NAGARATHINAMMAL - THYAGA SEVA SAKTHA ...............(Nov.3, 1878 - May
The great lady of Bangalore belonged to the fragrant period which saw a galaxy of illustrious women musicians like Veena Dhanammal, Salem Meenakshi, Enadhi Lakshmi Narayani Sisters, Coimbatore Thayee, Bangalore Thayee, Tiruvarur Rajayee and Kolar Nagarathinam. The trio MSS, DKP, MLV joined them later. But Bangalore Nagarathinammal was altogether of a different type in that she was able to look beyond herself and music rendition and focus her attention on the source of such resplendent music. Her sublimated soul envisioned the Cauvery and its music - soaked cultured waters not only at Tiruvaiyaru but at the distant Mercara where lies its source. Others came, sang and left. But her genius perceived something greater, enduring and substantial. She enjoys the unique distinction of having surrendered her all to the service of the Great Bard of Tiruvaiyaru, Tyagaraja.
With single-minded devotion and dedication, she sold her properties, pooled her income and enlisted the support of all to commence the construction of the Samadhi of Tyagaraja on the bank of the Cauvery on October 27, 1921 and performed the Kumbabishekam on January 7, 1925. She started the annual celebrations (aradhana) on a firm and grand scale. The samadhi lands were donated by Sri Mannapa Saheb and Sri Rajaram Mannaji Surve. And she spent her last years there giving lessons on Tyagaraja songs at the 'Tyaga Brahma Nilayam', a dedicated construction work in which the eminent cine actor, Chittoor V.Nagayya played the principal role. Quite fittingly, her samadhi is located near the samadhi of the bard. Another wish fulfilled. Nagarathinammal was an amalgam of sterling character, obsessive and noble dedication to good causes held dear to her heart and of dharmic conduct. Devoted to her gurus, she performed guru poojas annually and also celebrated Hanumat Jayanthi. She was chosen specifically to sing a Sanskrit invocation at the All India Sanatana Dharma Conference in 1929. She gave a large number of concerts and the bulk of the proceeds went for the construction of the Tyagaraja Samadhi and the Mysore Choultry at Tiruvaiyaru for the benefit of Kannadigas.
Born at Mysore, of Vakil Subba Rao and Puttulakshmi, she learnt Sanskrit and music under Giripatta Thimmayyah and violin from her uncle Venkitasami Appa of Bangalore. Had further training in violin under Munuswamy Appa, a disciple of Wallajahpet Krishnaswami Bhagavathar. Her desire for knowledge was so intense that she learnt Bharatanatyam under Bangalore Kittanna and Abhinaya from Madras Tiruvenkatachariar. Her over-all vidwat was polished of by Bidaram Kittappa. Puttulakshmi was discarded first by Subba Rao and later by Thimmayyah also. But she bore her trials and brought up her daughter with an iron will. With multi-sided acomplishments, Nagarathinam made her debut significantly at Veena Seshanna's house in her fifteenth year. Palaces and Institutions availed of her immense training and talent both in India and in Sri Lanka. It is said that she gave 1235 engagements between 1905 and 1934, which is equivalent to ten times that now.
She enjoyed a 'gambhira' voice. Her infatuation with the songs and life of Tyagaraja was so intense and sublime that she executed a will on January 3, 1949 setting apart her assets to construct the Samadhi and to run a gurukula at Tiruvaiyaru to propagate the Bard's songs. There was Yaga, Yoga, Tyaga and Bhoga with nadopasana in her life of suffering and achievement.
Her only daughter died. Her attempt to adopt a girl failed. Her sufferings while young and these failures tended only to harden her admiration for Tyagaraja, the Prince of Renunciation, and her resolve to accomplish and achieve what all others had ignored. Her intense love of his songs was matched only by her passion for Devaranamas and to demonstrate that Purandara songs could also be sung likewise in such an elaborate and scholarly manner, she arranged a concert of Bidaram Krishnappa at Madras to be covered only by Devaranamas. Mysore Vasudevacharya says, 'Ragalapana, Swarakalpana, neraval, everything was there as in a traditional concert. The audience felt delighted. They realised for the first time that the Kannadigas also have their own individualistic heritage'
She rarely rendered the kritis of Dikshitar as she felt that she would not be able to do justice to them because of her inadequate knowledge of Sanskrit. Tyagaraja and Purandaradasa had won her heart so fully that it had no space for others!
Her publications include Madhyapanam in Telugu, Sri Tyagaraja Ashtothra Namavali in Sanskrit and Panchee Karana Bowdheeka in Tamil.
Nagarathinammal reprinted the Telugu classic 'Radhika Swayamvaram' of Muddu Palani, a courtesan of the 18th century. Police seized all the copies taking objection to its high eroticism. Only in 1947 the ban was lifted. There was a fresh edition in 1952.
Titles & Honours:
March 6, 1949 - Tyaga Saktha by President of India
Vidya Sundari by Puranam Suryanarayana Tirthar
1932 - Gana Kala Visaradha by Kaviraja Krishnamurti Sastri.
Nagarathinammal needs no better honour than the appreciation and gratitude of the thousands who gather annually at Tiruvaiyaru for the Aradhana. 'Earn, Conserve, Distribute', this is my life-mission, declared the Founder of the Annamalai University. The application of the principle to the life of Nagarathinammal reveals that she belongs to the galaxy of eminent women of India. Literally she got dissolved in every respect in nadopasana!
Saint Tyagaraja; 'Fragrant Gold of Carnatic Music' from A Garland by Shri.N. Rajagopalan
The Pancharatna Kritis