The University of Madras has planned several event such as inauguration of the historic Senate House, Lanching of New Centres of Excellence, Organihing National and International Conferences, Sport and Cultural Festivals, and release of books during this academic year to mark the 150th year Celebrations of one of three oldest Universities f our Country.
The faculty members of the University Departments and affiliated institutions have made significant academic contributions in terms of teaching, research and extension services. In recognition of these, the University had been accorded Five Star Status by the NAAC and recognized as a "University with Potential for Excellence" by the University Grants Commission. The University has entered into MoUs with 52 Indian and Foreign Universities for coliaborative teaching and research.
As part of the Sesqui-centennial (150th year) celebrations, the University of Madras has decided to publish 150 books authors by the faculty members of the University Departments and its.
On this happy occasion, I am extremely pleased to write this Foreword for the first Set of 15 books to be released on the 150th years Foundation day Celebrations of the University scheduled on 4th September 2006.
When there was a time Tamil music required a revival and recognition. In the last two centuries, there were great composers like Sri Thyagaraja (Telugu), Sri Muthuswami Dikshidar (Sanskrit) born in Tanjavur, the core of Tamil Nadu for its music and culture. They composed hundreds of songs in excelled in classical music, the hundreds of rages nourished mainly by nadaswaram vidwans, musicians and oduvars, the temples singers, and expert dancers and nattuvanars. The trinity followed the age old traditions and gave the ragas definite composed forms. No doubt the Tamilkrithis and Thevaram songs existed. But when the burst of renaissance of the ragas by the trinity of Tanjavur swept the music world, the musicians started following their krithis and relegating Tamil tyrics to the background.
But there was always a query to which science and tradition this sublime music belonged; how the subtle nuances ragas were arrived at and on what scientific basis?
Abraham Pandithar of Tanjavur renowned physician in indigenous medicine was also well versed in astrology, astronomy, mathematics etc. He was very much interested in South Indian Carnatic music. He had extensive lands to grow medicinal herbs. Through his medical profession he got much face and wealth. As a patron of musicians he invited many top vidwans of his time like Harikesanaloor Muthia Bhagavathar, Veenai Sechanna of Mysore and many other and listened to their music and discussed with them about the science of music. Even expert musicians were notable to give satisfactory explanation for their music with subtle nuances. After going through many Sanskrit and Telugu works on music, Pandithar at last came in contact with great epic Cilappatikaram. During his research, he was struck by the mention of Zodiac, the Rasi names, in connection with the musical notes. As he was an astrologer he made a deep study with the help of the commentaries on Cilappatikaram. He found out that the twelve Rasi houses were made into a circular form according to the formulagiven in the commentaries, with each house allotted with a not from the twelve-semitones of an octave. Again their relationship with each other etc. had been clearly discussed. More than that, the scientific cannons for the origin of notes: the full tones, the semi tones and Vattapali system of quarter-tone music was first discovered by Pandithar only. The contribution of his study on the subtle and micro tones in Carnatic music was the classic "Kar namirda Sagaram" a matchless work. The musical treasures in Cilappatikaram which were buried in darkness was brought to light by him. He also made a thorough study of Bharatha's N iitya Sastra and Saranga Deva's Sangeetha Ratnakaram Pandithar gathered all the musicians, musicologists and patrons of classical music of his time and held big conferences. One such conference held at Baroda under the presidentship of the king of Baroda established that Tamil music in its earliest work Cilappatikaram gave the basic canons for the excellent celestial music of Tamil Nadu and also described the subtle nuances of ragas. People of later times with a much changed pattern of musical performances and rather with much diminished knowledge were not able to understand the significance of the theory of music, but simply followed the oral tradition with full faith. Of course there was much controversy over his conclusions but many Vidwans of repute accepted his opinion. It was a great pity that the theorists of later period did not follow his footsteps but got stuck to the twelve noted music and the same old blind adherence to the oral traditions as ever.
My search on subtle tones and tonal values of South Indian classical music relies heavily on the revered Pandithar because it was his hard work which opened the gateway to the musical treasures in Cilappatikaram. I have extensively quoted from Karu namirda Sagaram; sagaram means ocean; and the book is certainly an ocean of musical science.
My research owes much also to the great Swami Vipulananda. He was born in Batticaloa in Ceylon. He was a great scholar in Tamil, English, Sanskrit, Logic etc. and served in educational institutions. He joined Sri Ramakrishna Mission and became a monk. From his early days he was very much fascinated with the epic Cilappatikaram and was eager to know about the musical nuances. In the middle of his life as monk he took a few years to devote to research on this issue and came to Annarnalai University. There he met Tanjavur Ponnaiya Pillai, a great Vidwan who was the head of the music department of the University. In consultation with such vidwans he wrote his famous 'Yal nool' a work on the stringed instrument of Yal, He also found that even before Cilappatikiram period, there existed a highly developed form of music. The different kinds of Yal, kulal (flute), drums etc. were profusely referred in the Cangam literature - the allocation of pans according to five-fold lands etc. The tradition continued in Thevaram period also i.e., 6th to 9th century A.D. I have benefitted from his valuable analysis of all these points.
It was the great Tamil scholar Sri. U.v. Swaminatha Iyer, who edited and published most of the Cangam works and Cilappatikaram. Particularly his publication of Cilappatiksram with commentaries and his own note and with all textual variations is invaluable. Though at that time, the musical portions in Cilappatikiiram were not clear he thought it best to record all the variations in the hope that some one in future may correctly interpret the facts. He established that Cilappatikiiram was an original work in Tamil. He had also mentioned that there was a reference about a Tamil text 'Bharatam' which had become extinct.
Prof. P. Sambamurthy a pioneering musicologist brought out a number of books on South Indian Music. But for him, the world would have never known much about that music. He was the sole authority on Carnatic music theory. But he dealt with the music of l S" century A.D. onwards and confined himself to Sanskrit and Telugu works on music. But when he came in contact with Pan Araichi conferences held by Tamil Isai Sangam of Chennai, he found that music of excellence existed before the time of Purandaradasa i.e., l S'" century A.D. and started discussing about Tamil music too in his later works. His commentary 'on Kudumiyanmalai inscription regarding vowel signatures on the swaras is a very valuable proof for the existence of quarter and micro tones in the earlier music before 7th century A.D. When I approached him for guidance in my research on Tamil music and Cilappatikaram, he blessed me gladly and said that being a performing musician myself, the research would be certainly very valuable.
Some others who did research in Tamil music were Dr. S. Ramanathan, Kudanthai Sundaresanar and others. They kept up the spirit and enthusiasm regarding research on Tamil music.
The Tamil music movement was initiated by eminent personages like Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar who founded Annamalai University at Chidambaram, Sir R.K. Shanmugham Chettiar of Coimbatore, Rajaji, the first Governor-General ofIndia, Kalki Krishnamurthy the renowned writer and novelist, and others. The musicians sang mostly in languages other than Tamil to the utmost dissatisfaction ofthe public. Music can please the ear as it is by the instruments like Violin, Nadaswaram but when one hears a music with song and that too in his own language which he can understand, the happiness is boundless. As for the sacred songs in Tamil spun in the beautiful melodies of ragas; who could ever think of losing the great tradition. Hence the Tamil Isai Sangam was started by these eminent people, Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar opened department for Tamil music in Annamalai University and appointed eminent vidwans as heads of the Department like Tiger Varadachari, Tanjai Ponnaiya Pillai Chittoor Subramania Pillai and Dandapani Desigar a very eminent Oduvar and nourished Tamil music.
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