(1912 - 2004)

An Obituary by Dr. V. V. Srivatsa

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Mahadeva Bhagavatar was a soft colossus in the realm of Carnatic Music, a devoted disciple of the Dikshita Parampara and a forgotten factor. He came under the tutelage of the legendary Sangita Kalanidhi Vedanta Bhagavatar at the tender age of nine and served him for over two decades. He accompanied Vedanta Bhagavatar and Ramalinga Bhagavatar in their Harikathas and Kutcheris for many years. His grip on laya was fabulous - only one finger beat even in the rendition of an 8-kalai pallavi. Perhaps, he was the only musician to have rendered pallavis in Lakshmeesha, Ragavardhana and Simhanandana Talas. Yet, he lived in unsung glory and led the life of a recluse.

Mahadeva Bhagavatar was one of the triumvirate (along with Anantakrishna Iyer and Sundaram Iyer) who transcribed several rare compositions of Dikshitar, from the cadjan-leaf treasure belonging to Ambi Dikshitar in 1935. This perhaps was the salient contribution of Mahadeva Bhagavatar to posterity. His faith in Dikshitar was immense and absolute, bordering on the impossible. One of Bhagavatar's outlandish views was that there should be at least one composition of Dikshitar for each naama of the Lalita Sahasranaama. Another pet theory was that Dikshitar's Adhisthana at Ettayapuram is the place where Dikshitar's mortal remains are buried.

Mahadeva Bhagavatar was a staunch Shri-Vidya upasaka and took formal Deeksha. He was a close associate of Swami Vimarshananda.

He gave up performing in public in 1954 and restricted himself to teaching Dikshitar's compositions. Those who learnt under him include Sangita Kalanidhis R. Vedavali & Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman, Dr. N. Ramanathan, Suguna Purushottaman, Ranganayaki Parthasarathy and myself.

The Madras Music Academy did recognize his contributions during the Dikshitar Bi-Centenary celebrations in 1975. A few years back the Academy conferred the "Sangeeta Kala Acharya" title on the Bhagavatar.

This nonagenarian was one of the votive forces behind the Guruguhanjali movement and also received the Guruguhanjali award. He was like an April rose, that blooms only in the early spring. His loss is irreparable and his demise heralds the closure of a one-man institution.


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