T.BALASARASWATI - ABHINAYA MAESTRO.....................................(May 13, 1918-Feb.9, 1984)
- Yamini KrishnamurtiT.Balasaraswati had the immense wealth of legacy of musical and artistic talents being the grand daughter of the legendary Veena Dhanammal and daughter of Jayammal and Govindarajulu. Had her training under Kandappa Pillai, Chinnayya Naidu and Vedantam Lakshminarasimha Sastri. Graceful in personality, endowed with a musical voice and blessed with a body that was specially moulded for abhinaya to bring out the eloquent bhavas and rasas of diverse emotions and compositions. Balasaraswati was on the stage in her teens and was the cynosure of the cognoscenti. At the All India Congress Exhibition held at Royapettah in 1935 or so, S.Satyamurti gave glowing tributes to her talents and she was then just seventeen. She was very cultured. She would sing well while dancing. 'The bhava or the attitude of Sringara was for Bala the soul of bharata natya.' Musician - Artist S.Rajam said that Bala should be included in this book as she was a good musician too.
Here are some excerpts of some of her learned dissertations:
'Sringara stands supreme in the range of emotions. No other emotion is capable of reflecting the mystic union of the human with the divine.'
'The feet keeping to time, hands expressing gesture, the eye following the hands with expression, the ear listening to the dance master's music and the dancer's own singing - by harmonising these five elements, the mind achieves concentration and attains clarity in the richness of participation. The inner feeling of the dancer is the sixth sense which harnesses these five mental and physical elements to create the experience and enjoyment of Beauty. It is the spark which gives the dancer her sense of spiritual freedom. The spectator, who is absorbed in intently watching this, has his mind freed of distractions and feels a great sense of clarity. In their shared involvement, the dancer and the spectator are both released from the burden of worldly life ad experience the divine joy of the Art with a sense of total freedom'.
BALUSWAMI DIKSHITAR - MUSICIAN - COMPOSER.....................................(1786 - 1859)
Baluswami Dikshitar was the son of Ramaswami Dikshitar, the scholar-composer, and a brother of Muthuswami Dikshitar, one of the Carnatic Musical Trinity. Baluswami Dikshitar was tutor to the Ettayapuram Rajah too and the ward built a house for his guru even as Swati Tirunal did for Vadivelu of the Tanjore Quartette. Saranga, Durbar, Kanada and Rudrapriya were the favourite ragas of this composer-musician.
Baluswami Dikshitar was a multi-faceted personlaity who could play on the family asset of vina besides Swarabat, Sitar and Mridangam. He was at Manali near Madras with his father and Chinnaswami Dikshitar when Muthu Venkata Vaidyanatha visited. At the instance of their father, the brothers sang 'Nannu Parikshinchunela' to the satisfaction of the visitor to qualify for his father receiving two great works called 'Chaturdandi Prakasia' and 'Raghalakshanam'.
Muthukrishna Mudaliar and Venkatakrishna Mudaliar of Manali extended much patronage and it was at their instance, an European violinist taught Baluswami Dikshitar to play on violin (1806-1814) and he adapted his play to suit the genius of Carnatic music. His brother Muthuswami Dikshitar composed 'nottuswarams' in Sankarabharanam raga to practise with. Thus Baluswami Dikshitar is credited to be the pioneer to introduce violin in the South and Tanjore Vadivelu popularised it. This is, however, disputed on the basis of a painting of 1794 A.D. on the walls of Darya Daulat, Srirangapattinam and the wooden panel on the car of Lord Ranganatha. Sangita Kalanidhi T.Chowdiah has claimed that violin is only the 'dhanur veena' of old and that a representation of the violin is found on the walls of Sri Agasteeswara temple at Trimakuta on the Cauvery. The contention is that violin was no stranger to India.
Baluswami Dikshitar started his career on his return to Tiruvarur from Manali giving concerts with Chinnaswami Dikshitar. The brothers are stated to be the first among duos of prominence known to history. He had been honoured by Samasthanams and from 1825 was Aasthana Vidwan at Ettayapuram, at which place, Muthuswami Dikshitar during his visit breathed his last. Baluswami Dikshitar has composed varnams in Natta- Ata and Rudrapriya, Vasanta and Durbar. He had set to music compositions of his patron, Ettayapuram Rajah.
Once Sonti Venkatasubbiah claimed 'Takka' raga as a family credit and asked Baluswami Dikshitar at Manali to sing it. It is said that Dikshitar sang 'Aramajja Apavada' / 'Nanu Parikshinchu Nela' in that raga repudiating the claim of Venkatasubbiah. In fact, Muthuswami Dikshitar had composed 'Sundaramurtim asrayami' in the same raga in praise of Sundaramurti Nayanar .
BANNI BAI - MUSICAL DISCOURSE ARTISTE.............(b.1912)
Alamelu Manga Thayar, daughter of Doraisami became Banni Bai because of residence and contacts with marwari people. She has had training or special coaching with several experts like
Songs & kritis - Balu Pillai and Narayanaswami Ayyar
Abhinaya and mudras - Mahadeva Ayyar
English and Tamil - Swaminatha Ayyar
Marathi - Markandeya Brahmacharya
She learnt Kannada adn Sanskrit also. She learnt kalakshepam art from Vijaya Bhagavathar and Kalyana Sastrigal. Banni Bai, gratefully remembers her guide and mentor, Bangalore Nagarathinamma, a respected lady who first constructed the Samadhi of Tyagaraja at Tiruvaiyaru. In recognition of the versatility, singing capability and scholarship of Nagarathinammal, she wrote her biography. Banni Bai follows the Tanjore method of rendering harikathas. She has had her programmes in the whole of India in hundreds.
Recognition came in the shape of
Kalaimamani title from the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Mandram, Chennai
Sangeeth Natak Academy Award in 1987.
Has acted in the fil 'Sakku Bai. The 'Hindu', Madras stated that her clearly enunciated speech educates and regales the listeners with axioms and anecdotes ' and records that she is one of the most versatile practitioners of the art .
L. BHAGYALAKSHMI - VIOLINIST
L. Bhagyalakshmi was born on 2 August, 1927. She learnt Carnatic music and violin from Chitoor V. Subramaniam and vocal music from noted musicians Calcutta Krishnamurthy and also from Sulochana Pattabhiraman. Her solo performance in All India Radio, Chennai in 1945 at the age of seventeen followed by regular concerts gained her a B.High Grade violinist of All India Radio, Chennai. She has accompanied on violin many renowned vocalists and performed solo in leading sabhas and institutions.
Post-graduate in Music and Teacher's Training from the University of Madras, she has more than 30 memorable years of service teaching students of Shri R.E.M. Sarada Vidyalaya Girls Higher Secondary School, T.Nagar, Chennai. Her contribution to music has helped receive accolades for her school by winning the award in-group singing at the national level hosted by All India Radio.
(Information & photo provided by C.R. Kaushik,Texas, USA)
SIKKIL R. BHASKARAN - VIOLINIST.............(b.4 May 1936)
Son of R.Rajagopala and R. Vedavalli and grandson of Ramaswami Pillai, a Bharatanatya exponent and recipient of the title of 'Kalaimamani' and 'Sangita Nataka Academy Award'. Bhaskaran was born at Sikkil. Learnt violin under Tiruvarur Subba Ayyar initially and then under the violin maestro, Mayavaram Govindaraja Pillai for seven years. Then he had his tutelage under Sangita Kalanidhi Rajamanickam Pillai. Made his debut at Kumbakonam as 'second to his master, Rajamanickam Pillai and independently as accompanist to the Pozhagudi Brothers. Got the prizes for young artiste from the Indian Fine Arts Society and in 1961 from the Music Academy, Madras for the 'Junior Artiste of the Year' with a gold medal. He is on the staff of the AIR since 1976 and has been accompanying leading vidwans in sabhas and on the AIR for over thirty-four years. A good violinist known for his soft and pleasing play with rich ragha bhava, improvisation and balanced swara exposition, he has been the recipient of several awards.
SRI SADGURU BODENDRA SWAMIGAL OF BHAGAVATHA TRINITY ............. (1610-1692)
Nature has showered her bounteous gifts on the small village of Govindapuram near Tiruvidaimarudur so that the immortal Bhagavathotama Sri Sadguru Bodendra Swamigal could attain bliss there amidst natural beauty and serenity after a life of hectic spiritual mission and exercise. The sacred place where his Samadhi is situated witnesses the annual celebration of the day of his Mahanirvan.
This contemporary of Sri Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval of Tiruvisanallur and Sri Sadasiva Brahemndral was born at Kanchipuram, of Kesava Panduranga Yogi and Suguna and was called, while young, Purushotaman. He had his education in the midst of scholars and set out to Benaras with a friend. Losing his friend en route, he desired to end his life. Destiny took him to Sri Viswadikendra Saraswathi, the 58th Sankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt sojourning there. Finding the fittest person and scholar in Purushottaman to succeed him, the learned Pontiff ordained him a sanyas and gave him the name of Bodendra Saraswathi. The young sanyasi was intructed to return to Kanchipuram via Jagannath to secure the great work 'Nama Kaumudi' of Lakshmidhara Kavi. Accordingly, Bodendra reached Jagannath and got the book from the author's son, Lakshmikantha Kavi and his mother.
The unique character of this trip lay in Lakshmidhara Kavi leaving instructions with his son to deliver the book to 'the sanyasi from the South who comes seeking it' and the Sankaracharya instructing his ward to trek all the way to Jagannath and obtain the book. This was about 360 years back. Further, on the day of his visit, Bodendra witnessed an incident extolling the spiritual glory of 'Ram Nam' and the enormity of the gifts of Devotion.
Bodendra accompanied his guru in his pilgrimage to Rameswaram on the Southern tip of the country on his return from Benares. The Sankaracharya attained eternity on the way and Sadguru Bodendra Swamigal became the 59th Sankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam in the year 1638. Bodendra later stayed at Tiruvidaimarudur and this helped in another Great Bhagavatha, Sridhara Venkatesa Ayyaval of Thiruvisainallur (just north of Tiruvidaimarudur) joining him in spiritual anmd devotional pursuits. It may be mentioned that they together with Sadguru Swamgal of Marudhanallur form the Bhagavatha Trinity and with Sri Sadasiva Brahmendral and Swami Narayana Tirtha constitute the Founders of the Bhakthi Renaissance and Bhajan in the South. Singing in chorus according to procedure in praise of God at festivals and on auspicious days became common and widespread.
Sri Sadguru Bodendra, on the basis of the Nama Kaumudi, wrote the 'Nama Siddanta Granthas' comprising -
Harihara Bheda Dikkaram
Murta Brahma Vivekam
Advaita Bhushanam and
Atma Bodha Teeka.
Sri Bodendra's guru was delighted to see these scholarly works of his ward on his return from Benares and these works have since been published. 'Nama Kaumidi' was reported to be available at the Marudhanallur Mutt of Sridhara Swamigal till 1966 though in poor condition. Now it is not there.
Sri Sadguru Bodendra Swamigal is remembered not only at the annual celebrations at Govindapuram but at each and every bhajan wherever it is done. The learned and respected scholar, Ki.Vaa. Jagannathan made the profound statement that Bharath had undergone political, economic and social upheavals with its hours of glory and shame but at no time it had lacked in the presence of eminent men of devotion and sacrifice.
T.BRINDA (VOCALIST & VAINIKA)......................(b.November 5, 1912)
Grand daughter of the legendary vainika, Dhanammal and daughter of Kamakshi Ammal, Brinda was bred in the evergreen nursery of vibrant classicism in Carnatic music. Imbibed the Dhanam tradition of melody from Dhannammal herself and her daughters. She is the eloquent inheritor of its grace and charm. This view finds support from the fact that the institution 'Sampradaya' arranged for a six months special training course at madras on Dhanam Classical tradition to be handled by T.Brinda and T.Viswanathan, a scion of the same nursery. She had absorbed enough music at home to elaborate ragas when at the age of nine she entered on gurukulavasa under Kanchipuram Naina Pillai. Mukta, her younger sister accompanied. But 'actually Brinda learnt directly from the maestro ad Mukta kept the sruti (harmonium). Mukta says':
Grandmother Dhanammal was none too pleased at our being sent to Naina Pillai as if no music was available at home. Further Dhanammal's music was like honeyfall, soft and sweet and she wanted our music to be soft and feminine. She disliked women indulging in swara fireworks and feared that it would happen if we learnt music under Pillai.'
Brinda made her debut with Mukta as support at the Tyagaraja Festival, Kanchipuram which was celebrated annually by Naina Pillai. Though Mukta did not undergo the rigorous training, she had assimilated enough by constantly hearing the master and his ward (Brinda) and the Brinda-Mukta combine was a prominent duo for four decades, till Brinda's daughter and vocalist Vegavauhini joined to sing with Brinda. Thus Brinda has over seventy years solid credit as a performing artiste of merit. She enjoys a vast repertoire of kritis, padas and javalis and several claim to have studied under her though some of the claims might not conform to fact, it is said.
For exquisite rendition of padams, Brinda has a name and for the Music Academy, Madras, she brought out a publication of javalis in 1965 but she feels that several performing artistes do not adhere to the proper paddhati. Semmangudi Dr. Srinivasa Ayyar states that when Ariyakudi Ramanuja Ayyangar and he heard Brnda once, the former said,
'When women sing padams, it is melifluous;
See, how beautifully Brinda has handled them!'
Ayyar could not stop with the joy of hearing. At the suggestion of the Maharani of Travancore, he learnt in three days three javalis and three padams from Brinda! (Three is Ayyar's lucky number perhaps!) Here is another tribute from another veteran. R.Vedavalli who states that her guru Mudicondan Venkatarama Ayyar used to tell his disciples,
'See, how Brinda keeps her voice sweet inspite of advancing age.
You should take a lesson from her.'
These tributes to Brinda's musical expertise and acumen find relection in the titles and honours conferred on her.
Titles & Honours:
Sangit Natak Academy Award - 1965
Sangita Kalanidhi from Music Academy, Madras - 1977
Sangita Sikhamani from Indian Fine Arts Society
Swaralaya Pushkaram by Pushkaram - 1992
Professor, Central College of Carnatic Music, Madras (1951-70)
Visiting Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, USA - Two Terms
Visiting Professor, California University, USA - Two months
Brinda has given concerts in USA and she was not interested in giving discs. She has been training many in Veena also.