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Creativity at its best

TIRANA-DHIM dhim Tirana — Patnam Subramanya Iyer (1845-1902) sang his composition-a Tillana in the raga Jenjhuti at the Mysore samasthanam. The song's lilting melody elated Chamraja Wodeyar. In a spontaneous gesture of appreciation, he gifted a pair of bracelets to the composer and vidwan. That was not all. The stalwart violinist Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer, when he heard the piece was mesmerised by it. From then on, this Tillana was invariably included in his solo recitals. Subramanya Iyer was not new to honours and awards. They came in search of him. The Mysore Durbar honoured him with the appellate, Begada Subramanya Iyer. Certainly, it was no mean achievement to have explored the raga Begada for three days! Lest it be construed that he was adept at handling only the familiar ragas, he displayed his virtuosity in the art, by singing the raga Kannadagowla followed by a Pallavi at the same Durbar, but on another occasion. This time too, the Maharajah adorned the artist's hands with a pair of Todas (golden bracelets) — a befitting response from one king to another! Subramanya Iyer was only continuing the music tradition of his family. His father Bharatam Vaidyanatha Iyer was adept at both Sangita Sastra. His grandfather Panchanada Sastri was the asthana vidwan in the court of Serfoji Maharaja of Thanjavur. It was with this gifted ancestry that Subramanya Iyer was born in the musically rich soil of Tiruvaiyaru in 1845. To his treasury of music was added an impeccable musical wealth. The contributor was Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbier, scion and disciple of Tyagaraja. Melattur Ganapati Sastri, laid the foundation for his nephew Subramanyam's music education. Manambuchavadi Venkasubbier proceeded to build a magnificent edifice on it. The young student's wealth boasted of a sizeable number of Tyagarja's masterpieces in their original format. Subramanya studied the bard's composition in great detail. He was adept at both the theory and practice of music. Unfortunately, he had a recalcitrant voice. In the wee hours of the morning and neck deep in water, Subramanya practised for long hours. The voice, now supple danced to his tune, literally. The public and royalty paid tributes to this great vidwan.

Once, he was invited to Chennaipatnam to teach two girls — Pappa and Radha — daughters of his admirer, Salem Minakshi. He stayed there for approximately ten years. The name of the city got attached to his name. Patnam Subramanya Iyer had one more facet to his personality. Like his teacher and his teacher's teacher, he composed. Approximately numbering hundred, his compositions include varnas, krits, tillanas and javalis in a wide variety of ragas, talas, in Telugu and Sanskrit. Popular ragas apart, the `not so much in vogue' ragas like Sindumandari, Phalamanjari, Bhairavam attained a sheen in his hands. But there was one raga, which actually came alive in his hands and that was Kathanakutuhalam with its ever-popular song, "Raghuvamsudha." The intriguing tala structure of Carnatic Music fascinated and challenged him. His compositions were embedded in the fine framework of Adi, Rupakam, Chapu, Jhampa and many more talas.

As a performer, on one occasion, he rendered a pallavi in the massive and complex Simhanandana tala. He adopted his guru's mudra Venkatesa or variations of the same and his grand guru's (Tyagaraja's) style of composing. Experts say that but for the mudra Venkatesa many of his compositions could be mistaken for those of Tyagaraja's. However, Patnam Subramanya Iyer was the personification of humility. A fine and patient teacher, it was said of him that he could convert a mere stone into a diamond. True to this reputation, several of his students sparkled. Mysore Vasudevacharya, Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar, M. S. Ramaswami, the Enadi sisters — the list is long and impressive. In the words of Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, Patnam Subramanya led a suki life. On July 31, 1902, Chinna Tyagaraja as Patnam Subramanya Iyer was fondly referred to died in his 58th year leaving his music with his worthy disciples.

LAKSHMI DEVNATH

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