When I started listening to Carnatic Music, the aspects I could appreciate fell into a very narrow realm. At that time, it was full of patterns and rhythm. Madurai Mani Iyer was the only artist I listened to initially and subsequently, I started listening to T.V.Sankaranarayanan. Since MMI bani consisted of producing interesting swara patterns in a sarvalaghu rhythm, my mind automatically stayed captive when I listened to these artists. Because of lack of domain knowledge at that time, it stayed that way for a few years until I got exposed to MDR.
As my theoretical knowledge increased, I started trying out different ragas or different krithis but only by the same set of artists that my mind accepted. After a while, my horizons started broadening and I became more receptive to other artists. I was eager to listen to different artists. I liked some and disliked some. I could not understand why. With the opening up of my mind to other artists, my listening became more krithi-based. I loved certain krithis and was curious to hear how different artists had approached a certain krithi or trying to understand their patantharam.
Krithis led way to ragas. I became exposed to more and more ragas as I read about others' enjoyment of certain ragas. I started shedding my prejudices more readily and become open to new ragas. Ragas like Chakravaham or Dharmavati, which I had previously dismissed as uninteresting, now become objects of curiosity. Krithis or certain renditions in these ragas obviously played a part. For example, the krithi Ranganai thudhiporku in Chakravaham was fundamental in me listening to the raga more.
The intellectual and emotional satisfaction I derived from exploring different ragas was not enough for me. I started exploring ragas deeply. I observed the different phrases comprising of the ragas, the structure of different krithis in that raga, individual notes that bring the raga to life, speed or rhythm which suit the raga best etc. I find myself subconsciously applauding a phrase that could be viewed as just another phrase for that raga. Sometimes I'm not applauding the singer but just the phrase for being there in the raga or the raga for having that phrase. My 'obsession with raga X' posts are a by-product of this deep delving into that raga.
At the risk of sounding elitist, I'll declare that Carnatic Music is the most complete form of music providing emotional, intellectual, devotional and spiritual satisfaction.