Tag Archives: Lec-Dem

T S Sathyavathi , Lecture Concert on Mysore Vasudevachar @ Nadasurabhi 21st Aug 2016

Vocal : T S Sathyavathi

Vocal Support : Lavanya & Anjana

Violin : Charulatha Ramanujam

Mrdangam : Tumkur Ravishankar

Ghatam: G Omkar Rao

Lecture on Compositions of Mysore Vasudevachar

01. shLOkam ( yo’ntaH pravishya mama vAcam imAm prasuptAm)

Dr.Sathyavathi, started her evening lecture with explaining the importance of understanding the composer in appreciating his music. Knowing the musical vision and the musical acumen of the composer can enhance our ‘joy’ of listening to his compositions. Getting closure to the composer, his sensitivity and sensibility in creating ( and our ability to interpret ) each sangati, is an experience to the listener. Vasudevachar’s 150 odd compositions with notation is available in Kannada, and now in English ( compiled by Sri Bangalore S Shankar and released recently) for everyone’s access. By following the notation you can only repeat what is created, but by studying the composition closely, you can give it a new dimension.

Mysore Vasudevachar is one of the most illustrious composer post trinity. In fact, he was one of the ‘Mysore Trinities’ of the 20th century – Sadashiva Rao and Muthaiah Bhagavathar being the other two, patronised by the Wodeyars. During Wodeyar’s time, all types of music was thriving in Mysore. Western Bands and Hindustani Music was also popular and had great influence on the carnatic music. The evident is in the increased use of hindustani originated ragas in carnatic music. Importantly, these hindustani ragas weren’t used as is, but were given a “new personality, new life and new shade” by Vasudevahar. He studied Sanskrit and Music were his elective during his education at Maharaja College. His Sanskrit was akin to Dikshitar’s. His music had a lot of influence from both Dikshitar and Thyagaraja. From Dikshitar, he followed the ‘madhyamakAla model’ and ‘the bhAva’ aspect and the use of ‘colloquial’ Telugu from Thyagaraja. He did not copy them , but created his own original versions. From Dikshitar, he also imbibed the use of variety of tALa. He composed in large number of irregular talas like chaturashra dhruva, khanda ata, mishra mathya, mishra jhumpa, khanda jhumpa, tisra triputa, mishra triputa and also in tisra roopakam ( different from khanda chapu and probably the only thillana in this tala).

Use of Chitta swaras ( Chitraswara)

He had composed 4 varnas in Sanskrit, including one in praise of Ganesha (probably the only one). Vasudevachar’s use of chitraswara (  she preferred the word chitraswara in stead of chittaswara , gave an explanation of the former and the possibility of the change over the period of time) were special. Each of them were beautifully designed and incorporated. They could have been the result of spontaneity or a deliberation from the composers part. She went on with few examples by singing them and explaining the nuances.

02 chittaswaram from kAnaDa varnam ( vAraNAsyam pranamAmi )

       She mentioned this as ‘sarva svara svarAnga??’ ( do correct me) where every swara takes one akshara.

03 chittaswaram from naLinakAnti varnam ( evarunnAru)

       She explained this can be sung in two modes, in ‘Ghana’ and in ‘naya’, singing the same set of swaras in two style with and without emphasis to give it a different feel.

She made parallel to the ‘Kadambari’ of Banabhatta here. Banabhatta after completing the epic, wasn’t happy with the ending and had requested his sons’ help. The story goes like this, he asked each of them to describe the dry tree. The elderly one came up with something like “shuSkaH kaSTaH tiSThaty agrE’ and the younger one came up with ‘NIrasa  tarUriha vilasati purataha’ and he supposed to have chosen the latter, even though both has the same meaning.

Note : I am gravely erred here to my confession, but it was nice way to describe the nuances of the changes in the way one can perceive and practice the swaras without any differences to the original meaning. I will seek help from ‘knowledgeable’ people and correct it soon.

04 chittaswaram from mandAri varnam ( vanajAkSA )

     This chittaswara traverse in 3 octaves, singing this is a good exercise to the voice.

Madhyamakala Sahityam

Vasudevachar composed many kritis with madhyamakala sahitya, similar to Dikshitar, but it was not a regular feature in his compositions. She explained some of the highlights of his madhyamakala sahitya with these examples

05 madhyamakala sahitya from ‘praNamAmyaham’ in ranjani.

     She explained how he adjust the sahitya to the tAla ( mishra triputa). She said, even if you are listening to the composition in Radio, one should be able to put tala to it,  such should be the placing of the sahitya in a composition.

06 madhyamakala sahitya from ‘mAmavatu shrI saraswati’ in hindOLam

   He was very keen in using the zig-zag pattern – vakra sanchara, here.

Chittaswaras in viLambakAla Compositions

Vasudevachar, spent nearly 6 years at the Kalakshetra, setting music for Dance. Rukmminidevi Arundale was the beneficiary. This stay, however,  helped in his popularity. People came to know about Vasudevachar and his compositions and artists and musicians started singing them in the concerts. She mentioned her own personal experience of a Lec-Dem in Chennai on Sadashiva Rao. She said, very few people knew about Sadashiva Rao and his compositions, where Vasudevachar on the other hand was very popular.

07 chittaswaras from ‘rA rA rAjIva lOchana’ in mOhanam

  She explained the patterns of 3 and 5 in the mukthai in both rA rA rAjiva lOchana’ and ‘chAmuNDEshvai pAlayamAm’.

 She mentioned an anecdote on GNB singing this kriti in front of Vasudevachar. GNB was hesitant, to sing it for obvious reasons,  but in the end with tears in his eyes Vasudevachar was magnanimous to admit that GNB sang the kriti better than he himself has composed. He said some thing in the lines of ‘what I gave you was a ‘nirAbharaNa sundari’ ( help needed !) but you presented it as a ‘sAlankita bhUSita kanya’.

08 chittaswaras from ‘shrI chAmuNDEshwari pAlayamAm’ in bilahari

    She sang the chittaswaras a couple of times and said until you reach the ‘ri’ you don’t know where is he leading you.

09 chittaswaras from karuNisau tAyE in saraswati manOhari

Vasudevachar composed only one kriti in Kannada Language. This was after much request from the King. After all other composers yielded to the demand, and after much persuasion he finally composed one in Kannada.

10 chittaswaras from ‘manasA vachasA shirasA anisham’ in bEgaDa

She said, it was the beauty and duty of him to enhance the lyrical vision of the kriti here. Same notes takes a different approach. She explained this change of ‘bhava’  of the raga at the charanam line karuNAnvitam

11 chittaswaras from praNatArthi haram in chenchurutti

Vasudevachar has many compositions on Vishnu and a few on Rama. He had composed only one or two kritis on Shiva.  Pranatarthi haram is one of them.

Rare Ragas

Vasudevachar composed in many rare ragas, or new ragas like kadanakutuhalam, sudha sALavi ( not heard this before) etc and in hindustani ragas ( 3 in hindustani kApi and 2 in behAg).

She said the version of the hindustani kApi kriti she was taught by Doraiswami Iyengar was a different pAThAntaram from what is popular now. Her version, did not have kAkaLi niSAda or anthara gAndhAra. It was a janya of kharaharapriya. But, she said, the current version is different and the book of Vasudevachar’s compositions is also with the new version.

12 bhajamAdhavam anisham – hindustAni kApi

Bhava aspect in his compositions

Sensitive and subtle interpretation of the rAga is essential to bring out the bhAva in the compositions. She explained this with shAradE pAhimAm in yadukula kAmbOji

13 shAradE pAhimAm – yadukula kAmbOji

She said, her Guru was the best in singing this kriti and she is only making an attempt to go closure to his singing.

Before concluding her lecture on the specialties of his compositions, she did give the statistical highlights for the record ( 8 jati swaras, 16 varna, 150 kritis, 10 thillanas,6 javali and 8 ragamAlika compositions including those in praise of each of the trinities). She said it is important to understand the composition and know the meaning for one to appreciate the composer. Otherwise, one will say ‘music is good’ but will not be ‘special’ to him. Grammar alone can’t help. Mere grammar is not poetry, it had to come from within. Its the same with music.

Note 2 : These are some of the points I ‘noted’ from a running lecture. There are many short comings in this update and it is my own limitation in capturing the essence of what was spoken. There are few mistakes above and I welcome anyone correcting me here.


01 evarunnAru ( varNam) – navarasakannaDa

02 mama hrdayE – rItigauLa  ( S )

03 bhajarE rE bhaja mAnasa shrI narasimham – mOhanakalyANi  ( A,N,S )

neraval & swara @’paramAtbhuta rUpadharam karuNAkaram harim’

04 palukavadEmirA – dEvamanOhari

05 bhajarE rE mAnasa shrI raghuvIram – AbhEri ( A,S,T )

06 tillAna ( nadru dhIm nAdru dhIm dhIm taraNa dhIm) – kAnaDa

07shLOkam ( mangaLam kOsalEndrAya)

Concert was the continuation of the lecture. She explained each compositions ,its nuances, the specialties as she moved on. The selection of varnam, made my day. Beutiful reetigula came in with some memorable swaras to accompany.  But the highlight of the evening was the mohanakalyani kriti. A classy  alapana, allowing one of her disciples to pitch in occasionally, followed by probably the best kriti in mOhanakalyani ( my personal preference). An elaborate neraval at ‘paramAtbhuta’ was brilliant. I’ve heard this kriti from TNS (and fallen for its beauty ) many years ago at Gayana Samaja ( he sang neraval at ‘paramabhakta prahLAda) and again last year at Sanjay Nagar. The kalpana swaras were impressive too. Abheri was the main, and it had to be his masterpiece ‘bhajarE rE mAnasa’. Alapana was short, there was no neraval but had a detailed kalpana swaras.  Tumkur Ravishankar and Omkar played a delectable tani avartanam post main. The percussion, especially Ravishankar, was very good through out the evening. So, was Charulatha on violin. Her following for Abheri and Mohanakalyani was very good. She concluded her concert with the tillana in thisra roopakam set in kAnada. Very  informative session followed by a sweet and short concert.


Posted by on August 22, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Sumitra Nitin, “Harnessing the Power of the Varnam” – lecture- demonstration @ Ranjani Fine Arts , 13th Sept 2014

Vocal: Vid Sumitra Nitin

The idea of this lecture, Sumitra said, is largely addressed to the students, to help them understand, learn and practice all the attributes of carnatic music ( raga alapana, neraval, singing kalpana swaras, tanam, kalapramanam etc) through appropriate practice of the varnams. Varnam, an integral part of every students learning curve and his or her performance at the concert stage. This attempt is not to look at thearray of varnams and its specialities, but to look at the concert singing attributes through varnams. She mentioned all the aforementioned attributes of concert singing can be practiced through varnams at the early stages of the learning.

Varnam, as a form, is a late entrant to the scheme of classical music. The earliest varnam reported to be identified as the ‘mOhanam’ varNam of Sri Govinda Samayya, composed in the late 16th or early 17th century. Thus it is not an old compositional form, but one of the most used in the concerts and most useful for the students. In the teaching methodology a great emphasis is given to the learning of varnam and Sumitra said a student should learn at least 25 varnams during his learning phase. Citing the Ilayaraja’s song ‘ninnukOri’ from the film music, she said she will use the popular mohana varnam ‘ninnukOri’ for the rest of the evening to demonstrate the aspect she mentioned above.

Tana varNam

Ninnu kOri, is a tAna varNam. Tana varnams are called so because they are set in the tempo of tanam singing. She demonstrated this by singing the pallavi line of the varnam replacing the sahitya with tanam syllables. Effective practice of varnam can help a student to eminently perform tanam singing.

While singing alapana for a ragam, you have enough time to form your phrases and are sung in all three speeds. However, while singing tanam, one has to have a continuous flow and are usually sung in madhyama kalam. Varnams are also composed in madhyamakala tempo. She demonstrated these aspects singing alapana and tanam for mohanam in line with the ninnu kOri varnam.

Earlier days, there was something called ‘chittai tAnam’, a model tanam or tanam guides. Practicing chittai tanam helps you to sing tanam during concerts. However, this is not in practice now. Instead, she said, we can use the varnam to practice the tanam singing.

Pada varnam

Padams are the slowest of the compositions. One need a certain musical maturity to sing pada varnams as it is slow paced and with a lot of artistic and aesthetic appeal. One need a lot more practice to perform pada varnams. She said, Sri T M Krishna, had recently taken pada varnams to the main stream of the concerts.

* manavi kai konna rA dA – SankarAbharaNam – Tanjavur Quartette

Singing neraval for pada varnams are used during dance programs. They are very challenging as their tempo is very very slow. Learning pada varnams are of immense value to the students of music and she said every students should learn at least 2 pada varnams in their repertoire.

Since the focus is not on types of varnam, she said we will get back to tana varnams for the days discussion. She said a varnam is like a sari. A sari can be worn in many different ways. As in the case of sari, a 6 yards of cloth that can be worn as many ways, one can use the varnam during the learning period in many ways to enhance the knowledge of the musical attributes.


The first problem she will address, she said, is that of kalapramanam. How to maintain the tempo during the singing. She said, unless one is a master of laya, a student can use the metronome to steady their kalapramanam. Keeping the metronome at a constant beat, one can sing the varnam in 2 speeds and 3 speed. She demonstrated the same with the mohanam varnam.

‘Akaram’ singing

One should also practice the varnam by singing it in ‘akaram’ replacing the words.Olden times they used to practice with all vowels. However, she noted, there are two schools of thoughts in this. One school restricts the practice only to ‘a’karam, while the other schools are open to all the vowels. This will also help the students in singing the alapana for the raga.

Arohana – avarohana phrases

All the varnams, include the arohana and avarohana (ascend and descend) phrases in the composition. This would also help the students to get the grip on these phrases by practicing the specific phrases in the varnam. She demonstrated this using the Sankarabharanam varnam singing ‘daya judara rajakumAra’.


Varnam also teaches you to pronounce the words correctly. It is important for the teachers to emphasize on the right pronunciation and punctuation of the lyrics at the early stages of the learning. However most of the lyrics are in Telugu, and it might not be easy to explain the meaning to the student. Some of them are also ‘srngara rasa’ based which makes it difficult to explain the complete meaning to the students. But students should be taught to use the right words ( she quipped the use of ‘mira’ instead of EmirA’ ).

Also, most of the varnams are with out the bhAva or the emotive content in them. While there are abundance of ‘rAga bhAva’, there is no emotive bhava, especially the tana varnams. Pada varnams are definitely an exception.


One can learn to deploy various tala and laya combinations with the appropriate practice of varnam. An experienced student should practice with various tala structures, different take off points etc with varnams to equip him in future.

She demonstrated the various ‘eDuppu’ using the ninnu kOri varnam. Singing at ‘samam’ is easy but singing atheeta (one before samam) or anAghata ( one , two or 3 akshara after samam) will help the student to face any ‘laya’ and rythm based challenges. Explaining this with ‘taka’ and ‘takita’ before the kriti she explained these nuances.

One can also do trikalam and tisram, essential attributes of pallavi singing , through methodical practice of varnam.

Changes in Gati

One can also practice the changes of gati or naDai through varnams. Most of the Adi tala varnams are with 4 aksharas per beat ( chaturashra) and a change of this into 3 ( tishram) can be practiced using muktai swaras. After every 3 lines, one will have to reach samam. She demonstrated this with the counting sa she sang.  With ‘Tana’ varnams , which usually has 6 lines, this can easily performed. However for the sAvEri varnam which has 8 lines, one will have to repeat the first line of the muktai swaras to make it 9, to sing this way.

One can also do a khaNDam ( 5 counts), mishram ( 7 counts) and sankeernam( 9 counts) appropriately. However these would be a theoretical exercise, not really practiced. Ata tala varnams which has 14 counts can easily be sang in mishram. She deonstrated this with the bhairavi varnam viribONi.


Varnams typically have all the important ‘prayogams’ of a ragam. They will also have a few ‘apoorva’ prayogams as well like the ‘sa da pa’ use in Sankarabharanam or the ‘sAranga’ like sa-ri-da-pa in the kalyani varnam.  Varnams also give you the gruha swara, amSa swara and the nyAsA swara of the ragam (??). It will also help you practice to end your kalpana swaras, by carefully examining the varnams. She explained a few of these with sahana varnam ‘karunimpa’ , noting all the swara phrases are ending either at ‘sa’ or ‘ri’.

jaNTai and dhAtu prayogams

Students can practice a lot of jantai and dhatu prayogams using varnams as they have plenty of them. She demonstrated this with the ninnu kOri varnam again.

Charanam lines

Sumitra explained that the charanam line of a varnam is a mini pallavi. Explaining this with a demonstration she said all the aspects of manodharma sangeetham can be done at the charanam line. She recalled an instance where Smt Vedavalli sang a short neraval at the charanam line, later clarifying she had not done any innovation, but they were in practice in earlier days.

Swaras for Varnams

There are two thoughts about singing kalpana swaras at the end of the varnam. Demonstrating with kalyani varnam and with kAmbOji varnam, she demonstrated how one can sing kalpana swaras for varnams and how a student can learn from the varnam on how to end the kalpana swaras.


Trikalam is usually a pallavi exercise and is rather complicated for a non-laya oriented person. Singing the given line in 3 speeds with tala being constant. She explained how one can do this practicing a varnam, demonstrating through abhOgi varnam

She said, the last charana swaram of the varnam gives you the entire gamut of the ragam and are usually starts at ‘shadjam’, Kedaragaula varnam being an exception ( starts at ‘ri’). It also gives us all the constructs that is unique to that ragam. She sang a few lines to explain this aspect, singing the mohana kalyani varnam of Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman.

Smt Sumitra Nitin, concluded her short lecture with a surprise varnam composed by her. She said, this was done during an advanced training conducted by Sri Neyveli Santhanagopalan. Emphasising the importance of varnam he asked each of the participants to compose one overnight and present them in the next class. This varnam , was a result of that exercise. An interesting varnam with a lot of technical brilliance to it. One has to listen to this again with full accompaniment.

unnai nAn nambinEn guha sOdaranE – kEdAram – Sumitra Nitin.

This is a good idea for a Lec-Dem before the concert by Ranjani fine Arts and a good , relevant subject to explain. Good job done by the organisers and the vidushi.

These are some of the aspects that I could gather during the speech and I am sure with my incompetence, I would have misunderstood or missed many points.

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Posted by on September 14, 2014 in Lec-Dem


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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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Prof. K Venkata ramanan – Lec Dem on The Life and Music of Harikeshanallur Muthaiah Bhagavathar

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.


Posted by on December 11, 2011 in Concert songlist


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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.

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


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