I would be stretching the truth if I said this book came home last week. In fact it came home several years ago, probably sometime in 2006. That was when I was a regular contributor to Sruti. S Rajam, one among my many mentors, asked me if I had a copy of Harikesanallur L Muthiah Bhagavatar’s Sangita Kalpadrumam. I began a hunt for it and eventually tracked it down at Alwar’s footpath bookshop outside the Mylapore Club.
S Rajam and I spent many a happy hour poring over its pages though I must admit I understood very little of it. But it is a book of enormous significance, for it is the first PhD thesis ever written in Carnatic music. Yes, Muthiah Bhagavatar is the first doctorate in that field and he was not a phoney holder of the D Litt. This book is the proof. The degree was conferred on him in 1943 at a stellar convocation held at the Victoria Jubilee Hall in Travancore.
The book was however not published till 1947, by when Muthiah Bhagavatar was dead. The first of two planned volumes was released, with forewords by the Maharajah of Travancore and Semmangudi who had ousted/replaced Muthiah Bhagavatar as the Principal of the Swati Tirunal College of Music in Trivandrum. That was on July 20 as part of the Swati Tirunal centenary celebrations. Five days later came the grand finale, a concert by Semmangudi. It was while it was in progress that an attack was made on the Dewan, Sir CP Ramaswami Aiyar. With that, Travancore, which had been holding out from joining the Indian Union, acceded. All thought of publishing the second volume of the Sangita Kalpadrumam was given up. The remaining part of the thesis is probably gathering dust somewhere in Travancore University archives.
It was S Rajam who drew my attention to the faint signature in red pencil on the torn first page of my copy. The book was once GN Balasubramaniam’s!!!!! To think that GNB held the book that I now have. Something comes over me each time I think about it. GNB and Muthiah Bhagavatar had a close rapport. It was thanks to the latter that the young GN was introduced to Travancore royalty in the 1930s and later become Asthana Vidwan. Much later, he would succeed Semmangudi as Principal of the Swati Tirunal College, a post that Muthiah Bhagavatar once held. He would die in harness.
I realise my library has books autographed by Semmangudi and GNB. I take care to keep them far apart. I don’t want one eating up the other. Incidentally, I have a book bearing Muthiah Bhagavatar’s autograph also. I will write about that some other time.
This article is part of a series. The earlier story can be read here
The Book That Came Last Week – a compilation
What a fantastic feeling it must be to hold the same tome that was once GeeEnBee’s
I could feel the sense of Roma Harsham vicariously and the signature added to the feeling.
Thanks for sharing .
Amazing post…thanks for sharing Sriram
Awesome. Would love to see that signature in person some day 👀
I only have a minimal understanding of Carnatic Sangeetam. Yet I am completely bowled over by your presentation. You not only talk of the greatness of the vidwans, but also the exciting times when they lived!
It would appear that Semmangudi was not a nice man to know?
AGREAT TREASURE.MUTHIAH BHAGAVTHAR WAS A GIANT AND ALL HIS CREATIONS ARE AMAZING TREASURE TO INDIAN MUSIC. CONGRATS.
I am so happy and grateful. My mother sankari Krishnaiyer hailed from the same heridity of Harikesanallur and born in Harikesanallur used to ask about this book all the time. She used to say “book enga pochunney theriyala”. We lived in Harikesanallur. I used to be a small boy. Wonderful efforts by all of you. These will be treasures for generations to come. May the divine bless all of you and your efforts!!!
You must log in to post a comment.