, blending their instruments with the mnemonics of the composition.
Gambheera Nattai is a pentatonic raga of the Carnatic system that has been derived from Chala Nattai, the 36th Melakarta.
It is a symmetric raga that does not contain rishabha and dhaivata. Its arohana and avarohana are as follows:
S G₃ M₁ P N₃ Ṡ[a]
Ṡ N₃ P M₁ G₃ S[b]
The notes used in this scale are shadja, antara gandhara, shuddha madhyama, panchama and kakali nishada. Gambheera Nattai is also known as Shuddha Nattai.
Aruna Sairam (vocals)
Jyotsna Srikanth (violin)
Patri Satish Kumar (mridangam)
RN Prakash (ghatam)
Priya Parkash (tanpura)
Thillana in Raag Gambheera Nattai composed by Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyar