The samprokshanam or kumbhAbhiShEkam of the Sri Parthasarathy temple in Tiruvallikeni will take place today. On this occasion, a brief article on some of the composers who have created songs in praise of the deity –

Chennai: Parthasarathy Temple, Triplicane. Photo: V. Ganesan.
Chennai: Parthasarathy Temple, Triplicane. Photo: V. Ganesan.

That the Tiruvallikeni Temple inspired composers from ancient times is evident from the works of the Alwars on it, all of which are well documented. The early 19th century manuscript Sarva Deva Vilasa of which only a part survives, describes the temple as a centre for the arts. It mentions a music loving Dharmakarta of the shrine – Annasami and also speaks of dancers dedicated to the Lord.

Of the Carnatic Trinity, Tyagaraja and Muttuswami Dikshitar are both said to have visited the temple. There is no song of Tyagaraja’s in praise of the deity that survives, but in a talk over the radio, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer mentioned a piece in the raga Saveri of which he said only the pallavi and anupallavi were available. Regretfully, even that is now lost. The song Sri Parthasarathina in Shuddha Dhanyasi is attributed to Muttuswami Dikshitar but from its prosodic error in the madhyamakala sahityam this would appear doubtful. However, it cannot be denied that it is popular on the concert platform.

Subbaraya Sastry, the son of Syama Sastry and the common disciple of the Trinity, visited the temple and composed Ninnu Sevinchina (raga Yadukula Kamboji) here. An interesting aside is that at least two others – Subbarama Dikshitar and Cheyyur Chengalvaraya Sastry have created songs on Parthasarathy in the same raga, probably inspired by the Lord’s yadukula origins. Mysore Sadasiva Rao, who through the Wallajahpet School traced his lineage to Tyagaraja, composed Sri Parthasarathe in raga Bhairavi. This is a monumental song with cascading sangatis and in classic Sadasiva Rao style, is full of flowing lyrics. His other work on this temple is Vachamagochara in raga Athana. The Tachur Singaracharyulu Brothers were a duo of the late 19th and early 20th century Madras who played an important role in the development of music in the city. The elder brother was a composer and his varnam raga Vasantha, Ninnu Kori a popular opener in concerts today, is dedicated to Parthasarathy.

Patnam Subramania Iyer, has left behind Samayamide Nannu Brova in Kedaram. This song is significant because in its lyrics it mentions three of the five important deities of the temple – Parthasarathy, Gajendra Varada and Ranganatha (referred as Kamalanabha). Ramanathapuram ‘Poochi’ Srinivasa Iyengar has composed Sri Parthasarathi Nannu in raga Madhyamavati at this shrine. Modern day composers who have been inspired by the deity here include MD Ramanathan, NS Ramachandran, Dr S Ramanathan (who was practically a neighbour), TG Krishna Iyer (Lalitha Dasa) and Ambujam Krishna. Surprisingly the moolavar, Venkatakrishna, with his handlebar moustache does not find mention in any song. Neither does the Narasimha shrine to the rear, which is in reality an independent temple by itself.

The temple also appears to have served as a concert venue and there is an account of the late 19th century singing sensation Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan performing here on three successive nights with record audience attendance. The streets surrounding the temple of course have their own rich musical history that needs an article by itself.

This article appeared in The Hindu’s special supplement on the Tiruvallikeni samprokshanam dated June 12, 2015.