Vocal : Prof. K Venkataramanan
Vocal Support: Ramanathan
Violin : Mathur Srinidhi
Mrudangam : Padmanabhan
Professor Venkataramanan started the morning referring Sri Muthaiah Bhagavathar as Sangeetha Chakravarthy. He would rather talk less and sing more kritihs that reflect the genius of Sri Muthaiah Bhagavathar, he said, before starting the proceedings. However, to the benefit of the audience, he went through the life history briefly.
Sri Muthaiah Bhagavathar, born to Lingam Iyer and Anandavalli Ammal on the 15th ov November 1887 at a village called Punalveli near Rajapalayam in Thirunelveli District. His ancestors on his mothers side were reknowned Tamil scholars. While he was only 7 years old, his father passed away and he was brought to Harikeshanallur, under the protection of his uncle. At the age of 9 he started learning music from Fiddle vidvan Sambashiva Iyer of Tiruvarur in Tanjavur District, along with learning languages Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu and Sanskrit apart from Vedas. He returned to Harikeshanallur at the age of 19. His early recognition came from the State of Travancore. Moolam Thirunal Maharaja presented him Rs1000 and a ‘Veerashringhala’ pleased with his concert. He married to Sivakami , daughter of his uncle at the age of 22.
On the request of Krishna Bhattji, he learned the Marathi Style Harikatha and started performing vaLLi kalyANam, kausalya KalyANam and few others in the ‘satdhi neeti’ style. In early 20th century, he performed in the Mysore Palace in front of Krishnaraja Wodeyar, and he was appointed as the ‘asthana vidwan’ where he stayed for long and most of his compositions were originated during this tenure. He wrote ‘Chamunda Ashtothara’ in Kannada, Shiva Sthrotra in Sanskrit, Navavarana kritis, all types of varnams, Thillanas. King asked him to compose a band song to be performed “Jumbo Safari” and while the discussion was on, he composed the ‘notes’ on the go and sang then and there. State of Mysore recognised him with a citation of “Gayaka Shikhamani” the first such award of the many that followed including Sangita Kalanidhi.
In the year 1936, Travancore Maharaja requested him to popularise the kritis of Swathi Thirunal. He suggested to start a Music Academy to teach Swati Kritis, but insisted on creating jobs for those who pass out of the college. The post of Music Teachers were created in every school on this request, a practice continued in Kerala State even today. Muthaiah Bhagavathar, joined the College as its first principal and appointed eminent musicians like Keshava Bhagavathar, N V Narayanaswami and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer as the teachers. He also got the fees to very manageable levels for the students. Prof Venkata Ramanan recalled having paid Rs 5 per month as tuition fee in his early years and Rs 8 for advanced training.
In 1941, he authored a book titled ‘Sangita Kalpadruma’. He was given D Lit by Travencore University for his contribution to Music , subsequent to the release of the book. He was the first musician to receive doctorate. He joked, that these days every one is receiving Doctorate’, loosing its value. Sri Muthaiah Bhagavathar passed away on the 30th June 1956.
Muthaiah Bhagavathar will be remembered for his contribution to Carnatic Music as a composer. He has composed many kritis in his lifetime which are popular in the concert circuit. He has also considered to have introduced numerous new Ragams to the Carnatic music arena.
He started his concert with a varnam on Chamundeswari.
01 mahishAsura madhini – AndOLika ( O )
02 siddhi vinAyakam – mOhana kalyANi – ( A, S )
Muthiah Bhagavathar composed all types of varnams , tAnavarnams like the above, pada varnam and daru varnams. He chose to sing sAma varnam saying even though it is short it is special. The other daru varnams in khamAs ( more popular) and vasanta ( at this point Sri Bangalore Shankar who was in the audience, chipped in with hindustAni kApi) , which are difficult to learn and sing and he did not prepare.
03 balumOsa mayyanurA ( daru varNam) – sAhAna ( A )
He said ragams sAranga malhAr and nAgabhUshani are like twins. Unless you are familiar to both these ragas, you will not be able to identify one from the other. Explaining the differences ( I guess, nishadam in avarohanam in nagabhushani) he said, he will sing a composition each to clarify the differences.
04 srI mahAbalagiri nivAsini – sAranga malhAr ( A,S )
05 gaNEsha skanda janani – nAgabhUshaNi ( A,S )
NiroshTha is another interesting raga from this genius composer. As the name suggest, nirOshta does not uses ma and pa ( the close of mouth thus eliminated). The krithi composed by Muthaiah bhagavathar does not have sAhitya and swara that require closing of the lips.
06 rAja rAja rAdhitE – nirOshTha
Urmika, he says was composed with the memory of durga in ‘bhadrakAli avatar’. The composition of Muthaiah Bhagavathar, uses words and phrases from ‘lalita sahasranamam’ cleverly mingled with his brilliance. Urmika, to the layman is Simhandra madhyamam minus dhaivatam.
07 kALarAthri swarUpiNi – Urmika ( A,N,S )
neraval and swara at pallavi line
08 uraga rAja maNi valayE – paSupati priya
09 sarva jagat vyApinam bhajEham – manOrama
10 niramayE niranjanE – kuntaLa varALi
11 yArukkum aDangAda – bEgaDa
12 satchAmara ramA vANi – hamsAnandi
13 Notes ( da ri sa ri ga ri da ? )
14 thillAna ( dhim ta rara ) – hamsAnandi
this thillana was compolsed for Sri Chithira Thirunal Maharaja
15 jaya mangaLam nitya Subha mangaLam – vasanta
SLOkam ( lOkA samastA sukhiNo bhavantu ) – madhyamAvati
What a performance. The alapanas of Saranga malhar, naga bhushani and Urmika, the swaras that he sang, the neraval for Urmika,..every thing as top class. One need to preserve some of these gems of Muthaiah Bhagavather as he demonstrated the nuances of the compositions. He was ably supported by the accompanying artists, and I was very impressed by the young Srinidhi, who was outstanding through out. Wonderful Sunday morning with some fabulous music.