Gaanapriya Foundation, Chennai, organised a series of lec-dems on the kritis of Patnam Subramania Iyer. A look at the first ...

It is not without reason that Patnam Subramania Iyer (Patnam) is referred to as Chinna Thyagaraju. Patnam, a disciple of Manambuchavadi Venkata Subba Iyer (who was under the direct tutelage of Tyagaraja), had in him the quality of a composer that Tyagaraja had mentioned in his kriti – ‘Sogasuga Mridanga Thalamu’ (Sriranjani).

‘Nigamasirothamu Kalgina’ means that kritis should dwell on lofty ideas like those contained in the Upanishads. Tirumala Brothers, P. B. Srirangachari and Embar Kasturi focused on this trait of Patnam’s kritis.

The songs are replete with musical imagery, the brothers added. Their presentation was well-planned, and began, as concerts do, with Patnam’s Varnam – ‘Evvari Bodhanavini’ (Abhogi). The varnam itself adopts the Nayaka-Nayaki Bhava, though the Nayaka imagined is Lord Venkateswara himself. Varnams, the brothers reiterated, may appear to be “small” in their sahithya-length, yet have Bhava embedded in their lyrics.

Hamasadhwani is often reserved for invoking the blessings of Vinayaka and occupies the earliest slot in concerts. Patnam treats this raga differently to display Kaarunya Rasam through the kriti, ‘Manasu Karugathemi.’ All of Tyagaraja’s kritis – ‘Manasunilupa,’ ‘Manasu Swadheena,’ and ‘Manasa Manasamarthyamemi’ -- that relate to the mind were mentioned here relevantly to show to what extent the Sadguru must have inspired Patnam.

The Saveri kriti, ‘Etunamminavo Manasa’ is again interrogative, wondering how the mind had innocently believed in the permanence (sthiramani) of the body (sareeram). The song continues to explain the circumstances that must have led to this belief and describes the body as something more despicable than the poor clay-pot (‘Matti Kundakante’).

A couple of words referred to in the song, ‘Garudagamana Samayamidhe,’ epitomises the avatars of Rama and Krishna. It is quite possible that Patnam had formed the basis for this song after witnessing Garuda Sevai.

The song was further analysed in terms of the gait and flying pattern adopted by the eagle (Garudan) -- two flaps and then the graceful take off -- which is adhered to even to this day at the Garuda Sevai festival held at Kanchi.

This session by the Tirumala Brothers was the first part of a series of lec-dems on Patnam’s kritis, organised by Gaanapriya Foundation and was held at Srinivasa Sastri Hall, Chennai. A. G. Venkatasubramaniam was on the violin and Varadhan accompanied on the mridangam.

For more information on the series visit


Distinctive contributorFebruary 12, 2011