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A.Anantakrishna Iyer – Profile

A.Anantakrishna Iyer – A profile

Veena Vidwan Brahmasri A.Anantakrishna Iyer  – S.Bhashyam


Anantakrishna Iyer was born in a family of priests in the year 1899 in Tirunelveli district and was initiated into the profession of his forefathers at a very early age.Piqued at an insult meted out to him bya moneyed man whose he had gone to perform brahmanical rites he put down his stack of ceremonial grass(darbai kattu) and vowed never to return to the profession.He then chanced upon Ammalu ammal eldest daughter of Ambi Dikshitar.It was she who initiated him into carnatic music.This incident took place when AnantaKrishna Iyer was barely 16 years old.

Ammalu found that the lad showed promise and was a devoted and diligent student,She therefore took him to Ambi Dikshitar and beseeched him to take the boy as his disciple.This Ambi Dikshitar agreed to do on condition that he would stay with him till the last years of his life.Anantakrishna Iyer vowed to do so and thus was born a link which has been responsible for a virtual resurrection of Shri Muthuswami Dikshitar;s compositions in this century.

AnantakrishnaIyer lived with AmbiDikshitar in Ettayapuram and learnt various well-known and many other little known Dikshitar’s compositions at his feet.He also learnt to play on the veena from the great master and thus inherited the style of the school known for its strong gAyaki base and adherence to traditions, encompassing the subtle graces and glides which are required to present authentic and aesthetically satisfying versions of gamaka rich carnatic ragas.
AmbiDikshitar was the court musician at Ettayapuram Samasthanam.The desire to propagate his granduncle’s kritis must have been strong in him and he must have sensed that the opportune moment to do thishad arrived since AnantakrishnaIyer was shaping up  as a sincere and devout student.Together they felt that this cause would be better served by moving to Madras which had become the main centre for carnatic music.In early 1919 Anantakrishna Iyer came to Madras and after fixing up a suitable accomodation in Komaleswaran Pettai he arranged for resettling Ambi Dikshitar and his family there.Three years later all of them moved into a house in Big street, Triplicane and established a music school ‘Dikshitar SangIta kalAsAlai’ which was inaugurated on Vijayadasami day 1922 by Lady Mangammal Sadasiva Iyer.By then his brother A.Sundaram Iyer had also joined him.

Around 1927 , after establishing the school on an even keel, Ambi Dikshitar went to Ettayapuram at the behest of the Rajah and after a stay of 4 years returned to Anantakrishna Iyer’s home in Madras around 1931.It was during this revisit to the far South that Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer seems to have  heard Shri Ambi Dikshitar’s recitals of Dikshitar’s kritis at Koilpatty in 1931.

Returning to Madras he sought out the great man and started learning from him.He also rendered considerable financial assistance to the school to help them in their efforts at propagating Dikshitar’s kritis.

Ambi Dikshitar reached godhead on June3 1936 and the task of carrying on this work fell to Anantakrishna Iyer.Anantakrishna Iyer’s own words ” My guru was a shrividya upasaka; a man with self-respect; he cared little for fame and wealth” describes the quality and personality of Ambi Dikshitar.

Around 1934 Anantakrishna Iyer and his brother Sundaram Iyer established the ‘Karnataka vainika gana vidyalaya’ at No.10 Royappettah High Road Madras with branches in Mylapore and Mambalam.Here Anantakrishna Iyer taught veena and vocal music to many students till 1937 when on the strong persuasion of a close friend of his , shri G.V.Raman he went to Calcutta.

After a short sojourn in Kashi [ 1940 -1943 ] he returned to Calcutta and established the guruguha gana vidyalaya.
Anantakrishna Iyer also published several books containing Dikshitar kritis both while he was in Madras and also after moving to Calcutta.

1.Ganamanjusha – Madras 1934
2.Guruguha ganamrta varshini Part I – Dikshitar’s navavarana series and Part II navagraha series Madras 1936-1937 in collboration with Shri .Vedanta Bhagavatar [his brother-in-law] and with a foreword by Ambi Dikshitar.
3.Abhayamba navavaranam
4.shiva  navavaranam
5.Rama  navavaranam
6.Krishna  navavaranam
7.Bala bodhini – for beginners

The book on Abhayamba navavaranam carries a poem of 64 sanskrit verses composed by HH Sankaracharya swamiji of Govardhana mutt Puri.

Anantakrishna Iyer also composed  varnams and kirtanas with the mudra guruguha dasan.
1.Heh kali- kharaharapriya – rupakam
2.sitalambam – vasanta – chapu
3.pashupatishwaram- ragamalika – rupakam
4.valli deva senapathe – khamas – rupakam

Shri Anantakrishna Iyer attained the Lord’s feet on January 5 1959 and the mantle of responsibility fell on the shoulders of his son Shri.Anantarama Iyer and daughter Champakavalli..

Extracted from the article of Shri.S.Bhashyam with the permission of the author from  the souvenir of guruguha gana vidyalaya,Calcutta.