Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ugabhoga and Suladhi - An Introduction



Traditional Shastric sangeeta classifies compositions into 3 prabhandas

1. Viprakeerna
2. Ali
3. Sula

Ugabhoga and Suladhis both fall under the Sula prabhanda category. In order to judge who was a better singer; this category would be used to determine who was more talented.

According to shastras; to a prabhanda has four parts

1. Udgraha
2. Melapaka
3. Dhruva
4. Abhoga

Udgraha - Udd grahayate iti (to rise up ) this part ... sets the tempo / the groundwork for the song. ( anupallavi in modern parlance )
Melapaka - this part ... links the Udgraha with the Dhruva ( charana in modern parlance)

Dhruva - this is heart of the song; this part does not change ( it is fixed hence the name dhruva) it is repeated many times. The main message of the song is carried in the Dhruva. ( pallavi in modern parlance )

Abhoga - the part that brings the composition to a logical end ( ankita in modern parlance )


Singing of shlokas,churnikes, shubashita's etc in an extended form set to raaga and taala is called Ugabhoga; even though this was in practice before. The term "Ugabhoga" is first got in the works of Sri Prasanna Venkata Dasaru. Once this seperate category was created; the characteristics are defined that it is sakshara aalabdhi. Rules such as "shlokascha chaturpadi" don't apply to Ugabhoga; it has the essence of raaga and is open to be change.

It has no visible distinctions like pallavi, anu pallavi etc. This contains only two parts Udgraha and Abhoga. Hence the name Ugabhoga; Ugabhoga does not have Dhruva or Melapaka hence there is no repition. The speciality of Ugabhoga is that it has no specifications of raaga/taala etc.; this is a speciality because it is like a blank canvas to an artist. The singer is free to present and project the lyrics any way he/she chooses to. Generally in classical concerts they are used to lay the ground work or set the mood/tone for the concert. It is very special because it has to be sung with a lot of emotion and conviction. Get it right and it pulls at your heart strings the audience is hooked.

Tamilians know this as viruttam. This has been copied into other traditions; a more well known example is the reading of a shayari before a ghazal. It is a very loose example because Ugabhoga is on a different plane altogether; but the basic idea is the same.
There are Ugabhogas with 2 stanzas and some as long as 22 stanzas; the characteristic feature of Ugabhoga is that there are no repitions.

Although modern texts may assign raaga and taala to them; traditionaly Ugabhogas are anibhada i.e. not restricted.
Even though Ugabhoga keeps moving forward; the singer is free to repeat to hilight the effect; this shows the elasticity of the Ugabhogas.


They are diametrically opposite to Ugabhogas in terms of structure and discipline ( i.e. Nibhada ) in that they have a taala assigned to them. One subject is chosen and it is expounded in great detail. Each letter has to match the beat of the taala ( yatakshara prabhanda) ; this makes them restricted. Some suladhis are sung in one raaga or raagamalika ( multiple raagas )

The characteristics of Suladhis are:

. Minimum 5 stanzas

. Each stanza is called a "dala" ( petal ). dalas put together form a beautiful flower

. Each stanza has a beginning and ends with the ankita ( Each stanza can be considered as an Ugabhoga )

. Each stanza has a different taala. (one of the sapta taalas Dhruva, Matya, Rupaka, Jhampa, Tripuata, Ata, Eka )

. At the end of the Suladhi; there is couplet ( 2 lines ) called jatte where the Suladhi's essence is presented.

. Traditionally this jatte is sung twice

. Singing of Suladhi once gives effect of 10 X stotra patane

Dasaru would show the laya with the chittike and sing along; but it is a very complex form; to show in a mishra jampa. Even it takes 2 cycles( avarata ) as per taala while singing it will be completed in one cycle itself.
Another method is to split into categories of 5 each; it is a simpler form.

How to Compose

Let us apply this knowledge to see how to compose a song.

Firstly we must decide on a subject; and then compose the dhruva by wording it appropriately. By this I mean; that the lyrics should grow on the listener. It should not become boring to repeat the lines over and over again. The dhruva is the identity of the song so it should be nice worded.

Next the Udgraha; how to bring the Dhruva into context. The emphatic nature of the Dhruva should be justified by the Udgraha.

The melapaka would then be a detailed presentation of the Dhruva with the dhruva intreluded.

The aabhoga should be used to drive home the point and present the identity of the composer.

It goes without saying that this was for humans for Dasaru's all compositions are extempore.

Hope this will help people appreciate Dasaru's compositions even more and expose new depths.

If people are interested we shall see some examples and more detail.

BharatiRamana MukhyaPrana antaragata SriKrishnarpanamastu !
Jai Bharateesha !

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