TRIBUTE To Dharmapuram Swaminathan, who passed away recently.
Dharmapuram Swaminathan conducted the kumbabishekam of the Sekkizhar temple at Kundrathur, twice.
"I was only interested in film music, when I was young. I never had any inclination to learn Thevaram. I was just twelve when I joined Dharmapura Adeenam. In the Mutt, I used to listen to film music over the radio, particularly M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavatar's 'Gnanak-kan Irunthum' and I was fascinated by its sheer beauty and used to sing it often. There were also records of Thirupugazh by Tirupugazhmani T.M. Krishnaswami Iyer, songs of D.K. Pattammal and Musiri Subramania Iyer's 'Viritha Chenchadai' which were played on the gramophone. Arulnandhi Thaambiran would advise me every time I saw him, to learn Thevaram, and I would retort, "Ponga Sami, Naan Thevaram Padikka Matten!' However, the impact of the song 'Gnanak-Kan' was so strong that even the Thambiran used to ask me to sing it," Dharmapuram P. Swaminathan recalls in his biography.
The turning point, however, came on July 2, 1942. After worshipping at the Pillaiyar temple, when the young Swaminathan returned to the Mutt, the junior Adeenam Arulnandi Thambiran made another appeal to him to learn Thevaram. "I do not know what happened to me at that moment. I told him without any hesitation, 'I'll join the Thevaram class, Ayya.' He was delighted and informed Sivaguru Thambiran and rushed to announce it to the 24th Maha Sannidhanam, Shanmuga Desika Paramacharya about the happy news," recalls Swaminathan in the book. His guru Velayutha Odhuvar taught him the hymns of Thevaram so well that the disciple got a prize for singing it, very soon.
While serving the Mahasannidhanam, Swaminathan continued his Thevaram classes. When he had mastered only ten verses, he was sent to Kasi Math at Tiruppananthaal. There, Swaminatha Thambiran was impressed with the young boy's talent. When Swaminathan joined the music college at Annamalai University, it was Palaniappa Mudaliar in whose Thevara Patasalai he learnt Thevaram, who came forward to feed him for four years.
"Dharmapuram Swaminathan conducted a three-day festival every year on Purattasi Makham, the birthday of his Guru. He sang Thevaram hymns and lectured on all the three days. The entire collection proceeds were donated to his Guru till he was alive and after that to his Guru-pathni" said an ardent admirer C.M. Ambalavanan. "He would never come late for any event. He never accepted any royalty for his audio recordings. Although he had started to sing Thevaram very early, the opportunity to get them into audio cassettes came only when he was past sixty. Yet, his voice had not lost the vibrancy!" added Ambalavanan.
"It would take eight years to complete Panniru Thirumurai lectures if conducted once a month, on a Sunday. Dharmapuram Swaminathan did it thrice. Once at the Hindu Theological School on behalf of Chennai Sivanadiar Thirukottam, the second event at Sengunthar Kottam Sivasubramania Swamy Temple at Saidapet and for the third time at Karaneeswarar temple at Mylapore. It was a marathon effort!" exclaims Ambalavanan.
Dharmapuram Swaminathan conducted the kumbabishekam of the Sekkizhar temple at Kundrathur, twice. After conducting the first, he found that there was excess money. He created a trust and utilised the funds for the next kumbabishekam.
A 'Sangeetha Bhushanam' of Annamalai University, Dharmapuram Swaminathan received 27 titles and honours including Tamil Nadu Government's 'Kalaimamani' and 'Isai Perarignar' of Tamizh Isai Sangam. Sangeet Nataka Academy had honoured him at a function in Mumbai. TTK Memorial Award of the Music Academy was given to him in 2002. In the following year, the Kanchi Math honoured him for his service in spreading Thevaram.
On October 15, Purattasi Makham, his Guru's birthday, Dharmapuram Swaminathan passed away. On October 8, his guru 'Thirumurai Kalanidhi' Velayutha Odhuvamurthy's centenary was celebrated at Raja Annamalai Manram by the Tirumurai Vazhipaatu Anbargal Thirukottam, when 'Sekkizhar Adippodi' T.N. Ramachandran's Trust honoured three senior Odhuvars - Saidai Natarajan, Injikudi Chokkalingam and Pugalur Sambandam with cash awards.
Mu. Annajothi's biography of Dharmapuram Swaminathan contains not only the story of the genial Odhuvar, but also discusses the scene from the 'Sangam' age to the current Isai Thamizh period.
Interesting anecdotes, moving accounts and events in the life of the protagonist emerge from the personal interview the author had with him and his wife. (Thamizhisai Thevaramum Dharmapuram Swaminathanum by Mu. Annajothi - Soodamani Prasuram 28/5 Govindan Road, Chennai 600 033 - Rs.200).
It is a pity that there are no exclusive Thevaram Schools now in Tamil Nadu. Although the present Government is a champion of Thamizh, it did not perhaps occur to the authorities concerned that Panniru Thirumurai is all pure Thamizh.
This genre of poetic literature has, however, survived for several centuries, thanks to the parampara of many Odhuvars of our temples.