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Veeneya Bedagu – Life & Music of Veena Seshanna Lec-Dem by Prof. Mysore V Subramanya @ Essae Music Foundation, 17 Mar 2012

Lecture  Demonstration :  Prof. Mysore V Subramanya

Supported by :

Ashwin Anand ( Veena)

Ramani Sankar ( Vocal)

Giridhar ( Vocal)

Aditya ( Violin)

B R Srinivas ( Mrudangam)

The Lecture Series at Essae Music Foundation is back with another Lec-Dem on a Karnataka vaggeyakara. Prof V Subramanya, eminent musician and critic, and most importantly, the great grandson of Veena Seshana, came in to introduce the life and music of his great grand father.

The tri-murtis of Carnatic Music is known to every one who are interested in this genre of music, started Prof. Subramanya. But, he continued, that many would not be able to name the “Mysore Sangeetha Trimurtis’. Few will be able to name one, but not beyond that. Naming Seshanna, Subbanna and Bidaram Krishnappa as the trimurtis from Mysore, he said Seshanna was the most prominent of these musicians by far.  You always prefix Veene before Seshanna, as one does ‘Mahatma’ in front of Gandhi. Veena and Seshana had attained the status of ‘abhinnabAva’ or synonymous to each other.

Similarly, Mysore is known for its palace and the Maharaja. After that, it is Veena that comes in to one’s mind after that( masala dosa, set dosa, Mysore pack etc to follow) . Mysore Kingdom was associated with this divine instrument for a long time. He said “veeneya belagidu Mysuru’….

Seshanna was born in the year of 1852, when the kingdom was under the rule of Mumudi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. He has a long lineage of musical heritage in his family. Unless the present musicians, where we see 2-3 generation of musicians in their family, Veena Seshanna was 24th generation of the musicians , both vainikas and the palace vidwans. The early generations, were in the palace of Tanjavur during Nawab’s time n Mysore. Bhakshi Venkata Subbayya, the great grand father of Veena Seshanna, was brought back to Mysore by Mummdi , to start the music again in the palace. He was not only given the asthana Vidwan post, but was also given the powers of a ‘Diwan’.

Of his ancestors, Pacchimirium Adiappayya, famous for composing the varnam Viriboni, stands apart from the rest. Viriboni is considered as the crown jewel of all varnas, and Prof Subramanya said, a concert can not fail, if it started with viriboni varnam, which is the most popular varnam till date.  Viriboni is a complete composition, even though it is a varnam, with all the beauty of Bhairavi. Adiayappayya was given the citation as ‘Veena Margadarshi” – Guiding lamp. He referred to a 78 rpm record of M S Subbalakshmi,in which she had sang this varnam. He said, after listening to that rendition, one DO feel like stopping the plate, without continuing, wanting to listen to it again, such was the beauty of that piece. King Sharabhoj(?) of Tanjavur in recognition to the contribution of Adiappayya, presented an entire village of ‘kapistala’ to the musician. This village is later came in to the hands of the family of Moopanar. The family was moved back to Mysore, where they were given utmost respect. The king himself was a musician, who has written a geete in the respect of the musician, composed in Reetigaula, and is called ‘sapta tALESwari gItE’.

Seshanna was born in 1852, to Bhakshi Chikkaramappa,as his last son. Chikkaramappa, himself ws a vainika in the court of Mysore Maharaja. At the age of 10, Seshanna had his major break through. King Mummudi, though a Kshatriya, was very pious. Apart from his regular ‘trikala sandhyavandana’ he used to celebrate all the religious functions. during Shivarathri, he used to invite all the major musicians of South India to have a full night musical fair.  The musicians used to sing elaborate pallavi in various raga and tala, and the court musicians were asked to perform in the same raga or tala immediately after that , keeping the local musicians fully attentive and on guard.  In one such occasion, a musician from Tamil Nadu performed a complicated pallavi, to the shock and surprise of the court musicians. No body could grasp and sing the same, and while they were anticipating the wrath of the king, the young boy ( of 10 yrs) Seshanna, came forward ( to his father) and offered to attempt. His father was taken aback and was scared. The king, not only a learned musician, his physical appearance with all that huge mustache was very intimidating. However, left with no option, he said, this can be performed by my son. Seshanna, matching the shruthi, sang the alapana for 10 mins and pallavi with trikala. The court , mesmerized by his singing, gave him a standing ovation. Extremely pleased Maharaja, placing the child in his lap, showered him with presents. He asked Chikkaramappa, to take care of the young prodigy prophesying him to be a great musician.

Seshanna’s father passed away, when he was only 12 yr old. He came under the protection of his widowed elder sister Venkamma, since then. Venkamma, molded the musician in Seshanna. Seshanna continued his learning under Mysore Sadashiva Rao and Dodda Seshanna ( father of Subbanna).  Venkamma’s regime was very strict. The boy has to practice his lessons every day and was fed only on completion. There was a daily practice chart, which was followed by Seshanna and Subbanna ( who was his cousin).

Sadashiva Rao was the direct disciple of Walajpet Venkataramana Bhagavathar, who was a direct disciple of Thyagaraja himself. Sadashiva Rao had the privilege of performing in front of Thyagaraja, singing a kriti in Thodi, in respect of the great composer himself. Prof. Subramanya said, there is a ‘bhajana mandapa’ in Walajpet on the way to Chennai, which was build by Walajpet Venkataramana Bhagavather, and there you can see a painting of Thyagaraja, drawn by one of the disciples. In the same premise, there is another painting of Walajpet Bhagavatar teaching his students, which also feature Sadashiva Rao as one among them.

Seshanna was the ‘asthan vidwan’ in the court of Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar, who himself was proficient violin player.  There are confirmation of concerts where the Maharaja himself accompanied the main singers. Later Krishnaraja Wodeyar, became the king of Mysore, and Seshanna continued to be the asthan Vidwan in his court as well. It was Krishnaraja Wodeyar, who gave the title of ‘Vainika Shikhamani’ to Seshanna. He received titles and gifts from almost all the kingdoms of India, from Travencore to, Baroda. All in all, Seshanna received 42 Gold Medals from various parts of the country. To his magnanimity, all the 42 were given away to people by Seshanna. One Barkathulla Khan, Chowdiah when he demonstrated the 7 string violin, Bidaram Krishnappa and many more were recipients of these medals. His house was thronged by musicians and music lovers. 40-50 people were regular for lunch and many more during the day.

Seshanna had the rare privilege to perform in front of the visiting Emperor George IV in 1912, the only musician from South India. The memorabilia of the same is present in the Buckingham Palace. There was also a famous painting by Raja Ravi Varma on Veena Seshanna. He later joked that he was planning to bring a replica of that painting to present to Essae Music foundation, but will do it on a later occasion.

Seshanna can be said as the principle archtect of the Mysore lineage of Veena. He gave a new definition to all aspects of Veena playing, be it its fingering technique, the importance given to the lyrics, or the method of holding the Veena. He was even mastered the art of playing the Veena standing, which Prof Subramanya said, he atempted once and failed miserably.

There are many books and publications on Veena Seshanna, Yuga Purusha, Purusha Saraswathi, Vainika shikhamani etc.


Veena Seshanna’s kritis are not very popular in the current concert scene. Barring a few musicians and few compositions ( especially Thillanas) , his name is not regularly heard. Prof Subramanya said, it is not surprising, since most of the musicians learn to sing 25 odd kritis and sing the same for next 50 years. He joked that he can predict most of the singers, these days.

Seshanna had a large ‘sishya-parampara’ to boast. Most of the current vainikas of Karnataka are insome way or other connected to this great musician. some of his direct disciples include Bhairavi Lakshminarayanappa ( L Raja Rao’s father) , Chitrashilpi Venkatappa, Thirumalai Rajamma, A S Chandrasekharappa, V N Rao and Veena Venkatagiriappa ( Guru of Doraiswamy Iyengar).

He composed kritis for performing in Veena, Vocal and for Bharatanatya. His compositions include swarajatis, varnams, devarnamas, keerthanas, thillanas and javali ( one javali). He has composed in various tala, many ragaas including a few rare ragas.

Swarajati or Jatiswara

There are 12 swarajatis of Veena Seshanna. He said in Tamil Nadu music circle, they differentiate Swarajati and jatiswara by sahitya. In Karnataka, there is no such practice of differentiating between swarajati and jatiswara. Most of the swarajatis of Veena Seshanna are without ‘sahityam’, hence can be called Jatiswara. Recently, he said, the sahitya of Junjhuti swarajati was found. He has written swarajatis in common ragas as well as a few not so common ragas like Vanaspati and Manavati. He deployed various tala structure from the common chaturasra triputa( Adi) to khanda aTa ( 1 ), sankIrna tripuTa ( 1) and roopakam (1). Apparently, there are only two compositions in Sankeerna Triputa and one of them is by Veena Seshanna. He said, the bhairavi swarajati can also be sang as a pallavi.

Kamboji swarajati, is special. Each charana starts at each swara starting from shadjam , progressing to tara shadjam. There are two charanams starting at nishadam.

01 swarajati – kAmbOji   by  Ashwin Anand ( Veena )

The kapi swarajathi has another interesting take on the raga. Set to Khanda Ata tala with ateetha eduppu, it is fairly difficult to play on Veena.  The kapi has the arOhana of kharaharapriya and a vakra avarohana  ( Note : I could be wrong here in understanding, do correct me if I’m wrong).

02 swarajati – karNaTaka kApi  by  Ashwin Anand ( Veena )


Seshanna composed 9 varnams in total, in both Ghana ragas and apoorva ragas ( like jhala varALi). There are two ragamalika varnams one in 14 ragas and the other in 18.

03 nIrajAkshi ( varNam 0 – sAvEri – mishra jhumpa  by Ashwin Anand ( Veena )


He composed 11 keertanas again in popular ragas and few in rare ragas like gowri, natakapriya etc. King Krishnaraja wodeyar once remarked that there are no sufficient kritis in many of the melakarta ragas that can be performed in concerts and asked the court vaggeyakaras to create in each of these ragas. Seshanna took up this challenge and composed one in ‘rishabhapriya’. There are other notable compositions in this raga by Koteeswara Iyer and Vasudevacharya.

04 manasulOni (?) – rishabhapriya   Roopakam  by  Ashwin Anand ( Veena)


Seshanna is widely known as a vaggeyakara for his thillanas. He has composed 17 thillanas, most of them in praise of his maharaja ( poshaka mudra). He has composed in varied ragas including a few inspired by hindustani music ( like darbari kanada, behag and kapi).  Thillanas are usually fast paced suited to perform towards the end of the concert. However, Seshanna’s thillanas are usually with ‘vilamba kala’ starting. In his thillanas, the raga bhava is preserved as is the case with a keertana.

The junjhuti thillana is said to be his signature composition. Unlike its hindustani equivalent, here it is not a ‘sampoorna raga’. The arohana stops at dhaivata. on a side note, he said Mysore and Junjhoti has a long connection. Junjhoti is often used in the music of dramas, and the audio versions of some of the old drama performance are available even now.

Veena Seshanna, to his credit, has explored all the possibilities of this raga composing swarajati, javali, devarnama and thillana. Prof Subramanya recollected a discussion he had with Doraiswamy Iyengar, who had high regard for the junjhoti thillana of Seshanna.

06 thillAna – junjhoti   by Ashwin anand ( Veena)

He said, Veena Seshanna’s compositions are difficult to learn and perform but are good to listen. He commended on the effort by Ashwin in taking up some of the difficult compositions to perform today, as the Vainika paved way to vocals.


The demonstration continued with the vocalists on the stage.

06  swarajati – bhairavi   by giridhar

07 varNam ( mAyA A mELarA ?) – nAtakurinji   by Ramani Sankar

08 rAma ninna nera nammiti – Anandabhairavi  by Giridhar

Seshanna has composed two thillanas in thodi which are noted for its dhAtu and jati prayogas.

09 thillAna ( na diri diri dhIm dhIm tanana tana dheeem) – thODi  by giridhar


There are 5 devarnamas by Seshanna on 5 deities

10 shiriyE twaritadindalendanu ? – junjhoTi  by Ramani Sankar

Prof V Subramanya concluded his lecture thanking the organiser, the artist who supported him and the audience. He said, Seshanna’s compositions are difficult to perform, but remembering a great vidwan is a great way to honour the artist and the blessings of Seshanna will be bestowed upon all those who performed and listened to him today.


Essae Music foundation by choice, bring presenters who has direct connection with the artists and Vaggeyakaras being presented. This gives tow fold advantage. One, the unknown facets of the musicians and his compositions will be presented with a new insight and two, they bring in a kind of authenticity to the lecture. Prof V Subramanya is known for his knowledge and his command on the subject and language. His presentation today marked by his trademark humour and clarity of thought. He never bore people with mundane and unimportant data, but make the lecture attractive by his appropriate measured approach.

On the artists part, they all participated effectively to the proceedings and a special mention should e given for Ashwin who was very impressive in his Veena play.

Note : This is from the notes of a running lecture and I might have missed a lot of important aspects. More over, Prof Subramanya gave his lecture in his stylish, clear Kannada ( no mishra Kannada) which make me handicapped from absorbing the complete essence of his words. This report would have suffered from that as well, an aspect I am trying to improve. That said, if there are any errors, factual or interpretation, they are entirely mine and request you to let me know if you notice any. I would like to make the corrections as appropriate.


Posted by on March 17, 2013 in Essae Music Foundation, Lec-Dem


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Tamizh Thyagayyar – The life and Music of Papanasam Sivan : Lec-Dem by Dr.Rukmini Ramani

Lecture and Vocal by : Dr.Rukmini Ramani

vocal Support : Chitra  ( daughter of Dr.Rukmini Ramani)

Violin : Achuta Rao

Mrudangam :  ?

Dr.Rukmini Ramani, started her lecture by stating how privileged she is to be born into such a family. How privileged she is to be born to him, listened to his singing, to watch him compose and note down many of them for him and to teah his compositions to the disciples.

She said, she would start the morning with a varnam and a ganesha krithi composed by her father.

01 sAmi nAn undan aDimai ( varNam) – nAttakurinji

Sri Papanasam Sivan had composed 15 krithis on Lord Ganesha. In fact, he had also written 3 mangaLams on Ganesha, she said, and it is not known that the other prominent composers ever did one so.

02 sadAshiva kumAra – suddha sAvEri

Life and Times

Papanasam Sivan was born on the 26th of September 1890, to Ramamrita Iyer and Yogambal. He died on  a shuklapanchami day, 1st October 1973. His mother and maternal grand father were proficient singers and they used to perform at temples and marriage functions. Even though she hadn’t learned to read and write, she knew more than 300 of the Thyagaraja compositions. Ramayya, as was his orinal name, moved to Trivandrum with his brother and mother after the death of his father. The family had a younge sister, who passed away at a very young age and there is not much mention about her on the later days.

Moving into Trivandrum at an age of 7, he did undergo the education as it was in Kerala. He spoke Malayalam and learned Sanskrit. It was here he was attracted to the music of Neelakanta Sivan, under whom he learned tevaram and tirupugazh. Neelakanta Sivan was a scholar and an eminent musician and the learning accompanying him for bhajans ( where he was asked ot sing) and concerts continued for 7-8 years until the death of Neelakanta Sivan.

Nemam Natesan and Sankarasivam taught him the varisais and a couple of varNams, which constituted for his early musical learning. The rest he  learned by himself.  By hte time he was 17, he passed  out from Maharaja’s Sanskrit College as ‘upAdhyAya’. Trivandrum at that time was prominent with musicians, including Harikeshanallur Muthaiah Bhagavathar.  It was at this time, he learned music under Noorani Mahadeva Bhagavathar. In 1910, after the demise of his mother and Neelakanta Sivan ( around the same time), he left Trivandrum and started his nomadic life, wandering around from one temple to the other. It is during this journey, he reached his home town. His paternal uncle ( a scholar in Tamil) was a teacher at Papanasam for Physical Education and Tamil. He used to go there often and sing in the temple every morning.

One day as he was coming out of the temple after his morning bhajan, the villagers who listened to him noted that “pApanAsathukku Sivan vandittEn” ( correct my Tamil 🙂 ), and the name eventually stuck. Dr.Rukmini Ramani said, he used to sign as “Papanasam Ramayya Sivan”

He continued his travel and was staying at the Marathanallur Sadguru Swamigal MaDham” for over 6 months. Stalwarts used to visit this place and used to perform regularly. It was here , he wrote ( or developed) 16 harikatha upanyasams and performed. He continued to perform bhajans all over Tamilnadu until 1959 ( for over 40 years)

In the year 1921, K K Sundaram, brought him to Chennai to sing at Kapaleeshwaran Temple. He was fond of this temple and continued to perform there until 1972.  After his bhajan in 1972, he told those close to him that next year he will not be here to perform , but they have to continue the bhajans in his absence. He conducted the bhajans for 51 years at the temple.

First Concert and initial Compositions

He used to visit the temples at Kumbhakonam, Tanjavur and Thiruvarur and whenever he perform , other bhagavathers used to come and listen to him. It was at Tiruvarur, he composed his first kriti “Unai thudikka arulthai’

03 unnai thudikka arulthai – kuntaLa varALi

The second krithi composed by him was ‘ malariNai tuNaiyE’ , which was very similar to the more popular ‘paripAlayamAm’ in reetigaula. Dr. Rukmini Ramani, noted that it is not sure who tuned first ( Swati thirunal composition was set to tune later in 20th century)

04 malariNai tuNayE – rIti gauLa

His first concert was in the year 1923 at thiruvayyar accompanied by Papa Venkataramaiah and Tanjavur Vaidyanathan, which lasted 3 hrs. Since then, he sang many concerts at temples as well as at marriages and other functions. Usually he sings only the trinity compositions, unless people insist on singing his own compositions. His viruttam singing was very famous, and was asked to sing them as often by rasikas.

Tamizh Thyagayya

It was Simizhi ( or Chimizhi) Sundaram Iyer , who called his Tamizh Thyagayya first, after a concert at Thiruvayyar with Lalgudi Jayaraman and T K Murthy, after seeing the similarities in style of his compositions to the saint Thyagaraja. “Tamizh thyAgayya purandu vittAr’ or so was his words, which Dr Rukmini recalls, was written down by her father in his notebook.

The flurry of compositions have continued since then. He used to write down in whichever paper he could get hold of at that time , hence many of them would have been lost. Neela Ramamoorthy, the elder daughter of Papanasam Sivan and Dr.Rukmini’s sister was the first to attempt to collate all them.

He used to compose with the mudra ‘rAmadAsan’. It might have been derived from his original name ‘rAmayya’. He has one son, named ‘rAmadAsan’ who did not live long. May be that could be one of the possibilities. In fact,there are many compositions which do not carry his mudra in them. There was the other ‘rAmadAsa’ in the form of ‘Thyagaraja’ who composed and sang about  Lord Rama and this ‘rAmadAsa’ wrote kritis on Shiva and Vishnu.

Papanasam Sivan had written many kriti’s in Tamil , including varNams and Mangalam, so as to perform an entire concert only of his compositions.

on a question on his last composition, she said no one is sure, as he used to write 4-5 kritis a day during his last days.

On a question at the end, Dr.Rukmini Ramani said that there is a Sanskrit dictionary written by him, called samskruta bhAshA shabda samudra: , which is very useful for musicians and music lovers. To another question, she said, the vageyakara composed nearly 60 kritis in Sanskrit, but she missed singing them today.

Marriage and Family

He continued to travel from one place to other, and the relatives wanted him to get married and settle in one place. Thus they got him married to Lakshmi Ammal. She continued to serve him as a devoted wife, supporting him in his musical career. Musicians like MSS and DKP used to come to their home, and used to cherish the coffee serverd by Lakshmi Ammal, resulting in a joke that they are coming to savor the coffee and not for the Bhajan. Lakshmi Ammal was also offer lyrics, if some one does not know the song during bhajans.

Divine intervention

It is obvious that he was blessed  by the Gods. Dr.Rukmini says, there are instances where it was said that the gods themselves have come to help Papanasam Sivan. One such instance she narrated was at the ‘kachukumalai  Murukan temple (?) . He reached there ailing with stomach ache and eye infection and was not in a position to perform bhajans. It was then a ‘guru’ came to the town and offered him milk and a drop for his eyes. Needless to say, he had recovered in time and gave bhajan from 8:00 pm till 1:00 am. No one had seen this guru before or later, or ever heard of him.

At another instance ( which I seems to have missed the details – help solicited) is about the thieves entering the house for stealing the money. Listening to his singing villagers came in large numbers, as the thieves vanished from the scene.

Congress and nationalism

Papanasam Sivan used to be a staunch congress supporter, and used to like its leaders, especially Mahatma Gandhi. He has composed many krithis with this theme. Between 1914 to 1929, there used to e regular Congress meetings, organised by leaders like C S Krishnayyar and Satyamurthy. Two Sivan’s were popular in those meetings, Tirperinalur (?) sivan for Annadanam and Papanasam Sivan for his singing.  The Congress leaders, especially Satyamurthy wanted him to sing prayers during these meetings. The kriti ‘gAndhi pOloru shAnthi swarUpanE‘ and ‘ulakinenkilum‘ etc was created under this influence.


When Theosophical Society wanted to run a music school,( Sri Sankara Menon ,then the president), it was Papanasam Sivan they sought out first, thanks to his Mylapore Bhajans.  To his humility, he said, I can’t teach. ” You sing, we will learn” , came the reply. During 1934 to 1939, he supported the Kalakshetra writing and teaching music. It was here he composed the popular ‘kANA kan kOTi vEnDum’

06 kANA kaN kOTi vENDum – kAmbOji

07 nArAyaNa nalinAyaka lOchana – shyAma


Rukminidevi Arundel wanted Papanasam sivan to sing for her dance. She invited him once to a Ceylon Dance program ‘ShivanE, you have to come”. Though he joked on the ‘shivanE’ ( someone can fill in the tamil words here ), he accompanied her, singing the kritis as pleased to him. Rukminidevi Arundel, improvised her dance on the stage, matching to the free flowing music of Sivan, by often developing on stage improvisations.

He had tuned and translated many Sanskrit verses for Dance programs.


Even before he came into writing songs for cinemas and being part of them, he used to act in dramas and other stage programs.  One such drama ‘mArkAndEyan’ was written ( both dialogue and songs)  and directed by him, apart from being in the cast.

He was reluctant to accept offers from movies. He said, he cant write the way they wanted. He agreed on a condition that he will write the way he felt and they will fit it appropriately for the movies.

He entered the movie world in 1935 ( seetha kalyanam). His songs were so popular, that even laymen ( or those with no musical knowledge) started liking them. Dr.Rukmini Ramani, sang may of those songs ( few lines) , including ‘manmatha leelaye’ , appane paduvum etc.  Many movies, despite their lack of meat, used run on the music and songs. his music was filled with bhakti, philosophy, Music, tamizh language.  Even his love songs will be rich musically and lyrically with the least bit of vulgarity.

In those days, actors were singers, and prominent carnatic musicians were actors in movies. Seetha Kalyanam was directed by Murukadoss and had S.Rajam and S. Balachander in the cast. GNB and MSS were anyway famous for their Meera , Musiri Subramanya Iyer acted in ‘thukkaram’. Papanasam Sivan, himself acted in 4 movies ( kuchela, kubera kuchela,thyAga bhOgi , bhakta chEla ).

In kuchela, krishna was doing the ‘abhishekam’ for his long lost friend, with the ‘tAmbUlam’and the rest. He said the dialogue, ‘enakkidellAm vEnamA krishnA’ and closed his eyes, going into a trance, until Ponangudi Mani, woke him up from his divine state.

In the movie ‘chandralekha’ directed by S S Vasan and produced by Gemini, there is word ‘mOhanakara’, which was not sitting pretty. The director wanted to remove the word. Sivan had no issues whatsoever, however, they weren’t able to replace the word with any other, as “Sivan pOtta vArthaikku” , you cant find an alternate.

Once, P U Chinnappa, the lead actor refused to sing , songs written by Sivan. The director had only one option, he will retain Papanasam Sivan and omit the refusing actor from the movie. He came and apologised later.

Papanasam Sivan had written songs for more that 98 films and over 970-980 kritis. Typcial to such people , he never asked for any money and whatever was given to him was eventually donated or given away. It is important to note that the money involved in movies weren’t small.

The contemporaries

Many Play back singers and Carnatic singers used to come to their home for listening to him and learn. MKT, P Leela , Vasundhara ( mother of Vyjayanthimala) and other play back singers wanted to learn the songs from him directly. Carnatic Musicians like MSS , DKJ, Andal , Radha-jayalakshmi, T V Ratnam etc used to be regulars at their house, and Rukmini was asked to sit and listen.

There used to be healthy competition among the play back singers over recording his songs, as many of them wanted to sing them.  ‘Kanne en kaNmaniyE’ was sang and recorded by both Leela and Vasundharadevi.

The house where Papanasam Sivan used to live,  is now changed hands many times, one of the recent occupiers once called Rukmin Ramani, asking herto check a particular spot, which they said had certain vibrations. She says, it was the place where he used to sit and compose.  He wakes up at odd times and call out ‘Rukma’ and ask her to wrtie down the lyrics. He used to ask her to bring back the paper later , after 10 days or so, and make the necessary corrections.

Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, once wanted to write notations of his compositions for dinamani, as one per week.  Dr.Rukmin was invited to Trivandrum, where he was then staying, and this was published in vAnoli ( which used to have one composition per week) , for the next 6 months.

Papanasam Sivan used to respect the musicians and they used to respect his compositions. Many of the contemparories used to perform his kritis in their concerts.  Ariyakudi popularised, kArtikEya gAngEya, KVN  with kAnavEndAmO and nanganallUr , MMI with karpagamE etc etc. Madurai Mani Iyer, once quoted saying  if I am not singing ‘karpagamE’ in concerts, I sing that at least 6 times at home.

Incidental Compositions

sri vAtApi gaNapatiyE : Dr.Rukmin Ramani, used to visit Thiruvarur, and once told her father that the huge Ganapathi idol is very attractive, that reminds her the vAtApi ganapatim kriti, and she did not feel like coming back from there. He was having a concert that day, and on his return, he composed this kriti and notated to her.

07 srI vAtApi gaNapatiyE – sahAna

Lalgudi Jayaraman, came home and learned this from Papanasam Sivan, and commented that he sing different sangathis every time he teaches this to Lalgudi, and it was very difficult to learn.

Kharaharapriya, seems to be a favourite of him. There are as many as 29 compositions in Kharaharapriya,  some of them are very popular in the concert circuit. Appan avatharitha, parAmukham Enayya, srI srInivasa, jAnaki pathE etc are very popular.

Interestingly, his films songs can also be sang in concerts. Few of his songs also had the nindastuthi ‘ polla puliyE’ , nanri kettavar’ , manamE kanamE etc are the example for such krithis.

08 ennappa nallava, en thAyum nallava – punnAgavarALi

Though he is a Shiva bhakta, he had also composed many kritis on Vishnu ( kaNNanE paNi manamE , muraLIdhara manO mOhana, srInivAsa tava  etc) and a few on both the lords ( mA ramaNan umA ramaNan etc).

Ramnad Krishnan, was another regular at his residence coming home to learn and sing. In one of such sitting, Sivan mentioned about  the kriti, ninnuvinA nAmadendO , in navarasa kannaDa, which is played with many instrumentalist. According to him, Thyagaraja would not have composed or sang like this with all those sangatis.  When they were on their way to the bhajan, Ramnad Krishan requested him to sing the kriti he was mentioning in the morning.  Sivan, instead of singing the thyagaraja kriti,  created one of his own ‘nAnoru viLaiyattu bommayA’ in the same ragam.

09 nanoru viLaiyAttu – navarasa KannaDa

He used to like the way K V Narayanaswamy used to sing. KVN was also a regular at their home. Once reaching his house, KVN asked him whether he had visited the nanganallur temple and the Rajeswari Koil , and invited him to go along. This triggered the compositions of ‘nanganallur in anandabhairavi’ and ‘ enn manam usalAda viDalAmA’ , the same night. Sivan called him back the next day and sang it for him.

influence of earlier vaggeyakaras

You can observe many influences of the trinitys and the earlier composers.

Gopalakrishna Bharati : the kriti ‘kANa vENDAmO’ was styled to the compositions of Gopalakrishna Bharati. Many people mistake this to be a composition of GKB, and once the AIR announcer did the same mistake.  The kriti became eternal after K V Narayanaswamy popularised this.

Thyagaraja : there are many krithis composed, which are modelled on the famous Thyagaraja kritis.   karunai seyvai ( PS ) – raghunAyaka ( T ) , haranE enrum ( PS ) – hari nEnendu  ( T ), ninne nera namiti ( T )  – Papanasam Sivan kriti escapes me ! –

Shyamashastry : the kriti kAmAkshi gauri issimilar to the famous swara jati

Muthuswamy Dikshitar : The madhyama kala prayogams of Dikshitar was extensively seen in the compositions of Papanasam Sivan. The kritis SrI viswanAtham bhajEham, malariNai tunayE , gOmati thAyE etc are some of the prominent once. He also used the chittaswarams in many of his compositions.


The simplicity and humilty of the man reflects in his music as well. His music touched the listeners heart. Due to his formal education in Sanskrit, and the lack of the same in Tamil, the compositions had a lot of Sanskrit words in them. People used to question this ( citing ‘gajavadana karuNa sadana’, and in one of the meeting at Bharatiya Vidyabhavan, eminent Tamil Poet  Vali, supported him saying the Sanskrit words he used in compositions are the commonest words in Sanskrit like ‘nAdhA’ , ‘prabhO’ etc. You dont need a dictionary to understand these words.

In the recent years, Tanjavur University came up with some argument ( someone named Bhaskar)that some krithis, including kArthikEya gAngEya and karunakarane shivashankarane etc are not a composition of Papanasam Sivan. The Tamil Poet Kalki ( who has written the beautiful kAtrinilE varum gItam etc) , came out in public staking claims to these compositions. they havent lasted long.


The state and the rasikas have honoured the great musician with many awards and titles. He was  given the title ‘Shiva Punya gAnamati’ given by Paramacharya was one which he was very happy about. he ws given Sangita kalAnidhi in 1972 ( she joked that during that time musician awarded with Sangita kalanidhi , did not live for another year, and he too was not an exception). He was given Padma Bhushan in 1965, and Isai Perarinjar , Sangeetha Sahitya Kalamani were few other notale credits.

The Palace road is now renamed after him and is now called ‘Papanasam Sivan Road’.


He died on the 1st of October 1973, afte being ill briefly. He was not taking any medicine, and was meditating. He ws taken to Isabella Hospital towards the end, and he noted to his relatives that the time has come. Dr.Rukmini Ramani, remember sensing the smell of ‘pavizhamalli’ flower inside the hospital, as the time closed in.


He was one devoid of any ego.  He interacted with every one with the same humility. He sings to a small child as he do to a musician. He went every where he was invited. He received every awards and recognitions with the same detachment. He went toreceive ‘isai perarinjar (?) , with a shirt torn near the shoulder, and he was very casual about it, when it was brought to his notice. He used to say that most of the people are born with love and bhakti, and I am born with live , bhakti and music. Dr.Rukmini Ramani, requested the rasikas to now be the torch bearer of this legend and his music. On her part, they have instituted a trust on his name and they conduct programs, apart form awarding musicians performing Papanasam Sivan kritis. The first year , it was done at their home, which later moved to the trust under the leadership of D K Pattammal, which now conducts yearly music programs.

She ended her lecture with a viruttam ( on request) and the madhyamAvati kriti.

10 kundram Endi , kuzhir mazhai kAthavan ( viruttam) – hamsAnandi

srInivAsa  tiruvenkaTa – hamsAnandi

11 ADum mayilAy ( viruttam ) – madhyamAvati

karpagamE – madhyamAvati

12 srI rAma jaya mangaLam – surutti

Another of those very insightful Lecture demonstrations at the Essae Music Foundation. The program was organised meticulously and was attended by many , from musicians to rasikas.  The musical program of the year and a very gratifying indeed.

Disclaimer : This is based on my notes from a running lecture and I would have made many errors ( some factual) and omitted few details.  Mistakes, whatsoever, are purely because of my inability to understand and comprehend the topic in full. The lecture was in Tamil and that too would come in as a handicap.


Posted by on January 2, 2011 in Essae Music Foundation, Lec-Dem, Uncategorized


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Swathi Madhuri – Lecture Demo on the Music of Swathi Thirunal by Prince Rama Varma @ Essae Music Foundation , 19th Sep 2010

Sri Rama Varma , eminent musician and musicologist, presented a lecture demonstration on the music of Swathi Thirunal at the Essae Music Foundation, last Sunday. Sri Rama Varma, member of the Travancore Royal family, arguably the best suited to talk about the music of Swathi Thirunal. Unlike the typical ‘life and music’ type of presentation, Sri Rama Varma chose to present the lecture more impromptu and focussing on lesser known compositions. The 2 hrs lecture was filled with his natural flair for talking, quoting anecdotes, conversations, rendezvous and historical facts. His trademark humour, humble stature and impeccable capability to sound like MDR, SSI and BMK ( to mimic is a sick word) were some of the highlights of the morning. Earlier, host Srividya introduced Sri Rama Varma to the audience, mentioning him as a fan of MDR,BMK and Rafael Nadal.

Sri Rama Varma, started his talk excusing for being half asleep, as it is too early on a Sunday morning to start such a session. He said, he was not prepared a standard Lec-Dem, but will do this as a random discussion on the Maharaja composer. There are enough and more information available on the internet on Swathi Thirunal.

Musicians in general have their favourites. They take up on the compositions of their favourite composers and become specialists. He has been particularly fond of three composers, Swathi Thirunal , MDR and Balamuralikrishna. His liking towards each are in its own different ways. Swathi Thirunal lived as a contemporary of Thyagaraja and Dikshitar, unlike them Swathi Thirunal did not have any disciples and hence there is no document on the way they were originally composed. MDR, though died only 25 odd years back, in his time , left no foot print of his own compositions. Though we have recovered his compositions, they were mere sahitya ( lyrics) with no notation. Though he did rarely sing some of his compositions, Sri Rama Varma says, he make the mudra ‘varada dasa’ so obscure ( demonstrated in MDR style) and incomprehensible. With BMK, he says, he is on safe grounds. It takes a phone call to clarify the doubts. BMK continue to sing his own compositions, and unlike MDR the mudra ‘murali’ is obvious and clear. Sr Rama Varma joked that even if the word ‘murali’ appear in any other compositions, BMK sing it with emphasize.

To speak on Swathi Thirunal , no body is an authority. Having a biological relationship with the Maharaja Composer does not make him the authority to talk about the music of Maharaja. Every body speak with their own ignorance, and so does he. He noted that there are many eminent musicians in the audience, and whenever need arise, they can stop him, and add or correct as appropriate.

Swathi Thirunal’s position in history is unique, unlike the other composers. He was a ruler and a composer. He ruled the Travancore during one of the most difficult period of Indian History with British Interruptions were at the peak.

Like Bhadrachala Ramadas, Narayana Theerthar , Annamacharya the original texts of his compositions were lost. Unlike Thyagaraja and Dikshitar he did not have disciples. His compositions performed by Travencore court musicians Mullamoodu family and the nadaswara vidvans of Padmanabha Temple.

In the beginning of the 20th century, Sri Rama Varma’s great grand mother Rani Sethu Parvathibai ( called as Amma Maharani) , who was a connoisseur of music, collected the available sahityam and requested Harikeshanallur Muthaiah Bhagavathar to tune them. Muthaiah Bhagavathar sought the help of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, K S Narayanaswamy and Musiri Subramanya Iyer to complete the task. Muthaiah Bhagavather, preserved many in original form and the rest were modified by the others.

1 Deva deva kalayami – mayamalavagaula

( this was initially was set in Misrachapu tala, which is now changed to roopakam)

Swathi Thitunal had the advantage of being a king. Stationed at Trivandrum all his life, he learned various languages and both carnatic and hindustani music. He also have the disadvantage of not having any direct disciple. He lived a short life, but within that time span he composed nearly 300 kritis , almost 40 of them in hindustani raga. Only 15-20 of his compositions are generally heard regularly in concerts these days.

The dilemma of the musicians who set the manuscripts to music is to determine what needs to be focussed. Should we give preference to the sahitya or to the raga and tala structure. Sri Rama Varma says, Balamuralikrishna , for one, gave a lot of importance to the sahityam.


Swathi Thirunals pada varnams has a uniqueness of having the swarakshara in sahityam. This is not observed in the contemporary composers like Tanjore Quartret. He composed most of the varnams in sanskrit.

2 varNam – khamAs

( he said there is no use of kAkaLi nishAdam in this varNam)

The uses of swarakshara is demonstrated at ‘sa ni dhi pathi gi ri sha’ and at ‘ma ni da pa’ ( maNidarpaNa). This varNam has the romantic reference of ‘chAnd-chakOra’ as the lady ask KrishNa about his love towards her.

Maharaja was also a patron of dance and it comes out clearly in his kritis. Most of his kritis has an ‘audio visual effect’. They are also a performance piece for the dancers.

In this particular varNam, Rama Varma says, he made a small change in the notation. The swara phrase ‘sa ni ga ri sa’ as found in books has been modified as ‘sa ma ga ri sa’ ( Note: Need clarity).

Nadaswaram vidvans uses small gandharam in khamas. Sri BMK used this while tuning Bhadrachala Ramadas’ krithi ‘sarvam brahmamayam’, refering it to a ‘vishesha prayogam’. Sri Rama Varma refered to one of his sparring discussions with Semmangudi on the use of ‘big dhaivatham’ in shaNmukhapriya. Mimicking his voice, he said Semmangudi called it ‘vishesha prayogam’. When old and senior musicians make mistakes, its called ‘vishesha prayogam’, joked Rama Varma.


He was obsessed with Lord Padmanabha of the Trivandrum Ananthapadmanabha Swamy Temple. According to the belief whatever falls inside the temple belongs to Padmanabha, and Sri Rama Varma recalls he loosing a gold ornament during his childhood. Whenever a new born is turned 6 months, in the Royal family, he is offered to the Padmanabha, and since then they become ‘padmanabha dasa’.

Compositions on other Temples and Deities.

Swathi Thirunal used the mudra padmanabha in all his kritis. However, he has written kritis on all deities. In his kritis every one of them have related to Padmanabha in some way. Devi, is addressed as ‘padmanAbha sOdari’, Ganesha as his nephew, Shiva as his ‘brother in law’.

Maharaja has written krithis on deities from Kanyakumari to Kashi ( visweswar darshan karO). Similar to the kritis of Dikshitar, who has written kritis on almost every temple from North to South of India. They become the reference for travellers who is taking pilgrimage from South to North. The difference is that Dikshitar travelled to all these places and composed, while Maharaja remained in Trivandrum and composed his kritis.


While taking up the Swathi Thirunal krithi, paramAnanda naTana in kEdAram, he diversified into the music of MDR. Kedaram supposed to have been a master piece of MDR. There are many instances when a kriti is more associated with the singer, to the rasikas mind, than to the composer, or certain Ragams to a musician.

Being a great fan of MDR, when he joined BMK for learning, some of his friend thought he ditched MDR and joined BMK. He says, this is the issue with form and content. He is interested in the content, while the so called fans seems to have been focusing on the form. Forms can only help you in imitating the mannerisms. Its like the difference between caricature and portrait. Once, seeing him imitating MDR, his earlier Guru Vechoor , told him that its ok to sound like him, but for heavens sake do not look like him.

3. paramAnanda naTana – kEdAram

the anupallavi of this kriti ‘drukata tom tom’ are jatis and are suited for dance.

Navarathri Compositions and Nava vidha Bhakti compositions

9 kritis written for singing for the 9 days of festival, is now being performed every year. However, we do not know the original version as they are composed. Sri Musiri Subramanya Iyer tuned the kalyANi, sAvEri and nAttkurinji kritis. Similar to Dikshitar, Maharaja also composed kritis in nava bhakti format. There is one with ‘sahya bhAvam’ ( God as friend). Many composers have used derogative forms of bhakti ( I’m worthless – sort of), including Thyagaraja. However, there are no such composition ( in derogative form) of Swathi Thirunal.

One of such kriti is in Mukhari, bhavati viswAsom mE’. Referring to Krishna AvatAra, which supposed to have been for ‘giving wisdom contained in Gita’, where he chooses Arjuna as his worthy disciple , while there are many senior and worthy people in both Pandava and Kaurava team. In this kriti he asks Krishna to have faith in him as he had in Arjuna.

4. bhavati viswasOm mE – mukhAri

Influence of Hindustani Music and Compositions in Hindustani Ragas

There are many kritis of Maharaja composed in Hindustani and many in carnatic style using hindustani ragas. It is believed that Swathi Thirunal introduced behAg in Carnatic Music. There are no known use of behag in carnatic prior to this. his composition smara janaka, supposed to be the first in behAg, which is set to tune by Ranga Ramanuja Iyengar(?).

5. smara janaka – behAg

he demonstrated both the hindustani and carnatic version of this raga. In carnatic version, he said ‘ri’ and ‘dha’ are irrelevant and uses kAkaLi nishAdam ( correct me if I’m wrong !!). He said, there is a recording of Veena Balachander playing this kriti, before he became anti-swathi thirunal. Interestingly, the title of the track did have the mention of Swathi Thirunal as composer.

On the question of creation, invention and discovery he noted the debate between SSI and BMK. SSI was of the opinion that no body can create a raga, it is already there, but one can discover these. This was more towards the BMKs claim of creating new ragas. Even in the case of Swathi Thirunal , it can be said that he named the raga ‘mOhana kalyANi’, which was already present in the hindustani system known as ‘shudhakalyAN’. BMK has used the same chandrakauns and named it Chandrika.

As in the case of every event, there are many alliances and loyalties in the music fraternity. Due to this groupism and related political influences some of the prominent performers of yesteryear haven’t performed at the Navarathri Mandapam. Chembai, BMK and MSG are few names he mentioned. May be due to this, BMK never used to perform Swathi kritis in concerts, except 2 of the hindi kritis , which he set to tune.

Jamuna Kinare was set to tune by K S Narayanaswami , which was more ‘sangeetha pradhanam’ than sahitya.

6. jamunA kinArE – ??

He says the rAga is gauri manOhari in madhyama shruthi with a lot of foreign notes. He sings this in concert, in which he claims it as misra peelu with more misram in it than peelu’.

7. Aj AyE – misra pahAdi

BMK tuned this kriti in beautiful pahadi. He says there are two styles of singing kritis. One is in Veena Style and the other in Nadaswaram Style ( which is now more popular). But he says, this kriti has to be sung in flute style. We need to have the image of flute playing while singing this kriti.

Renowned hindustani singer Sri Ganapati Bhat, sings this kriti in Yaman, which is also beautiful in its own sense ( which is availabel in Youtube)

There is another very beautiful devi kriti by Maharaja in hindustani raga chAya naaT.

8. jaya jaya dEvi – chAya nAt

Ajoy Chakravarthy had tuned the same in Han(m)sadhwani. Chaya naat is not used in carnatic music. BMK sings a tulsidas bhajan in chAya nAt, but used to call the raga as ‘vallabhi’ taking the name from the pallavi line.


Thillana , in carnatic scene was pioneered by Swathi Thirunal, being a dance enthusiast. This would have come from the hindustani equivalent of tarAna, where it was only jathi, but Swathi Thirunal introduced sahitya into it.

Dhanashree thillana was one of the most popular thillana of Maharaja, which was set to tune by Lalgudi Jayaraman. Sri Rama Varma noted that, this reminds more of Lalgudi than Swathi Thirunal. The jatis and kanakku are very typical of Lalgudi.


Lalita, used by Dikshitar and others do not use panchamam. However, Swathi Thirunal uses panchamam, and hence it is called Lalitapanchamam.

9. parama purusham – laLitA panchamam

He says, this krithi can be used as a fast paced filler in krithis with some fast tempo swara singing. He demonstrated this with some brilliant set of swara singing.

Bhoopalam & Revagupti

On a question whether ‘gOpAlaka pAhimAm was originally composed in bhUpALam, he said, one never know. It is now being sung in rEvagupti, but he has heard the bhUpALam version as well , sung by Dr.S Ramanathan and his disciples. The kriti ‘rAma rAma pAhi rAma’ was set to tune by BMK in bhUpALam. Interestingly, the pallavi do not have ‘sa’ and ‘pa’, and it starts at dhaivatham.

10. rAma rAma pAhi – bhUpALam

Interestingly, MDR had composed a kriti in bhUpALam, but he himself sang it in rEvagupti. He said, he had managed to find a hand written copy of MDRs compositions, where the Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Sanskrit kritis were written in the respective language by the composer.

11. gOpa nandana – bhUshAvali

Manipravalam kritis

There are many composers written sahitya in manipravalam ( two languages). Kaivara Amara Nayana is one such composer from Karnataka. Maharaja’s manipravalam kritis are mostly in Malayalam and Sanskrit. Most of Swathi Thirunal’s ‘sringAra padams’ are in manipravalam which is almost 60% sanskrit. Rama Varma said, he is not very fond of the malayalam kritis of Maharaja.

12. kAnthanODu chennu melle – nIlAmbari ( started at anupallavi ‘kAtharAkshi)

Ragamalika kritis

Maharaja has composed two kritis in ragamalika. ‘Sanandam kamalA manOhari’ and a padam ‘pannagEndra shayana’. BhAvayAmi raghurAmam, is originally set to sAvEri. Semmangudi retuned this into ragamalika, of its current form. Bhavayami, detailing the story of Ramayana, has to be sung in complete. However, because of the length and the monotonousity of the same raga, people tend to skip the last few stanza. Making it in ragamalika, does help in retaining the interest of the audience.

13. pannagEndra shayana – rAgamAlika.

This kriti is tuned in 8 rAgas denoting the 8 yAma of night. Starting from ShankarAbharaNam, ends with a morning rAga either bhUpALam or rEvagupti. One of the charaNam was originally sung in Ahiri, which now sung in mAyAmALavagauLa. The whole kriti with its sangatis will take 40 minutes to sing, which he compressed to 5-6 minute.

Sri Rama Varma recounted one of his interaction with Leela Omcheri, the renowned dancer, now based in Delhi, on the authenticity of the tunes. He says, according to her Muthaiah Bhagavathar and Semmangudi have ruined the compositions of Swathi Thirunal. Her great great grand mother had learned the kritis from the contemporaries of Swathi Thirunal. She inturn learned the same through her family, which she claims to be the original tune.

14 bhOgindra shAyinam – dhanyAsi (According to Leela Omcheri bhOgindra Shayinam was in dhanyAsi.)

Kannada and Tamil Compositions of Maharaja

There is only one Kannada composition that is known today by Maharaja, which is ‘rAjIvAksha bArO krishNa’. KVG has tuned this in pahAdi style which he finds more attractive.

15 rAjIvAKsha bArO – misra pahADi

As per the general knowledge, there are no Tamil compositions of Swathi Thirunal. However, Leela Omcheri claims that she has a few compositions of Swathi Thirunal written in Tamil, including a varNam. There is no confirmation of this fact.

The Controversy

Regarding the dispute on Swathi Thirunal, triggered by Veena Balachander, he says he does not know in detail. But, there are a few incidents which might have caused this controversy. In the early sixties, two people from Tanjavur came and visited Amma Maharani, saying they have the original manuscripts of some of the compositions written in the traditional palm leaves. They wanted a substantial amount of money for their possession. Amma Maharani wanted to see the documents and verify before committing any money. This did not go well with them.

Similarly, Sri Balachander had come to their house in Chennai to meet Amma Maharani. However, the meeting did not go well to the expectation of Sri Balachander, as he was unhappy over the treatment he received. Later these two joined together to create the controversy which the media took up.

On a question whether the court musicians Sivanandam and Vadivelu would have helped Maharaja in composing these kritis, Sri Rama Varma said, it is possible. However, the use of swaraksharas in the compositions is possible by someone who is proficient in both sahitya and music.

Moreover the romantic padams written by the Maharaja shows the poet and a musician in the composer. T K Govindarao , who complied the kritis of Thyagaraja and Dikshtar in English, once wanted to compile the kritis of Swathi Thirunal as well. He was so shocked by the explicit nature of the sringAra padams of Maharaja, he was worried that its English Translations will cause controversy. Sri Rama Varma says, this was natural at the time of the writing, but the British influenced Victorian Morality and Catholic thinking which came into the Indian Society later,  not able to accept these thoughts.

Composers way of tuning the kriti

Taking on dEva dEva kalayAmi, singing the way Semmangudi sings, he says, he doubt whether Maharaja would have composed the kriti this way. With his knowledge of language, his romantic /erotic padams, knowledge of hindustani music, the use of swaraksharas it is impossible to believe that the Maharaja would have composed in its present form. He had put this question to Semmangudi but haven’t received an answer. Since we do not have any direct reference by way of shishya parampara, It is important to keep in mind the composers would have conceived the kriti.

As is the case with the earlier lec-dem, this too was very entertaining and insightful.


PS : This was prepared from notes taken during the lecture. As it was from a running lecture, I am sure to have missed some points. If there are any factual errors in this, it is only due to my ignorance and will make corrections if notified.


Posted by on September 21, 2010 in Essae Music Foundation, Lec-Dem


Suguna Purushothaman @ Essae Music Foundation, 01 Aug 2010

Vocal : Suguna Purushothaman

Violin : Avaneeswaram Vinu

Mrudangam : Cheluvaraju


01 slOkam  ( gajAnanam bhUtagaNAdi)

       chalamElA ( varNam) – darbAr – Thiruvottiyur Thyagayya

02 manasu nilpa – AbhOgi – Thyagaraja ( S )

03 nADADina mATa – janaranjani – Thyagaraja ( A,S )

04 srI kAmAkshi katAkshi – vasantha – Thiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai ??

05 parAku mADadE – sAvEri – Purandara Dasa

06 maravakavE O manasA – SyAma – Patnam Subramanya Iyer ( A,N,S )

     neraval & Swara @ ‘ paramahamsa jana mAnasa pankaja prabhAkaruDE’

07 venkaTa shaila vihArA -hamIr kalyANi – Subbaraya Shasthri ( A,S )

08 bhOgindra shAyinam – kunTaLa varALi – Swathi Thirunal ( O,S )

09 kanDEn kanDEn kanDEn – aTANa – Suguna Purushothaman ( A )

10 endu dAginADO – thODi – Thyagaraja ( A,N,S,T )

    neraval @ ‘ alanADu kanakakashipu niNDAru’

    swara @ ‘ sthambhamu lOpala nuNDaga lEdA’  ( ending at  each words for every repeat)

11 srIrAma jayarAma sringAra rAmayeni – yadukula kAmbOji –  Thyagaraja

12 rAma bhakta hanumAn- jAunpuri – Suguna Purushothaman

13 mangaLam – saurAshtram – Thyagaraja

Another beautiful concert at Essae Music Foundation, yesterday.  Very soothing , pleasing concert, very classical. A fantastic syAma  with an outstanding neraval , a majestic thodi and a musiri special hamIr kalyAni made the evening for me.

Janaranjani Alapana was the first to get into the groove, after the varnam and abhOgi krithi. Avaneeswaram Vinu followed perfectly in his reply.  Two slow paced krithis was covered up with a long alapana of syAma, and a long detailed neraval ( how fantastic it was!!). Vinu was excellent in his return.  She stopped for a ‘coffee break’ after a ultra’chowka’ rendering of hamir kalyani , taking the time to explain the nuances of the krithi. She had learnt this from Musiri directly, who learnt it from the great Veena Dhanammal. She wanted to show this ‘pAthAntharam  ( style)’ and hoped she was true to the oringical.

Thodi alapana was very good,  traditional, unhurried, immersed deeply. Even a short rain spell could not dether her concentration. Endu dAginADO , a krithi, many fear to take up was a pleasant surprise. Cheluvaraju, who was working pretty hard, gave a spirited tani avartanam. Avaneeswaram Vinu, seeing him for the first time in Bangalore, was very good through out. His syAma and thodi alapana were pretty good, and so was his follow in general.


Posted by on August 2, 2010 in Concert songlist, Essae Music Foundation


Vande Vasudevam : Lec-Dem on Mysore Vasudevachar’s Life and Music @ Essae Music Foundation 6th Jun 2010

Lec- Dem by : Sri S. Krishnamurthy ( Grandson of Mysore Vasudevachar )

Vocal : Bangalore S Shankar

Violin : Achyuta Rao

Mrudangam : Balakrishna

Sri S Krishnamurthy , grandson of Mysore Vasudevachar, presented a Lec-Dem on the life and Music of Mysore Vasudevachar at Essae Music Foundation today. This was the first of the Lec-Dem series by Essae Music Foundation, adding to their quarterly Music Program. As it is always, the session was tremendous, received with great enthusiasm.

Sri Krishnamurthy, divided his lecture in two parts. The first on the biographical details and his early life. The second, which was dealt with greater detail was on the music of Mysore Vasudevachar.

01 brOchEvA ravarurA – khamAs ( started at O chaturA nanAdi vandita)


Mysore Vasudevachar’s family was originally from Chevur, near Coimbatore. His father Subramanyachar, left Coimbatore over a family dispute over propertywith his brother, and moved to Mysore. Subramanyachar, himself a musician, soon joined the circle of musicians in the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar. As a three year old boy Vasu was blessed by the Maharaja  as ” you will bring keerti for Mysore”. Young Vasu, not only brought fame to Mysore, but also served 4 generations of Maharaja’s during his tenure.

Subramanyachar, had an untimely death, leaving the 3 yr old child and his mother orphaned. Vasu’s maternal grand father, took the charge of supporting them and enrolled young Vasu for Sanskrit and Vedic studies as was the custom. But Vasu’s mind was in music , but it was forbidden as the society did not looked upon musicians with great respect. However, Vasu’s plea to learn music, to rhyme the ‘slokams’ in tunes was granted and he started his music sessions under the court musician Subbaraya Shasthri ( who used to be their neighbour). The story says, the Subbaraya Shashtri asked the young boy to sing ‘sa pa sa’ and impressed with his rendering, and asked him to come over for sessions. A change of residence, by his grand father did bring a break to the session, which was later continued under Padmanabha Iyer.

Mysore used to be a centre of arts and music, with royal patronage. Eminent musicians used to frequent Mysore and perform. On one occasion, Patnam Subramanya Iyer and Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan came to Mysore to attend a wedding reception and perform. It’s then young Vasu realised that what he had learnt until now is incomplete and he lack one of the basic ingredient of music, the bhava. Sri Krishnamurty demonstrated this with singing vAtApi in hamsadhwani. Vasu, approached Patnam Subramanya Iyer and requested his help. Subramanya Iyer replied, “we are at two different places, god willing we will meet again” and left. As his nature, Vasu was determined to get his dream fulfilled. For almost six months, he waited and saluted the Maharaja during his weekly visit to Chamundi hills. Curious, the Maharaja sought the reason and his wish was granted. With the Scholarship from the Mysore Palace, the recently married Vasu, now 16, moved to Thiruvayyar, to the house of Patnam Subramanya Iyer.

As in the case of ‘gurukula’ tradition, he was tending to his guru from early morning. Fetching water from Kaveri, helping the guru in his daily pooja, doing the errands for the house was the daily routine. There was no music sessions for him, and the only learning was by listening to Parameswara Iyer (the prime disciple of Subramanya Iyer ) teaching the students. It was much later, Patnam Subramanya Iyer relented , saying now the foundation is laid, you are ready to learn. The first kriti was the bEgaDa varnam, composed by Patnam Subramanya Iyer himself ( Patnam Subramanya Iyer was a master in Begada, often called Begada Subramanya Iyer ). The varnam was learnt in 3-4 days, but there was no other varnam or kriti for almost 6 months. Vasu was asked to repeat the same varnam over and over again, once only the swaras, once only the sahitya, once only in ‘akAra’, in various speeds etc etc. The tutelage under Patnam Subramanya Iyer continued for 6 years, before he retuned to Mysore.

He also talked about two incidents during the time at Patnam Subramanya Iyer’s house.  Thirukkodikovil Krishna Iyer ( Thanks Ram for the correct name) a senior violinist, used to accompany both Patnam Subramanya Iyer as well as Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer. He used to master the art of playing for both the style of singing with ease. He used to stay at the Patnam’s house. He had a habit of practicing in silence, late into the night, not to disturb the rest of the people . On one evening while he was practising kAmbOji, Vasu decided to listen. Hiding behind the window, listening to the slow progression of rAga through the scale ;  the music stopped abruptly. Iyer, came over to the window and spat the betel chew, on the boys head. The other incident involved Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer. Vasu, though staying and learning under Patnam Subramanya Iyer, was keen to listen to Maha Vaidyanatha Iyers music. Knowing his Guru’s disapproval, he kept the desire under check for long. However on one evening, he decided to sneak out and listen, only to be caught by his Guru. Well, the boy was pardoned, but the Guru made it clear to him that while he is learning under one Guru, other style of music should not influence, until he masters the style of his Guru.

He returned back to Mysore after six years of learning, and gave a concert in the presence of eminent personalities, including Veena Seshanna.

His Music

His creative endeavour started by accident. The year 1900 was cursed as plague broke out in the Mysore State. His friend Gopala Arasu, on a casual talk requested Vasudevachar to make a mark in this world before the time ends, as he was not sure how many will survive the epidemic. Vasudevachar was reluctant initially, but later agreed to compose one krithi. The krithi chintayEham jAnakI kAntha in mAyAmALavagauLa was the first to be composed.

02 chintayEham jAnaki kAntha – mAyAmALava gauLa

He composed another two more kritis in Mayamalavagaula , one of them was in the ‘divyanAma keertana’ style

03 dasaratha nandana – mAyAmALava gauLa

Mysore Vasudevachar has composed all forms of music – varNams, jAvaLi, jati swara, keertanas. Some of the dAtuswara usage was special to his krithis..

04 khamAs jati swara

He had composed as many as 15 varnams, including a pada varnam and a druta tALa varnam in kalyANi. VanajAksha in mandAri was the first varnam composed by him ( Interestingly, of the dozen odd concerts I have attended this year, 3 of them started with this varnam !)

05 vanajAksha ninne ( varNam) – mandAri

He had also composed a varnam in naLinakAnthi, and according to Krishnamurthy, this probably be the only varnam in naLinakAnthi. Sri Shankar corrected this saying there are few recent additions to this ( I cant re-collect any).

06 evarunnAru ( varNAm ) – naLinakAnthi

Circumstantial Compositions

Some of his creations are purely circumstantial. Sri Krishnamurthy did explain few of them to the benefit of the listeners.

Nalwadi Krishnaraja was conducting free music sessions under the auspice of the Royal Palace. This place used to be the centre of discussions related to arts and music. In one of those sessions, one vidwan was discussing about kadanakutUhalam, a rAga created by Patnam Subramanya Iyer. He noted, this rAga is very difficult and there arent many compositions in this. He challenged Vasudevachar. Requesting a paper and pencil, Vasudevachar composed 3 krithis , the same evening ( sA, sa ni dha pa – jati swara ; nIvE rakshaku – a Varnam ; nI kELadaya – keertanam ).

07 nI vE rakshaku ( varNam) – kadana kuthUhalam

In another occasion, the same musician made another remark, saying Vasudevachar’s compositions are simple and they  do not need much practice, and any one can sing them. Vasudevachar responded with composing some outstanding krithis ; mari mari vasunA in kAmbOji -which had some 20 sangatis in both pallavi as well as charanam , rA rA rAjIva lOchana in mOhanam , are some of them..

08 rA rA rAjIva lOchana – mOhanam

Sri Krishnamurthy recollected an incident where Vasudevachar asked him if he observed the chitta swaras in rA rA rAjIvalOchana. He said, “yes but what is special”. Vasudevachar asked him to sing those. When he reached the ‘sa ri ga rA’ he asked him to stop and said “see, sarige rA … ‘sariyAgi bara bEku’..

Mysore used to host a drama troupe called Chamundeswari Nataka Sabha. One Nagendra Rao and Kottur Basavayya were the lead actors of the group. They were playing ‘dAna shUra karNa’ and Nagendra Rao requested Vasudevachar’s presence for one of their shows. On returning from the show, Krishnamurthy asked his grand father, about the drama. Vasudevachar did not respond and went on to his room to and soon started scribbling in the paper. The next morning, he gave the answer, and said he was moved by the story which kept him thinking why Karna was the one doomed to fail. The answer to this was found and he was happy. He said, Arjun had the blessing of his guru, while Karna was cursed by his Guru. The importance of Guru was evident in the compositions of both Purandara Dasa ( guruvina gulAma) and Thyagaraja ( gurulEka yaduvanti). He composed a kriti to this effect that night in raga pushpalatha ( pushpalathika) , ‘guru kripA lEka srI sad-guru“.

Vasudevachar had another krithi in the same rAga, ‘dEvakI tanaya vAsudEva sadaya’

09 dEvakI tanaya – pushpalatha

Under the guidance of Muthaiah Bhagavathar, Mysore used to conduct Thyagaraja Aradhana every year. All the upcoming musicians, the royal Musicians and invited stalwarts, used to perform in the aradhana, concluding with Vasudevachar’s concert. One of the year, he wanted to pay homage to the great vaggeyakara by composing a krithi for the occasion. The krithi ‘srI pAdAdi tyAgarAja guruvaram’ in kalyANi was sang on that day. Muthaiah Bhagavathar was all praise for this krithi, especially mentioning the the charanam starting with ‘sakala lOka samsEvita..’

Vasudevachar did not differentiate between the deities. He had no ‘hari hara bhEda’ and sang in praise of all. One such kriti was composed in junjhuti ( chenchurutti) raga ‘ praNatArthi haram’, which does 100% adherence to the raga scale original.

10 praNatArthi haram – chenchurutti

He did not have any personal jealousy or professional rivalry with other musicians and vaggeyakaras. He had always encouraged the others. Once, Sri Krishnamurthy wanted to add a background score for the ‘vAdya vrinda’ team of Akashavani. On listening to his grandson’s modification (!) to his creation, he commented to retain the original for Pallavi, and include the new addition after charanam.

In the year 1905, he lost his wife. The krithi bhavayEham in behAg was composed in sorrow, wailing in front of the god. As mentioned earlier, Mysore was the meeting point of many great musicians of both carnatic and hindustani tradition. Needless to say, his music had a lot of influence by hindustani musicians, which is evident in his compositions of junjhuti, behAg , mAND. He used to say that the music should have the ‘laya gAmbhIram’ of carnatic music and ‘shruti shuddham’ of hindustani music.

11 bhAvayEham raghuvIram – behAg

He used to listen to every kind of music , including film music on radio. Once he happened to listen to a song from the popular movie meena madhura (??) and was so impressed, he wanted to listen to the song again. Since, this was on radio and not a Gramaphone record, that was not possible. That loss, gave us two great compositions in the same raga, ‘gOkula nilaya’ and ‘bhajarE mAnasa’ in AbhEri.

12 gOkula nilaya – AbhEri

13 bhajarE mAnasa – AbhEri

Use of chitta swara was very prominent in his krithis. The vaggeyakaras came after him gave no importance to chittaswaras. He gave examples from srI chAmunDEshwari ( bilahari), palukavadEmira ( dEvamanOhari), brOchevA ravarurA ( khamAs) and vandEnishamaham (hamsadhwani).

Once, Ponnuswamy a famous nAdaswara vidwan visited Mysore. While on discussion he made a remark that though there are 72 melakarta ragas, half of them are of no use and there is no compositions in those worthy of mention. Maharaja wasn’t pleased and wanted this to be addressed on priority. Bidaram Krishnappa, a senior musician confirmed to the Maharaja that there is no need for a new creation, as Vasudevachar has already done the same. Impressed, the king made arrangement to get the ‘Vasudeva keertana Manjari“, a collection of Mysore Vasudevachar’s compositions to be printed and published.

Vasudevachar used to teach the Maharaja while in Mysore. Maharaja once asked him why hasn’t he composed any in Kannada, while all his compositions were either in Sanskrit or Telugu. Vasudevachar said, he had no formal learning of Kannada and all his education was in Sanskrit and later in Telugu at Thiruvayyar. But, that does not lessen his respect to Kannada Language, but he was not an expert of this language. But this prompted him composing a kriti in Kannada ‘ karuNai saudaya mAyE’ in saraswathi manOhari.

14 karuṇisau dayāmayé – saraswathi manOhari

Sri Krishnamurthy joked that this krithi too was full of Sanskrit words and Kannada was only towards the end. He composed one more krithi in saraswathi manOhari as ‘ srI purandara guruvaram bhAvayEham’

Last days of his life was spend in Madras. While in Madras, he composed many thillAnas and javaLi’s for the students of Kalakshetra. tha khamas javaLi ‘yErana sAmi’ was very popular. Sri Krishnamurthy was also talked about a ‘zamindar’ in Chamarajpet who had a fancy for javaLi’s. He would come in for concerts only to listen to Javali’s. He used to pay lavishly to the singers if they sing a javali early in the concert, for he was bored of lengthy alapana and huge krithis. Some of the singers used to sing many javalis as possible for monetary benefit, in his presence.

15 yErana sAmi pagavaru – khamAs

The last day of his life was also a regular affair. He taught the daughter of Marthur Krishnamurthy( a gottuvadyam vidwan) , the viribONi varNam, requested for milk instead of the usual dinner. Post which, he requested his grandson to sing ‘intha prabhuva’ in ‘mOhanam’ – one of his favourite . As he was not able to get the shruthi, requested tambura to be brought near. Lifted his head to get the shruthi, went back and closed his eyes – forever.

Sri Shankar , summed up the morning and concluded the session with a slokam in praise of Mysore Vasudevachar ( I am not sure if it was written by Sri Krishnamurthy or Shankar himself – I missed the point ) , srI vAsudEvam guruvaram bhajEham’ set to KalyaNi.

16 srI vAsudEvam guruvaram bhajEham – kalyANi

*PS :  It was confirmed that the sloka was written by Sri Krishnamurthy himself.


In two hours, sri Krishnamurthy gave us a fantastic insight to the music and life of one of the greatest 20th century Vaggeyakara. It was a privilage to listen to the anecdotes from none other than the grandson of a great man. Sri Shankar and team gave the musical support as appropriate. The lecture was very engaging, albeit being in Kannada ( he is as proficient in English), filled with good humour and timely musical interlude. Once he made a joke on himself saying, having served Akashavani for 33 years, he still do not know how to adjust the mike. He also remarked that Shankar is a clever man ( and a great musician), but wanted to make a contrast by asking him to sing at this age of 88 (referring to the course voice of his to the pleasing voice of Shankar). while the major part of singing was done by Shankar and team, Sri Krishnamurthy sang many of the swara patterns while explaining the krithis.

A very informative and entertaining session, to start the lec-dem series at Essae Music Foundation.