Papa Venkataramiah was born on 12 September 1901 as the second son of violinist Karur Srikantiah. He, like Tyagaraja, belonged to the Mulakanadu (Murikinadu) sect of Teluguspeaking brahmins. He could claim kinship of blood and music with the composer Matrubhootiah, and with the Devudu Brothers: Pedda Devudu (Venkatasubbiah) and Chinna Devudu (Krishniah), the violinist and composer of the Garbhapuri kriti-S; and also with Sangeeta Kalanidhi Karur Chinnaswami Iyer (1888-1967), who was a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award as well. Father Srikantiah was a disciple of Chinna Devudu and he helped his guru to establish a music school in Esplanade, Madras. In his time, Papa had his novitiate under Chinnaswami Iyer.
Papa wanted to become Govindaswamy Pillai's disciple in 1920 when the latter had come to Madras for a concert engagement at the wedding of Veena Dhanammal's grandson. It was a lucky coincidence, as Veena Dhanammal was Govindaswamy Pillai's patron-saint, philosopher and friend. Papa was accepted and this was a turning point in his career as a musician.
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