Follow on


Profiles of Artistes, Composers, Musicologists
Unless otherwise specified, the profiles in this section are from
The Garland, Another Garland, Yet Another Garland and The Fragrant Garland by Mr.N.Rajagopalan
KANAKADASA - COMPOSER...............(16th Century)
One of the great Bhagavatha Maha Purushas Karnataka gave,Thimmappa , son of Birappa, a poligar chief of Kuruba community came to be called 'Kanaka Nayaka' as he found a treasure-trove of gold. He was initiated by Vyasaraya. He lived at Tirupathi in his last days. He has composed:
Hari Bhakti Sara
Nala Charitra
Mohana Tarangini
Nara Simhastava
Devotional songs in Kannada like 'Krishna Nee Begane' (Yaman)
His devotional songs and devoted work elevated the backward communities. His signatures were 'Kagineli Kesava', 'Velapuri Kesava', etc.

KAVI KUNJARA BHARATI - COMPOSER...............(1810-1896)
Kavi Kunjara Bharati was born at Perungarai (Ramanathapuram). Father Subramanya Bharathi and grandfather Kotiswara Bharathi were scholars in Tamil & Sanskrit. The family legacy was enriched further by the grandson of Kavi Kunjara Bharathi, viz., Kotiswara Ayyar, the illustrious author of 72 melaraga kirtanas in Tamil. Kavi Kunjara began to write poetry in his teens and soon became a friend of Madhura Kavi Bharathi. Gowri Vallabha, the Rajah of Sivaganga was pleased to appoint him as Asthana Vidwan in his court. The Rajah of Ramnad folowed suit. 'Skanda Purana Kirtanas' (1865-1870) are his greatest contribution. 'Azhagar Kuravanji' and 'Perinba Kirthanaigal' are his other compositions which are popular. Some of his pieces are:
Elloraiyum Polave - Suddhasaveri
Ennadi Penne Unakku - Begada
Pithanavan - Anandbairavi
Singaravelanai - Danyasi
Sannidhi Kandu - Mohanam

The title 'Kavi Kunjaram' was conferred by the Rajah of Sivaganga. The first song was the favourite of S.G.Kittappa and T.R.Mahalingam who have given disc recordings of it.

Dr.U.Ve. Swaminatha Ayyar mentions that Athmanatha Bhagavather (nephew) and Kunjaram (grandson) were also scholars and that they propogated Bharathi's songs. Perungarai village presented another composer of repute Madura Kavi Bharati (c.1780) who is known for his devotional padas..


Karur is known in Sanskrit as Garbhapuri and in musical circles, the Garbhapuri Quartette have carved out for themselves a unique place. The Quartette comprised:
Pedda Devudu Venkatasubbiah 1860-1887
Chinna Devudu Krishniah 1861-1901
Karur Chinnaswamiah 1888-1967 &
Dakshinamurti Sastri (not known)
The first three were sons of Narasa Ayyar and Akhilandammal. Dakshinamurthi Sastri was a cousin of the other three and was a lyricist and teacher in the High School at Karur.

They had their training under Nemam Subramania Ayyar, a direct disciple of Tyagaraja. Karur Chinna Devudu composed several songs like 'Neramanchakura' (Sankarabharanam). His violin duets with his elder brother, Pedda Devudu had a premature end when the elder died. Chinna Devudu then trained his younger, Chinnaswamiah and both were playing together.

It was Karur Chinnaswamiah who was later honoured by the Music Academy wth the conferemnt of the title 'Snagita Kalanidhi' in 1950. He had accompanied most of the great artistes. His musical expertise was sound and used the full bow Musiri Subramanya Ayyar, K.S.Papa Venkatramiah, G.N.Balasubramaniam and Varahoor Muthuswami Ayyar were his disciples. His capacity to present rich ragabhava, wide range of ragas, unequalled skill in producing rare and unique tones on his instrument and his remarkable attractive style have been complimented by Keerthanacharya C.R.Srinivasa Ayyangar.

Chinna Devudu composed note-swaras also like Muthuswami Dikshitar. 'Sami Ninne' 9Sree raga - adi tala) varna is his. Their compositions are all in the tradition of Tyagaraja. Prof.P. Sambamurthi Ayyar says that Dakshinamurthi Sastri wrote the Sahityas (script) which were set to music by Devudayya and that the two are called Garbhapuri composers after their signature 'Garbhapuri'. A collection of the compositions has been published by the Music Academy, Madras..

GHANAM BOBBILI KESAVAYYA - VOCALIST...............(March 21, 1763 - d.not known)
Bobbili has presented a number of musicians of repute of which Kesavayya was truly famous and substantial. The others include Appiah Garu, Kanniah Garu, Krishnamurti and Sambayya Garu (all 19th Century), Appiah Garu was a vocalist too, who brought out jathi and gathi bedas.

Kesavayya, born at Bobbili, had his training in music under his father Gopalayya. His mother was Ranganayaki. He was well-versed in Sanskrit and Telugu and had learnt 'pranayamam' from Narasimha Yogi. He was superb in the 'Ghana' style of singing and was of a dominant nature. Proud of his artistic attainments, he assumed the provoking title of 'Bhooloka Chapa Chutti' (one who could roll the world into a mat). Due to his disinclination to take presents from all, he came to be presented with a large number of tamburs. In the course of his visits, he reached the then cultural centre of Tanjore. It was his wish to establish his pre-eminence and undisputed sway over all the musicians wherever he wne. Over-awed by the grandeur of his retinue and the display of tamburs and other paraphernalia coupled with the advance knowledge of real prowess, artistes would bow down meekly and avoid confrontation and probable shame. At Tanjore, he had held out this challenge for a contest. That there was a contest was true. Dr.U.Ve.Swaminatha Ayyar mentions that Pallavi Gopalayyar feigned to contest but yielded to the visiting artiste. He has also mentioned that Tsallagallo Pallavi Doraiswami Ayyar (1782-1816) of Tiruvaiyaru recorded success over Kesavayya and retrieved even the presents got against Pallavi Gopalayyar. The piece chosen for Pallavi in the contest was 'Chellunataraymodi' (Pantuvarali raga Triputa tala). There is another version of Syama Sastri taking the contest. Probably this had taken place prior to the meet with Doraiswami Ayyar.

The common version in currency is that Rajah Serfoji turned to Syama Sastri of the Carnatic Trinity to uphold the honour and the orestige of the Tanjore artistes and the Court. Syama Sastri invoked the blessings of his patron deity with the famous piece 'Devi Brova Samyamidhe' (Chintamani). With his brilliant exposition in Sarabhanandana tala, Sastri established his supremacy over Bobbili Kesavayya. The ruler sent Kesavayya with some presents. An eminent vidwan, Kesavayya both gained and lost by his audacious affront to other artistes. It looks that Tanjore proved to be his waterloo.

At the request of Rajah Serfoji, Kesavayya gave lessons to Ghanam Krishnayyar, who rose to dizzy heights besides being a composer of renown. Kesavayya's descendents like Vijaya Varadayya, Raghavayya and Varadayya were veena artistes in the ghana style.

S.G. KITAPPA - DRAMATIST...............(1906-1933)
His glittering entrance on the stage was followed by the song 'Elloraiyum Polave Ennai, Ennalagumodi Podi' (Can you take me just as you think of others?) in his all-conquering, sweet, honeyed, divine and commanding voice soaking everyone in the ocean of rejuvenating, romantic, lilting music. There was no need for the heroine to answer the query in the song. The audience, nay the musical world responded in chorus that none was ever guilty of taking him on par with others. Without doubt, history had not recorded any like him before and we have seen none since the brilliant life of the genius ended - well three years before he attained the age of thirty. Great lives end quickly. God takes those young whom He loves. How true it is!

The voice of gold whirled with ease and felicity in the upper octave even as the 'Homa' bird circles with its proverbial nature and deliberate option. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa has mentioned that this fabled species
'live so high up in Heavens and love those high regions so dearly that they never come down to earth. No sooner do these fledglings find out that they are falling downwards than they immediately change their course and instintively fly up....'

Ramakrishna cites Sukhdeva, Narada, Jesus, Sankaracharya, etc. How true it is that S.G.Kittappa, the dramatist and musician whom we are dealing with here, literally spent his short sojourn on this planet at the lofty heights of the upper octave and left for his celestial abode.

He was not a mere legend. Fortunately recorded music has caught shades of the brilliance of the musician and his musical miracle for the benefit of posterity. Can anyone dream of matching
Evarani - Devamrutavarshini or
Ganalola - Suddha Seemantini or
Kodayile Elaipatrikollum - Ragamalika

Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar gave a recording of 'Evarani'. Later he heard the recorded version of the song rendered by S.G.Kittappa. Promptly he told the recording company not to release his own and refunded the honorarium. Good Sahitya (lyric) is pleasant. When it is conveyed and clothed with melody, it is rapturous. Richer the melody, sahitya is apt to be noticed less and lesser till ecstacy rules. Kittappa could take his listeners to the dizzier realms of ecstatic music. He had the able assistance of his brother S.G.Kasi Ayyar, harmonist and K.B.Sundarambal, another of those Hma birds with the sweetest of honeyed melody.

It is stated that he would adopt the song of Vishnu Digambar 'Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram' for the concluding chorus as a mark of respect to its author. Gandhiji's heart was in that song. Kittappa would recount any that he heard once. Eka santha grahi. He heard the Khamas raga piece 'Sapathi kilasa' of Piyare Saheb and it that day at his drama. This visiting musician was thrilled and presented a gold pendant. It is stated that Kittappa once treated Naina Pillai, Azhaganambi Pillai and Dakshinamurti Pillai with 'Evarani' etc with raga alapana on the stage at their request and for their pleasure. As Maha Vaidyanatha Ayyar was there for concerts and T.N.Rajarathinam for nagaswaram, S.G.Kittappa was for stage music, which was one hundred percent Carnatic music full of virtue, purity and class (swaroopa) .

KOTISWARA AYYAR - COMPOSER...............(January 1870-October 21, 1936)
An eminent composer in Tamil, Kotiswara Ayyar was a grandson of the great scholar and composer, Kavi Kunjara Bharati (1810-1896), who authored the Skanda Purana kirthanas, Azhagar Kuravanji and several kirtanas. Bharati was a prolific composer and in Kotiswara Ayyar one sees a worthy and capable successor in the family. His father, Naganatha Ayyar of Nandanur near Elayangudi, the sacred place of Saint Maranar, was also a scholar and composer. Music is the life-line of the family and the popular singer of devotional songs, K.Veeramani is a grandson of Kotiswara Ayyar.

Kotiswara studied at Manamadurai, Tiruchirapalli and Madras. Initially, he was in the Criminal Intelligence Department and later transalator in the High Court, Madras. On the musical side, he studied under the stalwarts, Poochi (Ramnad) Srinivasa Ayyangar and Patnam Subramania Ayyar. There was thus a parallel line of activity throughout - as NMN writes - 'one for livelihood and the other for life's ruling passion'.

Kotiswara Ayyar has composed about two hundred pieces. His seventy-two melakarta kirtanas are a great contribution carving out for him a place among great composers. Has composed varnams in Tamil in the ragas Saveri, Danyasi, Bilahari, etc. His signature is 'Kavi Kunjara Dasan', probably as a tribute to his maternal grandfather. His compositions are philosophical and his 'Kanda Gnanamudham' is a valuable work. He has published the works of Kavi Kunjara Bharati also. For his mastery in Todi raga, he was called 'Todi Koti'. He has sung in praise of Sri Tyagaraja in his 'Ininamakkoru kavalaiyumillai' - meaning henceforth we have no need for any worry.'
A saintly soul and a great composer, his compositions are in popular use like 'Velava Va' (Kiravani).

BRAHMASRI PARUTHIYUR KRISHNA SASTRI - Pioneer Of Religious Discourses...............(1845 1911)

Paruthiyur Krishna was born in the calm and tiny village Paruthiyur on the northern banks of Kudamuruti River, near Sengalipuram, in Thiruvarur District of Tamil Nadu, to Lakshmi and Ramasesha Sastri. Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri grew up to become the greatest exponent of the Ramayana. He was a versatile Sanskrit scholar well versed in Vedas and Sastras, Puranas and Ithihasas and all the scriptures. He was a great poet, a writer, composer, singer, astrologer, philosopher, a famous Harikathakalakshepa and Pravachan exponent. He was an avid connoisseur of Hinduism and a Philanthropist known for his Dhaana and Dharma and above all he was the greatest Bhakta with immense devotion to Sri Rama.

He was educated in the Sastras and specialized in Vedanta, Vyakarana, Mimamsa, Tarka Sastra, Carnatic music and Naam Sangeerthan under the training of Vaidyanatha Dikshitar Sengalipuram Muthannaval (1830-1893) and Mahamahopathyaya Thyagaraja Mahi Raja Mannargudi Raju Sastri (1815-1903). Krishna Sastri had got his "Ramanama Mantropadesam" from Marudhanallur Kodandarama Swamigal and since then everything was Rama for Krishna Sastri and all what he did all his life was Ram Nama Japam.

Sastri became an authority on Valmikis's Ramayana to the extent that he came to be called by people of his town as "Ramayana Sastrigal". Brahmasri Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri did Pravachans for over forty years of his life. Sastri's Pravachans induced Bhakti, he never missed a chance to talk about the virtues of Sri Rama. He used the Ramayana to illustrate several important ideas and concepts from other scriptures, thus providing a clear link between all our major scriptural works. Sastri was a pioneer who made Hindu Religious Discourses an art and a respectable profession. Reading the original sloka and presenting the meaning was the methodology followed by Pundits before. Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri was the first exponent who gave various interpretations and commentary to each verse and created a new style. Renovating and maintaining temples, building a temple for Sri Rama, doing Dhana -Dharma and helping the poor, saying and singing the story of Rama, propagating Sri Rama's virtues, inducing bhakti and good character in the community was the goal of Sastri's Life.

Kowmudhisomam, Rasanishyandini, Nandhi Mangala Slokas, Kavivilasa Manidharpanam, Lakshminarayana Dhvisahasri, Sita Kalyanam, Ganga Sadhagam, Mahalakshmi Sadhagam, Meenakshi Sadhagam, Vishalakshi Sadhagam, Yeka Chakrapurram, Krishna Sastri Ramayanam, Krishna Sastriyin Balakandam, Ramayana Slokas are some of his works. He had composed hundreds of songs in Tamil and Sanskrit on Rama, Mahalakshmi, Anjaneya, Narayana and Shiva. Many of his works and palm leaf manuscripts have never been found. He had written 100 slokas each on each of the Characters of the Ramayana. This bhakta attained mukti through Kapala Moksha in 1911.
(Information & photo provided by C.R. Kaushik,Texas, USA)

RASANISHYANDHINI:   Sanskrit Slokas with Tamil meanings, Samvada Ramayana Vyakyana
by Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri, Rajkumar Bharathi

TITTE KRISHNA AYYANGAR - VOCALIST...............(b.November 24, 1902)
Grandson of Titte Rangachariar, a disciple of Tillaisthanam Rama Ayyangar and son of Titte Narayana Ayyangar, Krishna Ayyangar had his initial training under his father, who was Asthana Vidwan, Mysore Court. Like his father, he had special training under Bidaram Krishnappa and Veena Seshanna. Krishna Ayyangar gave his maiden performance qute appropriately at the Tyagaraja Aradhana Festival, Tiruvaiyaru at the age of fourteen with Papa Venkatrama Ayyar on violin and Tanjore Vaidyanatha Ayyar on mridangam. He had a sweet voice and superb tanam rendering. A votary of traditional style and values, he has given a large number of concerts at sabhas, All India Radio and elsewhere.

Krishna Ayyangar
was the Founder of Sri Tyagaraja Sangeetha Vidwath Sabha, Mylapore (1966);
was Chairman, Board of Studies in Music, University of Mysore and
was Member, Experts Committee, Music Academy, Madras.
He has authored a book on the Theory and Practice of Carnatic Music, called 'Karnataka Sangeetha Lakshya Lakshana Paddhati' (1973) and another 'Rare Compositions of Veena Subbanna.'

In recognition of his good services to Carnatic Music and classical rendering, he has been honoured with titles & honours:
Gana Visharada by the Maharaja of Mysore - 1946
Award from the Sangita Natak Academy, Bangalore - 1965
Ganakala Sindhu by the Eighth Sangeeth Sammelan - 1966
Award from the Rajyothsava Committee - 1972
Sangita Kalaratna by the Gayaka Samajam, Bangalore - 1982

Rajsri Gautam points out that padams in Telugu or Tamil were all written on Tamil soil. Muthu Thandavar, Sarangapani, Muvvanallur Sabhapati Ayyar and Ghanam Krishna Ayyar all belong to the great line of padam composers.

The term 'pada' has been used even in 'Sangita Ratnakara' of Sarangadeva and was used to denote any musical composition. 'Sringara Sankirtanalu' came into vogue since the days of Tallapakkam composers in the 15th century. Kshetragna, in the seventeenth century, appeared as the 'Father of Sringal Padams' and perfected the style. The padam emerged as a distinct genre with a nayaka-nayaki motif, three or more charanams, to be sung in the particular ragas which are conducive to enhance the 'bhava' of the padams. Krishna Ayyar is called the 'Tamil Kshetragna' for the excellence of his padams. Kirtanacharya C.R.Srinivasa Ayyangar writes:
'Ghanam Krishna Ayyar stands as a master of Tamil. It is regarded as the high watermark of musical proficiency to sing his padams in the way they have been built.'

Krishna Ayyar is among the most illustrious composers. Dr.U.Ve. Swaminatha Ayyar has listed seventy-three kirtans, padams, sindhu and kalithurai of which fifty-seven were published by him. Some of the compositions are:
Velavare - Bairavi
Parengum Parthalum - Kalyani
Teruvil Varano - Kambhoji
Yaar Poye - Todi
Niddirayil soppanathil - Pantuvarali
Ella Arumaigalum - Todi
Tiruvottiyur Tyagarajan - Atana
Krishna Ayyar was grand not only in his compositions but was so in his music too. He specialised in Ghanam rendition. His father, Ramaswami Ayyar was musician, composer and Asthana Vidwan of the Tanjore Court. His four brothers were all musicians. After initial training under his father, Krishna Ayyar with his brothers, Subbarama Ayyar and Sundaram Ayyar had training under Ariyalur Shenbagamannar and then Pachimiriam Adippayya in the distinguished company of Syama Sastri and Pallavi Gopala Ayyar. All the three brothers became samasthana vidwans. The family was a shrine for music.

Krishna Ayyar, at the instance of the ruler, learnt from Bobbili Kesavayya the intricacies of 'ghanam' singing and became proficient in it. He found his patrons in Kabistalam Ramachandra Moopanar, Tiruvidaimarudur Amar Singh and Kacchi Kalyanaranga of Udaiyarpalayam. He was close to Choukam Seenu Ayyangar and Sankarabharanam Narasayya. He had met Tyagaraja at Tiruvaiyaru and Paidala Gurumurti Sastri at Madras. The song 'Summa Summa Varuguma Sugam' (Atana) was composed and sung before Tyagaraja. He sang at the reception to the Governor, Sir Thomas Munro at Madras. He had composed songs in praise of several deities in Thanjavur and Tiruchirapalli districts. His devotion to Kacchi Kalyanaranga was too profound for description. He had the obsession that Kacchi's appreciationwas worth several kingdoms. He would have flowered into one of the all-time greats with his erudition, musical acumen but he chose to stick on to that local chieftan of the arid area. he himself posed this to his patron when there was a shade of a lack of cordiality. Krishna Ayyar told him in a song that he stuck to him sacrificing his, all out of love. The patron surrendered since the musician's sacrifice was too enormous and magnanimous to be compensated. Ayyar foreswore a life of meteoric rice and princely luxury and cchose the life of commonplace, by deliberate intent out of sheer regard for a poor patron.

Krishna Ayyar's dedication to art was phenomenal. When Kesavayya started his tuitions, he would retire to Kabistalam, practise intensely with a will to succeed and come back fully accomplished and satisy Bobbili and the ruler. He was catapulted to fame, popularity and status. He had a magnificient personality and travelled on horse back. When he became old, Kacchiranga presented him with a palanquin and men. He commanded considerable respect and his word was carried out earnestly especially in the renovation of temples, tanks, etc. His signature is 'Velar'. His disciples included:
Tanjore Adimurthi Ayyar
Gopala Krishna Bharati
Venkatasubba Ayyar ( father of U.Ve.Sa)
Krishna Bhagavathar, Subbaraya Ayyar and
Nagaswaram Subramaniam.

Tirukodikaval is one of the villages endowed by Nature with exquisite beauty and environment to promote culture and music. There must have been a great past for musical affluence since the temple in the village depicts the scene of a victorius army being received by a band of musicians, dancers and kolattam artistes. Kuppuswami Ayyar was a scholar in five languages and was giving musical discourses. Krishna Ayyar was his son born at Marathurai near Pandanallur. He had his training in music under his father and later with Kothavasal Venkatrama Ayyar, a renowned composer of tana varnmas. As he did not have a voice conducive to play the role of a vocalist, he switched over to violin for good with training under Sathanur Panchanadha Ayyar and Fiddle Subbarayar. He benefited much by hearing regularly Tiruvalangadu Tyagaraja Sastri.

Krishna Ayyar is among the few immortals among violinists. His play was masterly with masculine grandeur and a touch of genius. A prodigy, he could play Ata tala varna on a single string. Actually he did carry on at a concert in 1908 at Gokhale Hall, Madras for about two hours when the panchama string gave way. He could play in four octaves - slow or fast and the swara exercise on a single string . Only top artistes like Maha Vaidyanatha Ayyar, Patnam Subramania Ayyar or Sarabha Sastri could gainfully take him as an accompanist. Lesser celbrities were nervous of his presence as he might dwarf them at concerts. He was at his superb best in his solos as they gave liberty, scope and time for skill, creativity, imaginative play and phrasing. Generally, when he accompanied a vidwan at a concert, a solo on the next day too was arranged.

Krishna Ayyar was very famous for his strenuous daily practice. He would repeat varnams like:
Vanajakshi - Kalyani -Ata
Viriboni - Bairavi - Ata
Sarasuda - Saveri - Adi
Intachalamu - Begada - Adi

Regular practice, dedication to the furtherance of his command over his play, skill and proficiency are proverbial. His eternal search for greater excellence was reflected in his consistent practice of swaras in different tempos and octaves. He used to play the swara exercises on a single string. he practised playing in a single stroke of the bow 4, 8, 16,32 and 64 notes. he developed a high speed. He ushered in a technique called 'izhaittu vasippu and produced ascending and descending glides with remarkable effect.

Quest for knowledge and excellence knows no barrier or discomfort. Play at a concert is done under constraint and mental editing and censorship keeping in view time, place, mood and level of the audience. Real brilliance, unbridled creativity and originality could not easily be brought out since an isolated wrong note might get wide currency and magnified importance. It is the practice that gives the fullest scope for manodharma, the creative urge and experiments. Krishna Ayyar's early morn exercises were famous. Poochi Srinivasa Ayyangar, a celebrated vocalist, in his anxiety to hear this, without Krishna Ayyar suffering from any inhibition due to his presence, went stealthily, slept at night on the outer pial of the house where Krishna Ayyar stayed at Triplicane during a visit for a concert and heard Ayyar's bold and adventurous art with bow and fingering and the resultant melody stealthily. He was in a trance enjoying the uninhibited creative flights in unexplored regions till Krishna Ayyar came out and found, to his surprise, Ayyangar sitting on the pial. A creative artist has an unsatiable appetite and looks for knowledge, suggestions etc., wherever it comes from as indicated in a Rig Vedic hymn.

Krishna Ayyar was in the midst of a solo in 1904 in Triplicane when news about the demise of Sarabha Sastri came. The forty-seven year old maestro wept, and wept as only a sincere heart could, and said:
'When Maha Vaidyanatha Ayyar passed away, I lost my right hand,
With Sarabha's departure, I have lost my left hand also.
What am I going to play for hearafter?'
The last pathos-leaden question brings out the ultimate goal, the cry of a classical reminiscing his joy in sharing the concert stage with those two celebrities which was no longer to be had. The true artist looks up for inspiration. Krishna Ayyar saw vaccum in the world of music shorn of the melodies of their voice and flute.
Krishna Ayyar's disciples included:
Semmangudi Narayanaswami Ayyar, his nephew and Tirukodikaval Ramaswami Ayyar.

Page 2