Born in Chennai, Sumathi Krishnan had her early education and musical training in Calcutta. She learned Hindustani bhajans from Srikant Bakre, a disciple of Ustad Amir Khan. She graduated with B.A. Honours in Education and went on to do a B.Ed from Calcutta University. She worked as a teacher in Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad and Mumbai between 1981 and 1995.
Her love of music followed her everywhere and, when she moved to Chennai in 1995, came under the tutelage of Sangita Kalanidhi Smt. R. Vedavalli. This marked a changing point in her life and career. Sumathi's mother Smt. Lakshmi Subramaniam, herself a veena player, developed her interest in music and encouraged her to sing but now music became more than mere hobby: it became a passion. Sumathi did a Masters degree in Music from the University of Madras.
Sumathi spent the next few years slowly building her repertoire and imbibing the musical tradition of her Guru. She has accompanied her guru on many of her concert tours and has herself given many performances and lecture demonstrations.
Sumathi' s interests include traveling and reading. She has a flair for writing and has contributed articles on music to several magazines, including Sruti.
Carnatic music, the music of South India, is an unfathomable ocean. There is no one who has yet delved deep enough or mastered it completely. Great scholars, musicologists, musicians, lakshya and lakshana vidvans have preserved this musical tradition generation after generation. This music may be viewed in two chronological periods. One before the music Trinity, namely, Shyama Shastri, Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar, and the other is the period thereafter.
The 18th and 19th centuries were a period when there was a lot of royal patronage for music and vidwans were made court musicians or asthana vidwans. Royal patronage took care of their day to day needs and vidwans were able to immerse themselves in music without any kind of financial worry. This was a period when music was considered to be a spiritual experience and associated with temples. In a period where life revolved around temples, everything was rooted in tradition, shastra and sampradaya, when there was a ritualistic approach to every aspect of life, the music of the Trinity was based on bhakti alone and elevated the soul. Bhakti and devotion to God was considered above all and the music composed during this period also reflected this ideal. Music was composed not for any monetary or personal gain but for upliftment in the Bhakti and Gnana marga. The musical Trinity created a wealth of compositions and this book is about the youngest of them, Muthuswami Dikshitar and his kritis based on the deities of the Tiruvarur temple.
Born in Tiruvarur, also known as the muladhara Kshetra, Muthuswami Dikshitar spent about half of his lifetime there and he was deeply devoted to Devi Kamalamba and the Tyagaraja deities in the temple. This book is about his music as an upasana, as an offering to the deities in the Tiruvarur temple, his knowledge of Sanskrit, his prowess in poetry and grammar, his serene music filled with raga bhava and his philosophy reflected in the compositions.
The book traces the kshetram `Tiruvarur, a brief biographical sketch of Dikshitar, his avarana kritis , vibhakti kritis, kshetra kritis, the ragas and talas handled, and is presented in a very lucid manner. The unique and significant features of the temple, some of which find mention in Dikshitar kritis, are brought out in the book, such as the the Nandi Vahana in a standing posture, the supposedly Roudra Durga with a very calm countenance, Kamalamba in a yogic posture with her legs folded in a unique way referred to as `vinoda charane' in the kriti, the Somaskanda murti and the Navagraham arranged in a line. Dikshitar kritis have references to the characteristic features of the kshetra he is singing about and more important they document musical practices and names of instruments. Mention of his Sriraga kriti `Tyagarajamahadhwajarohanam' which describes the utsavam or temple festival refers to the instrument nagaswaram, which today many mistakenly refer to as nadaswaram clearly shows that the author is one who has researched deeply and her writing exhibits both clarity and depth of knowledge.
In addition to temple details, the chapter on ragas handled by Dikshitar and the way in which he has incorporated the raga mudra in his kritis is very interesting. The raga names are sometimes hidden and only after a careful breakup of words can one find the raga. Sumathi's knowledge of Sanskrit has helped her unravel many of these ragas .
The elucidation of the avarana kritis and vibhakti kritis which are full of references to tantra shastra, the Sri Chakra, Kundalini, Dikshitar's Srividya Upasana and the ajapa natanam of Tyagaraja is really to be appreciated. It is possible to take each aspect of Dikshitar's kritis and write volumes. There is so much to learn and so much to study about his compositions.
So far I have commended the author, Sumathi Krishnan. I wish to share a few lines about my disciple, Sumathi. As a student she is hard working and has the urge to learn more and more. I think it is this urge that has made her write this book. Not only does she write well, she speaks well and she also sings well. I have no doubt that she will blossom into a well integrated musician.
Written with a great deal of thought and research, this book makes interesting reading for anyone who likes music, particularly that of Muthuswami Dikshitar. It will be useful for researchers and lay people alike. I am happy to commend this contribution of Sumathi's and am sure that there will many more to come.
Tiruvarur, the land of Muthuswami Dikshitar's birth inspired him to create many kritis. A visit to Tiruvarur also inspired me to choose this as the subject of my book. Many have helped me in this in-depth study of Dikshitar kritis composed in Tiruvarur. I wish to acknowledge their assistance and guidance and express my heartfelt gratitude.
My namaskaram to my Guru, Sangita Kalanidhi Smt. R. Vedavalli, who introduced me to this world of music. She taught me to go into the depths of music, be it theory or the learning of compositions. She has been a source of inspiration and strength and has helped build my repertoire of Dikshitar kritis. She is responsible for creating a `ruchi' in the subject as she would term it. I am greatly indebted to her and I thank her for her views and suggestions.
My grateful thanks to Dr. V. Abhiramasundaram, Head of the Department of Sanskrit in Vivekananda College for patiently explaining some of the terms used in the kritis.
I wish to acknowledge the contribution of the Executive Officer at the Tiruvarur Temple, for sending a guide with me, who explained temple history and agamas. Also he made a few valuable resource books on Tiruvarur available to me.
I wish to thank Sri N. V. Subramaniam of Saraswati Vaggeyakara Trust, who first asked me to do a programme on the subject in Chennai and later on organised a tour of Tiruvarur with musicians where I had the opportunity of singing some of these kritis in the Temple of Tiruvarur. He also arranged a visit to the house where Muthuswamy Dikshitar had lived.
To Dr. S. A. K. Durga , Professor Emeritus, Department of Indian Music, University of Madras, I owe my sincere thanks. Her suggestions and ideas on writing the book have helped me a lot.
My thanks to Dr.V.V.Srivatsa and Sri. T. S. Parthasarathy for their valuable suggestions and guidance. I must acknowledge the help and support of my family in my completion of the book. I had invaluable assistance from my son Varun, who helped me with the intricacies of the computer as also the digital camera. I shared the computer with him while I worked on the book and of course I had the bigger share!
I am grateful to Dr. Nandita Krishna, the Director of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, for first encouraging me to give lecture demonstrations on various subjects. She is the person who persuaded me to bring out my lecture demonstration on Tiruvarur and Muthuswami Dikshitar in the form of a book through the foundation. My thanks to the editorial team of the Foundation for helping me with the layout and printing work.
History has seen that certain chronological periods and certain locations have nurtured and created artists who have left a mark, artists who have been geniuses and excelled in their fields, artists whose names have really been etched in the memory of people forever.
In South India, the late 18th century and Tiruvarur witnessed the birth of the musical Trinity, Shyama Shastri (1762-1827) Sri Tyagaraja, (1767-1847) and Muthuswami Dikshitar (1775-1835). Others who were contemporaries of the Trinity were Maharaja Swati Tirunal, Vadivelu Brothers. Coincidentally it was during the same period (1770-1827) that Beethoven lived in Bonn, Germany.
South India is the land of temples. It is in these temples that our art and culture flourished. Carnatic Music as we see it in its present form did not exist in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was only after the compositions of the Musical Trinity, Shyama Shastri, Sri Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar in the 18th and 19th centuries that pious music was combined with an endeavour to produce systematized professional music. While none of the three great vaggeyakaras were court musicians, they had one thing in common. They were all trained by or descended from experts in the field. Their songs were all in praise of the divine.
Shyama Shastri sang exclusively on his Bangaru Kamakshi. While the majority of Tyagaraja kritis are on Sri Rama, he has sung on other deities as well. It is Muthuswami Dikshitar who visited many sthalas and in the course of his pilgrimage, composed on all the deities that he saw.
Muthuswami Dikshitar and Tiruvarur bear a close association for many reasons. This was the place of his birth. This was also the place that Dikshitar stayed the longest in his sojourn of the shrines of South India. He was devoted to Kamalamba and Tyagaraja, the deities of the Tiruvarur Temple and this was the place that saw the most prolific of Dikshitar's compositions. His life was really one continuous pilgrimage, he moved from temple to temple singing in praise of the deities there. Thus his music can be best understood in the context of the temple where he composed the song.
Dikshitar was a scholar of great eminence. Blessed with a massive intellect, he wrote mainly in Sanskrit, known as the `Deva Bhasha' or the language of the Gods. A study of Dikshitar's Tiruvarur compositions would provide insight into his character, life and his music. It would unravel many of his poetic expressions and his literary genius.
This book aims at studying the kritis that Muthuswami Dikshitar composed in Tiruvarur, the details of the town and temple that he has incorporated in his kritis and the sheer beauty and majesty of his style. Each of his kritis has a lot of information, puranas and legends associated with it and one cannot help wondering how scholarly Dikshitar was.
Chapter 1 describes the temple of Tiruvarur and its deities that have been a source of inspiration for Dikshitar kritis. There is also a study of the architectural details.
Chapter 2 is a biographical study of the great vaggeyakara Muthuswami Dikshitar, his birth and childhood, his training in Varanasi under Chidambaranatha Yogi, his subsequent return to the south and his genius as a composer.
Chapter 3 is a study of the poetic beauty, the subtle incorporation of grammar in his text and music, his mastery over the language of his expression, Sanskrit, his understanding of agamas, shilpa and jyotisha shastra and temple rituals.
Chapter 4 is a critical study of the ragas and talas chosen by the composer for his artistic expression. This is in two sections. The first dwells on the ragas used and the second section describes the tala variations in his compositions
Chapter 5 is a journey into the spiritual life of Muthuswami Dikshitar, an understanding of his advaitic philosophy as revealed in his kritis and an attempt to unravel the esoteric mind of Muthuswami Dikshitar.
All the photographs used in this book have been taken by me during a visit to the temple in Tiruvarur the hometown of Muthuswami Dikshitar.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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