C Saraswathi Bai

C  Saraswathi Bai

Daughter of Shrimati amma and Gooty Rama Rao, Sarawathi Bai was hailed as the first `Lady Bhagavatar'. C Saraswati Bai was born in the year 1892. Family circumstances did not allow for a formal tutelage in music. Having been married off early in life, Bai would have remained in the shadows had it not been for Tiruvaiyaru Krishnachar, a musician and Harikatha exponent who came forward to train her. Krishnachar, who was then teaching Sanskrit at the Madras Christian College, made the family move to Madras.

Saraswathi Bai was the first woman to take up the profession of rendering Harikatha. Gifted with a voice of great richness, volume and quality, She had come into the field of Harikatha when men such as Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar, Mangudi Chidambara Bhagavatar, Tiruppazhanam Panchapakesa Sastrigal and Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar were performing. Being many years their junior, she had outlived them all. She was the last representative of the golden age of Harikatha. The Indian Fine Arts Society conferred on her the title of Harikatha Prasanga Marga Darsini on December 24, 1936. Almost exactly three years later, on December 16, 1939, her portrait was unveiled at the Jagannatha Bhakta Sabha, Egmore. Saraswathi Bai was intimately associated with the Music Academy. She was also one of the few women artistes who performed at the All India Music Conference held in 1927.  Bai passed away on 13th January 1974, a day after Tyagaraja's Aradhana.