Yes, as many of you would have rightly guessed, the raga that we will take up first for an elaborate discussion is indeed Shankarabaranam. Classified as the 29th melakartha raga, Shankarabaranam is considered one of the most superior ragas and has a very special appeal to the senses. The raga is known to bring in a mood of calmness and sublimity and offers a wide scope of elaborate exploration.
The first and the most characteristic feature of Shankarabaranam is the highly flat and plain 'Ga'. Infact, most of the musicians would start their opening phrase of raga alapana at the gandharam. The other jeeva swaras include 'Ma', 'Pa' and to some extent 'Ni'. While the notes 'Ri', 'Ma' and 'Da' permit strong gamakam, 'Ni' is mostly seen as a note with very little gamakam and is seen always accompanied by the neighboring notes. The notes 'Sa', 'Ga', 'Ma' and 'Pa' act as nyasa swaras, 'Ri', 'Da' and 'Ni' are non-nyasa swaras.
This raga has given rise to several janya ragas which also enjoy equal popularity as the parent; Hamsadhwani, Kedaram, Nilambari, Arabhi, Atana, Bilahari being the more popular ones among the children.
Some famous compositions in Shankarabaranam -
Thyagaraja's Enduku Pethala, Swararaga Sudha Rasa, Bhakthi Bhikshamiyyave, Emi neramu, Manasu Svadhina
Dikshitar's Akshaya Linga Vibho, Sri Dhakshinamurthe, English notes
Syama Sastry's Sarojadala Netri, Devi Mina Netri
Papanasam Sivan's Mahalakshmi Jaganmatha and Annamacharya's Alarulu Guriyaga
Thats only a capsule of Shankarabaranam, but I hope this background would help rasikas appreciate the grandeur and beauty of this raga better. We will take up another raga in our next post, until then you can keep listening to as much of Shankarabaranam as possible!