Kallidaikurichi Vedanta Bhagavatar

  1. Kallidaikurichi Vedanta Bhagavatar:

Vedanta Bhagavatar

Vedanta Bhagavatar was born in 1878 in Kallidaikurichi. He came of a family of Sanskrit scholars who were attached as teachers of Sanskrit and shastras to the Tiruvadudurai math.His father was Muthu Shastrigal who was holding this respected position in the math.Observing the talent of the young Vedantam the head of the Tiruvadudurai adinam consulted Muthu Shastrigal and placed vedantam and the celebrated nagaswaram artiste Tirumarugal Natesa pillai under Vidwan Melattur Ramaswami Iyer for being brought up as a musician.  Vedantam qualified himself not only as a vocalist but also as an early performer of Harikatha.This, he learnt from Tanjavur Krishna Bhagavatar and Tiruppayanam Pancapakesa shastrigal.He gave his first performance at the age of 17 in the Melatheru bhajanai matam in Kallidaikurichi.His family were also traditional shrividya upasakas.

He learnt Dikshitar kritis from Subbarama Dikshitar and also Ambi Dikshitar.With Ambi Dikshitar he had come and stayed for some years in Madras to propagate Dikshitar’s kritis by both teaching and publication.He published an edition of the Kamalamba navavarana kritis in the year 1936 with texts,translation and notation. He did the kathakalakshepam the Lalitopakhayna in Tiruvarur.He also came into contact with other famous figures of that time in the musical field, Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer and Sarabha Sastrigal with the latter accompanying him on the flute in several Harikatha performances.

He specialised in Ragam,Tanam and Pallavi and it is worth noting that at that he prepared and published a book entitled ‘Sangeetha Tatva Pradarshini’ otherwise called ‘Pallavi Parijatam’.His brother Kallidaikurichi Ramalinga Bhagavatar accompanied him in the concerts.


He was also a composer and has composed one hundred compositions including a varna in poorvikalyani. It is interesting to see the title ‘sangIta sahitya vidvan’ as printed in his letter head.The media of the songs are sanskrit,telugu and Tamil and the deities are mostly Devi,Subrahamanya and Shiva.

Vedanta Bhagavatar (1940)
Vedanta Bhagavatar (1940)

He was given the Sangita kalanidhi by the Music Academy in the year 1940.When he presided over the Academy’s conference in 1940, the lakshanas of ragas like saurashtra,arabhi,sama and varali and ahiri were discussed and defined.In his presidential address he emphasised the importance of sahitya and the need for singing the texts of the songs correctly and with the knowledge of the meaning.  He took sanyasa in the same year and passed away.

Part II – Kallidaikurichi Ramalinga Bhagavatar

Kallidaikurichi Ramalinga Bhagavatar was the brother of Vedanta Bhagavatar. A few recordings of his can be found below:

shri lakshmivaraham-Abhogi

Kambhoji Ragam

Part III – Students of Kallidaikurichi Vedanta Bhagvatar –

Ramalinga Bhagavatar

Ramalinga Bhagavatar was a student of Kallidaikurichi Vedanta Bhagavatar. He taught music but did not perform.

Navagraha kRtis rendered by Ramalinga Bhagavatar, Student of Vedanta Bhagavatar.

Angarakam Asrayami- Surati

Budham Asrayami – Nattakuranji

Mahadeva Bhagavatar:

Mahadeva Bhagavatar was a student of Vedanta Bhagavatar. Please click on the link above to read an interview with him.


Commemorative Booklet on Vedanta Bhagavatar released by Kallidaikurichi Mahadeva Bhagavatar

Pictures courtesy of Suresh Ramasubramanian and family, Chennai.

Archives, Composers

Tiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai

Tiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai – An Article By. Dr.B.M.Sundaram

We thank Dr.B.M.Sundaram for compiling and providing information on this great vaggeyakara, information which otherwise would have been forgotten in the annals of carnatic music.

South India has the unique greatness of fostering and elevating to heights the system of Carnatic Music. Innumerable vaggeyakaras have born here and produced priceless compositions, that came through their imaginative fertility. In the sphere of cultivating the sangeeta to a great extent, the share of composers (Vaggeyakaras) is in no way lesser than that of the practical musicians, who musically feed the public. The Musical Trinity, Shri Tyagaraja, Shri Syama Sastri and Shri Muttusvami Dikshitar even live amongst us, in the form of their beautiful compositions. But, there were some other Vaggeyakaras, who have contributed to the world of music, wonderful compositions, have never been so famous.

One such Vaggeyakara was Tiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai, whose gift to the musical world is very very valuable. Tiruvarur, where “one born gets liberation, without fail”, had many families, who hereditarily served the deities of the temple. One was ‘Nayinar Adiyar’ family. ‘Nayanar’ denotes God and ‘Adiyar’ means ‘devotees’ or ‘servants’. The original honorific of this family is ‘Nayanar Adiyar’, which became ‘Nayinar Adiyar’ in corrupt usage. Sometimes, the temple priests were also addressed as such. In the Nayinar adiyar family, there was one musician called Kamala Tyagesam Pillai. His wife was Vasantammal. This couple had a son, in 1798 and named him Ramasvami. Then was born a daughter to them, named Sarasvati. Both Ramasvami and Sarasvati learnt music, their family heritage, from their father and became good musicians. Ramasvami also learnt Samskrit from Veethivitanga Shivacharya, an expert in Agamas and Telugu from Chandrasekhara Sastri both of the same place. In those days, none was accepted as a musician if he did not know Samskrit and Telugu also. Ramasvami Pillai didn’t take up Nagasvara, like his father, but became a vocalist. Sarasvati, true to her name, was an expert in playing on the Veena and vocal music. Ramasvami came close to Muttusvami Dikshita, who also lived in Tiruvarur, which influenced the former in worshipping the goddess. It is said, once during a visit to Tiruvaiyaru, he met Sree Tyagaraja, who, on listening to the music of Ramasvami said, “Only Sarasvati is dwelling in your tongue; be always singing on the goddess” and then only, Ramasvami Pillai commenced to compose songs.

Sarasvati had no interest in ordinary family life and became more or less a renunciate. For the simple reason that his sister had no desire to marry, Ramasvami PIllai also remained a bachelor till the end. Circumstances were not favourable for them to continue living in their native place and hence the brother and sister migrated to Vaideesvarankovil and lived there. Sarasvati was beautiful and youthful, but she disliked to see a number of devadasis in that place, and many of them lived life as prostitutes and so took to saffron robes. She lived only for thirty two years.

Vaidyalinga Tambiran, the pontiff of Dharmapuram Adheenam, whenever visited Vaideeshvarankovil, used to send for Ramasvami Pillai and would enquire, ‘O, a penta-linguist and a wonderful musician! Are you well?’ From this we learn that Ramasvami Pillai was an expert in five languages. The demise of his sister, was a great personal loss to him and he felt that he had become a lone man. This worry debilitated his mental stature and roamed all along the streets, as if a lunatic. He was regular in cleansing the shrine of God Muttukumarasvami, making garlands etc. He, as per the order of the pontiff, was granted food in the temple itself. Seerkazhi Narayanasvami Pillai was a violinist and a disciple of Tanjavur Vadivelu of the famous Tanjavūr Quartette. He used to visit Vaideeshvarankovil often to chat with Ramasvami Pillai. Only on such occasions, Ramasvami Pillai used to converse with the Seerkazhi vidvan, about music. It is said that Narayanasvami Pillai had a special liking for the raga Mohanam. At his insistence, Ramasvami Pillai again started to compose, beginning with the famous kruti, ‘Jagadheesvari’ (Mohanam). Living like a saint, but without saffron robes, Ramasvami Pillai left his mortal coil in Vaideesvarankovil on 26.3.1852, at the age of fifty-three. He had, unluckily, no descendants nor direct disciples. All his compositions in manuscripts came to the possession of his close relatives in Tiruvarur.

His compositions, Varnas and Kritis are in total, fifty-two (according to Tiruvarur Muttappa Pillai), though what have come to us today are not even ten. One or two of his Varnas, are sung by musicians, without knowing the actual composer.

‘Vanita ninne’ (Bhairavi) is one. Though Bhairavi raga has both Dhaivatas, the use of Chatusruti Dhaivata should be minimal. This we see in the Varna ‘Viribhoni’ of Adiyappayya. ‘Vanita ninne’ of Ramasvami Pillai also follows this rule. The first Ettukada swara has two avarttas, which is another speciality. It is said that these Ettukada swaras had sahitya (similarly like ‘Viribhoni’), though they are not now available. Another Varna of Pillai in the raga, Saurashŧra, ‘Na meeda” is there, but found without the Ettukada swaras, which are missing in the manuscripts. According to his relative-descendants, the Varnas composed by Pillai are sixteen.

To compose Chiŧŧasvara for the krutis and also sahitya (completely in Svarakshara format) is the uniqueness of Ramasvami Pillai. ‘Ekkalattilum” (Pūrvikalyani)and Jagadheesvari (Mohanam) may be cited as some specimens. The Purvikalyani piece has the letter ‘Pa’ predominantly in its chiŧŧaisvara (both in the svara and the sahitya); ‘Jagadheesvari’ has Da or Dha as the main letter in the chiŧŧaisvara. Though it has been prescribed by the works on music, that this raga has Chatusruti Dhaivata, one can clearly see, how many types of Chatusruti Dhaivata are employed here by Pillai. One of his compositions, ‘Idu nalla samayam” is in four languages, Tamizh, Samskrit, Kannada and Hindi and also in ragamalika. But, at some period of time, somebody changed it into a single raga, Kalyani. ‘Sree Kamakshi” in the raga Vasanta is a beautiful composition of Pillai. But, unknowingly, some say that it is of Subbaraya Sastri, since the word, ‘Kumara’ appears in this. They forget that Sastri has not used the word ‘Kumara’ exclusively as his ‘mudra’. The mudra of Ramasvami Pillai is ‘Vedapuri’ or ‘Vedapureesa’ or ‘Vedapureesvari’. There are many places in Tamizhnadu with the second (or maybe the first) name as ‘Vedapuri’—Tirukkazhukkunram, Puducherry, Vaideesvarankovil and so on. Ramasvami Pillai adopted that signature, because he lived in Vaideesvarankovil, that’s all.

Compositions of Tiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai:

1.Ekkalattilum – Purvikalyani
2.Jagadishvari – Mohanam
3.Vanita ninne – Bhairavi – Varnam
4.Idhu nalla Samayam – Ragamalika
5.Na meeda – Saurashtram 6.ShrI kamakshi – Vasanta


Shri kamakshi Katakshi has been wrongly credited to Subbaraya Sastri. Per Dr.B.M.Sundaram’s article in the Souvenir of the Krishna Gana Sabha he says the following: When I had the opportunity to peruse the notebooks of Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, showed to me graciously by his son Tiruppamburam Flute Swaminatha Pillai, I found this Vasanta krti raga in them. I was given to understand that Natarajasundaram Pillai learnt this directly from the composer who was a good friend and sahadhyayi of Sathanur Panchanadha Iyer.Shri Kamakshi being a composition of Tiruvarur Ramaswami Pillai was confirmed by Vazhuvoor Sundaram Pillai another disciple of the composer. Those who ascribed the krti to Subbaraya Sastri did so only taking into sight the usage, Kumaranai Rakshi occurring therein without giving even the slightest cognizance to ‘Vedapureeshvari’ the actual mudra.


Tiruppamburam Swaminatha Pillai

Tiruppamburam Swaminatha Pillai – Ravi & Sridhar

The Isai Vellala community has been responsible for nurturing music and dance in the Tamil country for many centuries. Every male member of that community was required to learn the Nagaswaram and every female member, chinna mELam or sadir — Bharatanatyam as it is called now. They were attached to the temples and received grants from kings for furthering their art. Music and dance were part of the daily services in temples and the Isai Vellala community fulfilled their obligations towards the Lord admirably. In the process there sprang many artistes who were not just satisfied with doing their duty by the Lord but who pursued aesthetic beauty in art and raised not only themselves above the mundane but rasikas and the art itself

Broadmindedness and catholicity are at a premium even in these times when the world has become really small. In the art world, jealousy and secretiveness were quite common in those days. The caste system forbade the purists from sharing their art with the so-called lesser born. In such a milieu Muthuswami Dikshitar’s liberality was a fresh approach that played no small role in the renaissance of music. The great composer’s all-embracing nature was matched only by his own great stature as a composer. His catholicity was such that most of his disciples belonged to the Isai Vellala community and some even from the Parasaiva community. Shuddha Maddhalam Tambiyappan, the artist attached to the Tiruvarur Thyagaraja temple was a senior disciple of Muthuswami Dikshitar. Devadasis like Kamalam, Natyacharyas like the Tanjore Quartette and Nagaswara vidwans attached to various temples in Tanjavur district were all beneficiaries of Dikshitar’s munificence. Amidst these then great artists, there were a couple of disciples who belonged to the brahmin community too. One of them was Sathanur Panchanada Iyer. He was the junior most disciple of Muthuswami Dikshitar and started learning from the great composer during his last years. After Dikshitar’s vidEha mukti, Panchanada Iyer continued his music education under Shuddha Maddhalam Tambiyappan. Many junior disciples kept the Dikshitar flame alive by honing their skills and perfecting their Dikshitar repertoire through tutelage under senior disciples like Tambiyappan.

Panchanada Iyer has been referred to by the Tamil scholar U.V. Swaminatha Iyer as being one of the important musicians of the Tanjavur area during the 19th century. Panchanada Iyer is now remembered by the music world for his unique contribution in siring two disciples who in turn, spawned a whole new world where Dikshitar kritis occupied the pride of place and were noted for their authentic versions. Veena Dhanammal and Tiruppamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, the Nagaswaram maestro were the two prime disciples of Sattanur Ayya, as Veena Dhanammal fondly referred to him. The violin maestro Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer was another disciple of Panchanada Iyer. Dhanammal used to refer to Sattanur Panchanada Iyer’s rAga bhAvam and used to say that she had never heard such rAga bhAvam from anyone else. How could it not be so, when even at a very impressionable age, Sattanur Ayya had the opportunity of sitting at the Maha Purusha’s feet and imbibing his classics directly from him? No wonder that both Dhanammal and Natarajasundaram Pillai considered Sattanur Panju Iyer as their most important guru. 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. 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. The pristine purity of the strong, solid legacy that Dikshitar had left to Sattanur Ayya was maintained in letter and in spirit by these veterans and also passed on to the succeeding generations.

Natarajasundaram Pillai was born in 1869 to Swaminathan who was basically a vocalist, though his ancestors were Nagaswaram vidvans. This family originally belonged to Mayavaram but Swaminathan shifted to Tiruppamburam, also in Tanjavur district, because many of his patrons were based in that village and nearby areas. Natarajasundaram Pillai and his brother Subramania Pillai were the first Nagaswara vidwans to play as a duo. Natarajasundaram Pillai published a book of Dikshitar kritis called dikShita kIrtanai prakAshikai.

Natarajasundaram Pillai had three sons of whom Swaminatha Pillai, who was born in 1898, was the eldest. All three sons were trained by their father to be Nagaswara vidwans. Swaminatha Pillai, after a few years of training on the Nagaswaram switched over to vocal music. After his voice broke, Swaminatha Pillai switched to the flute. He taught himself the fingering and embouchure (mouthing techniques) of the flute. His aim was to make the flute play gamakAs like the voice and in this too he had none to teach him. He therefore learnt it himself and succeeded to a great extent.

Swaminatha Pillai did not strike a different path as far as the spirit of the music itself was concerned. Swaminatha Pillai inherited his love for Dikshitar kritis from his father and achieved excellence in them. In those days Palladam Sanjeeva Rao was the most popular flautist. Later Mali was the reigning monarch of the instrument. In spite of this Tiruppamburam Swaminatha Pillai was much respected and admired. Mali himself has spoken very highly of Swaminatha Pillai and his style. Swaminatha Pillai mainly followed the Dikshitar style of viLambakAlA and gamakAs and succeeded in approximating his flute artistry to singing, thus bringing about a wholesome and refreshing approach to music itself.

waminatha Pillai played a lot of Dikshitar kritis in his concerts. The chaturdasha rAgamAlikA, srI vishvanAtham was introduced to the concert stage and popularised by him. The navarOj kriti hastivadanAya namasthubyam was also popularised by him. He also patiently studied the 108 rAga-tALAmAlikA of Ramaswami Dikshitar and taught it to deserving students. Such was his passion for rare, challenging works.

Swaminatha Pillai taught at the Central College of Music, Madras. There, during his tenure, he taught a number of Dikshitar kritis to students as well as to other teachers, thus helping in wide dissemination of the composer’s soulful works. Swaminatha Pillai also taught for sometime at the Annamalai University’s music department. He also taught a few earnest students in the gurukulA method. T. Viswanathan, a grandson of Dhanammal learnt the flute from him. T.V. Namaivayam, S. Narasimhalu and Sirgazhi Govindarajan learnt vocal music from Swaminatha Pillai.

Swaminatha Paillai passed away in February 1961. He will be remembered for having nurtured the legacy of Muthuswami Dikshitar and for bringing to light rare compositions of the great composer.