Music

Musical lineage lives on

Sreekantham Nagendra Sastry. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

Sreekantham Nagendra Sastry. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

To the old-timers of Mysore, music and musicians were household names and are cherished memories today . One such legacy is the Chintalapalli parampara, a musical heritage that traces its lineage to nearly 800 years. Today, a grandson is not only carrying on the mantle but has single-handedly developed and established a trust in the name of his illustrious maternal ancestry under whose umbrella thrive nearly 40 music institutions in and around Karnataka , where the academics of music are taught and conducted on the scales of a university. One has to meet Sreekantham Nagendra Sastry to perceive the commitment and missionary zeal.

Music is his birthright while teaching Kannada literature at Maharani College is his profession. A purist in Carnatic vocal music, he has authored many a book on music and musicians of Karnataka even as he trains pupils in its chaste form. With a hectic schedule, he manages to keep the fire of Chintalapalli heritage burning. “My ancestral home in Chintalapalli is on the Andhra-Karnataka border, around 7 km from Hindupur. In the post-Independence reorganisation of States, it came under Rayalaseema. Ironically, my great grandfather Chintalapalli Venkat Rao was awarded a fellowship by the Andhra Sangeet Natak Academy after the State formation as a matter of honour to Andhra Pradesh since he was recognised as a Telugu musician of excellence; this was followed by Mysore felicitating him as their heir since he was ‘asthana vidwan’ of the then Mysore royalty.”

Musical bloodline

The 800-year-old lineage is evident, as Nagendra has possessions that proclaim the veracity of the musical bloodline like the written proclamation (shashana) of Hoyasala King Veera Bhalla’s grant of land and later under the Bahamani sultans, another grant of 13 villages and a conferred title to the Chintalapalli maestro.

“My ancestors were vaggeyakaras (music composers) who moved to Vidyanagara and served in the ‘Lokapavana Vishwavidyalaya’ under the Vijayanagara kings. This apart, my great grandfather belongs to the Thyagaraja parampara having been the sishya of Pallavi Seshaiah who was himself pupil of Nemani Subbayya, Thyagaraja’s direct disciple. Later, the family migrated to various samsthanas like Gadwal and Wanaparthy in lieu of patronage. Finally, they settled down as asthana vidwans of Mysore court — that is my grandfather Chintalapalli Ramachandra Rao and great grandfather too,” he narrates the family history in a nutshell.

Since Bangalore was home to the Chintalapalli musicians, the ancestral fort-like home at the village was a sort of holiday sojourn. The Chintalapalli Parampara Trust that was formed now houses a library of ancient books on music and musicology, memoirs, pictures, research facilities in music and runs a school with a regular teacher, supervised by Nagendra himself. A couple housed in the Gurukul take care of those students who wish to stay back. Everything from first aid kits to general medicines to accompanying instruments like tanpura, mridangam, harmonium are all in place there.

Apart from regular examination, special classes in practical and theory are conducted annually by the trust. Nagendra has a vision to develop the ongoing trust institution into a university. “I have the infrastructure ready and the project proposal has been submitted to the Centre. Already the curriculum on which we are running our 40 institutions is geared to the semester system with our syllabi and exams. Recently we opened a centre at Chikmagalur. We have centres run by my students abroad also. We were affiliated to Lokapavana University. The music courses offered by our Vyshveeka Vidyalayam run by our trust are: Sangeeta Paramapara Pallava (initial course); Parampara Kusuma; Paramapara Saurabha; Parampara Shri and the highest Parampara Nidhi which has a regular and honorary conferring of degree,” he informs.

Place of learning

The convocation replicates the Vijayanagara style where the ancestors’ ‘baton’ (a silver danda with lion head at the top) arrives ceremoniously followed by Guru paadukas; a hamsa-headed brass lamp which symbolises the end of music (spiritual upliftment). A ritualistic Guru puja invoking the ancestors is conducted which marks the ‘Gatikotsavam’. A pledge is undertaken by the recipients of the certificates and awards.

“The examination pattern is modelled on the current trend only as far as hall-tickets issuance goes; the rest is done through drawing lots where the head of one institute invariably ends up at another exam centre thereby arresting malpractices to a large extent,” the teacher in him takes over as he explains. His services to the music community are well-known yet he prefers to maintain a low profile, allowing his work to speak for him.


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Printable version | May 18, 2022 1:50:47 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/musical-lineage-lives-on/article5530342.ece