Danielou and Tamil Musicology
srini at engin.umich.edu
Tue Apr 1 22:08:29 UTC 1997
Since the Danielou produced this book, there has been considerable progress in
Tamil musicology. However, due to the separation of language studies and
music/musicological studies in the present day Tamilnadu, one side does not
know what is happening on the other side. Dr. S. Ramanathan's work in his
dissertation on music of cilappatikaram at Wesleyan was further advanced by
Dr. V. P. K. Sundaram currently at Bharatidasan University in Tiruchirappalli.
Ramanathan's seminal work goes back to the 50s and was published,
presented in Tamil as "cilappatikArattu icai nuNukkam"... his work
builds on the research of Abraham Pandithar and Vipulananda's Yazh
nUl. The above dissertation (1979) seems like a recast of that
material into English.
The 82-year old Dr. Sundaram has cleared many obscurities and errors with
regard to ancient Tamil musicology and is in the process of completing his
third volume of the Musical Encyclopedia of Tamil, published by the university.
I just went thru the 2nd vol (k thru ~n) of this alphabetically
ordered compendium ("Tami_licaikkalaikkaLa~niyam") ; it is very
fascinating and richly detailed, including as it does musical
details from the Cankam texts, from the CilappatikAram, and from
the works and times of the Caiva saints. It has a few musically
irrelevant entries too !
In any case the time is ripe, and has been so for a while, for
scholars of Indian music to take a good, hard look at the wealth
of _musicological_ detail described in Tamil literature and possibly
in other regional literatures too, in addition to that described in
the Sanskrit treatises... and discuss their relevance, morphing,
etc in detail... rather than leaving alone the former with just a
He has also explained the two different processes of paNNup peyarttal
(in Tamil) or grahabeda (in Sanskrit) and clearly established the basic
musical scale of ancient Tamils as 'cempAlaip paN' or present rAga harikAmbodi.
The exact modern equivalents of these terms were clear from earlier
work... VipulAnanda, Ramanathan, etc agreed on cempAlaippAN as
HarikAmbodi... Ramanathan further established the crucial fact that
the pentatonic mullaippaN was the same as Mohanam.
V.P.K.Sundaram's efforts, as you note, seem to be directed at resolving
the disparities between the results of Abraham Pandithar, VipulAnanda,
and S.Ramanathan... he criticizes S.Ramanathan's reverse cyclical method
of deriving the pAlais (modes) starting off with cempAlai, arriving first
at paDumalaipAlai (Kalyani) and so on, and prefers VipulAnanda's regular
cyclical method (i.e. moving the tonic forward from kural (S) to tuttam
(R)) on the basis of further literary evidence.
VPKS also explicitly identifies the 5th tone of mullaippaN as G based
on the CilappatikAram evidence itself... S.Ramanathan had identified
the kural-tuttam-iLi-viLari of mullaippaN with the S-R-P-D of Mohanam
and had extrapolated the G based on later evidence from Sekkizhar's
I may be wrong on this, but my cursory impression is that the new translation
of cilappatikAram by Parthasarathy does not pay much attention to the music
and dance aspect of cilappatikAram.
Yes. I don't remember reading very much of musicological detail
in Danielou's translation either... did he publish anything else
based on his CilappatikAram research ?
ps: By two different processes of paNNup peyarttal, are you referring
to the modal change of tonic, and the change of intervals with a fixed
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