When Ganesh (born 1964) and Kumaresh (born 1967) ascended the Carnatic concert stage in 1972, the image of the violin as an accompanying instrument in Carnatic vocal concerts had been well-etched in the minds of audiences and musicians alike. By then, Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, M.S. Gopalakrishnan and T.N. Krishnan had achieved remarkable success as solo violinists, each with their distinct style. It could not have been easy for the young boys to start out as a violin-duo at such a time. But the youngsters were fortunate to have their own father, T.S. Rajagopalan, as their teacher and mentor, who seems to have had an intuitive understanding of how to channelise his children’s prodigious talent. It was not long before the boys were hailed as child prodigies. Their grasp of the Carnatic idiom, combined with robust technique and charming on-stage demeanour, soon helped them capture the imagination of the Carnatic audiences. They became the youngest violinists to receive the Kalaimamani award in 1997. Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, M.G. Ramachandran, a lover of music himself, named them the “State artists of Tamil Nadu” in 1984.
Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad, the adopted son of Maharani Jamnabai of Baroda, got married to the Tanjore princess Lukshmibai who was later named as Chimnabai, in 1883. As part of her dowry, the bride brought a troupe of dancers and musicians. In this troupe were devadasis (temple dancers) from Tanjavur and Kumbakonam—Gauri, her mother Kamu, Sarada and Bhanumathi. Two nattuvanars, Kannuswamy Pillai and Kuppuswamy, Muthukrishnan (nagaswaram), Karandai Ratnam (tavil), Ramaswamy and Subramaniam (otthu or drone), father and son—Sabhapati and Vadivelu (mridangam), accompanied the dancers. Sabhapati was the son of Sivanandam, one of the famous brothers of the Tanjavur Quartet. The troupe was managed by the ‘Kalavant Khata’ of Baroda state. The Baroda Maharaja’s court maintained a steady number of 48 artists. Amongst the devadasis, Gauri stayed on but Bhanumathi returned to Kumbakonam. In 1891, Sarada and Kamu were replaced by Nagaratnam and Kanthimati (a cousin of Gauri).
The Isai Vellalar community has given us many renowned nagaswaram and tavil vidwans who have kept this tradition alive till date and are diligently passing it on to the next generation. The melam is an integral component of the Tamil tradition in the temples of Tamil Nadu as they are part of the daily rituals when they play the nagaswaram and tavil to suit specific occasions, as also during temple festivals and auspicious occassions. The nagaswaram has been an inspiration for many front ranking vocalists and has been acknowledged so by veterans like Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, G.N. Balasubramanian and several others; their alapanas interspersed with dazzling brigas stand proof to this. T.N. Rajarathnam Pillai redefined the alapana of Todi by his exuberance, manodharma and musical acumen which has been followed by contemporaries and their succeeding generations.
22 August commemorates the founding of the city of Madras in 1639. Initially called Chennapattinam and Madraspattinam, it soon came to be known as Madras and later officially as Chennai. The city which is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, is famous as the cultural capital of India. The performing arts continue to flourish in this city through the efforts of individual artists, organisations and the government. The day is celebrated as Madras Day. 22 August is also the birthday of the illustrious, multifaceted scholar Dr. V. Raghavan. His contributions to art, culture and Indology are innumerable; among them are his writings on Madras city and its historical background, which he discovered from a manuscript titled Sarva Deva Vilasa, in the Adyar Library in the early 1940s. To celebrate Madras Day, Sruti presents excerpts related only to music, musicians, dancers and art patrons from the work Sarva Deva Vilasa, edited with English translation by Dr. V. Raghavan, incorporated in the book Madras and Tamilnadu - An Anthology, by the Dr. V. Raghavan Centre for Performing Arts, Chennai.
5 Sruti box
7 News & notes
12 Birthday calendar
14 Ganesh and Kumaresh
20 Lockdown events
27 Awareness v That safe step (part 2)
28 A peep into the past v Tanjavur devadasis in Baroda
32 Musicians of Kerala v Tiruvizha Jayasankar
39 Spotlight v In celebration of Madras Day
44 S. Rajam’s paintings v Saptaswara devata: Sa
46 From the Editor
Front Cover: Ganesh and Kumaresh
Photo courtesy: Balu Masti