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Famous Carnatic Composers - MVS


Mayooram Vishwanaata Shaastree - Jayati jayati bharata mata budha kirta nikhilamata vana nirata natajana suhita jayati jayati jayati

This is the pallavi (dhruva) of a piece in Khamas sung by Semmangudi Shrinivasa Iyer over the A.I.R. on the first Independence day. Several people heard it, enjoyed it and praised it. He has also said "There is a warmth of feeling and charm of melody in most of the songs composed by Mayuram Vishvanatha Shastri".

Vishvanatha Shastri was born in Terezhundur, (the birthplace of Kambar) near Mayuram in 1893. He was initiated in Sanskrit studies, as was the custom and was put in Sanskrit College at Kalyan Mahal, Tiruvaiyaru. He also underwent the Veda Adhyayana course simultaneously for some time. The lure of English education cut short his Vedic study and he became a student at the Municipal High School in Mayuram.

Mayuram then had a galaxy of musicians like Sempannarkoil Ramasvami Pillai, Vinai Vaidyanatha Iyer, Flute Nagaraja Rao, Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer, Fiddle Subbier and Ramasvami Bhagavatar. Young Vishvanathan devoted more time to music than to his studies. He imbibed the taste for music from his mother. He had a high pitched voice and sang with lakshya jnana. In due course, he attracted the attention of the local vidvans. Fiddle Subbier, recognizing the potential in him, arranged for him a performance at the local Vishvanatha temple and accompanied him to give encouragement.

Completing his S.S.L.C. in 1912, Vishvanathan searched for a job and got a schoolmaster's post. In 1913, he married. He lost his parents in 1915. He shifted to Tiruchi and led his life of a teacher-cum-musician. In the meantime he gained proficiency in Harmonium playing and became acquainted with Alattur Venkatesha Iyer. He tried his hand at Harikatha for some time at the suggestion of Muttiah Bhagavatar and Panchapakesha Bhagavatar who were his close friends. He moved to Karaikudi and got employed a music teacher. Here, he staged one of his dramas. Chitra Kamini" with an 'all teacher' cast. The burning desire in him that he should become a full-fledged musician made him approach Namakkal Narasimha Iyengar for a vidya guru. He also had music training under Casavadyam Venkatarama Iyengar of Devakottai and later under Simizhi Sundaram Iyer. He moved to Madras in 1921 and became a professional musician. He was for some time the harmonist for dramas enacted by the Madras Secretariat Party and also gave performances on the harmonium with accompaniments. When A.I.R. refused to recognize the harmonium he gave it up.

From an early age, Vishvanathan had a gift for composing songs. This was mostly in Tamil and dedicated to Shri Murugan. In 1926, Kadalangudi Natesha Shastri published his first book "Valli Parinaya Manipravala Satakam". The Madras Music Academy instituted a kriti competition in all languages and a committee of three judges - Tiger Varadachariar, T.L.Venkatarama Iyer and Jalatarangam Ramaniah Chettiar, adjudged his Sanskrit kriti "Bharata mata" in Todi the best. He was awarded a prize amount of Rs. 100 and felicitated at a public function of musicians and music lovers. This spurred him to compose more songs. In 1933, Svami Balananda Sarasvati of Kadirkamam, highly impressed with the devotional character of his songs, helped him to publish the book "Murugan Pugazhmalai". He also gave him the title of "Kantam", the catchword of the song Kantamam kadirkamattanilor".

Many of his songs bear the mudra Vishvam and a few Vedapuri, after the name of the deity of his birthplace. He founded the Bhakta Sangita Mandal in 1933, through which mass singing of his songs was conducted. In 1935, he lost his wife. He had no children either. As years advanced he applied himself more to composing songs in praise of Murugan and all thoughts of becoming a platform musician receded. In 1940, he published the book "Murugan Kirtanai" consisting of 60 songs on Murugan with svara notation. The first group of 22 songs "Ghana nadai pattugal" is in Ghana ragas like Todi and Bhairavi with a lot of sangatis in each. "Shanmukhan padam shilamboli nadam" in Shanmukhapriya, "Kanda kumara" in Todi and "Sharavanabhava" in Bhairavi are rich in raga bhava and beauty of sahitya. He has to his credit "Sarasa dala nayana", a svarajati in Todi with svarakshara pryogam and songs in minor ragas like "Mayilvahana" in Amritavarshani, "Sharavanabhava" in Dayaranjani and "Tandanaiye" in Jaganmohini. The second group of 13 songs dedicated to Kadirkama Kandan is in Kapi, Saranga, Hemavati, Bilahari, Shankarabharana, etc., besides "Kantamam" in Deshyatodi. The next group of six songs is padams better suited for dancing. These are in Kalyani, Kamavardhini, Kambhoji, Darbar etc. The Darbar piece speaks of a lover-devotee, beseeching her friend to bring the Lord of Tiruttani to her beginning with the words "Azhaittu vadi mane". The prasams and diction are varied with changes in Tala nadai. The last group consists of miscellaneous songs, 19 in number, in Behag, Paraju, Yaman etc., and one on Vadapazhani Andavar. The book provides a rich repertoire of Tamil songs.

In 1947, a booklet of songs in Tamil for Independence Day was brought out, dealing with khaddar, temperance, Gandhiji, flag salutation and so on. I 1948, a booklet of 18 songs in Sanskrit, called "Bharat Bhajan", dwelling on Bharata Mata and Mahatma Gandhi, was published. The songs are in simple flowing language, set in well known hindustani ragas like Behag, Bhimpalas, Bilaval. Mand and Des so as to are sung all over the country [India].

There are still a good number of songs in manuscript, both in Tamil and Sanskrit, which Shastri intended to publish as "Shiva Shakti Madhura Kirtanai" and "Harihara Madhura Kirtanai". These cover a wide range of ragas, including rare and minor ragas like Kuntala, Lalitamanohari, Sindhugauri, Chayasindhu, Kalyanakesari, Sarasanana, Mohanakalyani and Svararanjani. He has made a set of five songs; called "Balar Pancharatnam" in Sanskrit, for children that forms a prayer to Mata. Pita, Guru, Sun and the Moon. His devotion to Sadguru Tyagaraja is exemplified in his song "Ehi shri sadguru" in Khamas, Ata tala with chittasvaram. He has also composed four varnams in Gaula and Ritigaula, Adi tala and in Abhogi and Todi in Ata tala. There is also a tillana in Bilahari.

He was the first person to set the Tirukkural verses to music and he published the first volume of 41 songs with svara notation and notes in "Aruttuppal" calling it "Tirukkural Madhura Kirtanai". The Sangita Natak Academy in Delhi gave a grant of Rs.1000 for this. Other volumes of the series are in manuscript. He was a member of the experts' committee of Annamalai University for two years.

He has written a few novels and plays also; one of which is "Bhakta Jayadeva". He was in receipt of a monthly stipend of Rs. 100 from the Central Government from 1954 until his death. He died in Jamshedpur on the last day of December 1958.

Article by R.Kuppusvami courtesy Lakshman Radge

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updated on 03/21/2009