Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai

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Tiruppamburam Nataraja Sundaram Pillai
- Ravi & Sridhar

Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai hailed from a family of musicians who migrated from Kalyancolapuram near Mayavaram to Tiruppamburam. He was born on 15th December 1869 as the son of a nagasvaram vidvan Swaminatha Pillai.

He and his brother Sivasubrahmaniam were put under the tutelage of Injikkudi Kumarappillai. After learning the instrument, their father wanted them to increase their keertana repertoires and located Umayalpuram Duraswamy Ayyar and Sattanur Panchanadha Iyer who were then considered the repositories of Tyagaraja and Dikshitar’s compositions, respectively.Swaminatha Pillai brought these two musicians to his town and made his sons learn under them. Natarajasundaram Pillai and Sivasubrahmanya Pillai started the tradition of nadaswaram rendering as a duet. It was said that Ramanaathapuram Srinivasa Iyengar and Sarabha Sastri were fond of their music. Sarabha Sastry is also said to have shown his harikatha nirupanams to Natarajasundaram Pillai to seek his opinions on them. The tavil vidvans who accompanied them include Srivanchiyam Govinda Pillai, Mannargudi Pallupakkiri Pillai, Ammapettai Pakkiri Pillai Vazhuvur Muttuviru Pillai etc. Among nagasvara vidwans, it was the more popular approach to learn musical compositions as svaras and ignore the role of sahitya as it was not applicable to an instrument. However the composition will shine only if the sahitya elements are incorporated with the necessary blowing techniques such as akaram and tuttukaram at the appropriate places. Natarajasundaram and his brother were said to have achieved fame in playing compositions on the nagasvaram keeping in mind the sahitya bhava, as well.

Veena Dhanammal also learnt her repertoire of Dikshitar Krtis from Sattanur Panchanada Iyer and is said to have spoken highly of the raga bhava that she found in Panchanada Iyer’s renditions. Once, after many years Natarajasundaram Pillai came to visit Dhanammal and suggested that they should sing together a few Dikshitar kritis that they had learnt from their Ayya. It is said that both sang and found, that after all those years there was not a whit of difference in their versions. Both had retained the music to the minutest sangati.

Natarajasundaram Pillai published a collection of Dikshitar compositions as he learnt from Sattanur Panchanada Iyer (who inturn learnt from Tiruvarur Shuddha Maddalam Tambiyappa Pillai) titled Dikshita Kirtana Prakashika. This edition was in Tamil and contained 50 notated compositions of Muttuswami Dikshitar. It serves today as an authentic cross-reference of the compositions of Dikshitar outside of the Subbarama Dikshitar lineage.

The famous flautist Tiruppamburam Svaminatha Pillai was his son. His other sons include Somasundaram Pillai who served as the principal of the Pazhani temple Nagasvaram school and Sivasubrahmanya Pillai , the lecturer of Annamalai University. He passed away in the year 16.11.1938.

Translated from the Tamil biography of Dr.B.M.Sundaram’s Mangala Isai Mannargal