Special Features




An article by Mohan Parasaran, a leading advocate in Chennai.

Lawyers and people associated with the legal world have for long been involved in the cultural, social, political and historical evolution of our nation. The multi-faceted personalities of these individuals have enriched many spheres of our life. Lawyers played a prominent role in the freedom struggle and made substantial contributions to the evolution of the Indian democracy.

The contribution of people connected with the legal profession, especially to the advancement of Indian art and culture is very impressive. The legal fraternity has been involved in Carnatic music for a long time, playing a multitude of roles. While there have been several musicians, musicologists and critics on one hand, there have also been several patrons and office-bearers of various organisations on the other. The intent of this article is only to broadly outline the role of various legal personalities in fostering Carnatic music, more particularly during the last century.

  • V C Seshachariar: Before the advent of Sabhas, including the Music Academy, concerts used to be held in temples or in the residences of Maharajas or other art patrons. V C Seshachariar, founder of the Law Weekly and an active legal practitioner, was a great connoisseur and patron of music. It can be said without contradiction that Seshachariar was the precursor for the advent of Sabhas including the Music Academy. A resident of North Mada Street, Mylapore, Chennai, he owned 4 houses in a row and used to host all the musicians of his times. The concerts would take place in a large, aesthetically built room in his house. He is credited with launching many a top-notch musician of the 20th century. It is said that there was no front-ranking musician who had not performed in his house.
  • T V Subba Rao: Another practising Advocate, who was an authority on Carnatic music, particularly the compositions of Tyagaraja. He was in fact the first person from the legal world to be honoured with the coveted title of 'Sangeeta Kalanidhi’ by the Music Academy.
  • Justice T L Venkatarama Iyer: He hailed from Tirunelveli and achieved the highest distinction that most lawyers aspire for, by becoming a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was closely related to Harikesanallur Muthaiah Bhagavatar and was a disciple of Muthuswami Dikshitar's grand-nephew, Ambi Dikshitar. He was a member of the Experts Committee of Music Academy and was an authority on the compositions of Dikshitar. He also authored the biography of Dikshitar entitled ‘The Life of Muthuswami Dikshitar’. He had trained several eminent musicians like Vidya Sankar, D K Pattammal, Kalpagam Swaminathan, S Srinivasa Rao and Kannama Sharma.
  • Koteeswara Iyer: A great composer, Koteeswara Iyer was employed as a Bench Clerk and was a permanent part of the Second court in the Madras High Court. He was a disciple of Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar and Patnam Subramania Iyer and the grandson of yet anther great composer of the 19th century, Kavi Kunjara Bharati. Koteeswara Iyer was responsible for composing songs in each of the 72 melakartas besides other masterpieces, which are very popular today. Koteeswara Iyer was born in 1870 and lived till 1936.
  • T M Krishnaswamy Iyer: Another great lawyer, T M Krishnaswamy Iyer, popularly known as Tiruppugazh Mani was a great expert in rendering Tiruppugazhs. He used to be accompanied by another advocate K R Venkatarama Sharma during such recitals. He was famous for his Tiruppugazh renditions during Padi Utsavams in the Tiruttani temple. K R Venkatarama Sharma played the leading role as Tyagaraja in the popular Tamil movie of the same name. He was an ardent disciple of T M Krishnaswamy Iyer.
  • Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar: A name that immediately comes to the mind when one considers people from the legal fraternity closely involved with drama and music. Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar composed music for various plays and was famed for choosing the right Ragas for the right occasion and the mood. He was a legal practitioner in Georgetown and later became judge of the Small Causes Court.
  • P N Appusamy: Also known as ‘Pena’ (pen), he used to write about music in Tamil. He was a great research scholar associated with T P Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, Chidambaranatha Mudaliar, who was an authority on the Tamil poet Kamban and the late Kalki Krishnamurthy. They used to meet regularly at his house in Chitrakulam in Mylapore and discuss the different aspects of ‘Panns’ (Ragas) in Tamil music, particularly in Silappadikaram.
  • Rangaramanuja Iyengar: A great exponent of the Vina, he was also a legal practitioner. He was greatly enamoured with the music, values and style of Vina Dhanammal and has published several books like, The History of South Indian Music. He was also responsible for bringing out the largest collection of songs with notations, in a series of several volumes known as Kritimanimalai.
  • Radhakrishna Naidu: An assistant in the Original Side office of the High Court, he was also an accomplished harmonium player. He used to be accompanied by another office assistant, K Natarajan, on the Tabla.
  • S Doraiswamy Iyer: Among the lawyers of yesteryears, Doraiswamy Iyer was a good exponent of the Vina who encouraged several Carnatic musicians and in particular, helped Vina Dhanammal in her last days.
  • V V Srinivasa Iyengar: He was a doyen of the Madras Bar and appeared in many important cases. He authored a book called ‘Dramatic Divertissements’ in 3 volumes and was the founder of the Suguna Vilasa Sabha.
  • P S Sarangapani Iyengar: A junior of V V Srinivasa Iyengar, he was an authority on Natya Sastra and Carnatic music and was responsible for bringing Pandanallur Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, the key figure in establishing the dance school at the Museum Theatre, to Madras.

Between 1930 and 1940, several dancers including Kausalya, Pandanallur Jayalakshmi, Kalyana Sundaravalli, Lalita Sivaram were taught Bharatanatyam at this school and they later left an indelible mark in the field. In fact, in those days, during the December season Natya Kala conferences used to be conducted at the Museum Theatre, Egmore, while Carnatic music concerts would simultaneously be held in the Music Academy.

  • V C Gopal Ratnam: He was an authority on the Nandanar Charitra Kritis of Gopalakrishna Bharati and used to give marathon mono-acting (as Vediar) and singing performances at the Cosmopolitan Club. His partner, as Nandanar, was Dr. A Srinivasa Raghavan, a Triplicane resident and close associate of the eminent musicologist T S Parthasarathy. Incidentally, Revati Krishna, a well-known Vina artiste of the present, is the granddaughter of Dr. Srinivasa Raghavan.
  • V Seshadri: A lawyer by profession, who was also the son-in-law of K Rajah Iyer, the former Advocate General of Madras. He was a playwright and a dramatist well acquainted with Tamil drama and Carnatic music. He was responsible for staging several plays in the Egmore Dramatic Society and was also a keen music critic.
  • E R Krishna Iyer: He was a great authority on music and Bharatanatyam and was a regular contributor of articles and reviews in ‘The Hindu’ and 'Swadesamitran' in those days.   
  • Prof. P Sambamoorthy: When one talks about legal personalities, one cannot fail to remember Prof. Sambamoorthy, who, after having acquired his legal qualification, decided to switch over to the field of Carnatic music and went on to become a Professor. He also qualified himself in Western music with a diploma from Germany. He has authored numerous books in both Tamil and English that include History of South Indian Music, Dictionary of South Indian Music and Musicians, Great composers, Great Musicians etc. Most of these books are used in the syllabi of almost all Universities and schools teaching Carnatic music. He was also a great teacher and taught eminent personalities like S R Janakiraman and D K Pattammal. He was responsible for establishing the Development Centre for Musical Instruments, Sangeeta Vadyalaya, an institution that has been concentrating on instrumental research and innovative designs.
  • Justice M Anantanarayanan, ICS: A retired Chief Justice of Madras High Court, he was another accomplished Vainika and was deeply involved in activities related to music and art in Chennai.

Several distinguished legal personalities were closely associated with the Music Academy, prominent among them being K V Krishnasamy Iyer, who was the founder-Secretary of the Music Academy and various other Sabhas in Mylapore. In fact, two members of the legal fraternity, A Seshadri and T R Srinivasa Iyengar, founded the oldest Sabha in Madras, namely, Sri Parthasarathy Swamy Sabha. Members of T Rangachari's family founded another old Sabha, the Egmore Sangeetha Sabha. Both the above Sabhas were precursors to the Music Academy.


To be concluded

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