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The Contribution of the Trimurthi to Music

The Contribution of the Trimurthi to Music
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Item Code: NAZ087
Author: K.N. Shrinivasan
Publisher: Manipaduka Nidhi (Trust), Tamil Nadu
Language: English
Edition: 2006
Pages: 118
Other Details: 8.50 X 5.50 inch
weight of the book: 0.14 kg
It is not known when the appellation 'Music Trinity' came into usage to refer to Tyagaraja, Dikshitar and Syama Sastri but there is no doubt that it is the most appropriate nomenclature to mean the three 'all time greats' in Kamatic music. There has been no fourth either before or after them. The number 3 has special significance in Hinduism. Commencing from Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra, the original Trimurtis, there are triads like the 'three worlds' etc.

The most remarkable feature about our 'Sangita Trimurtis' is that they were not only contemporaries but belonged to the Tanjore District of South India. According to the usual tradition, all the three were born at Tiruvarur although there is a school of thought who avers that Tyagaraja was born at Tiruvaiyaru. They must have been on the most cordial terms, met each other frequently and exchanged notes on music. Syama Sastri’s son Subbaraya Sastri became a disciple of Tyagaraja.

Although our 'Music Trinity' were contemporaries and belonged to the same area, they were cast in different moulds.

Tyagaraja was a great river into which the noblest traditions of music, bhakti and renunciation flowed. He was the father of modern Karnatic music and his works are of delicate spirituality, full of melodic beauty and in the highest sense, artistic. His songs are accepted today as the only adequate interpretation of classical Karnatic music from both the music and the sahitya points of view.

Dikshitar was a royal composer, a staunch Advaitin and a wandering minstrel. His kritis are often called the 'impersonal art forms of Dikshitar'. He decided to compose only in Sanskrit, the 'Girvana Bhasha' as his thoughts could be properly expressed only in that language.

Syama Sastri was a sweet bard who treated his Kamakshi as his mother and himself as her child. It was a Talli-bidda relationship.

But his music is great and superb. Although voluminous literature exists on the Trinity, particularly on Tyagaraja, there has been no comparative study except stray articles. An old proverb says that 'comparisons are odious' and perhaps this was followed by writers. On the other hand, a comparative study of the Trinity and their works was long overdue but it was a challenging job. Comparisons must be made with care and. in the proper perspective. Otherwise, they may become 'odious'.

Fortunately, a qualified scholar has now come forward to make a comparative study of the life and works of Tyagaraja, Dikshitar and Syama Sastri.

The achievements of K.N.Shrinivasan in the fields of Law, Music, Musicology, Composing, Sanskrit scholarship, Literature, Religion and a host of other subjects are mind-boggling. From the amount of work turned out by him during the past 50 years, one would think that his day has 48 hours. His 'Dikshita Kriti Muktavali' containing Dikshitar's musical compositions with critical notes on certain variations is a masterpiece and the only one of its kind. His 'Sriranga Gitanjali' shows his extraordinary command over Sanskrit and his capacity to invent new ragas like Indumukhi, Neelotpala, Charubhashini, Hatakabhushani, Manimala, Priyankari, Hastinada etc.

The present book 'The Contribution of the Trimurti to Music' is a comprehensive research work covering every aspect of the subject. There are 24 chapters in which the author analyses thoroughly the different facets of the Trimurti like supernatural elements in their lives, evolution of the kriti form, the music of their compositions, tala structure, sahitya, poetic diction, group kritis and operas. His presentation is incisive and his comments are based on wide research and understanding of the theme dealt' with.

The work must have involved hard work but cheerfully undertaken. Shrinivasan has placed the world of music in his debt. I read through the book with great interest and I am sure that the music world will benefit by this labor of love by Shrinivasan.

The eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries are reckoned as the 'Golden Age' of Carnatic Music, because it was during this period that forms of songs with greater musical content were produced.

It may be argued that lingual frames are not necessary for enjoyment of music, but preservation of any form of music is not practicable unless it is housed in a set of words. It is noteworthy that even the swaras are represented only by the consonants of a language like, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni or C D E F GAB.

A piece of musical sequence when fixed upon the matrix of a lingual passage or of a set of consonants is known as a musical compositition. Today we have plenty of musical compositions among us and new compositions are being produced as days pass.

There was music, there were musical compositions, there were ragas and talas; there were artists entertaining the aristocracy and connoisseurs; there were also minstrels singing songs on the roads out of devotional ecstasy or just for alms; But the musical compositions generated during the Golden Age were received as classical by connoisseurs of music as standard forms and thus preserved to serve as models for succeeding generations of music composers.

Three of the composers of the Golden age are respected as outstanding masters and are acclaimed as having produced a large number of songs worthy of eternal preservation; they are Tyagarajaswami, Muthuswami Dikshita and Syama Sastri. Though each one of them was great, certain special features are noticeable in their compositions. Without any invidious motive, an evaluation of their compositions has been attempted here by the humble writer/ author/musicologist'.

It will be pertinent to mention that certain orthographic deviations have been made in non-English words in this small book, for instance, the use of the letters 'v' and Own' in the book; Own' has been adopted wherever round lips are needed to produce the consonant and 'v' where rows of the teeth touch each other.

Hence the spelling, 'svara' instead of 'swara' as commonly spelt. The spelling of the word 'swami' has, however, been retained as this word has entered the English dictionary.

The matter contained in this book is based upon lectures delivered by the author as "Chakravarthy Endowment Lectures" in the department of music of the University of Madras on 24 October, 2000 and the author is obliged to the University for having invited him to deliver the lectures.

The author is also indebted to Sangita Kala Acharya Sri.T.S.Parthasarathy Iyengar for having written a commanding foreward to the book. His son, Sri.K.S.Vamsidhar, B.Com. B.L., AI.C.W.A, AC.S., Advocate, High Court and daughter-in-law Smt.Bharathi, B. Com. , AI.C.W.A, for having helped the author in getting the text typeset and ready for print. The author is also grateful to Smt.Jagada Nagarajan, Director, Technotech Print Systems Pvt. Ltd., No. 45, V.V. Koil Street, Vellala Teynampet, Chennai -86 for having brought out the publication of this book in record time.

I will be failing in my duty if I do not express my sincerity to Sri. R Srinivasan, Columnist, Indian Express, Dr. N. Ramanathan, Retd. Professor of Music, University of Madras and Dr. N.Y. Vasudevachariar, Secretary, Sri Ahobila Muth Oriental Higher Secondary School, West Mambalam, for reading the proofs and offering suggestions.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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