Chennai

He faced the music for playing the nagaswaram

Nadaswaram VidwanS. Lakshminarasimhan Iyer.M.GOVARTHAN ;M.GOVARTHAN - M_GOVARTHAN  

: In 1962, S. Lakshminarasimhan Iyer, a Carnatic musican, was forced to leave Keevalur (a corruption of Keezhvelur) near Nagapattinam, for Palani. His crime was that he learnt nagaswaram and started performing at concerts.

“How can a Brahmin play an instrument with its reed tipped in human saliva,” was the contention of the local Brahmins. His teacher and noted nagaswaram player Keevalur Ganesan came under fire from his own community – the Isai Vellalars – for teaching a Brahmin to play the nagaswaram.”

“As we were left with little option, my guru (Ganesan) suggested that I should go to Palani, where he had a friend and nagaswaram player Muniyandi Mudaliar, who would make arrangements for my stay. That is how Palani became a part of my name,” said 82-year-old Lakshminarasimhan, who is now living in Gobichettipalayam with his daughter, and still teaches music.

Born into a family of musicians in Melattur, known for Bhagvathamela festival, Mr. Lakshminarasimhan learnt flute from his uncle Needamangalam Krishmamurthy Bhagavathar. But his family lived in Keevalur, and originally, Mr. Ganesan, the nagaswaram player, used to learn keerthanas from him.

“One day, he gave me money as guru dakshina . He was three years junior to me. I refused to accept the money and instead requested him to teach me the nagaswaram as guru dakshina . He hesitated and the local thavil player Govindarajan teased me saying that those who eat raw rice and lentils could not learn the instrument. But his comment made me determined to learn to play the nagaswaram,” recalled Mr. Lakshminarasimhan.

He succeeded in persuading Mr. Ganesan to teach him the instrument and he learnt from him for six years between 1954 and 1960. “I would get up at four in the morning and practise till seven. Then, I will go to the Akshalaylingaswamy temple and play during pooja times instead of Mr. Ganesan, who was the temple musician,” reminisced Mr. Lakshminarasimhan, who has cut a disc of his rendering of Aadikondai (Mayamalavagowla), Kandatantri napai (Devamanohari) and Dhanasree raga tillana. He did another recording in Malayasia.

He narrated one incident that led him to learn Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s Akshayalinga vibho keertana set to Sankarabharanam. “The keerthana should be played every day during sayraksha (evening pooja) in the temple. I knew only the first two lines and the temple official made it clear that I would not get my share of puttu and vada if I do not play the full song,” laughed Mr. Lakshminarasimhan.

He belonged to a period when the nagaswaram world was dominated by Karukurichi Arunachalam, Vedaranayam Vedamurthy, Sheik Chinna Moulana, Namagiripettai Krishnan and many others. Mr. Lakshminarasimhan could secure a place in this pantheon of great musicians by effortlessly playing the instrument.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 12:55:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/He-faced-the-music-for-playing-the-nagaswaram/article16670369.ece

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