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Karnatic musicians & AzhwAr's poetry

From: V. Sadagopan (
Date: Sun Nov 17 1996 - 06:31:27 PST

Dear Sri TatAchAr : Thanks for your kind note .
I am a dabbler in hearing/appreciating Karnatic music. 
I am a Gaana Praathamic and wish I were a VisAradhA
 in truly appreciating or practicing Karnatic music
( the DakshiN Bharat Hindi PrachAr terminology) .
At one time , our family friend Sangeetha Kalanidhi
Sri KVN asked me to stay with him for six months so
that he can instruct me on the finer aspects of Carnatic music.
Although I was flattered by his kindness , I knew my 
limits and begged off.

I have however  some observations on Your comments 
for further discussions on the  of the lack ofDivya Prabhandhams 
being tuned and sung by our musicians, past and present.

>From Nada Muni's time when the Paasurams were set to
music and TaaLam , a dwindling population of Arayars have
carried on the tradition at selected divya Desams . It  appears
that the tradition of leaving out sacred music from the scene
of kaccheri music for display of artistry (Voice control, raga lakshaNa
Jnaanam, Laya Knowledge, Manodharmam ) has kept the 
two traditions apart. Except for the succssful efforts of Ariyakudi
in tuning Thiruppaavai and Bombay sisters( songs on KrishNa) ,
Srimathi MaNi KrishNaswAmy ( AzhwAr Paadalgal including AmalanAdhi pirAn, 
PaLLIezucchi, NeerAttam in a casette  ) , Dr. M.S. Subbalakshmi's
soul-stirrig rendering of Vandinamuralum solai in Thodi ,Dr. Salem Jayalakshmi's

LP , there has  been a consistent tradition to relegate Divya 
Prabhandham to viruttam section of the concerts. A case in point is the 
recent inclusion of the famous AhalahillEn paasuram of NammazhwAr 
on ThiruvenkatamudAyAn by Sri TVS in his current US Concerts.

My sister( Smt Padma Veeraraghavan ) has
 tuned many of theAzhwAr Paasurams and 
Swami Desika's Prabhandhams , Pillai Lokaacharya's
works .She has specialized in tuning and teaching  
NaacchiyAr Thirumozhi. Usually these  have  been taught to " Iyengar 
Ammamis " , who in this case have gone recently   around the towns of 
Tamil Naadu and Tamil communities in Andhra Pradesh, New Delhi
to raise significant sums for Oppiliappan RatnAngi Kaimkaryam,
Sri Villiputthur AandAL's Mutthu Kondai Kaimkaryam
and other Kaimkaryams. Thus , the sacred nature of the 
AruLiccheyals have not lent themselves to music that 
is generally considered relevant for the public platform.
The regimes of E.V.Ramaswamy Naaicker  and their "sacred" 
successors in DMK and ADMK  did not help much either except 
lip service to the Literature aspect of the Divya Prabhandhams and 
ThEvaaram ..

Saint Thyagaraja and host of other  Nada SiddhAnthis adapted 
their  bhakthi laden krithis, Divya Naamas for proppagating Nada 
SiddhAntham and blended the two traditons . Even in their time 
and until the early part of the century, muscians and their art 
was suspect by Vaidhik Brahmins . There is a saying or a practice 
in Tamil Naadu that a man of Vedic training and AnushtAnam 
should keep his distance from the muscians for fear of the 
sensual aspects of the music ( Gandharva Ghaanam ) 
corrupting  their spiritual pursuits and developing Raajasic and Taamasic
tendencies .It was a pity . They went their own ways until 
the music nourished by Isai VeLALars began to be picked up
seriously by many stalwarts coming  from Brahmin families
in the villages of Cauveri delta like the musical trinity .With Sri Dikshitar's
disciples of a great Bharata Natyam dancer and the temple musician,
Suddha MattaLam Tambhiappaa of Thiruvaarur,, the circle came to a full
turn  .  

The classic case of the Bharata Natyam becoming an art form of
serious study by  Brahmin girls instad of being the propreitary treasure 
of " Deva  Daasi " families  is another of these instances , where 
conservatism bent and benefitted.all of us . The pioneering
efforts of E.Krishna Iyer and Arundel RukmiNi of Kalaa
Kshetram in the thirties helped to expand the reach of 
Bharata Natyam to a wider set of artists. The world of Audio and Video 
caseetes and the efforts of Tamil Isai sangham is helping a little.

Regarding Azhwaars being " systematically incorporated in one 
sect " ,  the preservation of the tradition of ThevAram songs of 
JnAna Sambhandhar , Appar ,and  Sundarar by OdhuvArs of the temples 
and Matams as well as by the research society of Tamil Isai sangham 
is instructional. The old PaNNs and their relation to the different 
ragas are being studied and preserved by Dharma puram and 
other Saivite  Mutts.That  reaches a number of sects , although
still this art form is grouped under temple music. 

In summary , I think that the twin twains of Concert based sangeetham and 
paasurams arising from the intenses bhakthi of Azhwaars will go their
separate ways and will occasionaly meet in the viruttham section
of the concert . The efforts of the disciple of late Sri V.V. Sadagopan 
at Melkote are commendable starts since it seems to be the first serious
attempt to tune the Paasurams of AzhwArs and teach them to willing
students .