Carnatic Music

The Carnatic Music Trinity: Thyagaraja

LEGO Thyagaraja by TheLegoCreator

Thyagaraja (1767 – 1847) was born in Thiruvarur, Thanjavur. He was named Thyagaraja or Thyagabramha, after the presiding deity of the temple. Thyagaraja’s maternal grandfather was Kalahastayya, also known as Veena Kalahastayya, as he was a noted Veena player. Thyagaraja learnt the Veena from Kalahastayya at an early age. He was trained in music by Sonti Venkata Ramanayya, a music scholar. Thyagaraja’s pieces are focused on expression, rather than the technicalities of Carnatic Music. His first composition was “Namo Namo Raghavaya” in the Raga (scale), Deshika Thodi, at the age of 13. It was evident in his compositions that Thyagaraja was immersed in his devotion to Lord Rama. He is well known for composing the Pancharatna Kritis (five gems), they are, Jagadananda Karaka in the Raga (scale), Naatai, Dudukugala Nanne in the Raga Gowla, Saadhinchane in the Raga Arabhi, Kanakanaruchira in the Raga Varali and Endaro Mahanubhavulu in the Raga Shree. Tyagaraja died on 6th January 1847, he was buried on the banks of the Kaveri river at Thiruvarur. The Thyagaraja Aradhana is a commemorative festival held every year at Thiruvarur. This is a week-long festival where famous musicians gather at his resting place. On the day of Pushya Bahula Panchami, Hundreds of Carnatic musicians sing the Pancharatna Kritis in unison, with the accompaniment of a large bank of instrumentalists.

Carnatic Music

The Carnatic Music Trinity: Muthuswamy Dikshitar

LEGO Muthuswamy Dikshitar by TheLegoCreator

Muthuswamy Dikshitar (1775 – 1835) was born to Ramaswamy Dikshitar at Thiruvarur. His father taught him poetry, music, Vedas and astrology. He had two younger brothers, Chinnaswamy and Balaswamy Dikshitar and a sister, Balamba. They moved to Manali, near what is now Chennai at the behest of Venkatakrishna Mudaliar. The Dikshtar brothers accompanied Mudaliar to Fort St. George nearby, where they were exposed to western orchestral music and the Violin. An ascetic named Chidambaranatha Yogi took them to Benares and taught them music, philosophy and Yoga. They were also exposed to Hindustani music. Upon the death of Chidambaranatha Yogi, Muthuswamy returned South, to Tiruttani, near Tirupati. Once, when Muthuswamy was meditating at the Tiruttani Muruga temple, Lord Muruga came, and placed a sugar candy in his mouth, and commanded him to sing. This marked the beginning of his career in music. Soon, he adopted the Mudra (signature), Guruguha, another name of Lord Muruga. His first composition is, Sri nathadi Guruguho in the Raga (scale) Mayamalavagowla. He then went on a pilgrimage, visiting and composing at the temples of, Kanchi, Thiruvannamalai, Srirangam, and Tirupati, He then returned to Thiruvarur. He attained mastery over the Veena and he experimented a lot with the Violin. One of his disciples, Vadivelu of the Thanjavur quartet and his brother, Balaswamy Dikshitar pioneered the use of the Violin in Carnatic Music, now an integral part of Carnatic concerts. After returning to Thiruvarur he composed on every deity in the Temple complex, Kamalamba is a deity of high tantric significance in the temple complex. This is where he composed the famous Kamalamba Navavarna Kritis, filled with beautiful lyrics on Kamalamba. These Navavarnams are sung as the highlight of Guruguha Jayanti. He also composed some Noteswarams, a combitation of western and Carnatic music. Dikshitar died at Ettayyapuram and a Samadhi was erected in his honor, it attracts musicians and admirers of his art. His disciples included a number of famous musicians like the Thanjavur quartet brothers, Ponnayya Pillai, Vadivelu, Chinnayya and Sivanandam, the Venna player Venkatarama Ayyar of Avudayarkoil, the son of Shyama Sastri, Subbaraya Sastri among others.

Navavarna Kritis
Composition Raga (scale)
Kamalamba SamrakshatuAnanda Bhairavi
Kamalambaam Bhajare Kalyani
Sri Kamalambikaya Katakshitoham Shankarabaranam
Kamalambikayai Kambhoji
Sri Kamalambikayah Param Bhairavi
Kamalambikayastava Punnagavarali
Sri Kamalambikayam Sahana
Sri Kamalambike Ghanta
Sri Kamalamba Jayati Ahiri
Sri Kamalambike Sri

Carnatic Music

The Carnatic Music Trinity: Shyama Sastri

LEGO Shyama Sastri by TheLegoCreator

Shyāma Sāstri (1762 – 1827) was born in a Brahmin family living in Thiruvārur. He received instruction in the Vedas, Astrology and other traditional subjects early on and learned music from his maternal Uncle. He was then trained in music by Adiappayya, a noted court musician of Thanjāvur. Although Shyama Sastri did not compose as much Kritis (songs) as his two contemporaries, Dikshita and Tyagaraja, his compositions are known for their literary and melodic proficiency. He composed about 300 pieces in all. Moreover, the scholarly nature of his pieces made them more suited to the learned than the lay. There are also some Tamil Kritis attributed to him. Most of his compositions exalt the virtues of Goddess Kāmākshi. He composed Kritis and Svarajatis with the Mudra (signature), Syāma Krishna. He was probably one of the first to compose in the new form of Svarajati musical genre, where the pieces would be rendered solely in a singing or instrumental form. Before this, the Svarajati was primarily a dance form. His three famous compositions are referred to as the Ratnatrayam (three Gems) they are, Kāmākshi Anudinamu, Kāmākshi Padayugamē, and Rāvē Himagiri Kumāri, composed in the ragas (scales), Bhairavi, Yadukula Kambhoji and Todi respectively. He was known for composing in the complex of Talas (beats) and revered for his singing ability. Shyama Sastri had two sons, Panju Sastri and Subbaraya Sastri. Panju was a devoted worshipper of the Goddess, Bangāru Kāmākshi. Subbaraya was trained in music by his father and became a gifted composer and a noted player of the veena. At his father’s behest, he was also trained by Tyagaraja. Shyama Sastri had some students who passed on his compositions, Alasur Krishna Iyer became a renowned musician at the royal court of Mysore. Porambur Krishna Iyer popularised many of his teacher’s works.

Kamakshi Anudinamu by Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbulakshmi