Thursday, December 24, 2009


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Friday, December 11, 2009

Madras Music Festival

Come ‘Margazhi’ (the Tamil month starting from December 16th to January 15th), Madras/Chennai city will be in festive mood due to various counts. The onset of winter season makes the mood jubilant. Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita (Chapter X Verse 35) that among the months he is ‘Margasirsa’ which corresponds to the tamil month ‘Margazhi’. It has been the practice among temples in Tamil Nadu to offer special worship to the deities during the month. No weddings are conducted during this period and no material transactions are undertaken by the orthodox as they believe that all of their waking moments are to be spent in the contemplation of the divine. Among the Vaishnavites this month is held in great reverence, for it was when Andal one of 12 Azhwar (divine saints who composed poems on Lord Vishnu/Narayana) composed 30 verses on Lord Vishnu called the “Tiruppavai”. The “Vaikunta Ekadasi” falls around the middle of this month and the verses of Andal and other Azhwars are sung on all days. The Saivaites celebrate the “Ardra Darshanam” on “Tiruvadarai” star. On that day, Lord Nataraja is said to have danced for the pleasure of his devotees, Patanjali and Vyaghrapada. December in Madras is unique due to its celebration of the music festival. The Madras Music festival is the world's largest cultural event, larger than the Woodstock festival in Edinburgh. Interesting isn’t it? Please read on to know more about the festival.

History of the Music Festival

The History of the Madras Music Festival dates way back to 1927 when the Indian National Congress decided to hold a Music Conference at the end of its party session in Madras. The prime reason for this conference was Sri E. Krishna Iyer who had played a vital role in reviving the south Indian dance art form “Bharatanatyam”. Foremost amongst its organisers was S. Satyamurthy, the famed lawyer, theatre actor, orator and freedom fighter. Given his friendship with the musical fraternity, he pressed for the organising of an All India Music Conference to coincide with the party session. This was agreed and the conference and exhibition of musical instruments was held at the Spur Tank, Madras, beginning from 24 December 1927. Concerts were held at a pandal erected in the Spur Tank and conference deliberations were held at the Museum Theatre. During the discussions it was proposed that an academy for music be set up in the city. Thus came about the Music Academy, which was incorporated on 22 January 1928, with U. Rama Rau (noted physician and Chairman of the Legislative Assembly, Madras) as President. The Academy was formally inaugurated on 18th August 1928 by Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Ayyar at the YMCA Buildings, Esplanade. The Academy began holding the occasional concert and it was during its first annual conference in 1929 that it was decided that a weeklong music festival be held to coincide with Christmas week.

Madras Music Academy

The Music Academy has endeavored to provide various avenues to further the advancement of the science and art of Indian music. Annual music conferences are held every December to collect all information regarding music, maintain the library and publish a journal. They also help to bring to public notice aspiring musicians and scholars by conducting competitions and other presentations. For a decade, E.Krishna Iyer worked as the Secretary of the Madras Music Academy. The first Music Festival was held in December, 1927 which is before the inauguration of the Music Academy. Since then, it had become a part of the Madras Music Academy's Activities to conduct several expositions and concerts on Carnatic Music every December. This later came to be popularly known as the Margazhi Season or is even referred to as the Music Season amongst Carnatic enthusiasts. This soon became the norm for all sabhas in Madras to conduct several concerts each day during the season.

There were several sabhas (music groups) before the formation of the Music Academy like the Parthasarathy Swami Sabha in Mylapore which was formed as early as 1900. However, it was the Madras Music Academy that set the trend of conducting the music festival during December. During the first few years, the Academy conducted its activities provisionally in George Town and later moved to Mylapore. In 1955, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone for the music academy building that exists today on TTK Road in Mylapore.

Growth of Music Clubs or Sabhas

The Music Academy, however, came to be dominated by some groups and the Andhra community decided to set up the Indian Fine Arts Society in the mid-1930s. Both sabhas organised music programmes in December and both operated from the then cultural hub, North Madras or George Town. By then Mylapore was fast emerging as a choice residential area and music began gravitating to it. The Academy began a long journey south, holding its conferences sequentially at the Senate House (east Madras), Royapettah (south centre) and finally Mylapore (south) where it functioned for many years from the Rasika Ranjani Sabha premises and its surroundings before moving into its present building in 1962.

In 1941, the Justice Party, the prevailing anti-Brahmin sentiment and, above all, a rise in awareness of the beauties of the Tamizh language saw the birth of the Tamizh Isai Sangam. This was the third sabha of consequence and its decision to hold music programmes during Christmas week led to a raging debate in The Kalki and other papers as to the viability of three sabhas existing in the city. Then in 1945 came the Tyaga Brahma Gana Sabha (Vani Mahal) to cater to the residents of T. Nagar. By the early 1950s, came the Mylapore Fine Arts Club and the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha. It was, however, in the 1970s that the sabha boom actually happened, resulting in the situation as we know of it now with 70 odd sabhas organising over 2500 programmes spanning six weeks.

The Music Climate

The music season usually kicks off by the last week of November, with a few small sabhas beginning their programmes earlier than others. Many of the city sabhas do not have premises of their own and consequently they need to plan their programmes in advance of the biggies in order to utilise available venues. The big sabhas and many of the older established ones either have premises of their own or long standing rented venues and therefore do not suffer from this problem. Many of the fledgling sabhas simply operate out of the nearest kalyana mantapam (marriage hall), hotel or school premises. These are not built with acoustics in mind and hearing music in such places can be nothing short of torture. The first week of December sees the influx of Indians from abroad.

Next comes the awards fever. Sabhas begin announcing their awards by the middle of September. Carnatic music has never been free from awards, but it was only in 1942 that the Music Academy decided to award the President of its annual conference the title of Sangita Kalanidhi. The Indian Fine Arts Society followed suit with its Sangita Kala Shikhamani. Today we have over seventy awards given during the season by sabhas big and small. In terms of money, they mean little, but artistes consider them as appendages to personal prestige and accept them regardless. By mid-December, the season is in full swing with the Music Academy and its close parallel the Narada Gana Sabha having begun their festivals. Artistes and audiences have a tough time keeping track of various concert dates and programmes. The smaller sabhas stick to evening concerts by prominent artistes. The bigger ones have full day programmes. Mornings are devoted to lecture demonstrations, afternoon concerts are free and showcase young talent, while evening concerts are ticketed and feature the big stars.

Media & the Music

The vernacular and English newspapers and periodicals bring out special supplements on Carnatic music, with profiles of artistes past and present. Websites devoted to music provide schedules online which are used by the tech savvy. All sabhas bring out booklets comprising their own schedules, with the Academy’s being a glossy affair. Kannan’s Season Comprehensive Guide is an integral part of the season. Brought out single-handedly in earlier years by a bank official, it now receives sponsorship, but the effort remains Kannan’s own. It lists concerts by dates, venue and artistes. There are many reference books of songs that help lay audiences identify ragas, talas and composer names. The problem arises when songs in different ragas have the same opening lines and that is when the knowledgeable person (who is sitting in the next seat, with a faintly superior air) comes in useful.

Now a days almost all the TVs relays some portion of the recorded concerts during the season especially Jaya TV which conducts programmes exclusively called “Margazhi Maga Utsavam”. The concerts are held based on Themes (for e.g. songs from nandanar charitram, songs on Krishna, songs on Sakhti etc.,) and at the end of the concert the audiences can shoot a question to the singer and the singer can choose the best question for which prizes will be given to the participant. Laxman Sruti, the famous music troupe also organizes a programme titled “Chennaiyil Thiruvayyaru” since 2005 and the media campaign for the same is visible across the Chennai City. It also conducts the replica of the Pancharatna Kritis of Saint Composer Tyagaraja during the festival.

Music and Canteen

Canteen facilities are a major attraction. Four sabhas have established themselves on the strength of their culinary and musical fare. These are the Music Academy, the Narada Gana Sabha, the Mylapore Fine Arts Club and the Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha. The last named, around 103 years old, was however a late entrant to the December season. In the old days, Krishnamurthy of the Music Academy canteen was a treasure whose Kasi halwa was relished by many. The chef supreme at the Music Academy was ‘Mountbatten’ Mani. He acquired this prefix after being reportedly praised by the Viceroy himself during a lunch at the Raj Bhavan, Madras. Arusuvai Natarajan and his two brothers were also involved in providing sumptuous foods during the season. The famaous Jnanambika Catering holds sway at Narada Gana Sabha, It is a common sight to see artistes relaxing in these canteens after their performance, fawned upon by fans. Old timers remember with fondness such epicures as Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Dr S. Ramanathan and M.D. Ramanathan coming to the canteen and discussing matters musical and otherwise with those present. Some of the more fastidious are of the view that canteens dilute the importance of music, but a sabha without a canteen is perceived to be dull fare.

Are you read to catch the music season?!!

Reference :

The Hindu : Music Musings : Margazhi Season and Music Academy – V. Sriram

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cult Figure “GNB”

I recently happened to attend a Centennial commemorative programme on GNB at Krishna Gana Sabha (T Nagar, Chennai). The person who was sitting beside me will be in his 70s and told me that in those days he used to visit the live kutcheris/concerts of GNB and the quality of his concerts are on a very high plane and he is not hearing any such concerts like those currently. When he was giving the details of GNB his eyes were moistured. I felt the greatness of the GNB on that day. GNB came as meteor but stayed on till the end like a star. He did not undergo formal training - he was a Swayambhu, blessed by the Lord to spread music in this world. It was a humble beginning for him as a young lad from Tripilicane when stalwarts such as Ariyakkudi, TNR and Maharajapuram were ruling the roost. GNB held all his seniors in great esteem and yet created a style for himself. Thought of sharing about GNB. Please read on to know more about a cult figure called GNB.

Gudalur Narayanaswami Balasubramaniam alias GNB. GNB doesn’t hail from a grand music family, his father, Narayanaswami Iyer (Employed as Teacher in Hindu High School, Triplicane) was actively involved in the affairs of Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha founded in 1901 (It is the oldest surviving sabha even today). Mother Smt. Visalam. GNB was the eldest son in the seven member family. Completed schooling at Hindu High School. Briefly enrolled at Annamalai University in Chidambaram later discontinued. However completed his Bachelors Degree B.A. (Honours) in English Literature in 1929 from Presidency College, Madras.

GNB’s house became the natural choice of stay for many visiting musicians and young Balasubramaniam was thus exposed to the best of musical talents even as an infant. At a very young age he developed the uncanny habit of listening to any snatch of music and effortlessly visualising the notes on which it was based. This skill was to help in his matchless rendition of swaras later in his life. Mani learnt music formally from Madurai Subramania Iyer and also from Guruswami Bhagavathar, a disciple of Patnam Subramania Iyer. But most of his knowledge was acquired by listening assiduously to what was sung by the great musicians during their concerts and later internalising all that he had heard.

At the age of 18 when Musiri Subramania Iyer was constrained to cancel his performance due to ill-health. Musiri was supposed to perform in the annual Vasantha Utsavam of the Kapaleeswarar Temple in the year 1928. A.K. Ramachandra Iyer and Madurai Subramania Iyer convinced Narayanaswami Iyer to fill the vacant slot which became a turning point in the life of GNB.

GNB believed that an impressive stage presence was as vital as the necessary talent. He soon rid himself of his tuft and had his hair fashioned in the modern style. His toilette preparation prior to the concert was an event by itself. The hair had to be combed just right; the pleated angavastram had to be folded in a certain style around his neck. On his forehead would be the fragrant Javvadu Pottu and sprayed on his person would be the choicest perfumes. GNB’s perfume was a mysterious mix. Each month he would buy a range of perfumes to which he would add what was called the GNB kadambam which was a closely guarded secret. The heady end product ensured that his arrival could be sensed even a good distance away! Diamonds would glitter from his ear studs and also from the rings on his fingers. Tall fair and of perfect build he was an n idol in every sense of the word.

The first of the Carnatic greats to act in a film was GNB. His film journey started in the year 1934 when he was roped in to act as Narada in “Bhama Vijayam”. The film directed by M.L. Tandon and produced by Chellam Talkies was a big hit. GNB sang many songs in the film all of which were very popular. The orthodox community even boycotted him for his entering the tinsel world. GNB thus paved the way for many musicians taking to acting and singing playback. The second film “Sati Anasuya” produced in 1937 by the Coimbatore based Premier Cinetone saw GNB acting once again as Narada. It was in the third film “Shakuntalai” of Chandraprabha Cinetone produced by Sri T. Sadasivam husband of Smt M.S. Subbulakshmi, he became the Hero, by playing the role of Dushyanta and MS played as Shakuntalai. His later films “Rukmangadan” and “Udayanan Vasavadatta” in 1946 was fared miserably at the box office.

GNB struck a rapport with Palghat Mani Iyer and the concerts that involved the duo were a sellout. The interesting thing is that both would sit together and set up kritis and playing styles. Palghat Mani Iyer, coming out of Academy after playing for GNB in 1946, was heard saying "For others I play but in the case of GNB, he sings for me." Violinists who accompanied him include Kumbakonam Rajamanikkam Pillai, T Chowdiah, and Lalgudi G Jayaraman. On the Mridangam includes Palghat Mani Iyer, Palani Subramania Pillai, Ramnad CS Murugabhoopathy and Palghat Raghu. The prominent disciples are T.R. Balu, M.L. Vasanthakumari and Trichur V. Ramachandran. It is said that he gave importance to all his accompanists and also give good share of the fees he received. All of them have a very high regard for GNB.

His music was a trend setter. GNB never compromised in singing raga alapanas extensively, thus reviving the good old days of Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan, Madurai Pushpavanam, Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer and Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar notwithstanding his great respect for Ariayakkudi's music. He described Iyengar's music as the Gita of Sangitham. GNB paid equal attention to laskhiya and lakshana thereby making his music enjoyable for both the learned and the uninitiated. He broke the myth that commencing a concert with Sahana would end up a failure, by singing Tyagaraja's 'Eeevasudha' as the first piece and making the concert a success. GNB was equally at home in rare ragas such as Pratapa Varali, Gavathi, Dakka, Malavi (then rare), as he was with, say, Thodi, Kalyani or Bhairavi. His brighas were never plain flat notes but had gamakas in right doses.

The shower of bhrigas that GNB let loose set a new trend in performing bhrigas as his voice effortlessly swept and glided sometimes touching the shadja of the upper octave to the ecstasy of the audience. He dared to show that it was possible to sing pure carnatic music even while restricting the gamakas. In his pallavis, the intellectual approach to music that was the core of the GNB style was very much in evidence. He split the raga alapanas preceding the pallavai into two stages. These alapanas were detailed exercised followed by a detailed tanam. The tanam was his special niche and he brought about a grandeur to it that has since been emulated by most of the succeeding generation. The pallavis he sang were chosen to given him maximum scope to demonstrate his skills in neraval and swaras and ended in a series of ragamalika swaras. The song that followed would be set in the last raga handled in the ragamalika. If he sang shlokas he would follow the same practice and set the next song in the last raga of the shloka. The end pieces or tukkadas would be much looked forward to and GNB had a staple set of songs that were never the same when rendered by others. Those includes “Raadha Sametha”, “Dikku Teriyaada Kaattil” and “Kannane en Kanavan”

Many people don’t know that he is a composer. The reason for this his he didn’t sing any of his songs in his concerts. Also he did not keep a special “Mudhra” (i.e. his name or any special word) in his songs. Though there are more than 250 urupadis only few got published so far. The first publication came in the year 1956 as “Ghanabhaskara Manimalai” and second in 1971 and the third in the year 2005. He has composed in Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit. Some famous urrupadis includes, among others “Amboruha-Varnam”, “Marivere Kadhi”, “Saraswathi Namosthuthe”, “Paramughamela Namma”. According to Professor Sambamurthi GNB compositions are studded with gems of technical beauties. His was good writer, artist and was worshipping Rajarajeshwari in his home in the form of Mahameru.

GNB never considered his music to be extraordinary. Such was his humility! The truth is that his music was outstanding. Taking into account all these aspects should we not dare to split the history of Carnatic music of this century as 'Before GNB' and 'After GNB'?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Annapurne Visalakshi

“Annapurne Visalakshi”

Ragam : Sama

Composer : Sri Muthuswami Deekshitar



Annapurne Visalakshi
Akhila Bhuvana Saakshi Kataakshi


Unnata Gartta Tira Viharini
Omkarini Duritaadi Nivaarini
Pannagabharana Raajni Puraani
Paramesvara Visvesvara Bhaasvari


Paysannapurita Manikyapatra Hemadarvi Vidhrutakare
Kayajaadi Rakashana Nipunatare
Kanchanamaya Bhushana Ambaradhare
Toyajaasanaadi Sevitapare
Tumburu Naaradaadi Nuta Vare
Trayaatita Mokshaprada Chature
Tripada Shobhita Guruguhasaadare



Annapurne – Oh Goddess Annapurna
Visalakshi – One with large eyes
Akhila Bhuavana Saakshi – Who is the witness for all the happenings in the world
Kataakshi – Please protect me.


Unnata Gartta Tira Viharini - One who resides in the famous kuzhikkarai
Omkarini – She is of the form of Omkara
Duritaadi Nivaarini – One who alleviates once afflictions
Pannagabharana - one who adorns with serpents
Raajni – consort of Lord Siva
Puraani – one who is ancient
Paramesvara Visweswara Bhaasvari – She is the luminosity of Lord Parameswara/Visweswara


Paysannapurita Manikyapatra Hemadarvi Vidhrutakare Kayajaadi Rakashana Nipunatare Kanchanamaya Bhushana Ambaradhare Toyajaasanaadi Sevitapare Tumburu Naaradaadi Nuta Vare Trayaatita Mokshaprada Chature Tripada Shobhita Guruguhasaadare

Paysannapurita Manikyapatra Hemadarvi Vidhrutakare – She holds in one hand a gem studded vessel brimming with sweetened rice

Kayajaadi Rakashana Nipunatare – She is adept in protecting Cupid and other devas

Kanchanamaya Bhushana Ambaradhare – She is adorned with ornate golden jewels

Toyajaasanaadi Sevitapare – She is worshipped by Brahma and eminent sages

Tumburu Naaradaadi Nuta Vare – Like Tumburu and Narada

Trayaatita Mokshaprada Chature – She is skilful in bestowing salvation

Tripada Shobhita - which is above the Dhrama Artha and Kama

Guruguha saadare – She is the beloved mother of Guruguha

Reference: Sri T.K. Govinda Rao’s book on Sri Muthuswami Deekshitar

Legend of Goddess Annapurna

Annapurna or Annapoorna is the Hindu Goddess of nourishment. Anna means food and grains. Purna means full, complete and perfect. Annapurna is the respected Supreme Goddess who is full, complete and perfect in food and grains. She is the symbol for the One who grants nourishment on every level. She is called the Supreme Goddess of the city of Kasi (now known as Varanasi, U.P., India). Kasi is the City of Light. Ka means the cause, a means the manifestation of consciousness, sa means peace and I is the causal body. Kasi is also the place which causes consciousness to manifest the highest peace of the causal body. And She is the Supreme Goddess of the City of Kasi. She is the consort of Shiva.

Once Shiva told his consort Parvati that the world is an illusion and that even food is just part of this illusion (Maya). The Divine Mother who is worshipped as the manifestation of all material things, including food, became angry. To demonstrate the importance of her manifestation of all that is material she disappeared from the world. Her disappearance brought time to a standstill and the earth became barren. There was no food to be found anywhere and all the beings suffered from the pangs of hunger. Seeing all the suffering, Mother Parvati was filled with compassion and reappeared in Kasi and set up a Kitchen. Hearing about her return, Shiva ran to her and presented his bowl in alms saying, "Now I realise that the material world, like the spirit, cannot be dismissed as an illusion." Parvati smiled and fed Shiva with her own hands. Since then Parvati is worshipped as Annapurna, the Goddess of Nourishment.


Annapurna has many names. The Annapurna Sahasranam presents her one thousand names and the Annapurna Shatanama Stotram contains 108 of her names. She is variously described as:

She who is full, complete and perfect with food and grains
She who gives nourishment
She who is the strength of Shiva
She who is the grantor of knowledge
She who takes away all fear
She who is the Supreme welfare
She who manifests truth and efficiency
She who is beyond Maya
She who is the cause of creation and dissolution


Physically, Goddess Annapurna is described as holding a golden ladle adorned with various kinds of jewels in her right hand and a vessel full of delicious porridge in her left. She is seated on a throne and in some depictions Lord Shiva is shown standing to her right with a begging bowl begging her for alms. It is said that she does not eat a morsel unless all her devotees have been fed in her temple.


She is worshipped through the recitation of her thousand names and her one hundred and eight names. The Sri Annapurna Ashtakam composed by Shankaracharya is chanted by several devout Hindus around the world as a prayer for nourishment, wisdom, and renunciation. Before partaking of any food, Hindus chant the following prayer: “Oh Annapurna, who is always full, complete, and perfect. Beloved energy of Lord Shiva, for the attainment of perfection in wisdom and renunciation, give me alms, Parvati. My mother is Goddess Parvati, my father is the Supreme Lord Maheswara. My relatives are the devotees of Lord Shiva, and the three worlds are my Motherland.” The Annapurna Vrat Katha containing stories of her devotees are also recited by her devotees.


The most well-known temple dedicated to Goddess Annapurna is in Varanasi, U.P., India. Adjacent to the Sanctum of the Goddess is the Kasi Viswanath temple. The two are separated only by a few yards. Annapurna is regarded as the queen of Varanasi alongside her husband Vishweshwar (Shiva), the King of Varanasi. In the temple, at noon time, food offerings to the Goddess are distributed to the elderly and disabled daily. During the Autumn Navaratri food is distributed on a larger scale. The other famous temple is situated at Horanadu in the pristine western ghats of Karnataka,a short drive from Kudremukh and Sringeri,where evening prayers are held after the devotees are fed.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Appa Rama Bhakthi

Tyagaraja’s “appa raama bhakti” – pantuvaraali ragam


appa raama bhakti yento gopparaa : maa


trippa talanu teerchi kanti reppa valenu kaachu maa


lakshmi devi valachuna ? lakshma nundu koluchuna
sukshma bhuddi gala bharatudu juci juci solasuna maa

sabari egili cunaa? chandra dharudu meccunaa
Abala svayam prabhaku daivamacala padavi niccuna? maa

kapi vaaridhi datuna kaliki rota katunaa
aparaadhi tyagarju aanandamu heccunaa maa



The devotion to Rama is great


Rama bhakthi solves all problems and protects like an eyelid protects an eye.

Charanam (Importance of Rama Bhakthi explained)

Would lakshmi devi so fervently love him or lakshmana can serve him with such dedication
Would the intellect Bharatha feel ecstatic by beholding him again and again

Would sabari offer tasted fruits ; Can lord Shiva extol him
Would svayamprabha can get the eternal state

Can monkey leap across a mighty ocean, can an ordinary cowherd woman tie the lord to mortar
Will this sinner tyagaraja gets eternal bliss

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pallavi Pattammal

Smt. D.K. Pattammal, considered as one of the female trinity of Carnatic music recently passed away in Chennai, thought of sharing her biography. It will be interesting to know that she was chosen by none other than Ambi Dikshitar the lineage of Muthuswami Dikshitar to pass on the Dikshitar Kritis to the next generation. Patammal also chose only to sing Patriotic/devotional songs in films. Among her big hits was 'Aduvome pallu paduvome' in Naam Iruvar. Pattammal last sang for a film in Kamal Hassan-directed Hey Ram, rendering 'Vaishnava Janato', a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi. She has popularised several patriotic compositions of Subramania Bharathiyar. Please read on to know more.....

Damal Krishnaswamy Pattammal (28 March 1919 – 16 July 2009) was a prominent Carnatic musician and a playback singer for film songs in many Indian languages. D. K. Pattammal and her contemporaries M. S. Subbulakshmi and M. L. Vasanthakumari were popularly referred to as the "female trinity of Carnatic Music." Pattammal has been appreciated all over the world by Carnatic music lovers. This trio initiated the entry of women into mainstream Carnatic Music.


Named Alamelu, but fondly called "Patta", Pattammal was born in an orthodox Brahmin family in Kancheepuram of Tamil Nadu, India. Her father, Damal Krishnaswamy Dikshithar, was deeply interested in music, while her mother, Kanthimathi (Rajammal), was a talented singer. However, in line with strict orthodox tradition, Rajammal was not permitted to sing even for friends or relatives. Despite her orthodox background, Pattammal sang and showed considerable music talent at an early age, like her three brothers; D. K. Ranganathan, D.K Nagarajan, and D. K. Jayaraman. Pattammal received no formal training. As a child, she would sit through the concerts and immitate the musicians on returning home. She would also sing simple devotional hymns and songs that her father had taught her. She had also received tuition from a Telugu Vadyar.


Her early gurus remain unknown by name; DKP was grateful that they sought her out and taught her what they knew. Her headmistress played a crucial role by giving schoolgirl Patta a role in a musical play, later insisting that she should appear for the government technical examination in music, conducted in Madras. Amazed by the nine-year-old’s handling of the masterpiece “Sri Subrahmanya namaste”, examiner Ambi Dikshitar, grandson of the legendary Muthuswamy Dikshitar, insisted on teaching her himself. But how could DKP’s schoolmaster father afford to extend his stay in Madras indefinitely? The lessons came to an end, leaving the girl thirsting for the unattainable. They became a benchmark for excellence. Later, tutelage under T.L.Venkatrama Iyer was to fulfil the longing for classicist fare.


In 1929, at the tender age of 10, little Patta gave her first ever radio performance for Madras Corporation Radio (now known as AIR), and 3 years later, she gave her first public concert at Madras Rasika Ranjani Sabha in 1932. One year later, Pattammal moved to Chennai to become a regular performer in concerts and gave her first performance at the Mahila Samajam (the Egmore Ladies Club), and won acclaim. In 1939, Pattammal married R.Iswaran. She quickly rose to stardom, and her musical career spanned more than 65 years. D. K. Pattammal has established a reputation as an authority on the compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar. She has learnt authentic versions of Dikshitar's compositions from Ambi Dikshitar (Dikishitar's great grandson) and from Justice T. L. Venkatrama Iyer. In addition to Dikshithar compositions, Pattammal has also popularised many compositions of prominent composers like Papanasam Sivan.

Pattammal's sweet disposition and humble nature belie the fact that she started a few revolutionary trends in Carnatic music. She is the first Brahmin woman to have performed this genre of music publicly, both on stage and on air. Brahmins ranked as the highest in the caste hierarchy prevalent in India in the early 20th century, and society considered it taboo for a Brahmin woman to perform on stage. Furthermore, Pattammal is also the first woman to have performed Ragam Thanam Pallavi in concerts. Ragam Thanam Pallavi is the most difficult concert item in Carnatic music. Before Pattammal, singing RTP was considered as a male stronghold. Not only did Pattammal boldly venture into Pallavi singing, but she also performed very complex Pallavis in intricate talas (rhythmic cycles) impressively enough to earn the respect of her male peers. For this reason, she became dubbed “Pallavi Pattammal”. She learnt a few pallavis and compositions from Naina Pillai, and several from Vidyala Narasimhalu Naidu - the nephew of Narayanswami Naidu, a prominent composer of javalis. Today, many female Carnatic musicians perform Ragam Thanam Pallavi as the main item in their concerts.

Papanasam Sivan introduced Pattammal to singing for films. Although she received many offers to sing for films, she only accepted those which involved the singing of devotional or patriotic songs, and declined offers involving romantic songs. She first sang in Thyagabhoomi, a film banned by the British for its patriotic content, and then in Naam Irruvar. She has popularised several patriotic compositions of Subramania Bharathiyar. Pattammal had the rare honour of performing at the foundation-laying ceremony of the Bharati Memorial at Ettayapuram.


Pattammal has performed in all major states, sabhas and venues throughout India, as well as numerous destinations around the world, including the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sri Lanka and other countries.

Awards and titles

D. K. Pattammal has received several awards and titles throughout her career. Most notably these include the title “Gana Saraswathi” bestowed on her by the musician Tiger Varadachariar, the Sangeetha Sagara Ratna title, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1961, the Sangeetha Kalanidhi (considered the highest accolade in Carnatic music) in 1970, the Padma Bhushan from the Government of India in 1971, and the Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian honor, in 1998. Pattammal was also elected Fellow of Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1992.

Performing style

Pattammal possesses a full-throated voice in the low alto/high tenor range. Her outstanding musical qualities include an overwhelming technical expertise, an uncompromising adherence to pitch and rhythm, and clear enunciation of lyrics. Her performances of shlokas and viruttams (poetry or verse sung improvisationally without rhythmic accompaniment) express great emotion. She also has a reputation as a very disciplined musician. As a child she woke up before dawn and practised for hours. Throughout her performing career she meticulously planned her concert items weeks in advance and practised rigorously. Pattammal’s music had a singular rectitude about it. She did not want to titillate or intoxicate, but exalt singer and listener. Many found her restrained raga alapana wanting. But, celebrated for her diction and love of the lyric, DKP could melt hearts when she sang a Sanskrit sloka or Tamil viruttam. She made the hall flame with the patriotic fire of a Bharati song. She summoned peace with “Santi nilava vendum”. DKP could create the same heightened emotion with her signature kriti, the magnificent “Saundara rajam” (Brindavana saranga). No striving for effect. She didn’t have to. Her complete immersion was enough to spell self-forgetful quietude in singer and rasika alike.


Pattammal's style of singing attracted many students, foremost among them her younger brother D. K. Jayaraman, who sang with her in several concerts, and who himself received the Sangeetha Kalanidhi in 1990. A few of her other popular students include her daughter-in-law Lalitha Sivakumar, Geetha Rajashekar, her granddaughter Nithyasree Mahadevan, and Bhavadhaarini Anantaraman. Pattammal has taught students from several countries.


Pattammal died of natural causes in Chennai on July 16, 2009 at 1:30 pm. She is survived by her husband, R. Iswaran, her sons I. Sivakumar and I. Lakshmankumar, as well as her grandchildren Rajguru, Gayathri, Nithyasree, and Charan.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Amma Ra Vamma"- Song on Tulasi

Whenever I hear this kriti composed by Tyagaraja am moved by the rendition and also by the content. Thought of sharing the kriti with meaning so that you can appreciate the kriti better. Also the importance of Tulasi is given after the kriti so as have a better understanding of tulasi.

amma ra vamma thulasamma nanu palimpa
vamma sadadamu padamule nammi nanamma


nemma dhini neevu iham parammu losa kudu vanusu
kammavil thuni thandri kalanaina paaya tada


nee mridu danuvu gani nee parimalamunu gani
nee mahatvamunu gani neerajakshi
tamarasa dala nethru tyagararaajuni mithru
prematho chiramunanu pettu kon naatata



O Mother Tulasi, am always depend on your lotus feet, please come and protect me


Since you grant boon both while living in earth and after, Sri Maha Vishnu will not leave you even in his dreams.


O lotus eyed, since you are very soft, sacred and your importance is known to tyagaraja’s friend, the lotus eyed mahavishnu, he adorns you in his head with love.
Importance of Tulasi
The 'tulsi' plant or Indian basil is an important symbol in the Hindu religious tradition. The name 'tulsi' connotes "the incomparable one". Tulsi is a venerated plant and Hindus worship it in the morning and evening. The presence of tulsi plant symbolizes the religious bent of a Hindu family. A Hindu household is considered incomplete if it doesn't have a tulsi plant in the courtyard.
Vaishnavites or believers of Lord Vishnu worship the tulsi leaf because it's the one that pleases Lord Vishnu the most. They also wear beaded necklaces made of tulsi stems. Apart from its religious significance it is of great medicinal significance, and is a prime herb in Ayurvedic treatment. Marked by its strong aroma and a stringent taste, tusli is a kind of "the elixir of life" as it promotes longevity. The plant's extracts can be used to prevent and cure many illnesses and common ailments like common cold, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, various forms of poisoning and malaria. Essential oil extracted from karpoora tulsi is mostly used for medicinal purposes though of late it is used in the manufacture of herbal toiletry.
According to Jeevan Kulkarni, author of 'Historical Truths & Untruths Exposed,' when Hindu women worship tulsi, they in effect pray for "less and less carbonic acid and more and more oxygen - a perfect object lesson in sanitation, art and religion". The tulsi plant is even known to purify or de-pollute the atmosphere and also works as a repellent to mosquitoes, flies and other harmful insects. Tulsi used to be a universal remedy in cases of malarial fever. According to one legend, Tulsi was the incarnation of a princess who fell in love with Lord Krishna, and so had a curse laid on her by his consort Radha. Tulsi is also mentioned in the stories of Meera and of Radha immortalised in Jayadev's Gita Govinda.
The story of Lord Krishna has it that when Krishna was weighed in gold, not even all the ornaments of Satyabhama could outweigh him. But a single tulsi leaf placed by Rukmani on the pan tilted the scale. In the Hindu mythology, tulsi is very dear to Lord Vishnu. Tulsi is ceremonially married to Lord Vishnu annually on the 11th bright day of the month of Karttika in the lunar calendar. This festival continues for five days and concludes on the full moon day, which falls in mid October. This ritual, called the 'Tulsi Vivaha' inaugurates the annual marriage season in India.