The quaint dedication written in English on the front page of an old Telugu book catches one's attention. The year imprinted on it is 1904. The title of the book—Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini.
Subbarama Dikshitar (1839-1906) has very simply described his work as a book. But it is far from being just that. Its 1700 pages are divided into two volumes. The subject matter is Carnatic music. The language used is, for the most part, Telugu with a few pages in Tamil. The title is in Sanskrit. In fact, both modestly and accurately, the work can be termed an encyclopedia of Carnatic music. For, the contents with their 170 geeta-s of Venkatamakhi, 229 kriti-s of Muthuswami Dikshitar, 10 prabandha-s, 41 chitta tana-s, kriti-s of various composers and over a hundred other pieces like sooladi-s, varnam-s, swarajati-s, daru-s and pada-s, all of them meticulously and descriptively notated with swara signs, gamaka indications and tala symbols, elaborate discussions on the traditions of music, and brief notes that explain characteristics of the raga-s employed in the compositions, firmly establish the tenets of traditional Carnatic music, justifying the title of the book. Besides these, there are 77 biographies of musicians, musicologists, and composers that include the members of his family and the royal patrons of Ettayapuram, as also a brief autobiographical sketch of the writer himself. Indeed, a formidable production by a single man! The work gains further in stature when one realises that, in those times, the process of information collection in itself was an arduous task. For, Indian printing was in its infancy and printed books few and far between. The ordeal of discovering facts was further aggravated by the proverbial Indian tradition of a dismal lack of historical sense. Obstacles notwithstanding, the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini was published in 1904.
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