Reethi Gowla – Charisma

The Raga Series Apr 3, 2020
(Read Hindolam – A path of Energy, the previous article in The Raga Series)

(Catch our exclusively curated playlist for Reethi Gowla on Spotify and YouTube for an exquisite listening experience!)

Have you ever listened to “Kangal Irandal” from Subramaniyapuram and found yourself falling in love with some exotic entity? Something in the song – it could be the initial male-female “Ahhh” portion, or that gentle instrumental build-up to the song, makes my skin shiver with love, and sets my heart on a stumble.

Sudum Nilavu” from Thambi has a very similar effect on me. When I listen to it, the famous butterflies in the stomach come alive and I cannot resist the smile that creeps onto my lips, which surprisingly persists through the song.

And what do these songs share in common? Reethi Gowla.

Before I write on a raga for the Raga Series, I ensure that I listen to plenty of songs of the particular raga during the month. I believe that it warrants that I know precisely what I feel when I listen to the raga so that the deliverable is fair to the readers of the series. I repeated this process during March for Reethi Gowla. 

Despite the prevailing state of gloom in the world at this time, I noticed that I have had genuine moments of joy throughout the month. I find myself feeling happier and aspiring to be nicer to others every day. I owe it to Reethi Gowla for being an attribute to this very welcome state of my soul. The raga possesses the potential to charm us, the kind of power that makes us close our eyes involuntarily, hum and nod along, and hence, sincerely enjoy the music.

Reethi Gowla is a Janya Raga (child raga) of the 22nd melakartha raga Kharaharapriya. It has the exact swaras as its parent raga. Nevertheless, the route it takes in the aarohanam and avarohanam define its singularity and quality. The usage of Nishabam twice in its aarohanam and the slide up with GMP before the conclusion to the avarohanam are key to the individuality of the raga. 

(Aa: S G2 R2 G2 M1 N2 D2 M1 N2 N2 S
Av: S N2 D2 M1 G2 M1 P M1 G2 R2 S)

The word “Reethi”, meaning rule or norm, is aptly associated with the raga, for it can provide direction to one’s conscious. Reethi Gowla sounds very analogous to the raga Ananda Bhairavi (janya to 20th melakartha Natabhairavi), and the name of the latter is suggestive to what it’s sibling (I call them siblings only because they sound similar) presents to the listener – Aanand. 

Reethi Gowla has been an effective tool for the composition of romantic numbers in cinema music, like the aforementioned Kangal Irandal and Sudum Nilavu. Chinnakannan Azhaikkiran from Kavikkuyil, Azhagana Rakshasiye from Mudhalvan, Thalayai Kuniyum Thamarayai from Oru Odai Nadhiyagiradhu stand assertion to the charismatic precept of Reethi Gowla. 

If you are looking for familiar, popular songs where this raga has been exercised, Kanava Ninaiva from Aasal, Idhayam from Billa II, Ragasiyam from Vaaranam Aayiram, Yaar ezhuthiyatho from Thegidi are obvious titles. Unpopular melodies like Meetatha oru veenai from Poonthottam, Onnam ragam paadi from Thoovanathumbikal, Kaadhal Neruppin from Veyil exhibit the elegant appeal in the raga’s essence.

When I go to kutcheris, I anticipate Reethi Gowla at the start of every song in the repertoire, because any Carnatic composition in Reethi Gowla is a treat to the ears. If I get lucky, I might even get to listen to a detailed raga alapana and I go home with an appeased heart.

Compositions like Janani Ninnuvina by Subbaraya Sastri, Guruvayurappane by Ambujam Krishna, Ninnu vina mari galada by Shyama Shastri are exemplary works in the raga that make any Carnatic music enthusiast sigh with satisfaction. Sri Thyagaraja popularized Reethi Gowla in the Carnatic world through his compositions like Nannu Vidaci, Badalikadira, and Raagaratna. Paripalayamam by Swathi Thirunal and Enna Punniyam by Oothukadu Venkatakavi are credible instances of the spell that Reethi Gowla carries. 

Ragas like Thodi, Mukhari, Panthuvaralli or even the first raga in the Raga series, Charukesi, are heavy and profound with emotion. In spite of the merit they intrinsically carry, they can get considerably overwhelming to the singer and the listener when presented for some time. The rasas furnished by these ragas exponentially intensify, because of the inherent sense of melancholy, surrender or ferocity endured when handled properly. 

Reethi Gowla is a contrast to this density. When one listens to the raga, there is only calm, tranquility, happiness and pleasure in mind. Reethi Gowla is like that feel-good romantic comedy that you go back to when you have a bad day. It is your tub of chocolate ice cream, your bag of new clothes, your rainbow and your comfort pillow. You can never be wearied or inundated with the raga; you will only want it to proceed boundless. 

In that regard, Reethi Gowla is the perfect muse, not just to the singer, but the listener too.

The Raga Series intends to elucidate on the Raga-Rasa relationship to make your listening experience more enjoyable. 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.


Sandhya Ramesh

If you want to know where to find her, try the best chaat or ice cream place in town.