Poorvikalyani - Therapeutic

The Raga Series Mar 6, 2022

(Read Vasantha - Tranquility, the previous article in The Raga Series)

Ragachikitsa translates to “healing through ragas.”  Each raga in Carnatic music is said to have healing powers on the neurological and psychological systems of an individual. Poorvikalyani is one such raga that is believed to alleviate anxiety and bring mental stability.

I still remember my first encounter with Poorvikalyani. My guru taught us Meenakshi Memudam by Muthuswami Dikshithar. It was not love at first sight. I didn’t feel its serenity in the beginning. It was vacillating. But slowly, as my guru sang the aalapana, it magically drifted me into a trance. That’s when I realized the mesmerizing nature of Poorvikalyani. It bestows you with unfathomable tranquillity.

Having lived most of my life in Madurai and named after Meenakshi Amman, my favourite composition in Poorvikalyani is undoubtedly Meenakshi Memudam, especially, the anupallavi.

It goes like this:

mAnamAtRmEyE mAyE marakataccAyE shivajAyE

mInalOcani pASamOcani mAnini kadambavanavAsini


Dikshithar describes the fish-eyed goddess beautifully as the ultimate verity and knowledge and the destroyer of eternal attachment on this world. It is said that Muthuswami Dikshithar attained the lotus feet of Meenakshi while his students sang the verse, “mInalOcani pASamOcani mAnini kadambavanavAsini.” To me, Poorvikalyani just makes the whole composition restorative and adds an amiable beauty to Dikshitar’s description of Meenakshi.

Here’s something new. Rabindranath Tagore made slight modifications to this krithi and translated it into a Bengali composition called Basanthi Hey Bhubanomohini, as a tribute to Muthuswamy Dikshithar.

Poorvikalyani belongs to the 53rd melakartha, Gamanashrama. Though Gamanashrama (the parent raga) is a sampoorna raga (presence of all 7 swaras), Poorvikalyani isn't.  Let us not confuse it with  Gamakakriya, which is another raga that is almost similar to Poorvikalyani (some say both are the same).

Poorvikalyani = Poorvi (Poorvi in Hindustani or Pantuvarali in carnatic) + Kalyani
Its ascent (aarohana) has undergone several changes over the years in terms of its movement. It is the only raga that has two variations to the aarohanam with the first being predominantly used.

Aarohanam – S R1 G3 M2 P D2 P S / S R1 G3 M2 D2 S

Avarohanam – S N3 D2 P M2 G3 R1 S

It is a Vakra raga, meaning the swaras are in a zig-zag form.

Poorvikalyani aarohanam avarohanam

Theoretically speaking, Poorvikalyani is a rich raga where a blend of the swaras (phrases) give a unique dimension to the raga albeit the jeeva (index to the raga) swara is rishabham. Scale and swaras are mere pointers to the fluid concept of the raga. Poorvikalyani is one of the easiest ragas for a beginner to start with singing manodharmam (improvisation of a song by the musician).

In general, R2 (chatusruthi rishabham) and D2 (chatusruthi dhaivatham) or R1 (suddha rishabham) and D1 (suddha dhaivatham) are the most commonly used swaras for manodharmam. But in poorvikalyani, R2 (chatusruthi rishabham) and D1 (suddha dhaivatham)  or  R1 (suddha rishabham) and D2 (chatusruthi dhaivatham) are euphonious and aesthetical unions. It is an exception here because we focus on the aesthetics rather than the actual custom followed.

The prathi madhyama brings about perceptible shades to the raga without including the panchamam. For example, consider the following prayogas:

Phrase 1: S R1 G3 M2 G3 R1 S

Phrase 2: M2 D2 M2 G3 R1 S

Madhyamam (separately) sounds completely distinct in the respective phrases, but the oscillation of madhyamam between the gandharam and dhaivatham radiates the true essence of Poorvikalyani.

A few popular compositions:

Some of my personal favourite compositions include Paripoorna kaama, Meenakshi me mudam, Karanam kettu, and Ninnu Vina. It is interesting to note that Enneramum Ninaamam, a Tamil composition by Shyama Shastri, brings out hues of pantuvarali in the beginning, but amalgamates into Poorvikalyani as it goes.

Ninnukori,  an ata tala varnam by Sonti Venkatasubbaiah is a treasure trove in terms of understanding the lakshanam of Poorvikalyani. It gives a beautiful insight with regards to how this raga has been handled before the time of The Trinity. This varnam is composed of the most possible number of combinations of the swaras. He has portrayed the bhava of this raga in all its rich and colourful aspects. For a comprehensive understanding of poorvikalyani and its nuances, one should listen to this varnam.

Poorvikalyani hasn't shied from finding its place in cinema music as well. Om Nadam Omkara Nadam from Mirudanga Chakravarthi and Sandhikka Thudithen from Vedham pudhithu are a few Poorvikalyani-based compositions in Tamil. Devi Kanyakumari and Padmatheerthame unaro  in Malayalam By KJ Yesudas are aslo quite remarkable.

The 27th Paasuram of Thiruppavai, Koodarai Vellum Seer by Aandal, is sung in Poorvikalyani.

You can check out our exclusive playlist of Poorvikalyani on Spotify and YouTube to experience its beauty exquisitely.

The Raga Series intends to elucidate on the Raga-Rasa relationship to make your listening experience more enjoyable. The author does not guarantee that the recommended songs are composed only based on the raga. The series is based on the author’s views and is purely subjective. Music tracks are shared for your quick reference and their rights belong to their respective owners.


Shri Shivathmika V

Perennially curious. Forever confused between fitting in and standing out. I love music and chocolates.