Walajahpet Venkataramana Bhagavatar - Part II

Sangita Kala Acharya T. S. Parthasarathy

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Kritis in Rare Ragas

Although the bulk of the kritis of the Bhagavatar are in common rakti ragas of Karnatic music, some of them are in a rare ragas like Namanarayani, Jyotisvarupini, Svarnangi, Natanavelavali, Vijayanagari and Nadavinodhini. Each kriti has three or more charanas and he generally follows Tyagaraja’s pattern of word building replete with assonance and prosodical beauties.The Bhagavatar thus emerges as one of the noteworthy composers of the post-Tyagaraja era in Karnatic Music.

His son, Krishnaswami Bhagavatar (b.1824) practiced the violin and became the disciple of Tyagaraja during the closing years of the latter's life. He was 23 when Tyagaraja shed his mortal coil at Tiruvaiyaru in 1847 and was present when the saint accepted the Sannyasa asrama before attaining sammadhi. He has graphically described this incident in his full-length biography of Tyagaraja already referred to.

European Notation for Oriental Music

Krishnaswami Bhagavatar also composed some kritis and svara–jatis. But his greatest contribution to Karnatic music was the assistance he gave to A. M. Chinnaswami Mudalliar when the latter undertook the publication of his ‘Oriental music in European Notation’ in 1893. Mudaliar had to lean heavily on the Bhagavatar for getting at the correct versions of the kritis of Tyagaraja and goes into ecstasy when acknowledging his indebtedness to the latter. He writes thus: ’For the purpose of annotating Tyagaraja’s works, which are by far the most scientific ,charming ,voluminous and variegated in all Dravidian music, the services of Krishnaswami Bhagavatar of Walajapet, one of the most intelligent and trusted among the last pupils of the great master, have fortunately been secured and have proved to be of the greatest value and utility. The great loyalty and devotion with which he preserved, in its integrity, every one of the productions of his guru, the admirable precision and scientific accuracy with which he repeats every sangati in the same way as he first sang it, etc. Krishnaswami Bhagavatar is stated to have supplied Mudaliar with hundreds of kritis of Tyagaraja with notation.

Kavi Venkata Suri was an interesting disciple of Venkataramana Bhagavatar. A Saurashtra Brahmin by birth, he was a scholar and a poet. He studied philosophy under Sri Dhupatirtharya of Ayyampetai and music under the Bhagavatar. He composed a Sanskrit kavya called the “Nauka Charitam” on the model of Tyagaraja’s Telugu opera of the same name.

Distinguished Disciples

Mysore Sadasiva Rao, the famous composer, was another disciple of Venkataramana Bhagavatar and had the good fortune of being present at Walajapet when Tyagaraja visited the place. He composd the kriti “Tyagaraja Swami Vedalina “in Todi in commemoration of the saint’s visit to Walajapet.

Another distinguished disciple of the Walajapet Sishya Parampara was Tiruvottiyur S.A.Ramaswami Iyer, who was the principal pupil of Krishnaami Bhagavatar . He was the first scholar to publish ‘Tyagaraja Kirtanalu’ under the nom-de-plume of Ramananda Yogi.

Need to keep Tradition

K. K. Ramaswami Bhagavatar was the third son of Krishnaswami Bhagavatar and the last repository of the Walajapet tradition. In 1935, he published  the Tamil work “Sri Tyagabrahmopanishat” also called ‘Sangita rahasya siddanta suryodayam’ in which he has furnished brief biographies of Tyagaraja and his own forebears and a few  rare kritis in notation. He had promised a larger volume but made his submission to all-consuming time before he could accomplish the task.

Venkataramana Bhagavatar, his descendants and disciples have thus rendered inestimable service to the preservation and propagation of Tyagaraja lore for nearly a century and half. The Saurashtras of South India have every reason to be proud of these illustrious scions if their community.



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