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What Is Ugabhoga? – Musical Composition

Ugabhoga is a musical composition based on swara. Ugabhogas are a unique contribution of Haridasas of Karnataka and these musical compositions can be sung in all ragas and talas.

Among the composers of Ugabhogas, the name of Purandaradasa (1484 -1574 CE) stands out, for it is believed that he has composed several thousand ugabhogas.

The text of ugabhoga may contain two to twenty lines, consisting of direct messages and simple narrations in an unrestrained prose style, the emphasis being only on devotion. Generally, ugabhoga contains five lines set to a particular raga, but with no restrictions of tala or rhyme.

Though they resemble the vachanas of Virashaiva Sharanas, Ugabhogas are musical in nature, unlike vachanas which are nothing but sayings. The choice of meaningful words is common to both Vachanas and ugabhogas.

The theme of ugabhogas may be philosophy, life experiences, duties, morals, ethics or praise of something higher. But no composition should contain more than one idea.

Ugabhogas do not comprise pallavi, anupallavi or charana, as in the case o padas. Also there is no khanda or jots as found in suladi. The ragas used for ugabhogas are generally simple, and the tala is sarvalaghu. If suladi is considered as tala dominant, ugabhoga can be considered svara dominant.

The term ugabhoga – made up by the words udgraha and abhoga – first appears in the works of Vijayadasa (1683 CE), though the compositions are found in those of Sripadaraja (c 1500 CE).

Sharangadeva’s Sringaraprakasha comprises four parts – udgraha, melapaka, dhruva and abhoga. But many ugabhogas of other well known composers do not contain all these elements. Therefore, it is clear that ugabhogas are the compositions of suktas of the Vedic system and abhoga as explained in Sangita Damodara. Hence it is ukti without the restraint of chandas and raga without the restraint of tala. This combination produces an emotional impact and a readiness to absorb the message that follows in the pada. Therefore the practice has been to sing the ugabhoga before the pada in the assembly of dasas.