– Dr Meera Rajaram Pranesh
The controversy of rendering compositions in all the 72 Melas i.e. with Vivadi melas is there since a long time. Mela is a Janaka raga or Melakarta raga which was first mentioned by Sri Vidyaranya in his treatise Sangitha Saara during 14th century and later formulated systematically by Venkatamukhi in 17th century. Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer composed a Ragamalika in 72 Melas followed by some more composers composing individual kritis in all the 72 melas like Koteeshwara Iyer, Dr.M.Balamurali Krishna and others.
This controversy which was a topic of discussion mainly in Tamilnadu, stepped into Mysore also. Sometime in the year 1926 the famous Nagaswara Vidwan Madhurai Ponnuswamy visited Mysore Palace. It was Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar’s reign in Mysore during that period. This was said to be a Golden era for Karnatak Music. Once it so happened, Ponnuswamy in presence of the King mentioned- only 32 Melas were suitable for compositions and the remaining 40 Vivadi melas not worthy to sing and hence can as well be removed from the 72 Mela system. This statement annoyed both King and his court musicians.
Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar himself being a Musician decided to show Ponnuswamy the importance of all the 72 melas. He ordered the court musicians/ composers to compose kritis in all the 72 melas, and also announced a reward for the composer who would complete the assignment first. At once the composers were all set to accept the challenge.
It was senior Belakawadi Srinivasa Iyengar-1888 to 1936 AD, who first completed composing kritis in all the 72 melas. A letter written by Durbar Bakshi dated 5th April 1927, which is in possession of Palace Archives, Mysore, confirms the above fact. The letter also states that Srinivasa Iyengar played these kritis on Violin explaining the subtleties of the ragas to the King and received honors.
According to the records at the same Archives dated 6th of August 1928, Vidwan Chikkarama Rao- 1891 to 1945 AD also a court musician of Mysore composed kritis in all the 40 Vivadi melas and two kritis less in the remaining 32 ragas, summing to 70.
It is disheartening to note that none of these kritis are available with the descendents or the shishya parampara. Their innocence and Raja bhakti made them to submit all compositions to the King, without keeping a copy for themselves.
Veena Shivaramiah– 1886 to 1946 AD appears to be more sensible in this aspect. Before presenting the 72 kritis to King Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, he might have kept a copy of the compositions or collected back after the perusal of the King. These are still in the possession of his descendents and now it is published. After composing the last kriti Dinamani chayāpate in raga Rasikapriya, he has written a note in Kannada- with this I have completed kritis in all the 72 Melakarta ragas as ordered by his Highness, and submitted them with due respects.
Mysore Vasudevacharya’s compositions in ragas Varunapriya, Vakulabharana, Kokilapriya, Bhavapriya, Sarasangi and many more justifies that he had also attempted composing in these rare melas. Veena Sheshanna’s compositions in some of the melas like Vanaspati, Jhālavarali, Rishabhapriya, Nātakapriya, Gānamurti etc. rises a doubt, that he also might had challenged Ponnuswamy at the tail end of his life.
There might be many more composers in the court of Mysore, who attempted to compose kritis in 72 melakarta ragas on the behest of His Highness Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. Unfortunately the treasure of compositions has been lost along with the glory of Wodeyar dynasty.