Nadasurabhi Cultural Association located in Koramangala, Bangalore is in the forefront of promoting Classical Carnatic Music. Nadasurabhi conducts the highest quality music concerts every month and a week-long Annual Festival in November, free of charge to all rasikas. Our other events include a youth festival, Thyagaraja and Purandaradasa Aradhana, and music competitions for children.
Written by Smt.Harini Raghavan
The word ‘Varna’ in general, has different meanings like, colour, a syllable or people belonging to a particular sect, and so on. Bharata, the author of ‘Natyasastra’- one of the earliest literature on music- describes Varna as ‘a mode of singing’ (Ganakriyaa uchchyate varnaha). Here Varna means musical notes or ‘Swaras’. Varna evolves from ‘sapta swaras’ and expresses itself through various combinations of these ‘sapta swaras’. In yet another treatise the process of singing itself is described as Varna. Matanga explains the features of Varna as existing in groups of notes, traversing in the pattern of ‘Taanas’. An earlier treatise says that the ancient Varna patterns have absolutely no relation with the present Varna forms, and therefore Varnas must have come into existence only after ‘Kritis’ were shaped. Presently, in the field of carnatic music Varna is one of the most popular pieces of composition which has its own definite form and a huge variety. It has prime of place both as a practice piece (abhyasa gana) and a warming up piece in a regular concert.
Records show that a type of composition called ‘Varna’ or ‘Varnasara’ was in practice in Indian Music System even 1000 years before. But a piece of composition which came to be popularized as Varna with a specific format was composed about a generation or two before the Trinity – Thyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Shamasastri.. It is believed that Varnams must have been composed at Tanjavur during the time of kings like Tulajaji, Pratapasimha, Sarabhoji, under their patronage.
A musical composition presents a concrete picture of a particular ‘Raga’. The jurisdiction of a composer lies essentially in his proficiency in ‘Sangita’ (musical notes) and not in his proficiency in ‘Sahitya’ (lyrics). The permanence of any composition lies primarily in its musical setting. It is very important that the lyrics blend perfectly and beautifully with the notes. Varnams are scholarly compositions. They are replete with ‘raga bhava’. A Varna has in it not only combination of swaras that are ‘raga ranjaka’ but also they have ‘visesha sancharas’(special sancharas) and several ‘apoorva prayogas’ ( rare usages) and ‘datu prayogas’ that the raga admits of.
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