Papanasam Sivan was born in 1890 in the village of Polagam in Tanjavur District, the rice-bowl and cultural granary of Tamil Nadu. His real name was Rama Sarman, and he was affectionately called Ramiah. Sivan’s life was very much out of the ordinary. Reticent to the point of self-abnegation, Sivan rarely revealed any details of his life. Sivan’s father, Ramamrita Iyer, was a middle-class Brahmin, a land-holder of Polagam. His mother Yogambal was quite knowledgeable in Carnatic music. Ramiah’s earliest recollections are linked with the days of his childhood when he was regularly taken to the Siva temple in Polagam. He was especially drawn to the Divine Mother enshrined in his native village. In one of his very late compositions he extolled her (Karunai varumo), calling her kula deivam.