Song of Surrender

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Swaminatha Pillai

12.9.1898-9.2.1961
Birthdays & Anniversaries

Mayiladuturai (or Mayuram) in Tanjavur district, washed by the holy waters of the Kaveri river, is a rich granary of rice and also the arts of dance and music.

In its fold of musicians, particularly the nagaswaram performers, lived the pious Sesha Pillai, a hymnodist who sang Tevaram in temples. His son Kulandaivelu Pillai was a vainika.

In 1840, Kulandaivelu and his wife Velmuthamba were blessed with a son
whom they named Swaminathan and trained him both as a vocalist and as a vainika.

Swaminathan became a brilliant vocalist under the guidance of the nagaswaram maestro, Kurainadu (Koranad) Ramaswami Pillai. But the nagaswaram prowess of Tirumangalakudi Muthuveeruswami Pillai inspired him to switch over to the pipe. He felt that the nagaswaram was a more potent vehicle for the exposition of Carnatic music.

Sometime later Swaminathan made Tirupamburam his headquarters so as to be within reach of his patrons in Kapistalam. Sivagiri, Kannivadi, and so on. Subsequently, Melagaram Subramania Desikar, the head of the Tiruvaduthurai Mutt, gifted Swaminathan a house and settled him in Tiruveezhimizhalai, so that he would be readily available for service in the temples and other religious establishments nearby. This was a real blessing for it vouched for Swaminathan the guidance of musical savants like maha vidwan Tiruchi Meenakshisundaram Piilai, Flute Saraba Sastri and Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar. The mutual regard between Sastri and Swaminathan was unique. Sastri was also a Harikatha performer and he took pride in getting the nagaswaram maestro to polish the music composed by him for his own Harikatha.


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