S. Vaidyanatha Krishnan, Director, Faculty of Fine Arts at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Coimbatore speaks of his love for Tyagaraja's Kritis

Volumes of Kambar's Ramayanam and hard-bound copies of the Tirukkural share space with law books. Vaidyanatha Krishnan walks into his living room humming ‘Mokshamugalada', a popular kriti by the saint. It's quite hard to believe that he hasn't had any formal training in music. Vaidyanatha Krishnan is now the Director, Faculty of Fine Arts at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. He has framed the syllabus for students pursuing diploma courses in music and continues to monitor their progress.

Music in his heart

The septuagenarian, who is also the convener of Sri Thyaga Brahma Aradhana, (an event to commemorate Saint Thyagaraja's aradhana in the city) delivers lectures on Carnatic Music in gatherings. “You could call him a musicologist,” says Bhuvaneshwari Chandrasekarar, a music teacher, who has known him for many years. “No, no, I am not,” smiles Krishnan, who is also a senior advocate. “I read texts on music and interpret them purely out of passion. I am not qualified to be a musicologist! My interest in Sanskrit and the scriptures comes from my father. My maternal grandfather was a Vedic scholar too. I owe my love for music to my father.”

Krishnan secured a Master's degree in Mathematics and took up law at the insistence of his father-in-law.

“He was instrumental in making me an apprentice under C.S.Rama Rao Sahib, who was the standing counsel for the Income-tax department. I also had the good fortune of working along with S. Ranganathan and Justice M. Sreenivasan, who went on to become judges of the Supreme Court.” But Krishnan says he loves music more than his profession.

Tyagaraja treatises

Even when he talks about law, he quotes extensively from Thyagaraja's compositions. He has written essays and texts drawing comparisons between Thyagaraja and others such as Kambar, Valmiki and Dikshitar. He routinely writes for Sri Sadhguru Thiagabrahma Aradhana Trust and other publications. Krishnan has been associated with Sri Thyaga Brahma Aradhana celebrations since 1967. Founded by Coimbatore-based freedom fighter T. Ragavachari, Dwarakanath and Arunachalam, the Aradhana has witnessed kutcheris by renowned musicians.

Kovai kutcheris

They have included stalwarts such as Madurai Mani Iyer, D.K. Pattammal, M.L. Vasanthakumari, Radha and Jayalakshmi, B.V. Raman and B.V. Lakshman, Embar Vijayaraghavachari, and K.V. Santhanagopalachariar. This year's Aradhana had Carnatic vocalists Bombay Jayashri, Vijay Siva and the Bombay Sisters performing.

Krishnan fondly recalls his youth. “I used to attend a lot of kutcheris in Coimbatore. In the 40s, V.R. Srinivasa Rao (a city-based Ayurvedic physician) and Palladam Sanjeeva Rao (a flute vidwan) used to organise Purandaradasa utsavam at Sullivan Street. I would religiously attend it. I would never miss out on the Ram Navami concerts at Binny Subbarao's place in R.S.Puram, either.”

Spreading the good word

Krishnan was called for a lecture demonstration for the first time in 1975 by S.V. Krishnan of Ragasudha, a sabha that was based in Tatabad. Since then, he has travelled all over South India delivering talks on the philosophy of Thyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshatar, Shyama Shastri, Andal, Pancharatna Kritis and Navavarna Kritis.

All India Radio has also broadcast many of his programmes. Krishnan has also inscribed kritis composed by the Carnatic music trinity on marble slabs affixed at the Sri Kamakshi temple at Kanchi.

Awards and honours

In 1990, the Acharya at Kanchi bestowed the ‘Satkainkaryamani' title on Krishnan for his contributions to the Kanchi Mutt. Two decades later, V.V. Sundaram of Bhairavi Fine Arts awarded the ‘Seva Ratna' title to him for his services to Indian classical arts at the 33 year of the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana.

Krishnan, who continues to pursue Sanskrit studies under Raghuthaman Rao, is currently working on drawing parallels between Thyagaraja kritis and various religious texts.