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Genius of Vaidyanatha Iyer


S. A. K. Durga expanded on the greatness of Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer while T. R. Subramaniam spoke on the importance of sahitya.

SIGNIFICANCE OF LYRIC: T. R. Subramaniam. Photo: K. V. Srinivasan.

The lec-dem on `Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer's 72 Mela Raga Malika' by S. A. K. Durga for the Indian Fine Arts dealt with the life and mission of the composer and musician Vaidyanatha Iyer in the first half. It was followed by the rendering of some of his choice kritis from the mela raga mala.

Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer, of the post-Tyagaraja period, was born in a village near Thanjavur, and belonged to the sishya parampara of Tyagaraja. His voice was said to be rich in harmonics with a wide range of three-and-a-half-octaves, said Durga.

History has never had anybody receive the title `Maha.' And Vaidyanatha Iyer, as a 12-year-old, received it from Subramanya Desikar, the head of the Pandara Sannidhi Math in Tirunelveli district.

When he was seven, Iyer is said to have acquired the ability to render raga and pallavi, and at 10 performing on stage! His performances for royal dignitaries at Mysore, Travancore, Cochin and Raja of Ramnad were well known.

Among the genius's accomplishments was a pallavi in Simhanandana tala. Being the longest of the 108 talas, it is said that the intricate time measure could be followed only by vidwans, says Prof. Sambamurthy in one of his books, said Durga. Iyer's tillana in Simhanandana tala is the only one of its kind with the first part containing sahitya in Sanskrit and the second, an avarta of jatis.

Iyer's Janaranjani kriti `Pahimam Sri Rajarajeshwari' in Sanskrit is known for its colourful sahitya, said Durga. And his `72 - Melaragamalika' is the longest single composition with lakshana and lakshya value which Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer is said to have completed in one week's time. Rajashri Ramakrishna, Abhishek, Latha Natarajan, Sharanya, Gayathri, Aparna and Akshaya rendered some of the pieces.

Lifeline of music

Prof. T. R. Subramaniam in his lec-dem, `Sangeeta and Sahitya,' observed, ``Sahitya (or lyrics) is one of the lifelines of music. The form of sahitya that takes shape is as important as the effect it produces on one's ear, the professor reiterated. Here the language becomes important. In the works of well-known vaggeyakaras, it is evident that their thought-flow took shape in crisp language that was embedded into a scale to suit the raga pattern. So, it wasn't just the words, it was the collective meaning conveyed along with the notes that created the required feeling, said Prof. Subramaniam.

The language dear to one's heart would certainly get the best flow in terms of thought, he said. Consider this: Patnam Subramanya Iyer, a Tamil, wrote in Telugu and Sanskrit. Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar composed only in Telugu.

Vasudevachar, a Kannadiga, used only Telugu and Sanskrit. And Krishnadevaraya, the erstwhile emperor of South India, a poet himself, chose to write a kavyam in Telugu on the Tamil poetess Andal, while he was a Tulu speaking person!

So, it's important that one enjoys the language he is dealing with, said Prof. Subramaniam. And are we treating the sacred thoughts penned by the composers with respect? `Yes and no' said the professor.

There are musicians who go a step further to understand the thought present in the sequence and learn to pronounce it the right way. The new-generation singers, especially, are educated and well-informed and they know the importance of sahitya. The professor recalled that yesteryear vidwans lacked the facilities to research.

"Varnams were not to be considered for sahitya, it was done more to get acquainted with the raga scales. It was only in a kriti that the sahitya's beauty is well understood, he said. If light music is more popular today, it is because of the comprehensibility of the friendly lyrics," Prof. Subramaniam said.

It is in a viruttam, padyam or an ugabhoga that every syllable of the sahitya adds to the richness of the thought expressed, he said.

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