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The nottuswara (nōṭṭusvaras, from "note" + "swaras") are a set of 33 compositions (as documented in the book prathama abhyasa pustakamu authored by Sri Subbarama Dikshitar) in Carnatic music by Muthuswami Dikshitar (18th c.), who is celebrated as one among the Trinity of Carnatic music. A few other nottusvaras were added later by his disciples which adhere to the original idea and intent. Nottusvaras are notable as an interaction between the East and the West during the East India company rule, being based on Western sources, mostly simple melodies inspired by Scottish 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

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"/"Grand Dieu sauve le roi" 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]
"Vara Shiva Balam" "Castilian Maid"

List of Nottuswarams by Muthuswamy Dikshithar

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


  1. ^ a b c Nottuswara Sahityas of Muthuswami Dikshitar - K Kannikeswaran
  2. ^ Weidman (2006, p. 32)
  3. ^ Carnatic Songs — English Note: a popular composition with an unknown composer
  4. ^ Weidman (2009, pp. 52–54)
  5. ^ East meets West: Western instruments in Carnatic music
  6. ^ a b Dikshitar’s ‘note,’ voice care and sangita, The Hindu, Friday, 28 December 2007
  7. ^ Weidman (2009, p. 54)
  8. ^ A Creative Genius, Columbus Carnatic Music association, Ohio
  9. ^ Homage to the Great Composer - Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar


  • 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
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