Great Ragas -- Sahana

Seetha Narayanan
Seetha Narayanan / 11 yrs ago /


Sahana Virutham

My New Year offering is raga Sahana, a very popular janya of 28th Melakarta Harikambhoji. This is a sampoorna sampoorna vakra raga


The swaras used are Chatusruti R, Antara G, Shudha M, P, Chatusruti D and Kaisiki N. In aarohanam D is sung with a long karvai i.e., D is elongated. In avarohanam N G and R are used as elongated prayogas.

This kind of elongation or extension of a note gives special appeal and beauty to this raga.

Most musicians feel it is a karuna rasapradhana raga i.e., is the raga reflects a mood of pathos.

Compositions containing appeals to Gods and Goddesses shine when this raga is used.

The raga aalapana started with an elongated R in Madhya sthayyee is very effective and immediately establishes the raga swaroopa. It is a rakthi raga. Hence scalor elaboration does not bring out the swaroopa of the raga.

Phrases like R----R (long karvais), R G M P A M G M R, P M D A N S P R bring out the beauty of the raga.

The raga is a good medium to bring out Daasya Bhava Bhakti (of Nava vidha bhakti or nine ways of serving God) in the sahitya of a composition.

The raga aalapana of Sahana is built up on melodious prayogas of this raga. Hence Sahana is always a short aalapana. Unnecessary lengthening of raga aalapana results in repetition of phrases and loses its beauty. The raga shines in brevity.

Inclusion of Sahana in a concert programming adds weight to the concert. As there do not exist many heavy compositions in the raga, very rarely does it get chosen as the main raga.

Barring 'Giripai', in Aadi tala of Thyagaraja and 'Sri Kamalambikayam' of Dikshitar, all other kritis are medium paced.

'Karunimpa' the aadi tala varnam contains many characteristic praygas.

The popular kritis in Sahana are:

1. Sri Kamalambikayam, Triputa tala -- Dikshitar
2. Sri Eesanathi -- Rupaka tala -- Dikshitar
3. Ee vasudha (Kovoor Pancharatna) Adi -- Thyagaraja
4. Vandanamu – Adi -- Thyagaraja
5. Raghupate -- Tisra ekam --Thyagaraja
6. Giripai – Adi -- Thyagaraja
7. Rama ikanannu – Rupakam -- Patnam Subramonia Iyer
8. Narayanam -- Adi -- Tulsivanam
9. Sri Vatapi Ganapathiye ninatal charanam – Adi -- Papanasam Sivan.

According to the Dikshitar school Sahana is a janya of 22nd Melakrta Kharaharapriya. Hence the Sahana of Dikshitar school uses Sadharana Gandhara. It gives the raga a touch of Kanada. However, nowadays Sahana is rendered only with Antara G, firmly making it a janya of 28th Melakarta Harikhambhoji.

Sahana is known as Shahana Kanada .in Hindustani music. This has no resemblance to Carnatic Sahana.

The Hindustani Shahana belongs to Kafi and the usage of N P & G M R lends a shade of Kanada to this raga. According to Hindustani music tradition this is a nocturnal raga to be rendered after midnight.

Shahana is said to have been created combining three ragas viz Adana, Durbari Kanada and Malhar.

The accompanying audio files:

The first audio file is an aalapana of the raga. The second audio file is a Virutham from Kandar Alankaram of Arunagiri Nathar. This raga embellishes Virutham singing because of its emotional appeal.

pprasan / / 8 yrs ago

dear madam,

great article and rendition, i am looking for the lyrics of sri vatapi ganapathiye (the papanasam sivan kriti you have mentioned in your blog). can you please post it or send it to me via email to

thanks a lot,


Raj Sadagopan / / 10 yrs ago
Raj Sadagopan


my name is raj sadagopan and i live in nj. this is one of the beautiful raga i enjoy quite often and rightly as said by smt seeta...most of the times i enjoy this tune relating to god bhakthi. this is a very good article and i feel every carnatic fan should read and enjoy this.

raj sadagopan

Red Indian / / 11 yrs ago
Red Indian

dear mrs. narayanan, thank you for the beautiful ragas and the educating column. hope to hear more. best regards to you and family. ranbir

Kala Vaneswaran / / 11 yrs ago
Kala Vaneswaran

dear seetha, thanks for the wonderful sahana aalapana and the virutham. the virutham was sung so well, it brought out the real beauty of sahana; soul-stirring indeed! kala

raj narasimhan / / 11 yrs ago
raj narasimhan

dear mrs seetha as usual your sahana was great. like vkmohan, i also find 'vandanamu' very soulstirring and elevating. rendered with involvement, it can bring tears to ones eyes. i thought sivans kriti was 'vataapi ganapathiye un thiruvadiye saranam'. 'nintal' maybe one of those variations by individual musicians. regards.

A A / / 11 yrs ago

many thanks for an enjoyable exposition of ragam sahana. as always, the accompanying information is much appreciated. thanks again! best regards and happy new year to you!

Mohan V.K. / / 11 yrs ago
Mohan V.K.

seethaji, thanks a lot for the presentation of my favourite raga 'sahana'which i enjoyed very much.the kriti i like most ,though,is 'vandanamu' of tyagaraja. wonderful work. pl keep it up!

rajee party / / 11 yrs ago
rajee party

loved your melodious alapana of sahana which is one of my favorite ragas.i was wondering why you didn't sing varnam this time(karunimpa is the only one i have heard)!

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