Dikshitar the Genius
Article by Smt.Sulochana Pattabhiraman
featured in "Bhava Raga Tala Modini"
a book of articles compiled by Dr. V.V. Srivatsa
circulated at the annual series
of Guruguhanjali in 1998
The genius of Muthuswami Dikshitar
: once or twice in a millenium the human spirit gathers itself upwards
in almighty upheaval, and a poet, saint or a great spiritual leader is
born. He is a rare visionary, who profoundly affects the destiny of mankind
with his imaginative insight and sagacious foresight. These are the spontaneous
thoughts that occur in one's mind when we remember with profound gratitude
not tainted by any parochialism, the divine composer, nonpareil, Muthuswami
If the art form of Carnatic Music
has achieved global recognition as one of the most sophisticated disciplines
in world music, it is in no small measure due to the immortal compositions
of the Musical Trinity of South India. Shyama Sastri, Tyagaraja and Muthuswami
Dikshitar. Their contribution is no less than Kalidasa's to Sanskrit, Kambar's
to Thamizh and Shakespere's to English.
The family of Muthuswami Dikshitar
was noted for its intellectual eminence and true to his lineage, Dikshitar
was a personification of erudition - well versed in the study of Vedas,
Agamas, Astronomy, Astrology and even Medicine. Mastery in playing the
Veena was a family virtue and Dikshitar's particular asset. The Dikshitar
family of South India, like the Bach family of Germany, is one of the most
fascinating in the annals of music.
From the middle of the 18th century
to the beginning of the 20th century, the members of the Dikshitar descent,
known as the 'Dikshitar Pentad' made rich and varied contributions to what
may be called the Periclean age of Carnatic Music. These comprise of hundreds
of compositions, 14 Ragamalikas including 2 of the longest, in South Indian
music, Pada varnams suited to dance, darus and nottuswara sahityas, based
on captivating English band tunes. All the 72 Raganga ragas introduced
by Venkatamakhin have been covered by this illustrious family. The most
renowned member of this lineage was Muthuswami Dikshitar, whose music was
inseparable from the Veena as he brillinatly enriched his songs with a
profusion of gamaka nuances in a manner all his own. It is readily acclaimed
that he, a classicist par excellence, was on equally familiar turf in the
innovation and improvisation of noveau forms within the frame work of tradition.
He was completely at home while composing in rare ragas such as Andhali,
Salanganata, Samanta etc., as he was with the popular and more familiar
ones like Kalyani, Thodi, Sankarabharanam and Bhairavi. His master creations
conceived with immaculate care and so minutely developed had a singular
T.V.Subba Rao in his "Studies in
Indian Music" says that if it is permissible to call 'architecture' as
frozen music, it will not be amiss to describe Dikshitar's music as eternal
architecture of raga forms. His compositions reflecting the unqualified
genius of the composer, have poetic imagery, mastery of Sanskrit, dignity,
tranquility, a scholarly style and above all, steeped in devotion. The
veena is the abode of Divinity and the Lord's source of happiness, says
the Sangita Ratnakara. There is no doubt that Dikshitar's expertise on
the veena was emphatically mirrored on the construction of his composition.
They bear a peculiar splendour because of the rich combination of laya,
percentage diction and a perennial majestic flow of melody. His kritis
replete with soothing, sweet Sanskrit lyrics, adi prasam and antima prasam,
many with winsome Samashti Charanams, a Chowka Kala Pramanam, comparable
to the Dhrupad style in Hindustani Music, and prayogas that never repeat
themselves, occupy an exclusive niche that would well withstand the challenging
tides of time.
Dikshitar's greatest service to Carnatic
Music was that that he gave body and shape to nearly 200 ragas of Venkatamakhin.
He has employed 191 ragas for 460 compositions, out of which 219 have been
printed with notation by Subbarama Dikshitar in his monumental "Sangita
Sampradaya Pradarshini". The raga and thala mudras woven skilfully into
the kriti fabric are exclusive to the songs of Dikshitar. No other composer
has written so many group kritis in such a planned, orderly, meticulous
fashion. He was a cosmopolitan, so far as deities were concerned and he
fully deserved to be called the "Shanmata Sthapanacharya", after Adi Sankara.
There is such an incredible wealth of astrological details, mantra sastra
data, Puranic lore, Sri Vidya philosophy and temple rituals in his songs,
that it is an education by itself to study them. Rhetorical beauty occurs
in plenty and he was a past master in the art of rhyming. It was said of
him, "Swasam Pogira varaikkum Prasam". The means "Rhyming till his very
last breath". His remarkable intellect and skill in Sahitya were revealed
in the Gopuchcha and Srotovaha types of yatis in his kritis. It is said
that Dikshitar's songs are summaries of Durga Suktam, Sri Suktam and Purusha
Suktam - adumbrated in the Vedas.
The genius of Muthuswmay Dikshitar
brings us nearer to the hidden soul, stimulates our minds and fills us
with a joy that is beyond comprehension.
Dikshitar was a God - realised soul,
who was not tempted by the pomp of power or by the vanity of wealth. In
the Company of all time greats like Tyagaraja and Shyama Sastri, Dikshitar's
genius superbly ministers to our contemporary needs of peace, sublimity
and spiritual enlightenment.
- Annual Series