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The nottuswara or nottu swaras compositions (from "note swaras") are a set of 39 compositions in Carnatic classical music by Muthuswami Dikshitar (18th century), who was one of the three early composers celebrated as the Trinity of Carnatic music. They are notable as an interaction between the East and the West during Company rule, being based on Western sources, mostly simple melodies inspired by Scots and Irish tunes.[1] They are all composed with Sanskrit lyrics in the Western C major scale, whose pitch intervals correspond to that of the Shankarabharana raga scale in Carnatic music, or the Bilaval that of Hindustani music. Technically, the compositions are not in Shankarabharana proper, being based on simple melodies and devoid of the ornamentation (gamaka) that is characteristic of Carnatic music.[2] On the other hand, the lyrics (sahitya) of these compositions are entirely Indian and consistent with the rest of the stotra-literature, or other songs addressed to similar deities.[1]

Sometimes the name "nottuswara" is used to refer to other compositions based on Western notes, not necessarily by Muthuswami Dikshitar.[3]


According to one popular account,[4] the violin was introduced into Carnatic music by Baluswami Dikshitar (1786–1858), the younger brother of Muthuswami Dikshitar. He encountered the instrument being played by British bands in colonial Madras, and decided to learn it. The music was mostly Irish and Scottish fiddling, rather than Western classical music. After three years of lessons, he adapted the violin to Carnatic music. It is believed that Muthuswami Dikshitar composed these lyrics to aid his brother master the plain notes on the violin.[5]

Publication history[edit]

They were first documented in print by C. P. Brown in 1833. In 1893, Manali Chinnaswamy Mudaliar published them with European notation, and in 1905, they were compiled by Subbarama Dikshitar as 'Prathamaabhyaasa pustakamu' in Telugu. In recent years, Kanniks Kannikeswaran has researched these compositions further, found the sources of a few compositions, and given several lectures.[1][6]


The European songs used as basis include Limerick, Castilian Maid, Lord MacDonald's Reel, Voulez-vous Danser?, and God Save the Queen.[7]

Composition Based on
Santatam Pahimam Example God Save the Queen/My Country, 'Tis of Thee Anthem[8]
Vande Meenakshi Traditional setting/"Indo-Celtic" Rakes of Mallow Leroy Anderson/Live version
Kamalasana Vandita Padabje Flute Galopede / Yarmouth Reel / Persian Ricardo Jabara/Concert/Reel
Shakti Sahita Ganapatim Traditional/Indo-Celtic Voulez-vous danser?
Shyamale Meenakshi Video Twinkle Twinkle Little Star/Mozart's variations on Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman[6]
Jagadisha Guruguha Lord MacDonald's Reel[9]

List of Nottuswarams by Muthuswamy Dikshithar[edit]

  1. Anjaneyam sadaa
  2. Chinthaya chittha
  3. Chintayeham sada
  4. Dasharathe dinadayanidhe
  5. Dinabandho dayasindho
  6. Gurumoorte bahukeerte
  7. Guruguha padapankaja
  8. Guruguha sarasijakarapada
  9. He maye maam
  10. Jagadisha guruguha
  11. Kamalasana vandita
  12. Kanchisham ekamranayakam
  13. Maye chitkale
  14. Muchukundavarada tyagaraja
  15. Pahi durge
  16. Pahi mam janaki vallabha
  17. Pankajamukha shankarahitha
  18. Paradevate bhava
  19. Parvati Pate
  20. Pitavarnam bhaje
  21. Ramachandram rajivaksham
  22. Rajeevalochana
  23. Ramajanardana
  24. Shakthisahitha ganapathim
  25. Shauri Vidhi Nute
  26. Shyamale Meenakshi
  27. Subrahmanyam
  28. Sadashiva jaye
  29. Sakala Suravinuta
  30. Samagana Priye
  31. Santana Saubhagya
  32. santatam govindarajam
  33. Santatam Pahi Mam
  34. Shankaravara
  35. Somaskandam
  36. Varashivabalam
  37. Varadaraja
  38. Vagdevi Mamava
  39. Vande meenakshi



  • M R Shankaramurthy (1990), The European Airs of Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Bangalore: Guruguha Gana Nilaya
  • Weidman, Amanda (2009), "Listening to the violin in South Indian classical music", in Richard K. Wolf (ed.), Theorizing the local: music, practice, and experience in South Asia and beyond, Oxford University Press US, pp. 49–64, ISBN 978-0-19-533138-7
  • Amanda J. Weidman (2006), Singing the classical, voicing the modern: the postcolonial politics of music in South India, Duke University Press, p. 32, ISBN 978-0-8223-3620-4

External links[edit]