2016-07-11

Alavandar's catuḥślōkī

yāmunācāryēṇa viracitāṁ catuḥślōkīnāmnīṁ stutiṁ mātāmahyā naikēbhyō vatsarēbhyaḥ prāgupadiṣṭōham । tasyā arthamavētuṁ yatamānaḥ anvayaṁ lilēkhiṣāmi ।

svādayanniha sarvēṣāṁ trayyantārthaṁ sudurgraham ।
stōtrayāmāsa yōgīndrastaṁ vandē yāmunāhvayam ॥

kāntastē puruṣōttamaḥ phaṇipatiḥ śayyāsanaṁ vāhanaṁ vēdātmā vihagēśvarō yavanikā māyā jaganmōhinī ।
brahmēśādisuravrajaḥ sadayitastvaddāsadāsīgaṇaḥ śrīrityēva ca nāma tē bhagavati brūmaḥ kathaṁ tvāṁ vayam ॥

bhagavati । tē kāntaḥ puruṣōttamaḥ । tē śayyā phaṇipatiḥ । tē āsanaṁ vāhanaṁ vēdātmā vihagēśvaraḥ । tē yavanikā māyā jaganmōhinī । tvaddāsadāsīgaṇaḥ sadayitaḥ brahmēśādisuravrajaḥ । tē nāma ca śrīrityēva । kathaṁ vayaṁ tvāṁ brūmaḥ ।

atra tu śriyaṁ mahārājñīṁ bhāvayan śrēṣṭhatamāni tadupalakṣaṇāni varṇayati kaviḥ । bhagavati । hē sarvamaṅgalavati । "asyāsti" iti matup । kāntaḥ priyatamō dayitaḥ । kartari ktaḥ । puruṣōttamaḥ uttamaḥ puruṣō nārāyaṇaḥ । "na nirdhāraṇē" ityasmātṣaṣṭhītatpuruṣaniṣēdhātkarmadhārayavyutpattiḥ । śayyā talpam । phaṇipatiḥ phaṇināṁ sarpāṇāṁ patiḥ ādiśēṣaḥ । phaṇaḥ sphaṭā । "ata iniṭhanau" iti matubartha in । āsanamāsandaḥ āsyata asminniti । vāhanaṁ yānaṁ vāhayatīti । vihagēśvarō vihagānāṁ khagānāmīśvarō garuḍaḥ । lakṣmīstu viṣṇuvakṣaḥsthalasthitā nityānapāyinī garutmati āstē tēna vāhyatē cēti yāvat । parasparaṁ virōdhēpi lakṣmīnārāyaṇau śēṣaṁ garuḍamubhāvapi bhuñjāta iti vicitrāspadam । yavanikā tiraskariṇī । purā rājastriyō hriyā yavanikāntarhitā iti । jagatō mōhaḥ jaganmōhaḥ । "ata iniṭhanau" iti matubartha in strītvāt ṅī ca । māyā jaganmōhinī lōkānmōhayati yathā tē mahālakṣmīṁ draṣṭuṁ nālam । brahmā caturmukhaḥ īśō rudraḥ । tau ādī yasya sa brahmēśādiḥ । tathāvidhaḥ suravrajō dēvasamūhaḥ । sadayitaḥ sapriyaḥ patnībhiḥ sahitaḥ । mahārājñyā dāsadāsyaḥ kvēti cēt gaṇōyamēvēti । sarvāṇi rājalakṣaṇānyupavarṇya antē nāmaiva anupamamityāha । pāñcarātrāgamāt śrīyatē śrayatē śruṇōti śrāvayati śruṇāti śrīṇāti cēti śrīnāmadhēyā । tathā satyāṁ tvayi kathaṁ vā brūmō vayamiti kavērāścaryaṁ bhaktiśca ।

yasyāstē mahimānamātmana iva tvadvallabhōpi prabhurnālaṁ mātumiyattayā niravadhiṁ nityānukūlaṁ svataḥ ।
tāṁ tvāṁ dāsa iti prapanna iti ca stōṣyāmyahaṁ nirbhayō lōkaikēśvari lōkanāthadayitē dāntē dayāṁ tē vidan ॥

lōkaikēśvari । lōkanāthadayitē । dāntē । yasyāḥ tē niravadhiṁ svatō nityānukūlaṁ mahimānam ātmanaḥ (mahimānam) iva tvadvallabhaḥ prabhurapi iyattayā mātuṁ na alam । tāṁ tvāṁ dāsaḥ iti prapannaścēti nirbhayōhaṁ tē dayāṁ vidan stōṣyāmi ।

kaviratra dēvyā anantaṁ mahimānaṁ varṇayannāha । lōkaikēśvari । lōkānāṁ sarvajanānām ēkā kēvalā īśavarī īśitrī sambuddhau । ēkōlpārthē pradhānē ca prathamē kēvalē tathā । sādhāraṇē samānēpi saṅkhyāyāṁ ca prayujyatē । lōkanāthadayitē । jagatpatipriyē । dāntē । damavati । damum̐ upaśamē ityasmāt ktaḥ kartari । "anunāsikasya kvijjhalōḥ kṅiti" iti upadhādairghyam । niravadhim avadhirahitam aparimitam । svataḥ lōkanāthāt tvadvallabhāt nāma śrīmannārāyaṇataḥ nityānukūlaṁ sadānusāram । mahimānaṁ mahattvam । ātmanaḥ svasya tannāma śrīpatēḥ । tvadvallabhastava priyatamaḥ । prabhuḥ svāmī punaśca bhagavān । iyattayā ētāvaditi । mātuṁ tōlayitum । na alam aparyāptaḥ । yasyāḥ tādr̥k mahimā yaṁ mātuṁ bhagavānapi aparyāptaḥ tādr̥śāṁ tāṁ tvāṁ stōṣyāmi nutiṁ kariṣyē । kathaṁbhūtaḥ stōṣyāmīti cēt । dāsaḥ kiṅkaraḥ । prapannaḥ śaraṇaṁ gataḥ । nirbhayaḥ apagatatrāsaḥ । kimarthaṁ nirbhaya iti cēt । bhavatyāḥ dayāṁ karuṇāṁ vidan jānānaḥ । mahālakṣmyāḥ apārāṁ karuṇāṁ samyak avabudhyan taddayayā bhavasāgaraṁ tarīṣyāmīti viśvasan vigatabhayaḥ stōṣyāmīti abhiprāyaḥ ।

īṣattvatkaruṇānirīkṣaṇasudhāsandhukṣaṇādrakṣyatē naṣṭaṁ prāktadalābhatastribhuvanaṁ sampratyanantōdayam ।
śrēyō na hyaravindalōcanamanaḥkāntāprasādādr̥tē saṁsr̥tyakṣaravaiṣṇavādhvasu nr̥ṇāṁ sambhāvyatē karhicit ॥

tribhuvanam anantōdayaṁ rakṣyatē īṣat tvatkaruṇānirīkṣaṇasudhāsandhukṣaṇāt prāk naṣṭaṁ tadalābhataḥ । nr̥ṇāṁ saṁsrutyakṣaravaiṣṇavādhvasu śrēyaḥ na hi sambhāvyatē aravindalōcanamanaḥkāntāprasādāt r̥tē ।

atha śriyaḥ anantā karuṇā taddhētūni phalāni ca varṇyantē । tribhuvanaṁ lōkatrayaṁ bhūrbhuvaḥsvargātmakam । ēkavadbhāvī dviguḥ trayāṇāṁ bhuvanānāṁ lōkānāṁ samāhāra iti । anantōdayaṁ anantāḥ udayāḥ yasya tādr̥k tribhuvanaṁ niravadhikālamiti । prāk naṣṭaṁ caturyugāntē pralīnaṁ parabrahmaṇi । kvēti cēt । tadalabhātaḥ । tvaddayākaṭākṣam anavāpya । "atigrahāvyathanakṣēpēṣvakartari tr̥tīyāyāḥ" iti tasim̐ । sarvanāmnaḥ tvatkaruṇānirīkṣaṇasudhāsandhukṣaṇēnvayaḥ । prāṅnaṣṭamadhunā rakṣyatē bhujyatē । kuta iti । tvatkaruṇānirīkṣaṇasudhāsandhukṣaṇāt । pañcamī hētau । tava karuṇāyāḥ dayāyāḥ nirīkṣaṇamēva dr̥ṣṭirēva sudhā amr̥tam । tasyāḥ sandhukṣaṇaṁ sphūrtiḥ । tasmāt tasya hētunā । jaganti varīvr̥tati tasyāḥ karuṇayā cēt puruṣārthā api kiṁ tasyāḥ dayayā labhyēran । āmityāha yathā । aravindalōcamanaḥkāntāprasādāt । aravindē tāmarasē iva lōcanē yasya saḥ nārāyaṇaḥ । tasya kāntā sahadharmiṇī śrīḥ । tasyā manaḥ cētaḥ । tatprasādaḥ tōṣāt anugrahaḥ । tasmādr̥tē taṁ vinā nēti । r̥tē kiṁ na । nr̥ṇāṁ manuṣyāṇāṁ saṁsr̥tau saṁsārasambaddhēṣu aiśvaryādiṣu phalēṣu akṣarē kaivalyamōkṣē vaiṣṇavādhvani paramapadaprāptau śrēyaḥ bhadraṁ na hi sambhāvyatē upapadyatē karhicit kadācana । kimuta itarē puruṣārthāḥ mōkṣōpi dēvyāḥ karuṇākaṭākṣāvalambita ityabhipraiti ।

śāntānandamahāvibhūti paramaṁ yadbrahma rūpaṁ harērmūrtaṁ brahma tatōpi tatpriyataraṁ rūpaṁ yadatyadbhutam ।
yānyanyāni yathāsukhaṁ viharatō rūpāṇi sarvāṇi tānyāhuḥ svairanurūparūpavibhavairgāḍhōpagūḍhāni tē ॥

yat śāntānandamahāvibhūti paramaṁ brahma rūpaṁ । tatōpi tat priyataraṁ (rūpaṁ) yat mūrtaṁ brahma atyadbhutam । yathāsukhaṁ viharataḥ harēḥ yāni anyāni rūpāṇi । tāni sarvāṇi tē svairanurūparūpavibhavaiḥ gāḍhōpagūḍhāni āhuḥ (pramāṇāḥ) ।

atha divyadampatyōranapāyitvam upavarṇayati । nārāyaṇasya yāni rūpāṇi mūrtayaḥ santi । kīdr̥ṁśi । prathamaṁ divyātmasvarūpam । śāntānandamahāvibhūti । śāntaṁ ṣaḍbhirūrmibhiḥ pipāsākṣucchōkamōhajarāmr̥tyubhī rahitam । ānandam jñānānandamayam । mahāvibhūti sarvavyāpi । tathā śāntam ānandaṁ mahāvibhūti śāntānandamahāvibhūtīti । paramaṁ parō māsyēti paramaṁ nirupamam । brahma br̥hat br̥ṁhaṇaṁ ca । adhunā divyamaṅgalavigrahaḥ । mūrtaṁ mūrtimat brahma brahmaśabdavācyam atyadbhutamatyāścaryakaraṁ tatōpi amūrtarūpādapi priyataraṁ lōkānāṁ saulabhyāt yadrūpaṁ tat । harirviṣṇuḥ yathāsukhaṁ yathēcchaṁ viharati parikrāmati । tathābhūtasya yāni anyāni rūpāṇi syuḥ । vibhavādimūrtīnāṁ grahaṇamatra । āhuḥ pramāṇā iti śēṣaḥ । kimāhuḥ । tāni sarvāṇi rūpāṇi tē tava svaiḥ svakīyaiḥ anurūparūpavibhavaiḥ anurūpāṇām anukūlānāṁ rūpāṇāṁ mūrtīnāṁ vibhavaiḥ kīrtimadbhiḥ gāḍhōpagūḍhāni gāḍham dr̥ḍham upagūḍhāni āliṅgitāni anapāyīni ।

ākāratrayasampannāmaravindanivāsinīm ।
aśēṣajagadīśitrīṁ vandē varadavallabhām ॥

sarvaṁ śrīkr̥ṣṇārpaṇamastu ॥

2014-03-27

A custom keymap for Indian languages

As we saw in the last couple of posts, keying in Indian languages using a QWERTY keyboard requires a keyboard/IME software as well as a standardised way to map the Latin alphabet to the characters in the Indian language du jour. As before, I use Google's Input Tools on Windows and Lipika on OS X. Unlike a representation format (which case use diacritic or other accent marks), a key-map can only employ the characters inputtable through the QWERTY keyboard. So while I use ISO-15919 as the representation format, I needed a key-map as well. As in the previous post, here were my requirements:
  1. Meaningfulness
  2. Pan‐linguistic consistency
  3. Fidelity to pronunciation
  4. Modularity and symmetry
  5. Alphabet restrictions: the scheme must use only Latin characters to represent phonemes; the scheme may use punctuation marks to represent non-phonemic punctuation-like characters in the target language.
With these requirements, I set about to create a key-map I could use. I'd start with my requirements, and in the end, if the key-map ended up resembling an existing "standard", I'd just stick with that instead.

I started out by identifying characters in Tamil and Sanskrit (the 2 Indian languages I write in) based on phonetics and history; this identification process is important for pan-linguistic consistency.

Vowels and Dependents
Sanskrit (Devanagari) ISO‐15919 Tamil Key-map
a
i
u
r̥̄
l̥̄
e
ai
o
au
'

Consonants
Sanskrit (Devanagari) ISO‐159191 Tamil Key-map
क् k க்
ख् kh
ग् g
घ् gh
ङ् ங்
च् c ச்
छ् ch
ज् j
झ् jh
ञ् ஞ்
ट् ட்
ठ् ṭh
ड्
ढ् ḍh
ण् ண்
t ̱ ற்
ன்
त् t த்
थ् th
द् d
ध् dh
न् n ந்
प् p ப்
फ् ph
ब् b
भ् bh
म् m ம்
य् y ய்
र् r ர்
r ̣ ழ்
ळ् ள்
ல்
ल् l
व् v வ்
श्
ष्
स् s
ह् h

The next step was filling in the key-combinations that were "natural" and "obvious".
  1. Given the existence of short and long vowels, using lower- and upper-case letters for vowels seems natural.
  2. Naturally, any unmarked consonant in ISO-15919 can be mapped to the bare letter.
  3. Representing retroflexion by upper-casing the corresponding dental consonant is standard-practice. By modularity, we can do the same for liquids and sibilants too.

Sanskrit (Devanagari) ISO‐15919 Tamil Key-map
a a
A
i i
I
u u
U
r̥̄
l̥̄
e e
E
ai ai
o o
O
au au
'
क् k க் k
ख् kh kh
ग् g g
घ् gh gh
ङ् ங்
च् c ச் c
छ् ch ch
ज् j j
झ् jh jh
ञ् ஞ்
ट् ட் T
ठ् ṭh Th
ड् D
ढ् ḍh Dh
ण् ண் N
t ̱ ற்
ன்
त् t த் t
थ् th th
द् d d
ध् dh dh
न् n ந் n
प् p ப் p
फ् ph ph
ब् b b
भ् bh bh
म् m ம் m
य् y ய் y
र् r ர் r
r ̣ ழ்
ळ् ள் L
ல்
ल् l l
व् v வ் v
श्
ष् S
स् s s
ह् h h

6 issues remain: Dravidian alveolar consonants, the Dravidian approximant, Sanskrit nasals, Sanskrit sibilants, Sanskrit syllabic vowels, and miscellaneous rarely used dependents.
  1. Dravidian alveolar consonants: from the point of view of tongue-position, alveolar stops are intermediate between dental stops and retroflex stops. From this, a natural choice of key-combination for an alveolar stop is a juxtaposition of the keys for the corresponding dental and retroflex stops. Likewise for the alveolar liquid ல்.
  2. Dravidian approximant: based on usage, I picked 'z' as the key for the approximant ழ். The fact that non-native speakers mispronounce the approximant as a voiced sibilant adds credibility to this choice :-)
  3. Sanskrit nasals and sibilants: there are 2 remaining nasals: ङ्, ञ् and one remaining sibilant: श्. The palatal nasal is both a palatal stop and a nasal; a natural representation combines the nasality of 'n' with the palatalness of 'j' or 'c'; we thus get 'nj' and 'nc' as possible key-combinations. By correspondence, the palatal sibilant श् is 'sc' or 'sj', and the velar nasal ङ् 'nk or 'ng'.
Looks like the consonants are done! Here they are:
Consonants
Sanskrit (Devanagari) ISO‐15919 Tamil Key-map
क् k க் k
ख् kh kh
ग् g g
घ् gh gh
ङ् ங் nk/ng
च् c ச் c
छ् ch ch
ज् j j
झ् jh jh
ञ् ஞ் nc/nj
ट् ட் T
ठ् ṭh Th
ड् D
ढ् ḍh Dh
ण् ண் N
t ̱ ற் tT/Tt
ன் nN/Nn
त् t த் t
थ् th th
द् d d
ध् dh dh
न् n ந் n
प् p ப் p
फ् ph ph
ब् b b
भ् bh bh
म् m ம் m
य् y ய் y
र् r ர் r
r ̣ ழ் z
ळ् ள் L
ல் lL/Ll
ल् l l
व् v வ் v
श् sc/sj
ष् S
स् s s
ह् h h
  1. Sanskrit syllabic vowels: The Sanskrit syllabic vowels (ऋ, ॠ, ऌ, ॡ – the last one not actually used) present a problem. The mid-central vowel inherent in these is absent in European languages and thus lacks a symbol; it can however be described as mid-way between 'y' and 'w'. 'y' is already used up in our scheme, but 'w' is free! Using 'w' also ensures people don't mispronounce it as a front-vowel. We thus get 'rw', 'Rw', 'lw' and 'Lw' respectively.
  2. Misc. dependent letters: There are a few different dependent letters that can only existƒ attached to a vowel — the anusvāra, the anunāsika, the visarga and its two other forms the jihvāmulīya and the upadhmānīya, and the āythayeṛuttu. The anusvāra is traditionally represented by an 'M', and the anunāsika by 'MM'; we can stick with those. The visarga, likewise is an 'H'. The upadhmānīya is closest to the Latin 'f', and we can use that. The jihvāmūlīya and the āythayeṛuttu are both velar/glottal and as such 'K' is the most suitable.
We finally have a complete key-map for vowels and dependents! Here it is:
Vowels and Dependents
Sanskrit (Devanagari) ISO‐15919 Tamil Key-map
a a
A
i i
I
u u
U
rw
r̥̄ Rw
lw
l̥̄ Lw
e e
E
ai ai
o o
O
au au
M
MM
H
f
K
K
' '

You can download the keymap for Tamil and Sanskrit from http://code.ambari.sh/keymap.

Footnotes:

1 Unfortunately, ISO-15919 does not distinguish between alveolar and dental liquids; Tamil has only the former, while Sanskrit only the latter. As such, I've had to make a few minor modifications to ISO-15919, where ற and ல are concerned. Thanks to Greg for pointing this out in the comments.

2014-03-02

Representing Indian languages using the Latin script

Indian languages are written in a diverse set of scripts, most of them derived from the Brahmi script and not from the Phoenician script. These scripts neither look like Latin, nor do they have the familiar A, B, … ordering. Further, many Indian languages have many phonemes not present in languages Latin was traditionally used for. As a consequence, many of these scripts have many more than 26 base glyphs (not to mention ligature forms). Mapping these to Latin characters becomes important for 2 distinct uses:
  1. storing/presenting Indian language content
  2. inputting Indian language content.
While Unicode encodes most popular scripts used for Indian languages and even some rare ones, Latin‐letters continue to be used in representing Indian languages everywhere. They're used in email, in SMS messages, in web‐pages, in file‐names; pretty much ubiquitously. But how to map the diverse phoneme set (between 30–50 for most Indian languages) into the 26 letters in the Latin alphabet?

[Likewise, physical keyboards with a QWERTY layout dominate the world; how to allow combinations of characters on the QWERTY keyboard to represent the diverse character sets in Indian languages? I'll address this in another post.]

As usual, there are many options.

"The nice thing about standards is that you have so many to choose from." Andrew S. Tanenbaum

ISO‐15919, an international scholastic standard, and a few other schemes – IAST, Hunterian, National Library of Kolkata, ALA‐LC – use diacritic (accent) marks over/under Latin characters. Harvard‐Kyoto, Velthuis, ITRANS, SLP1, WX, VedaType and ISO‐15919's limited character set option are schemes that restrict themselves to 7‐bit ASCII but use punctuation characters.

For example, here're the same Sanskrit characters in a few sample schemes:
Devanagari ISO‐15919 Hunterian ISO‐15919‐lcs Harvard‐Kyoto ITRANS
aa A aa/A
ri ,r R RRi/R^i
e ee e e
ं (anusvāra) m ;m M M
ख् kh kh kh kh kh
ञ् n ~n J ~n/JN
ड् d .d D D
श् sh ;s z sh

What a mess!

I'm going to address what I think should be the hallmarks of a good scheme for representing Indian language text using Latin characters – how one can figure out if such a scheme was thoughtfully, carefully designed and not thrown together in the middle of a Usenet discussion.

[Note: Indian languages being phonetic, I'm sometimes careless about the phoneme vs. written character distinction. I carelessly use the word “character” for both; the meaning should be clear].

Here's my prioritised list of features a good Indian language representation scheme should have:

  1. Unambiguity: the scheme must preserve the integrity of the script. Put another way, the mapping should be reversible from Latin back to the original script without loss. [Shockingly, the Hunterian scheme fails this basic test.]
  2. Meaningfulness: the scheme must use Latin letters phonetically close to the original Indian language sound. This automatically rules out absurdities like using f for the Sanskrit velar nasal (ङ्) [vide. the wx notation].
  3. Pan‐linguistic consistency: identical phonemes across Indian languages must have identical representations. Especially as Indian languages have heavily borrowed from Sanskrit, it's inconsistent if the "same" word has multiple Latin representations. Sadly, many schemes fail to satisfy this requirement: in ITRANS, the Sanskrit word केवल is represented as “kevala”, but its Tamil borrowing is represented as “kēvala”.
  4. Pan‐linguistic consistency: conversely, a single Latin representation must identify the same phoneme across Indian languages. Again, some schemes fail this requirement too — in some schemes, ḷ would mean a syllabic dental liquid in Sanskrit but could mean a retroflex liquid consonant in Tamil.
  5. Fidelity to pronunciation: the scheme should aid pronunciation, or at least, not encourage distortion. Harvard‐Kyoto's RRi for a syllabic alveolar trill; ITRANS's x for a conjunct consonant and GY/dny for another conjunct consonant are all misspellings (for phonetic languages, misspelling and mispronunciations go together!)
  6. Modularity and symmetry: in Indian languages, the phonemes (and thus the characters) have relationships among them: clearly, the palatal nasal stop has a relationship with the other nasals, as well as a different relationship to the other palatal stops, and yet another relationship with palatal/semi‐palatal vowels. Any scheme may have various mechanisms to represent such features: perhaps an underdot may represent retroflexion, or perhaps doubling a Latin letter may indicate vowel‐length. These mechanisms should be modular and symmetric, i.e. they should work independent of one another, and they should always mean the same thing. If doubling the vowel ‘a’ indicates a long ‘a’ sound, doubling the vowel ‘i’ should indicate a long ‘i’ sound. If adding an underdot to ‘t’ makes it retroflex, adding an underdot to ‘s’ should make that retroflex too.
  7. Alphabet restrictions: the scheme must not use punctuation-marks or mixed-casing. Punctuation‐marks in the middle of words look ugly. ;L'ik:e t"h..i;s. As does miXEd‐CaSiNg. Using punctuation marks also collides with well‐understood orthographic usages: it seems like a shame to not be able to use commas in transliterated Tamil text, just because the scheme gives the comma a special meaning. And starting every sentence with a lower‐case letter is too edgy for my taste.
Only one of the standard schemes fulfils 6 of the 7 requirements completely and the 7th partially (it uses punctuation, but only to represent some combinations that cannot normally occur in the language) – ISO‐15919. In addition to being well thought‐out and sane, it is an international standard and is widely used in scholastic publications. Its one drawback is that the official standard is not available free of cost; instead, ISO charges more then $100 for an electronic copy. However, it's fully documented at Dr. Anthony Stone's website and is usable today. I use it everyday, and so should you!

2014-01-04

On keying in Indian languages

Right from the time I started out learning Sanskrit, I've had to type in Devanagari to send email, do my assignments, write blog-posts etc. Sometime later, I realised I'd like to be able to write in my mother-tongue, Tamil, too: I was rapidly becoming more fluent at writing in Sanskrit than in Tamil, and that bothered me! I used to use Windows and now use OS X, and have used a variety of tools to be able to compose in Indic scripts. I thought I'd write about my journey, what tools I loved, used, hated and discarded and what I now use.

In 2008, to begin with, my requirements were — types Devanagari, works on Windows Vista+, works across all applications (no browser plug-in for me) and has configurable key-maps. That last was very important. There were multiple competing ways to render Sanskrit in ASCII (and corresponding ways to type Devanagari on an US-ASCII keyboard): Harvard-Kyoto, IAST, ITRANS, etc. They had nothing in common, except for one thing: they all sucked. [I'll explain why in a follow-up post.] So I needed to use a keymap I liked, one I created myself.

I started out using Ajit Krishnan's wonderful Mudgala IME. It was very straight-forward to use, and supported custom keyboards. Switching to and out of it was so easy, and it never crashed once in more than a year of using it. But 2 things made me want moar: first, Mudgala IME didn't support Tamil very well. Secondly, Mudgala IME worked by installing a low-level keyboard-hook. Windows has a way to support software keyboards and Input Method editors so that the keyboard/IME would show up in the Language Bar, and other Good Things™ would happen. Mudgala IME instead worked at a much lower level by intercepting every key-stroke, translating to the corresponding Devanagari code-point, and inserting it into the current window. This approach had a couple of drawbacks: as above, it didn't integrate well with Windows or with the keyboard shortcuts Windows provides to switch input keyboards. Worse, the keyboard shortcut Mudgala provided to switch to and out of it was a global shortcut and interfered with others software's use of that shortcut. If you didn't understand the above, suffice it to say that its integration with Windows is non-standard :-)

In 2009, Google came out with its Indic language input tools; this has now became Google Input Tools for Windows. You had to install a separate piece of software for each language you need to type in. It did support custom keyboards, but you had to switch to your custom keyboard explicitly, and worse, you had to do that every-time you switch languages. Worst of all, if you had multiple custom keyboards per language (say, a keyboard to output Devanagari and one to output ISO-15919), you had to use the GUI to switch keyboards each time. Kind of bad UX, but it worked OK otherwise. There were also occasional bugs involving typing too soon after switching to the Google IME: the thing needed a few seconds to initialise, and it would swallow key-strokes till then!

In 2013, Google released an update in 2013 that unified the various language-specific IMEs: you now had to install one software, and pick various languages at installation-time. Unhappily, the documentation on setting up custom keyboards was never updated: the page refers to a Scheme directory of C:/Program Files/Google/Google [Language] Input/, but the actual directory is:

%ProgramData%/Google/Google Input Tools/com.google.input_tools.t13n.ime.{language-name}/schemes/

The other bugs remain, but this is, in my experience, the most solid and clean Indic typing solution on Windows today. I use to type Sanskrit (in Devanagari, Grantha, IPA, ISO-15919) and Tamil (in Vattu, IPA, ISO-15919) and it's never let me down.

Lately, though, I've switched from my trusty Thinkpad to my wife's old MacBook Air, and as soon as I switched, I realised there was a paucity of good IMEs on OS X. Happily, my friend Ranganath Atreya has come up with Lipika, an IME that also supports the same custom-keyboard format Google IME does (yay for compatibility!). I was one of the beta-testers, and I love it.

At work, I use Windows and don't want to install software; when I occasionally want to send email, I use Google Input Tools online. It's pretty Google-y: barebones but efficient.

On my Windows Phone, Microsoft still does not allow 3rd party keyboards :-( I make do with Binu's Type Tamil and Type Sanskrit, which let you input text, which you then have to copy and paste into wherever you want. This sucks, so I'm still looking to you, Microsoft!

2013-11-16

45th Azhagiyasingar Thaniyan

mātaraṁ pitaraṁ jyēṣṭhānsarvānkr̥tvā hr̥di sthitān ।
indirāsahitaṁ viṣṇuṁ natvā lēkhamupakramē ॥

lakṣmīnāthasamārambhāṁ nāthayāmunamadhyamām ।
asmadācāryaparyantāṁ vandē guruparamparām ॥

viśiṣṭādvaitasiddhāntasya śrīvaiṣṇavasampradāyasya pratiṣṭhāpayituḥ śrīmadahōbilamaṭhasya pīṭhādhīpatayō vaikuṇṭhavāsinaḥ śrīmannārāyaṇayatīndramahādēśikāḥ āsan । tēṣāmupari dhyānaślōkamimaṁ bhaktāḥ pāpaṭhyantē ।

śrīmadraṅgaśaṭhārisaṁyamivarāllabdhāgamāntadvayaṁ śrīmadvīraraghūdvahādyaśaṭhajitpādāravindāśrayam ।
śrīmadvēdavataṁsadēśikayatēḥ kāruṇyavīkṣāspadaṁ sēvē raṅgadhurīṇaśāsanavaśaṁ nārāyaṇaṁ yōginam ॥

sadyō bhāgurimataprasiddhamallōpam avālōkē । tathā luptākārēṣu padēṣu anyatamaṁ “vataṁsaḥ” stōtrasthaṁ smr̥timāgatam । taccintanāt stutirapi smr̥tipathamāyāt । stutiriyaṁ vyākhyēyēti dhiyā prayatnēsminnudyuktōsmi ।

anvayaḥ

śrīmadraṅgaśaṭhārisaṁyamivarāt labdhāgamāntadvayaṁ śrīmadvīraraghūdvahādyaśaṭhajitpādāravindāśrayaṁ śrīmadvēdavataṁsadēśikayatēḥ kāruṇyavīkṣāspadaṁ raṅgadhurīṇaśāsanavaśaṁ nārāyaṇaṁ yōginaṁ sēvē । śārdūlavikrīḍitam ।

vyākhyā

atha śrīmadraṅgaśaṭhārisaṁyamivarāt । śrīmān maṅgalavān asyāstīti matup । raṅgaṁ śrīraṅganagaram । śaṭhāriḥ śaṭhasyāriḥ saṁsārabandhakaśaṭhavāyōḥ janmanā śatrutvāt bhavavimuktatvāt śaṭhakōpamunidyōtakaṁ nāmadhēyam । raṅgaṁ tadēva śaṭhārī raṅgaśaṭhāriḥ । saṁyamī । viyāmō viyamō yāmō yamō saṁyāmasaṁyamau ityamaraḥ । asyāstīti in । saṁyamī yatiḥ sannyāsī । raṅgaśaṭhāriḥ sa ēva saṁyamī raṅgaśaṭhārisaṁyamī । dvicatvāriṁśasya paṭṭadhāriṇōhōbilamaṭhādhīśasya śrīraṅgaśaṭhakōpayatīndramahādēśikasya dyōtakam । śrīmānasāvēva raṅgaśaṭhārisaṁyamī śrīmadraṅgaśaṭhārisaṁyamī । tadvaraḥ ṣaṣṭhītatpuruṣaḥ । nalōpaḥ prātipadikāntasyēti śrīmadraṅgaśaṭhārisaṁyamivaraḥ । tasmāt । vibhāṣā guṇōstriyām iti pañcamī । labdhāgamāntadvayam । āgamāntō vēdānta upaniṣadaḥ । taddvayaṁ dēvabhāṣōpaniṣadō dramiḍōpaniṣadaśca । dramiḍōpaniṣadastu divyasūribhī racitāḥ catuḥsahasrāṇi divyaprabandhāḥ vēdavanmukhyatvāt upaniṣadvanmanyamānatvāt tathābhihitāḥ । labdhamāgamāntadvayaṁ yēna saḥ labdhāgamāntadvayaḥ tam । śrīraṅgaśaṭhakōpayatīndramahādēśikāt kālakṣēpēṇa nārāyaṇayatīndramahādēśikaḥ ubhayavēdāntasāram adhyaita, tēna samāśrayaṇaṁ ca vyadadhāt iti smārakaḥ pādaḥ ।

śrīmadvīraraghūdvahādyaśaṭhajitpādāravindāśrayam । raghūdvahāḥ raghukulōdbhavāḥ tēṣvādyaḥ raghūdvahādyō rāghavaḥ । śaṭhaṁ jayatīti śaṭhajit hrasvasya piti kr̥ti tugiti takārāgamaḥ । śrīmān vīraḥ raghūdvahādyaḥ sa ēva śaṭhajit śrīmadvīraraghūdvahādyaśaṭhajit tricatvāriṁśaṁ ahōbilamaṭhādhipatiṁ vīrarāghavayatīndramahādēśikaṁ dyōtayati । pādāvēva aravindē pādāravindē । śrīmadvīraraghūdvahādyaśaṭhajitaḥ pādāravindē śrīmadvīraraghūdvahādyaśaṭhajitpādāravindē । tē āśrayō yasya sa śrīmadvīraraghūdvahādyaśaṭhajitpādāravindāśrayaḥ । tam । vīrarāghavayatīndramahādēśikēna nārāyaṇayatīndramahādēśikaḥ yathāvidhi bharaṁ samarpya prapannatvaṁ prāpēti jñāpakaṁ padam ।

śrīmadvēdavataṁsadēśikayatēḥ । vataṁsōvataṁsaḥ śēkharaḥ । puṁsyuttaṁsāvataṁsau dvau karṇapūrēpi śēkharē ityamaraḥ । akārō lumpati bhāgurimatāt । vaṣṭibhāgurirallōpamavāpyōrupasargayōḥ । vēdānāṁ vataṁsaḥ vēdaśikharō vēdāntaḥ । śrīmān vēdavataṁsaḥ dēśikaḥ sa ēva yatiḥ śrīmadvēdavataṁsadēśikayatiḥ catuścatvāriṁśasya maṭhādhipatēḥ vēdāntadēśikayatīndramahādēśikasyābhidhā । kāruṇyavīkṣāspadam । karuṇaiva kāruṇyaṁ svārthē ṣyañ । vīkṣā dr̥ṣṭiḥ । kāruṇyasya vīkṣā kāruṇyavīkṣā । kāruṇyavīkṣāyāḥ āspadam kāruṇyavīkṣāspadam । vēdāntadēśikayatīndramahādēśikasya dayayaiva nārāyaṇayatīndramahādēśikaḥ sannyāsāśramaṁ pratipanna iti dyōtitam । kiñca tatkaruṇayā kila nārāyaṇayatīndramahādēśikēna maṭhādhipatitā samprāptā iti sūcakaḥ pādaḥ ।

sēvē upāsē । raṅgadhurīṇaśāsanavaśam । dhurīṇō nāyakō nāthaḥ । dhūrvahē dhuryadhaurēyadhurīṇāḥ sadhurandharāḥ ityamaraḥ । raṅgasya dhurīṇō raṅgadhurīṇaḥ raṅganāthaḥ śrīraṅgasthōrcāvatāraḥ । tacchāsanaṁ nirdēśaḥ । avavādastu nirdēśō nidēśaḥ śāsanaṁ ca saḥ ityamaraḥ । raṅgadhurīṇaśāsanaṁ vaśō yasya saḥ raṅgadhurīṇaśāsanavaśaḥ । tam । pañcacatvāriṁśaḥ maṭhādhipatiḥ jñāpitaḥ pādēsmin । nārāyaṇaṁ nārāyaṇayatīndramahādēśikābhidham । yōginaṁ yatim ।
itthaṁ caturṇāmapi pūrvabhūtānāṁ maṭhādhīśānāṁ grahaṇēna sakalāyāḥ ācāryaparamparāyāḥ jñāpanaṁ viśēṣaḥ ।

lēkhasūcī

samarpaṇam

ahōbilamaṭhādhīśamubhayōpaniṣadgurum ।
nārāyaṇaṁ madācāryaṁ praṇatōsmi muhurmuhuḥ ॥

॥ Ω sarvaṁ śrīkr̥ṣṇārpaṇamastu ॥

2012-12-31

The mēḷakartā scheme considered harmful

What is the mēḷakartā scheme?

Classical music is defined by its usage of rāgas. Each rāga can invoke specific emotions in rasikas, and each rasika will have their set of favourite (and disliked) rāgas. While music comprises kalpitasaṅgīta and manōdharmasaṅgīta, both aspects adhere to the underlying rāgalakṣaṇa. With few exceptions, each piece is composed in one prescribed rāga, and that rāga constrains both kalpitasaṅgīta and manōdharmasaṅgīta in that piece. Transgressing the boundaries of a rāga by mistake is an egregious error, and such an apasvara would be spotted immediately by many rasikas.

Much music theory is devoted to classifying these rāgas. The predominant scheme used to today is the mēḷakartā scheme, involving 72 mēḷakartā, or janaka rāgas, and all other janya rāgas classified under them. Ramamatya (c.1550 CE), in his svaramēḷakalānidhi, proposed a mēḷam-based scheme, which Venkatamakhin (17th c. CE) extended into a mēḷakartā scheme in his chaturdaṇḍiprakāśikā. The scheme followed today is a standardised variant proposed by Govindacharya (17th-18th c. CE), in his saṅgrahacūḍāmaṇi.

How does it work?

12 svarasthānas are enumerated, from the base ṣadja to the ṣadja of the next octave (left-inclusive), and are given the following names, picked from an earlier nomenclature.
  1. Sa
  2. Ri1
  3. Ri2/Ga1
  4. Ri3/Ga2
  5. Ga3
  6. Ma1
  7. Ma2
  8. Pa
  9. Da1
  10. Da2/Ni1
  11. Da3/Ni2
  12. Ni3
The mēḷakartās, then, are all the possible rāgas that include the Sa & Pa, and have one each Ri, Ga, Ma, Da & Ni, with the obvious restriction that the Ga chosen should be higher than the Ri, and likewise the Da and the Ni. There are 6 possible Ri-Ga combinations (Ri1Ga1, Ri1Ga2, Ri1Ga3, Ri2Ga2, Ri2Ga3 & Ri3Ga3), likewise 6 combinations of Da-Ni, and 2 options for Ma. There are thus 72 mēḷakartās, also termed sampūrna as each has all 7 notes.

Every other rāga, which may not adhere to the above lakṣaṇa, is then notated as a pair of scales of the above notes – an ārōhaṇa and an avarōhaṇa – that define them. The ārōhaṇa is a scale that starts at a lower Sa and ends at the next Sa and is meant to be a union of all possible ascending sequences of notes valid in the rāga. Likewise, the avarōhaṇa, starting at a higher Sa and ending at the previous Sa is meant to combine all possible valid descending note sequences. The janya rāga is then classified "under" the mēḷakartā rāga.

e.g. Arabhi is considered to be the scale SaRi2Ma1PaDa2Sa/SaNi3Da2PaMa1Ga3Ri2Sa, and is thus classified under mēḷakartā SaRi2Ga3Ma1PaDa2Ni3Sa/SaNi3Da2PaMa1Ga3Ri2Sa, which happens to be Sankarabharanam. Purvikalyani, which is assigned the scale SaRi1Ga3Ma2PaDa2PaSa/SaNi3Da2PaMa2Ga3Ri1Sa, is considered a derivative of mēḷakartā SaRi1Ga3Ma2PaDa2Ni3Sa/SaNi3Da2PaMa2Ga3Ri1Sa or Gamanasramam. Bhairavi, nominally the scale SaGa2Ri2Ga2Ma1PaDa2Ni3Sa/SaNi3Da1PaMa1Ga2Ri2Sa (note the 2 different Gas), is classified under SaRi2Ga2Ma1PaDa1Ni3Sa/SaNi3Da1PaMa1Ga2Ri2Sa, Natabhairavi, with the Da2 considered an anyasvara.

How is it used?

In pedagogy and in musicology, a rāga is introduced as a child of a mēḷakartā and then in terms of its ārōhaṇa and avarōhaṇa. An excerpt from a song-lyric page follows:
raagam: bEgaDa
29 dheera shankaraabharaNam janya
Aa: S G3 R2 G3 M1 P D2 N2 D2 P S
Av: S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S
Rasikas "in the know" seek to learn which mēḷakartā a rāga belongs to, and attempt to understand the rāga based on this scheme. Unfortunately, the entire exercise is pointless.

So why do you say it is useless?

Inherently, what defines a rāga is not the set of notes but the phrases. The notes used to describe the phrases, let alone the ārōhaṇa/avarōhaṇa, are but notational conveniences. Notice for instance, that Atana is notated with a Ga, but the Ga sung in Atana is but an oscillation between Ri2 and Ma1. Likewise in Darbar, where it's a different oscillation, also between Ri2 and Ma1. The PaDa2Sa phrases from Suddhasaveri or Yadukulakambhoji are identical to the PaNi2Sa phrases from Madhyamavati or Dhanyasi. A classic phrase from Anandabhairavi can be annotated as both PaDa2PaSa or PaNi2PaSa.

The result is a huge disconnect between many classic janya rāgas and their nominal parents. None of Sahana, Khamas, Kambhoji, Natakurinji, Suratti and Mohanam have anything to do with any other, save for the fact that they are classified under Harikambhoji. Likewise, Reetigaula, Bhairavi, Darbarikanada, Hindolam, Suddhadhanyasi are all classified under Natabhairavi, albeit none of them sound like any other. So what use is such a system that emphasises the names of the notes?

To quote musicologist Dr. N Ramanathan, "People exclaim Gajavadana, set in Todi, has so many different kinds of Ga's; that's not the case. How remarkable that various different phrases are all termed Ga! We use a single symbol Ga to identify many of the phrases. … That, I feel, is a very sophisticated (scheme) which in the 1800s or 1700s we (Carnatic music practitioners) have developed. … The word svara itself is redefined. Svara is no longer associated with a pitch – svara is a phrase. We say that Sankarabharanam has 4 kinds of Ma's; Begada has 3 kinds of Ma's. No, we term all those phrases Ma."

Any system that emphasises notational conveniences at the expense of the lakṣaṇa of the rāga is missing the point.

But is there anything inherently wrong with the scheme?

rāgas inherently are not a taxonomy, and trying to fit them into a tree-structure is futile. There are undoubtedly relationships among rāgas: Mukhari, Bhairavi, Huseni and Manji have many common prayōgas. Mukhari though, is related to Suddhamukhari historically, and through it to Kanakambari and Kanakangi. People think Huseni sounds somewhat like Anandabhairavi, which is classified under Kharaharapriya in the mēḷakartā-scheme. Already our taxon is a little unwieldy.

The janya rāga examples above – Arabhi, Purvikalyani, Bhairavi – happen to contain all the saptasvaras. What if the rāga does not? There would be multiple mēḷakartā super-sets of this rāga, so which one do you pick as parent? There are 2 systems in usage:
  • Pick the earlier one: if the janya rāga does not contain Ri, then pick the mēḷakartā with Ri1 rather than Ri2 or Ri3. This arbitrary choice only helps to derail the already tenuous janaka-janya relationship.
  • Pick the mēḷakartā that sounds closest. This choice is also arbitrary, as many janya-rāgas don't sound like any of the candidate parent mēḷakartā rāgas. Madhyamavati can be assigned to Natabhairavi, Kharaharapriya, Charukesi or Harikambhoji on this basis, but sounds like none of them.
Many rāgas, not amenable to being described as a linear progession of notes, are strait-jacketed when fit into an ārōhaṇa/avarōhaṇa scheme. Atana, Suratti, Sindhubhairavi, Purvikalyani, Bhairavi, Kambhoji all include phrases that cannot be fit into a linear scale. Atana & Suratti are especially problematic: no ārōhaṇa/avarōhaṇa written for them cover even a portion of the phrases possible. Finding a mēḷakartā parent is thus futile.

Lastly, bhāṣāṅgarāgas exhibit different problems of classification, as its sometimes unclear which svaras belong in the scale and which are anyasvaras. Kapi, Sindhubhairavi and Brindavani exemplify this problem.

And why is it harmful?

Generations of students has grown up focussing on learning the wrong bases of rāgas, the foundation of music. Generations of rasikas has been cheated out of appreciating the grain of rāgabhāva, by concentrating on the chaff of mēḷakartās. Years of cross-cultural understanding of South Indian classical music by world audiences have been lost on account of trying to marry Indian music ideas to European music concepts of pitches, notes and scales.

OK. What instead?

Pedagogy must focus on learning rāgabhāva through saṅgatis and lakṣaṇa without focussing on ārōhaṇa/avarōhaṇa. And rasikas should be steered clear of trying to enjoy a rāga through learning scales.

Glossary

Term Meaning
anyasvara Exceptional svara, absent in the parent mēḷakartā
apasvara Grave svara error
ārōhaṇa Ascending scale
avarōhaṇa Descending scale
bhāṣāṅgarāga Rāgas with one ore more anyasvaras
bhāva Emotion
janaka Parent
janya Child
kalpitasaṅgīta Precomposed music
lakṣaṇa Grammar
manōdharmasaṅgīta Improvised music
mēḷam Musical scale
mēḷakartā Mēḷam-creator
prayōga Musical phrase, comprising multiple svaras, and sung without pause
rāga Melodic mode
rāgabhāva The bhāvas associated with a rāga
rāgalakṣaṇa The lakṣaṇa associated with a rāga
rasika Connoisseur
sampūrna Complete
saṅgati Prayōga, associated with a song
saptasvara The 7 svaras in an octave
ṣadja The base svara of an octave
svara Ornamented note
svarasthāna Note

References:

  1. Episode 11 of the Sanjay Subrahmanyan show, with Sriram V and Dr. N Ramanathan
  2. Carnatica Archival Centre's Music Appreciation newsletters
  3. karnatik.com