The text below was the sleeve note I wrote for Ashwattha, which those of you who have read the introductory write up to this category on sleeve notes will know was a misnomer. I have changed the text in the write up below
Tyagaraja was like a great Vatavrksha or Banyan Tree. He represented the main stem, a strong and powerful support which looms large, casting a shadow under which thousands of musicians, patrons and art lovers have gathered and taken shelter. From the rock steady tree, came many more terrestrial roots, which were his sishya paramparas. Each one was unique, having a character of its own, leaving its mark on the fertile soil of Carnatic Music, and gathering greater and greater numbers of followers. In course of time, the main stem, became a legend, surrounded as it was by the thick foliage of its own offshoots. There were three main sishya paramparas, those of the Walajahpet, Tillaisthanam and Umayalpuram Schools. In addition there were numerous others, some famous, some not so, who had all learnt music from Tyagaraja at some point of time or the other. In their own right, his disciples were great men of talent, who led lives dedicated to music. They in turn honed and polished several disciples, all of whom became torch bearers of a great tradition.
Manambucchavadi Venkatasubbayyar: The prathama sishya of Tyagaraja, he was also a cousin of the composer. He was a violinist as well and also a Sanskrit and Telugu scholar. Among Tyagaraja’s disicples, he was probably the longest with him in time and after the composer’s death he set up his own school at Tiruvayyaru. Among the many star disciples he had, Mahavaidyanatha Sivan, Patnam Subrahmanya Iyer and the blind flautist Sarabha Sastrigal were famous artistes. He composed many varnas and kritis using the mudra Venkatesa. Among his famous works is the hamsadhvani varnam, Jalajaksha. His kriti swAmiki sari, in the raga dEvagAndhAri, is in praise of his guru Tyagaraja. The charanam of the kriti uses phrases from several Tyagaraja kritis. The raga was also a great favourite of Tyagaraja’s, who is said to have sung it elaborately when he visited Kovvur Sundaresa Mudaliar at Madras.
Walajahpet Venkataramana Bhagavatar : Born in 1781, Venkataramana Bhagavatar was from the Saurashtra community. He was one of Tyagaraja’s earliest disciples and after many years, he moved to Walajahpet near Madras where he set up his music school. On the occasion of Tyagaraja’s daughter’s marriage, Venkataramana Bhagavatar brought a picture of Rama and Seetha as gift, which inspired Tyagaraja to sing the immortal nanu pAlimpa in mOhanam. Venkataramana Bhagavatar, sent his son Krishnaswami Bhagavatar to learn music from Tyagaraja in 1845 and he spent two years with the composer, till the latter’s death in 1847. Father and son wrote the first biographies of Tyagaraja, pooling their recollections of the times they spent with him. They are the founders of the Walajahpet Sishya Parampara and their manuscripts of Tyagaraja kritis, are today preserved at the Saurashtra Sabha, Madurai. It was a red letter day in Venkataramana Bhagavatar’s life, when Tyagaraja, during the course of his travels visited his disciple’s school at Walajahpet. Venkataramana Bhagavatar deified his Guru and composed a set of eight verses on him. He passed away in 1874.
Veena Kuppaiyyar: Born in 1798, Kuppaiyyar, was the son of Sambamurthy Sastry, a vainika and vocalist of great repute. He initially learnt music from his father and later became Tyagaraja’s disciple. An ardent worshipper of Venugopalaswami, he migrated to Tiruvottiyur in Madras, where he became a musician in the retinue of Kovvur Sundaresa Mudaliar, dubash to the East India Company. It was through Kuppaiyyar that the Mudaliar got to know of Tyagaraja’s greatness and when the saint composer was travelling on a pilgrimage in 1837/39 got him to come to Madras and stay at his palatial mansion at Bunder Street. Tyagaraja also visited the Mudaliar’s home town at Kovvur and dedicated the Kovvur Pancharatnam to the deities there. Tyagaraja visited his disciple’s house and sang vENugAnalOluni in kEdAragauLa, knowing his disciple’s devotion to Lord Krishna. Kuppaiyyar and his son Tiruvottiyur Tyagayyar were both composers of great merit. He used the mudra Venugopaladasa and composed many varnams and kritis.
Subbaraya Sastry: He was possibly the only individual who learnt from each one of the Trinity. Born in 1803 as the second son of Syama Sastry, he initially trained under his own father. Later he came under Muttuswamy Dikshitar’s influence during the latter’s four year stay in Tanjore. Later still he was apprenticed to Tyagaraja. His music thus reflects the styles of each of the Trinity and yet has an identity of its own. Using the mudra Kumara in some of his works, he left behind a small corpus of twenty or so kritis, each of which is a gem. He composed the kriti ninnuvina gatigAna in kalyANi on Goddess Dharmasamvardhini of Tiruvayyaru and when it was first rendered by him at the shrine, Tyagaraja himself was present to bless him. Sastry passed away at Udayarpalayam where he was asthana vidwan, in 1862.
Patnam Subramania Iyer: Known as Chinna Tyagaraja, for his awesome composing capabilities, Patnam as he was referred to was a disciple of Manambucchavadi Venkatasubbayyar. Born in 1845 into a music rich family, he initially trained under Melattur Ganapathy Sastrigal. Commencing his music career in 1875, Subramania Iyer, remained a star performer throughout his life, with the royal courts of Mysore, Travancore, Sivaganga and Ramnad, vying for honouring him. His rendition of the raga bEgaDa was unparalleled. He trained a long line of disciples, the first of whom was Ramanathapuram Srinivasa Iyengar. Others included Mysore Vasudevachar and Tiger Varadachariar. While he lived at Tiruvayyaru for most of his life, he stayed for twelve years in Madras (Chennapatnam) in order to teach music to Salem Meenakshi a singer, and her daughters. He thus earned the prefix of Patnam. He created the raga kathanakuthUhalam. He composed numerous kritis, using mudras such as Adi Venkateswara, Varada Venkatesa and similar terms. The year 2002 marked his 100th death anniversary, for he passed away on 31st July, 1902.
Mysore Sadasiva Rao: Not much is known about this excellent composer. Born at Chitoor, in Andhra, of a Marathi family, Sadasiva Rao trained under Walajahpet Venkataramana Bhagavatar before becoming an honoured vidwan in Mysore. On the occasion of Tyagaraja’s visit to Walajahpet, he was present and composed a kriti tyAgarAjasvAmi vEDalina in tODi to honour the composer. A great Rama bhakta, he began the Rama navami celebrations in Mysore, which are famous till date. He composed kritis, tillanas, varnams and swarajatis in Sanskrit and Telugu, using the mudra Sadasiva. He travelled to Madras, Kanchipuram and Srirangam and composed on deities in these places.
Ramanathapuram Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar: Born on 16th August 1860, into a religious Vaishnavite family at Ramanathapuram (Ramnad), then a Zamindari in South India, Iyengar’s music talents were noticed by members of the ruling family, at an early stage and he was sent by them to Patnam Subramania Iyer for training. Returning to Ramnad, he became the asthana vidwan at the court. He began composing music from an early age, using the mudra Srinivasa. Iyengar was a successful concert artiste and was much in demand in the whole of South India, including the burgeoning capital of Madras. He was honoured at Mysore and composed kritis in praise of the patron Goddess Chamundi. There are many reasons ascribed for his strange nickname of Poochi. As per a musical version, it was due to his strict adherence to pitch, like the buzzing of a bee. He trained a number of disciples of whom Ariyakkudi T Ramanuja Iyengar was most famous. Poochi Iyengar passed away on 20th July, 1919.