Birthdays & Anniversaries
Mridangam maestro Mani was born on 11 September 1945 in Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu. His father T. Ramanatha Iyer, who hailed from Ganapati Agraharam near Kumbakonam, taught English and mathematics at the Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar High School, Karaikudi. His mother R. Pattammal belonged to Budalur, and was related to well-known gottuvadyam vidwan Budalur Krishnamurthy Sastri.
Ramanatha Iyer, who had learnt music from Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavatar as well as Swaminatha Iyer of Ganapati Agraharam, was a keen music enthusiast, well-versed in the bhajanai paddhati. Their home in Karaikudi was right opposite Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar’s. In fact, Iyengar’s disciples K.V. Narayanaswamy and B. Rajam Iyer regularly partook of the simple breakfast of pazhaiyadu or rice soaked overnight in water and buttermilk, at Ramanatha Iyer’s household. The Nagarathars of Chettinad often sponsored concerts by the leading vidwans at Karaikudi; Ramanatha Iyer not only did not miss a single concert but also cultivated the friendship of the musicians and invited them home.
It was but natural for Mani to be initiated into Carnatic music by his father, that too as early as at the age of three. By the time he was four, Mani had learnt all five of Tyagaraja’s Pancharatna kritis. In the month of Margazhi, father and son regularly woke up at the crack of dawn to join the bhajanai at the Koppudai Amman temple. During temple festivals, Ramanatha Iyer carried young Mani aloft on his shoulders to watch nagaswara vidwans Karukurichi Arunachalam and Vedaranyam Vedamurthy and tavil artist Nachiarkoil Raghava Pillai lead the procession around the four mada veedis – the streets around the temple. It was during these processions, which began at nine at night and often went on into the early hours of the morning after, that Ramanatha Iyer discovered that his son had a penchant for rhythm. Perched on his father’s shoulders, Mani kept perfect time to the beat of the tavil – on his father’s head!
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