The Sangitasudha is a treatise on music, composed by Vijaya Raghunatha Nayak,  the Nayak ruler of Tanjore, who ruled in the beginning of 17th cent. CE. (1600-1630 CE) The colophon of the text implicitly states that it was written by Raghunatha bhupa - Raghunatha bhupa viracita Sangeetha Sudba". While the whole text is of great value to students of Karnatic music, the introduftory part of the text is a veritable source of the history of art and architecture of the age.


            The First  chapter of the text called 'Caritra' history, is interesting , and gives the circumstances  under which, the text came to the composed. According to some source – Govinda dikshita, the illustrious minister of Raghunatha Nayak, is said to have written this text in the name of Raghunatha. The way in which the 'Caritra' chapter is given, it seems that the part of it might have been the composition of Govind Dekshita. But several other texts speak in glowing terns of Raghunatha's mastery of music and dance and praise him as a master of grammar of music. There is no need to doubt the veraiety of the authorship of Saugita Sudha, mentioned in the text itself. It is likely that Govinda dikshita gave some touches to it which was remembered by his family later.


            According to the introductoiry portion, Raghunatha was seated on his throne at Tanjore when Some Brahmin scholars visited him, and praised the achievement of his grandfather Sevvappa Nayaka, his father Achyutappa Nayaka and his own contribution in varius fields and requested him to write a treatise on music, as there were confusion among musicians between textual format of different ragas and the actual mode of renderings. In deference to the wishes of the Brahmin scholars, the king composed the text Sangeetha Sudha in seven chapters of which, the last three chapters have not survived. The remaining parts, demonstrate Raghunatha's critical faculty in analysing earlier works, and also their contemporary musical renderings and brought about a Synthesis, in his work. The text deserve special attention, in connection with the contribution of the three Nayak rulers – Cevvappa, Achyutappa and Raghunatha of Tanjore, which forms the Subject matter of this article.

Cevvappa Nayak

Cevvappa is introduced as Chinna Sevva bhupa grand father (pitamaha) Raghunatha and as an administrator of the functions of the Karnataka throne. (Karnataka Simhasana Karya dhuryah). It entreats he was administering a territory as a governor under the Vijayanagara ruler. Among his contributions, the construction of four goupras of Thiruvannamalai is first listed followed by other works at the same place.


"Sonadrinathasya Sa Cevva bhupa, nivesya Catvaryapi gopurani."


In addition he constructed the cloistered enclosure, new (or nine) mandapas, great tanks and flower gardens. He also gifted several jewels, and temple cars. It is clear that he did the following works as an administrator of the Vijayanagara Emperor:

1) Thiruvannamalai

1.      Four goupras

2.      Prakaras

3.      Mandapas

4.      Tanks

5.      Jewels

6.      Temple cars


2) Ekamranatha of Kanchi.

3) Nedunkunnam (Rama temple)

4) Vrddhachalam - Prakara (Gopura - Prakara - mandapa.)

5) Sri Sailanatha - Haimam Vimanam (golden sanctum tower)

6) Veukatari (Thiruppati)


In the chola country too the Siva & Vishnu temples  received his benefaclions

Cevva bhupa gifted many mahagraharas, brahmin settlements, and arranged for feeding them. Towards the later part of his reign the famous Govinda dikshitar the most illustrious administrator  of Tanjore became his minister and served the three illustrious Nayak rulers.


Achyutappa Nayak’s contribution

            Achyuta was born of Murtyambika and Cevvappa and was named Achyuta after the ruling Vijayanagara emperor Achyutaraya. From his boyhood he was devoted to Ranganatha and obtained the crown even as a youth. He conquered enemies and gifted all the wealth to Sri Ranganatha and the Brahmins. He made the Vimana of Ranganatha with gold, and presented a Ratna kirita, a jewel set armour (kavaca), and simhasana.

He built the 8th prakara,

the eastern gopura

The northern gopura

The western gopura.

And also the kitchen. All the mandapas of the goddess, and  gifted several jewels. The mandapas he built at Thiruvaiyaru and Thiruvidaimarudur on the banks of Kaveri are still preserved. The steps he built at Thiruvaiyaru to the kaveri river is also preserved.

Steps to Kaveri?

Gardens  - (arana)

Several gordens and groves gifted

Every year he performed Tulapurusha dana and Hiranya garbha as prescribed in Hemadri Kalpa.

Renovated the gopura of Ramesvara and Tirthas every year  he visited Ramesvara, and arranged for daily feeding of  one lakh Gosayis

He built big mandapa- at Kumbhakona

Madhyarjuna, (Thiruvidaimarudur)

Campakaranya (Cayavanam)

Mayuram also gave many agraharas


Raghunatha’s contribution to Art and Architecture

[Raghunatha Nayak’s contribution to art and architecture are also recorded in the text.

He built temple of Ramabhadra at Kumbhakonam which goes by the name Ramaswamy temple. Here Rama is portrayed as pattabhidheka rama seated with Sita and accompanied by Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna standing by his side. Lakshmana holds Rama’s bow and his own, Bharatas holds the royal umbrella and Satrughna hold chowri. Hanuman is portrayed as seated with a Tambura on his shoulder and a manuscripit in his hand. The Rama image in metal with Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman made of metal are under worship in the temple. The front mandapa of the temple houses the portrait of Raghunatha and his queen satnding in anjali;  the other pillars show Sri Rama pattabhisheka, Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and Hamnuman. Hanuman is portrayed with a vina and as will be shown Raghunatha mentions that Hanuman was a giver of School of music –(Hanumath amtha) There are also Vibhishana Pattabhisheka and Sugriva pattabhisheka in sculpture. At the from near the entrance is a pillar showing a lady holding the Vina which obviously the Raghuanthendra vina he invented.( seee below) ]

Raghunatha built the temple of Ramabhadra , at RamaSethu, at Kumbakonam and at

Sri Rangam temple .These temples were provided with prakara, gopura and arranged for car festivals (rathotsava). He also added buildings at the temples of

Jalpesa (Thiruvanaikka).

Pancanadisa (Thiruvaiyaru)

Dhenunatha (Thiruvaduturai)

Srinivasa Sthala – Vishnu (Kanchipuram)

Sri Rangam (built mandapas).

Kumbhoghonesvara – gopura


He also performed several danas like Tula punusha including the Mahadana at Kumbhakonam [where he erected 16 mandapas to mark the danas and also the main mandapa where he made the Mahadana the great gift.This mandapa has survived to this day portraying in sculptural form the king making the Tulapurusha dana.

It may also be remembered that he was the ruler who permitted the Danish East India Company tosetlle at Tarangampadi, build a fort there and allowed them to trade in chola mandalam. The Treaty that was entered into for the purpose is still preserved in Copenhagen the capital of Denmark. Also he wrote a letter on golden leaf to the King of Denmark which is also preserved there.]


The Brahmins who were venerated and gifted with wealth appeared like the victory flags of the king in the Chola country and also at Kasi. The agraharas gifted by his father were duly colonised with 1000 Brahmins each. He also fed Brahmins.


Raghunatha’s contribution to literature:-

Raghunatha composed many kavyas and dance dramas like:-



Valmika Caritra Kavya



Nala Caritiam.

Rukmini Krishna Vivaha Yakshagana


Raghunatha’s contribution to dance and music

In the field of music he created new raga, tala, and melas like:-

Jayanta sena  - Ragam

Ramananda - Talam

Sargita vidya -

Raghunatha - mela


The Brahmins at the court told him that the Sangita Sastra was composed by Sadasiva and others with over one lakh gananthas. But since it was too vast, it was difficult to follow for those who wanted to know it. When one looked at the actual renderings several variations were noticed and  nothing seems to follow the Sastra. How caould the musicians follow. It should be simplified so that there was no variation between the lakshana defined and actual rendering. Further it be simplified so that  by simple hearing once, people should be able to recognise the raga. Raghunatha was requested to write a treatise which would open the secrets of music to all. That was the origin of the Sangita Sudha.


            The following were  mentioned in the text  the progenitors of musical treatises.










Kundala kambali








Sailasuta Parvati









The word Sangita stands for Nritta, Gita and Vadya .This Sangita is divided into Margi and Desi.The School expounded by Brahma and Bharata in the presence of Siva is Margi.

Nritta, Vadya, Gitai which are found in different regions - pleasing to those people, are called Desi. The most important among them is Margi. Brahma created gita from Samaveda.At the end Raghunatha says “I have studied the texts composed by Sadasiva, Brahma, Siva, Nandi, Anjaneya. Matanga, Sardula, and Dattila He had also studied modern writers like Harindra  & Sarngadeva.Having learnt- the conposition brought down by good tradition.Satsampandaya - I have composed this text - as appeared to my intelleet.”

Thus is an effort by the lover music and dance after extensive study of both original written texts and oral tradition as preserved to his day and then composed the Sangita sudha. The main purpose was to simplify and make the science reach all people by an emperor. It is a unique text that has its place in the history of music. Unfortunaely the portion Raghunatha wrote on dance has not survived or if available is yet to be identified.