The King of Ragas: Sankarabharanam

                       The King of Ragas

Long ago  serpents were put to lot of hardships.They  were afraid of other animals. They had to seek refuge in the hermitage of sage Saraba.The sage was a true devotee of Lord Shiva.He used to pray Shiva with melodious songs. As he sang a particular raga the snakes were much inspired and they began to dance,.
Slowly the serpents became friendly with the sage. They brought water in their mouths for the pooja.They secreted  a special fluid in which the flowers got stuck to their bodies.The sage was much astonished by the service of the snakes.As the sarpas became very close to the sage ,they requested him to help having Darsan of Lord Siva.

As requested by the sage Shiva appeared in the form of  a  Kapalika and stayed in the ashram.The music and dance of the snakes continued. The snakes rendered service to the kapalika as they considered him  a Shiva bhakta.Shiva was much pleased with the music which enchanted the snakes and gave Darshan to the Snakes.

The snakes are the ornaments of Lord Shiva. He Is supposed to have adorned himself with Naga Abarana.
Since the raga which the sage sang, captivated the nagas, the aabarana of Shankara, Lord Shiva himself named the raga as Sankarabharanam.
 In the raga Sankarabharanam the saptaswaras are supposed to represent the ornaments of Shiva -
SA---Sarpa; RI----Rudraksha;Ga-------Ganga; Ma-------Mruga( deer)

Pa---pushpa; Da-----damaruka; 
ni-------nishakara( moon)
This is a raga which gives ample scope for  elaboration

In 13th century this raga was called 'Ranjani'

Sankarabharanam is called the 'king of ragas'.Its equivalent in Hindusthani is '
Bilawal'.In Western music it corresponds to  C- MAJOR.
In Thevaram this raga was known as' Pazham Panchuram'
There are as many as 35 derivatives ( janya ragas) of Sankarabharanam.

Tanjore Narasayya of 18th century was popularly called' Sankarabharanam Narasayya'.

When Muthuswami Dikshitar visited the Shiva temple at kizha Velur, the temple was closed. As he sang the famous kriti in Sankarabharanam' 'Akshaya Linga Vibho, Swayam Bho, Akhilanda Koti Prabho- Pahi sambho'-the doors of the garbha Gruham automatically opened.

We know how the movie' sankarabharanam' was a great success and the song
'Omkara nadhanu' by Shri S. P. B. is still ringing in our ears.

Dikshitar has composed around 40 songs, mostly in Sanskrit  in the raga and Shri Thyagaraja has more than 30 songs to his credit, the most famous being' swara raga sudha'

The beauty of Sankarabharanam is beyond description.

Vathsala jayaraman
Ex-RBI, Chennai


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