Before we start discussing this topic, let us understand that Carnatic music has primarily evolved as an art form that sprang from the spiritual outbursts of Saints like Shri Purandara Dasar, the Thrimoorthigal and various other Mahathmas. Indeed each Raga is presided over by the Raga Devatha and obviously is charged with innate Divinity. Every Musician would have experienced the fact that the Raga controls his/her music and it is not the other way round. It is exactly when this happens that one could say he/she is immersed in the Raga. Therefore it is a given fact that the Raga by itself is Divine.
I think a comparison to the Vedas is warranted here to explain the thoughts. The Vedas are chanted with Swaras. Udhatham, Anudhatham and Swaritham, as they are classified. It is declared that the Vedas has to be chanted with the prescribed Swaras. If the Swaras go wrong, it would have a negative impact even though the Sahithya (using this term for the sake of convenience)is correct, and vice versa. Now both the components have to be addressed properly for it to be complete. Similarly with Carnatic music. Of course, there is a lot more of freedom to add one’s own Sangathis* within a given space. But the Sahithya is of paramount importance and adds to the ambience and majesty of the rendition. However scholarly you might be in your chosen language, can you ever replace “Entharo Mahanubhavulu“ , with any other Sahithya. Never!!!!!! Would it create the same impact? Never!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Numerous examples can be quoted which goes on to establish that Sahithya and Sangeetha are like two sides of the same coin. Take the example of Chakkani Raja Margamu, where Thyagaraja Swami explains, “why think about other narrow paths, when the path of Shri Rama Bhakthi, is there in front of you”. The Path is broad and royal. The number of Sangathis that adorn this Pallavi line are plenty, whereas there is just one Sangathi for the next line, “Santhula Dooranela”( which means, narrow paths ,that are longer). Obviously the Saint wanted to stress on the Royal Path. Again in the same line, the pause at Raja Margamu is noticeably long denoting the Royal Path, whereas at Santhula it is really short, and again “Doora” is long signifying distance. This is just one example. Our Music is so beautifully blended with Sahithya Rasa and it is indeed an inseparable aspect of our Music.
There is an incident reported by a person who had Darshan of Shri Ramana Maharshi, and asked the Maharshi, “Is it not true that Thyagaraja Swami, Deekshithar etc attained God by singing? Can I not do the same?” The Saint replied, “ What they attained came out as Krithis or Songs!!!!”. What a profound meaning this brings about. Our Music is supremely different in this respect, that it is definitely Spiritually oriented. The Saint composers, did not sit down with a notepad, think about the nuances of each Raga, and then come up with a composition. They were all Spiritually inspired, and the Music was an expression of their “Anubhoothi”. We are all aware of the Cause and Effect relationship. If a particular sound brings about a particular effect, then it is only fair to assume that as a corollary a specific effect will result in a specific sound. So with the Krithis, these Krithis have come out as an expression of “God Realization”, and we can have a glimpse of that experience, if we sing it in the right manner , with the right Bhavam and Bhakthi. Thus, it is definitely not advisable to take the Sahithya lightly.
Would just like to add, that, today with the amount of material that is available in books and the Internet, we must definitely make it a point to learn the Sahithya properly, and understand the meaning of each Krithi.
*Sahithya- Lyrics of the song
* Sangeetha-Tune of the song
*Sangathi-Embellishments on a particular line of the song.