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Articles on Carnatic Music

Walajapet Venkatramana Bhagavatar (1781-1874)
by O.S. Subramanian

Srimad Venkataramana Bhagavathar was the devoted chief disciple of Sadguru Sri Tyagaraja. He was instrumental in recording the numerous compositions of Tyagaraja in palm leaves for posterity. Nearly 26 years he served his Guru and earned his appreciation and blessings which is evidenced by the kritis of Tyagaraja. One such kriti is 'Nannu palimpa' in Mohana raga which was sung in ecstasy at the time when Venkataramana Bhagavathar presented the portrait of Sri Kothandarama on the eve of the marriage of the daughter of Tyagaraja.

This Boswell of Tyagaraja was born on 18.2.1781 to Nannusamy of Ayyampettai of Thanjavur District in Tamil Nadu. He was a child born as the Grandson of Kuppaiyer who was father of Nannusamy in answer to his prayer to have a son of great music knowledge. Besides Sourashtram, his mother tongue, he learnt Sanskrit and Telugu and became a scholar. His longing for music drove him to the house of Tyagaraja in Thiruvayyaru. Initially he used to listen the music standing outside the house of Tyagaraja. Later this was noticed by Tyagaraja at the instance of his wife and asked Venkataramana whether he would like to learn the music from him. Venkataramana was very happy to join the band of Tyagaraja's disciples and started taking keen care of his Guru by rendering all the services needed for day to day life for a number of years until he settled in Walajapet for his livelihood.

Initially Venkataramana was a bit slow in grasping the lessons taught by his Guru. Noticing this Tyagaraja prayed Sri Rama and composed "Gnanamosagaradha" in Shadvidhamargini raga to bestow the knowledge of music to Venkataramana. From next day onwards Venkataramana became an expert in music and was able to record all kritis in palm leaves. He also recorded the brief biography of Tyagaraja. In later years he also composed songs in Telugu emulating his guru with his own mudra 'Ramachandrapura vara Venkataramana'. His handwriting was very beautiful like printing which is evidenced by the bound paper volume Pothana Telugu Bhagavatham which is still preserved by Madurai Sourashtra Sabha along with all the palm leaves and paper manuscripts written by Venkataramana and his son Krishnasamy Bhagavathar. Venkatarama's devotion to Tyagaraja continued even after his settlement at Walajapet. When Tyagaraja visited Walajapet, Venkataramana requested his Guru to stay with him for 12 days doing Bhajans. When he was taken through the procession on the last day, Venkataramana's disciple Mysore Sadasiva Rao composed the song ''Tyagarajaswami vedalina'' in todi raga and recorded this event.

Venkataramana attained mukthi on 15-12-1874. His descendants handed over the relics of Tyagaraja like Paduka, Tambura, etc. to Madurai Sourashtra Sabha where they are preserved. His Jayanti day celebrations are held at Ayyampettai every year where a number of his disciples and carnatic music lovers pay their homage.


O.S. Subramanian is Honorary Director of the Sourashtra Sabha Museum & Library. He wrote this article for Srimad Venkataramana Bhagavathar Seva Samajam, Madurai and Sourashtra Sabha, Madurai. The article was contributed by his relative Obla Vishvesh and reproduced here.



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updated on 12/27/2008