The Pancharatnams refer to Thyagaraja’s masterpieces in the Ghana ragas, Nattai, Gowla, Varali, Arabhi and Shree. They are listed below:
1) Jagadanandakaraka – Nattai
2) Dudukugala – Gowla
3) Kanakanaruchira – Varali
4) Sadinchene – Arabhi
5) Endaro mahanubhavulu – Shree
The Pancharatnams are also one of the most popularly sung pieces especially in Thyagaraja festivals where they are rendered in chorus. Of these the Varali composition was discovered only in the last 100 years. Although there is no lyrical theme between these compositions, they are all composed in Ghana ragas. Ghana ragas refer to ragas which lend themselves to elaborate improvisations and are suitable for being rendered in tanam.
The structure of these are similar to swarajathi with a pallavi, anupallavi and charanam which can be rendered in swaram and sahityam.
All of the Pancharatnas are composed in Telugu except Jagadanandakaraka which is in Sanskrit. The word combinations and splits especially in the vowel ‘a’ are interesting to note in the charanam of the Nattai composition.
It is interesting to note that Ootthukkadu Venkata Kavi also started his Saptaratnas with Nattai and Gowla successively.
In the Gowla composition, Dudukugala, Thyagaraja has reproached himself and described the sinful ways in which his life had been spent.
Sadinchene is interesting in that the latter half has a line which is repeated as a refrain between the madhyama kala charanams. This is a bright composition on Lord Krishna and sets a cheerful mood.
The Varali composition is set to a slower tempo and provides a wonderful contrast to the others.
The Shree composition has an interesting rhythmic theme where pallavi, anupallavi and the charanam start on the second beat. The composition is Thyagaraja’s salutation to mythological dieties who have inspired him.