RAGALE (ragaLe)


Ragale (ragaLe) (ರಗಳೆ) is a prosodic form used in Kannada right from the beginning, both in literary works and inscriptions. It is composed in ‘mAtrA gaNa’ pattern. It has survived to this day with minor variations and is usually equated with the blank verse in English. It is called ‘saraLa ragaLe’ in this incarnation. Kuvempu (K.V.Puttappa) the celebrated Kannada writer opted for another variant of ragaLe for his epic ‘Sri Ramayana Darshanam’ and named it ‘mahA chandassu’. This brief note consists of a historical review and some theoretical details with appropriate illustrations.

Ragale is a metrical form without any restrictions on the number of lines. (pAda) In other words ragale does not stick to a stanzaic pattern and goes on and on following some rules of rhyming. ‘Shivaganada ragalegalu’ written by Harihara denote a turning point in the history of this form. Ragale made sporadic appearances in the Champu epics of the yore in conjunction with other metrical forms. Apabhramsha language contains a prosodic form called ‘Pajjhatika’ (pajjhaTika). This has given birth to a sixteen line verse form called ‘Kadavaka’. (kaDavaka) Most of the ragale interludes found in the Champu epics composed by poets such as Pampa and Ponna have sprung from these kaDavakas. These were also known as paddaLI and paDDaLi. Every line in this meter consists of four units each consisting of three, four or five syllables.(mAtre) The words ‘ragaLe’ and ‘raGaTA’ were used by Nagavarma in his ‘Chandombudhi’ and Jayakeerthi in his ‘Chandonushasana’. It was also called ‘raGaTAbandha’. Telugu uses the word ‘ragaDa’ to denote a similar form. These forms are more suitable for descriptive passages and were used accordingly. One finds such usages in works such as ‘Adipurana’, Ajithapurana’ and ‘Harishchandra Kavya’.

However, it was Harihara the ebullient poet of the thirteenth century who made extensive use of this form. He was the first poet to compose entire literary works in this meter. These ragales written in medieval Kannada and usually meant for recitation were composed in three variant forms.

Harihara has used utsaha, (utsAha) mandanila (mandAnila) and lailta (lalita) ragales depending on the needs of the story. A line in Utsaha ragale consists of four units comprising three syllables. Likewise, the lines of mandanila and lalita ragales contain four units of four and five matras respectively. There is no restriction on the number of lines. Initial or final rhymes are usually adhered to. Internal rhymes abound making the rendering melodious. Occasionally the last unit is truncated by one matre in order to provide a sense of ending. They can be either recited or sung depending on the choice of the reader. These forms are more suitable for developing a story line, descriptive passages and emotional interludes. Medieval Kannada jells with ragale much better than the old Kannada. Works such as ‘bEDara kaNNappana ragaLe’, ‘kumbara gunDayyana ragaLe’ and ‘tiruneelakanThara ragaLe’ are known for their formal beauty.

Ragale was used sparingly by the successors of Harihara. Raghavanka uses mandAnila ragaLe to great effect in his ‘Harishchandra Kavyam’. The lament of Chandramathi in mandanila ragale is heart rending. Kereya Padmarasa, Bheema kavi and Andayya have used this form occasionally.

Ragale had a new beginning in the early decades of the twentieth century when the modern poets were forced to find an equivalent for the blank verse. Ragale was eminently suited for this purpose. Kuvempu and Masti were the pioneers in this task. ‘Navaratri’ a bunch of narrative poems by Masti conceived on the model of the ‘Canterbury Tales’ uses ‘saraLa ragaLe’. ‘kathana kavanagaLu’ and ‘citrAngadA’ by Kuvempu complemented this work admirably. Kuvempu took ragaLe to new heights when he used an exalted variant for his epic ‘Ramayana Darshanam’.

Some illustrations are provided here with:


1. Pampa:

              a.  ಸ್ಫುರಿತೇಂ1ದ್ರನೀಲ1ಮಣಿಖಚಿ1ತಭೂಮಿ

          ಚೆಲ್ವಿಂ1ಗದು ನೆ1ಟ್ಟನೆ ಜ1ನ್ಮ ಭೂಮಿ11  


          ಪೊಗಳಲ್1ಕರಮರಿ1ದದು ಬೇ1ರೆ ಭಿತ್ತಿ11

b.       ಶ್ರೀಗೆ ಕುಳ|ಸದನಮೆನೆ1ತೊಳಪ ಮಣಿ1ಭವನದೊಳ್

ರಾಗರಸÀ1ಮೊದವೆ ಸರ1ಸಿರುಹ ಸಮ1ವದನದೊಳ್1 

            ಪೊಳೆವಪ1ಚ್ಚದೊಳೆಸೊಗ1ಯಿಸುವ ಮೃದು1ತಲ್ಪದೊಳ್ 


2. Harihara:

             a.  ಉತ್ಸಾಹ ರಗಳೆ

                     ಪಾಪ1ವೆಂಬ1ಮಲಿನ1ಮನದ1ಸೀರೆ1ಯಂ ತೆ|ರಳ್ಚಿ1ಕಟ್ಟಿ




            ಮಂದಾನಿಲ ರಗಳೆ





            ಲಲಿತ ರಗಳೆ:


                     ತಣಿಯುತ್ತೆ1ತೂಗುತ್ತೆ1ಆರತಿಗ1ಳಂ ಪೊತ್ತು11


                     ಪೊಸಗಬ್ಬ1ಮಂ ಗದ್ಯ1ಪದ್ಯಂಗ1ಳಂ ಪೇಳ್ದು11

     Ragale is a form that the suits the genius of the Kannada language and consequently it keeps on making reincarnations with creative modifications.


References: 1. Kannada Sahityada Pracheena Roopagalu, R.S.Mugali, Usha Sahityamale, Mysore



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