Wednesday, 7 April 2021


Immersed in his rhythm                                                                                   Lakshmi Anand

Senior mridangist J. Vaidhyanathan believes his commitment to accompaniment begins right from arriving well on time for the concert. “A concert is like a yagna, a lot of effort—we should not cause any consternation to either the organiser or the artists—rather, we should ensure that we do whatever we can to keep them calm, thus ensuring the best output from the artists. Also, regardless of who the artist is or his/her seniority levels, everyone should be treated on an equal footing on stage,” says Vaidhyanathan.

The youngest of three children, Vaidhyanathan was born to Sangita Kalanidhi D.K. Jayaraman and his wife J. Jayalakshmi on 22 April 1965 in Damal, near Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. The family moved to Chennai a few years after his birth. His aunt Sangita Kalanidhi D.K. Pattammal, a colossus in Carnatic music, was already in Chennai. Music, thus, was the most  natural foray for Vaidhyanathan.

His elder brother Srivatsan did not pursue music but is a knowledgeable rasika. Sister C. Sukanya is a vocalist who accompanied her father regularly and performs and continues to teach. Wife Poorna, who has a doctorate in Music, is working as a violin lecturer since 2005 at S.V. College of Music and Dance run by TTD in Tirupati. Like Vaidhyanathan’s mother, Poorna too has been a quiet pillar of support in his musical career. “She is very meticulous, especially in organising my things when I have to travel. I do not have to worry about anything and can concentrate on my mridangam playing. We also discuss a lot about music. She is an excellent teacher who has trained beginners in music to rise to the level of gold medallists,” says JV as he is popularly known.

Vaidhi, Vijay Siva, Akhila Siva and Priya in concert

As Jayaraman taught his students, he noticed the toddler Vaidhi constantly tapping to perfect tala with his fingers. Noticing the child’s affinity for rhythm, Jayaraman decided to start him on mridangam. Little Vaidhi was initiated into ‘ta dhi tom nam’ by the stalwart Sangita Kalanidhi Palghat Mani Iyer. Given his prolific travel schedules, Mani Iyer suggested to Jayaraman that the child continue to learn from his senior disciple Palghat Kunjumani. Vaidhi also learned from Srinivasan (another disciple of Palghat Mani Iyer), Dindigul Ramamurthy and Tanjavur Ramadas. While learning from Ramamurthy and Ramadas, Vaidhyanathan won the junior scholarship from the Government of India. In 1985, when it was time to apply for the senior scholarship, he enrolled with mridangam stalwart Sangita Kalanidhi T.K. Murthy, who was an A-Top grade artist.

To read full story

Saturday, 3 April 2021

ABHAI honours eminent artists

By Samudri

The 32nd annual day of the Association of Bhartanatyam Artistes of India (ABHAI), conducted on 20 March this year, was a well-attended, grand event, organised live at the Sathguru Gnanananda Hall in Chennai.

The event began on an auspicious note with a prayer by ABHAI member Ananthashree which was followed by the lighting of the kuthuvilakku by the chief guests V.P. Dhananjayan and Lakshmi Viswanathan, along with the awardees and the president of ABHAI, Roja Kannan who then delivered the welcome address. The  activities undertaken during 2019-2020 were elaborated upon in the annual report presented by the secretary Binesh Mahadevan. In keeping with one of its objectives to recognize excellence in the field, the ABHAI awards were conferred by the chief guests of the evening -- natyacharya V.P. Dhananjayan, and veteran  Bharatanatyam exponent and writer Lakshmi Viswanathan, both founding members and former office bearers of ABHAI.

The prestigious  Natya Kalanidhi award was conferred on veteran Bharatanatyam and Kathakali exponent, guru, arts administrator and Kalakshetra alumnus Prof. A.  Janardhanan. Senior violinist M.S. Kannan received the Gandharva Nipuna title. Well known Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher, organiser and founder of Kala Pradarshini -- Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala was honoured with the Nritya Perunjothi title and senior male dancer, choreographer and teacher G. Narendra with the Narthaka Nipuna title. The citations were read out by ABHAI vice-presidents Janaki Srinivasan, and Priya Murle, with committee member Nithyakalyani Vaidyanathan playing the role of an efficient emcee.

V.P. Dhananjayan delivered the presidential address which was very motivating for young and aspiring dancers and encouraging to the ABHAI team. Lakshmi Viswanathan's felicitation speech, peppered with interesting anecdotes and her personal interaction with each awardee was enjoyable. It was indeed a pleasure to listen to a great yet humble artist like Prof. A. Janardhanan as he shared his thoughts and experiences in his acceptance speech presented on behalf of all the awardees. Proposing the vote of thanks, Priya Murle expressed ABHAI’s gratitude to all  who had made the event possible, and a special thanks to the donors of the ABHAI welfare fund, which had paved the way for ABHAI to support more than 560 artists during the initial Covid-19 pandemic period when the scenario was bleak.

The second part of the evening’s presentation comprised group presentations by ABHAI members of some items learnt during the Abhivridhishalas (workshops) organised by ABHAI. It was heartening that one troupe, led by guru  Jayashree Narayanan, had come all the way from Puducherry to participate.  All the dancers won the appreciation of the audience for their well coordinated effort. The announcements were ably handled by ABHAI committee members Shanmugha Sundaram, Mahalakshmi Ashwin and Nidheesh.

Overall, a satisfying event, well organised with strict adherence to Covid protocols.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021


The month of Chaitra or Chittirai is a joyous one as it ushers in the new year in different parts of India – based on their regional calendars. The beginning of Chaitra is a time to celebrate Ugadi, Gudi Padwa, Cheti Chand and Navreh. Mid- April rings in the new with Baisakhi, Tamil Putthaandu, Bohag Bihu, Pohela Baisakh and Vishu. In the cultural calendar too there is cause to celebrate as sabhas have opened their small halls and big auditoria to host live programmes. After several months of trepidation and hibernation, rasikas are making bold to venture out to attend cultural programmes. There is now a new addition to their aharya – colourful, matching masks of course. Nobody shakes hands now, no bear hugs; the elegant, traditional Namaste is in vogue!

A major live programme was ABHAI’s Annual Day, organised successfully at the Sathguru Gnanananda Hall in Chennai, while strictly following the Covid protocol  Veteran dance exponent, guru and arts administrator Prof. A. Janardhanan, was conferred the Natya Kalanidhi on the occasion. Senior violin accompanist for dance M.S. Kannan, as well as Bharatanatyam exponents and teachers Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala and G. Narendra were also honoured with titles by the Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India. The award ceremony was followed by presentation of several items of the Bharatanatyam repertoire by ABHAI members. Prof. Janardhanan is April-born – take a look at the Sruti birthday calendar!

The Kalaimamani awards announced by the Tamil Nadu government were also presented at a well conducted event. Bharatanatyam artists Ambika Kameshwar and Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala received the Puratchi Thalaivi Dr. J. Jayalalithaa Special Kalaimamani Awards for 2019 and 2020. Veteran vocalists Vani Jayaram and S. Rajeswari are the recipients of the all-India award – the M.S. Subbulakshmi Award (Music) for 2019 and 2020 respectively. Senior Bharatanatyam exponents Alarmel Valli and Chandra Dhandayudhapani were conferred the all-India Balasaraswathi Award (Dance) for 2019.

A total of 59 personalities have received the Kalaimamani Award for 2019 and another 65 for 2020 this year, but the number of classical performing artists thus honoured is very less compared to those in the cine field. Hope this ratio will change for the better in the coming years. Sruti congratulates all the awardees.

The cover story in the April issue is a centenary tribute to the tavil maestro Valangaiman Shanmugasundaram Pillai – whose birth and death anniversaries both fall in April. We also have a dynamic younger percussionist – mridanga vidwan J. Vaidhyanathan sharing the space with the centenarian. Music runs in his blood – his famous aunt D.K. Pattammal, equally famous father D.K. Jayaraman and Vaidhyanathan are all recipients of the prestigious Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

We are privileged to publish a centenary tribute to the Bhavani duo of B.V. Raman and B.V. Lakshmanan penned by eminent dancer-scholar Padma Subrahmanyam – she pays tribute to her music guru. There is an interesting analysis of nritya karanas by eminent natyacharya V.P. Dhananjayan. These should also kindle the interest of students of music and dance.

We are happy to include the Sruti Box section in this issue. The letter writing habit seems to be on the wane as youngsters are busy with Likes, emoticons and short comments on social media. The reading and writing habit has, however, improved during the lockdown period, and we hope it will take a turn for the better in future. So, Happy reading – get a copy of Sruti, either digital or in print! And don’t forget to send us your feedback letter for the Sruti Box!


Tuesday, 2 March 2021


In Tiruvaiyaru, the land of the five rivers, rests Tyagaraja. The panchanada kshetra… on the bank of the river Cauvery where blows the incomparable zephyr... was certainly a source of inspiration for the prolific vaggeyakara. As the Cauvery flows sometimes gently, sometimes in spate, so too the bard-saint’s emotions ebb and flow in his innumerable compositions. None can deny the sweeping impact of the music trinity in Carnatic music, and Tyagaraja’s output of compositions is the highest among the three. His fame had spread far and wide even when he was alive. It is said that Tyagaraja’s kritis are pen-portraits of the Tanjavur region in later years of Maratha rule. He was also fond of composing in rare and unusual ragas.

Tiruvaiyaru has become a place of pilgrimage for Carnatic musicians as they converge to pay their musical homage to the great vaggeyakara at the Tyagaraja aradhana held every year on Bahula Panchami day. The festival, usually held on a grand scale, was also affected by the Covid 19 pandemic; it was restricted to a two-day event this year. As a result, the glamour and the razzmatazz which had crept into it over the years, was missing this time. Star Carnatic musician, Sudha Ragunathan, has been offering her musical tribute at the samadhi for several decades now  In this issue, she shares with us the very special experience that she had this year at Tiruvaiyaru.

Season 2020 has received wide coverage in this issue. Last month, an office bearer of the Madras Music Academy shared the experience of organising the Academy’s online season. There can be no season without artists, organizations and rasikas, but the success of Season 2020 hinged largely on the ‘tech team’ who worked round the clock to present an enjoyable experience. Kudos to them! This time, we present a peek into the effort behind the month-long Yours Truly Margazhi festival organised by the Federation of City Sabhas. The virtual season has by and large been welcomed by rasikas as it gave them the freedom to watch any number of kutcheris from the comfort of their homes, any time and any number of times! It has also been a boon for writers and critics, as they could listen to the concerts at leisure, and play them any number of times to get their facts right before submitting their reviews. At this juncture, Sruti’s Chennai correspondent C. Ramakrishnan deserves special mention as he has diligently listened to a range of artists presented by different organisations and shared his comments about them.

Apart from the regular News & Notes, we bring to you the occasional book review and a talent showcase of four young Hindustani musicians with great potential. Our Tiruvananthapuram correspondent pays tribute to Sruti’s roving critic Sunil Kothari who passed away recently. Sunilji, as we called him, was associated with Sruti almos  since its inception. He was fond of travelling and would file his reports from different parts of the world. “Visibility” was his watchword and he loved to be in the midst of artists and events. The Covid pandemic must have been a setback for the gregarious individual and he probably decided to bid goodbye to a world where personal interactions and live events had almost come to a standstill. 26 February 2021 was an important date in the Carnatic music calendar as it was the birth centenary of the\ renowned twins of Carnatic music – B.V. Raman and B.V. Lakshmanan, also known as the Bhavani duo. Sruti has published articles about them in 2005.


Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Analysis of the Kharaharapriya pada varnam of vidwan M. Balamuralikrishna


A pada varnam composed by vidwan M. Balamuralikrishna in the 22nd melakartha raga, Kharaharapriya has great richness in the Telugu literature and this composition  narrates the the events that happened according to the Ganesa Purana. The beauty of this particular composition is the rhyming word sequences that occur in the stanzas, and also a single word being used at multiple places for conveying different meanings. The varnam was not composed entirely at once. First Balamuralikrishna composed the pallavi, anupallavi and ettugada, later, he added chittaswara sahityam and then kept adding the charanams to it, and he rendered this during a concert in Chennai in the year 1999.

To listen to this varnam please click

The six-stanza varnam starts with the pallavi, Ninnu nera nammithi Gananayaka, nata jana vighna vinaashana. The composer says that he has a great faith on the Lord Ganesa who is always engaged in eliminating the obstacles of his devotees. The composer has inscribed his signature/mudhra in the anupallavi, and it rhymes at end of the each phrase perfectly; Muni gana pranuta, mangala charita, Murali Krishna sahodari sutha.  The composer describes Lord Ganesa as being praised by the holy sages, with an auspicious history and the son of the sister of Murali Krishna;  Goddess Parvathi,  sister of Lord Vishnu. In order to inscribe his signature, the composer describes the incarnation of Vishnu in the form of Krishna who holds flute (Murali) in his hand.

The chittaswara sahityam describes an important incident in the Ganesa Purana. The moon, which adorns the head of Lord Siva laughs at Ganesha on the sacred Chaturthi day, when Ganesa with his stomach full is unable to bow and offer his prayers to his parents Siva and Parvathi. In order to suppress his ego, Ganesa curses the moon that whoever person sees the moon will face unnecessary blames and undeserved defames. Having realised his mistake, Chandra (moon) surrenders to the feet of Ganesa. The Lord retracts the curse, but says that a person who will see the moon on the Ganesa Chaturthi without worshipping him will have to face the undeserved blames!

The ettugada pallavi continues at end of each stanza. The composer describes Lord Ganesa as Sumukhaa paavana, sritha sumukha, meaning, the lord is holy and handsome and is agreeable to his devotees. The first Sumukha refers to describe the handsomeness of the Lord and in Telugu, the word Sumukha means accept, agree or to make a nod.

In the first stanza, the composer says that he trusts the feet of the Lord. In the second stanza the composer says that Naraadi vinuta pada vaarana mukha, bhaya vaarana vara guna daana vitarana.  Lord Ganesa, with an elephant face, whose feet is worshipped by the humans, is the remover of fear, and has the noble character as he showers his blessings liberally. Once can see rhyming word at end of each phrase, and also the word Varana is being used at two places. It is used as a synonym for an elephant in the first place, and in the second place it is used as a synonym for removing/eliminating. In the third stanza, the composer feels grateful to the Lord and says that he feels blissful by reading the glorious history of Ganesa and asks him to forgive the sins committed knowingly or unknowingly and to transform him into a noble/kind hearted person.

The first three stanzas describe the qualities of Lord Ganesa and the wishes made by the composer on behalf of the devotees. The last three stanzas describe the incidents that happened according to the Ganesa Purana. In the fourth stanza, the composer says that Ganesa took the form of a bird and killed three demons that were in the form of a tree, a net and a human, thereby bringing peace and prosperity to earth. In the fifth stanza, he describes how Lord Ganesa suppressed the demon Durasara. Durasara was a greedy demon, who attempted to invade and conquer the holy city of Varanasi. At first, Ganesa took the form of a dwarf, and then expanded himself to full strength, killed the demon by crushing his head with one foot, and spread the second foot as an umbrella over the entire city of Varanasi and hence established peace. Finally, the composer says that Ninu pogada mementha – we humans are meagre people to sing in praise of you. There are continuous rhyming words that come one after the other in this stanza such as Varanasi nakraminchina durasaruni durasa nirasa gavimpa. Here, duraasa means greed, and niraasa means sorrow. There is an underlying message being conveyed that too much of greed will always lead to sorrow.

The sixth and final stanza, and the largest of all, describes how Lord Ganesa acquired the leadership of the ganas. There is a story where the ganas, the servants of Lord Siva ask him to appoint a leader for them. Then, Lord Siva calls upon his two sons Ganesa and Muruga (Karthikeya) and conducts a test that whoever goes around the entire universe and takes a dip in all the holy water bodies and returns first, will be assigned the leadership. Muruga heads out on his peacock. Ganesa, unable to move fast, recognises that the entire universe is dependent on his parents, and hence goes around them, and thus wins the test.

This composition is unique since no other varnam describes the glory of Lord Ganesa in such an elaborative manner.