The time immemorial concept of Siva as the Eternal Dancer has various facets perceived from varied angles of comprehension. To the dance historian, His dance reveals the technical history of the art evolved over a period of a couple of millenniums. To the bhakta he is the Lord of Dance; to the rasika his dance forms reveal an acme of perfection in the art of iconography; to the pandita he is the cause and effect of nature; to the poet He is the hero of his literature; to the scientist He is the core of every atom, eternally dancing to the universal rhythm. Some of these different points of view are found overlapping each other and sometimes leading one into another. For example, the mere technical history of dance leads one into the concept of Siva as the God of Dance, which leads one into our temples for a study of Saivite iconography, which in turn compels one to go into the relevant mythology, its significance and literature, drawing one naturally into its philosophy, metaphysics and finally to a spiritual awakening.
Musical families are not uncommon in Carnatic music; the families of Dhanammal, Maharajapuram, Lalgudi and Pattammal come to mind instantly. Noted Carnatic musician Anicode Krishna Sundaram Murali a.k.a. A.S. Murali hails from a family of dedicated musicians. Although the family has settled in Chennai for many decades, their roots can be traced to a tiny village Anicode in Palghat district. Father Sundaram Iyer, an ardent lover of music and a self-taught musician who could play various instruments, became successful as a hotelier. Driven by a strong determination to make his children frontline musicians, he groomed them in a focussed manner right from their childhood. Eldest son A.S. Krishnan is a morsing artist; second son A.S. Ranganathan is a mridangam vidwan, who received advanced training from Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam. Third son A.S. Sankar is a ghatam artist who trained under vidwan T.V. Vasan, and presently works as a faculty member in the Music College, Tirupati. Fourth son, A.S. Murali, initially chose to play the ghatam professionally, but later morphed into a nattuvangam artist and singer for dance before settling as a vocalist of merit. The spouses of all these brothers are also musicians and their offspring are also getting trained in music. Murali’s sister and her husband are also musicians; khanjira artist Sreesunder Kumar, is the sister’s son. Eight members in the family are graded artists in Doordarshan and All India Radio – truly a musical family.
For eight years, the routine was the same. We would traipse through the noisy streets of Mylapore to our guru Pichumani Iyer’s house, veena picks and oil box gripped in one hand and meticulously copied notation notebook in the other. And even now, thirty-six years later, the memories of each class linger in our minds—our guru’s kind yet firm words, his watchful eyes following the fingers dancing on the strings, the echoes of the veena pulsing through the room. Born in Nagapattinam on 18 May 1920, Pichumani Iyer hailed from a family of musicians. As a boy he learnt vocal music from “Jalar” Gopala Iyer of Tiruchi.
With the demise of Guru Chemmencherry Kunhiraman Nair on 15 March 2021, Kathakali has lost the last link to the foremost Kallatikkotan style. He was 104. Guru Chemmencherry Kunhiraman Nair was a living legend for the general public of northern Kerala and the entire artist fraternity. It was not just because he performed an intricate form like Kathakali even after becoming a centenarian, but for the vibrant, positive energy that he radiated when anyone interacted with him. We had always seen him with a smile on his face—his acclaimed hallmark—and the twinkling eyes through his thick spectacles. Popularly known as ‘Chemmencherry Asan’, he mingled freely, especially with the youth, with whom he got on very well.
4 News & notes
16 Birthday calendar
18 Siva, the eternal cosmic dancer
28 Profile v A.S. Murali
32 Centenary tribute v Pichumani Iyer
34 Analysis v The ragamalikas of Subbarama Dikshitar
36 Seminar v Focus on Rabindra Nritya
40 Debate v Need changes to curb sexual harassment
42 Tribute v Chemmencherry Kunhiraman Nair
v Bharatham R. Subramanian
46 From the Editor
Front Cover: Nataraja (painting by S. Rajam)