Madras Heritage and Carnatic Music

Articles on Chennai, its heritage, history and culture


I was born on 22nd June 1966 in England and had my schooling in Madras and Calcutta. I completed my graduation with a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the College of Engineering, Delhi in 1987. In 1989, I completed my post graduation with a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing and Advertising from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University. I then had a varied career in Advertising and Marketing before taking over in 1998 as Chief Operations Officer of Broadgate Technical Services (India) P Ltd., a software development firm based in Chennai with clients in UK, Singapore and the Middle East. In addition I am also involved in my family business of Industrial Hydraulics in which the firm HVK Systems is the largest distributor in India for Eaton Corporation, a Fortune 100 company. Carnatic Music has been a passion for me since the age of six when my grandmother unrolled a mat in the family puja room, made me sit on it and began teaching me the basics. This combined with a great interest in history, led me to study the art form in depth with special reference to the great personalities who embellished it.  In 1999, along with Sanjay Subrahmanyan, the eminent Carnatic vocalist, I set up , a web site devoted to spreading awareness about Carnatic Music and its heritage. This site ran for six years before it closed in 2005. 

During Madras Week in August and the Music Season in December, I conduct heritage walks in the city of Chennai with special focus on historic locations of the city. In 2002, along with Sanjay, I authored a quiz book on Carnatic Music, with over 300 questions and answers. From 2004 to 2010, I was Contributing Editor to Sruti, the classical music and dance magazine. Between 2006 and 2010 I was also a member of Sruti’s advisory committee. In December 2004, my book comprising the biographies of twenty major exponents of Carnatic Music, titled Carnatic Summer was released. I also took music lovers on a journey to Tanjavur during the music season of 2004. In 2005 I was invited by The Hindu to begin a monthly column titled Encore which looks back at historic events in the world of Carnatic Music. From 2006 to 2009, I wrote regularly for the Carnatic Music channel of Worldspace Radio. I have written a chapter on “Music in Madras” for the Madras Gazette which is being published in 2008 by the Association of British Scholars. Effective 1st March 2006, I joined the board of Madras Musings and was appointed its Associate Editor. My biography of Bangalore Nagarathnammal, a famed singer of yesteryears, was released on 9th December 2007. It was accompanied by a rehearsed reading titled Sruti, Smriti, Kriti put together by Prasanna Ramaswami and enacted by The Madras Players. The book received the UNFPA Laadli Award for gender sensitivity in writing.

In 2008, I co-authored along with my guru Sri V Subrahmaniam, the book Semmangudi, Life; Music, commemorating the centenary of the maestro Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. This was released on 25th July by APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India, at the Music Academy. In August 2008, my fourth book, Fifty Historic Residences of Chennai, a bilingual one was published by Kalamkriya, of the Sanmar Group of Companies. My fifth book, titled Four Score and More, was on the history of the Music Academy, Madras and was co-authored with Dr Malathi Rangaswami. This was released on 11th December 2009. On 13th March 2010, when the new Tamil Nadu Assembly building was inaugurated by the Prime Minister, this book was gifted to him by the Chief Minister.

I have since written several books and am currently working on a biography of the Harikatha exponent C Saraswati Bai. I am also presently Secretary of the Music Academy, in which capacity I am the convenor of its annual conference. Since the passing of Mr S Muthiah I have taken over as Editor of Madras Musings, the fortnightly dedicated to the city’s history, heritage and culture.

You can follow me on YouTube as well, for updates on Chennai’s history and that of Carnatic Music

63 thoughts on “About

  1. Mr.Sriram,

    We are a group of college students who are keen on visiting and exploring Georgetown on Sunday(9.3.2008) as part of a college assignment. We came across reports saying that you had conducted heritage walks in the area during the Madras Week celebrations.We know this is really short notice but could you please outline a few spots that are essential to understanding the history of Georgetown and the Carnatic music tradition that flourished in the area.We would also really appreciate it if you could tell us where they are located at present.


  2. Hi, I am Padma’s sister in Coimbatore.I read your articles in The Hindu .They are very informative and interesting.Are they available on the net.I have a friend in Australia who was interested in Carnatic music,especially the Violin.May I direct him to you?

  3. Hi Sriram, I was referred to your site by Sita, and I would like to say thank you for your informative articles. I particularly like the way you integrate information about the music and musicians with the history of the places you describe. It is most enriching!

    Thank you again
    Jerry (from Canberra, Australia)

  4. Dear Sriram,

    I am an ardent fan of your wrtings though I should confess that I have confined myself to those on Indian music. I remember reading in your book on Bangalore Nagarathnamma that during the Araadhana a set of people from Batlagundu used to be the most strict critics. My father BS Ramiah was from Batkagundu. In case you haven’t heard of him- was the editor of Manikodi, freedom fighter and a reputed writer in Tamil.
    I would like to know more about Batlagundu and I am sure there would be othrs from that now commercial village(!)too.

  5. Here are some of my music compositions in the links below my signature line that you can simply double click and listen to them FREE if you have some kind of media player like Real Player, Microsoft Media Player, Apple Quick Time etc., all of which you may download FREE from web.

    Make sure to use a high end computer and high end speaker, as my music uses many of the instruments from different parts of the world and you can appreciate their full body beauty with good high end speakers.

    Dr. KRS Murthy – Read about me in the links below
    (408)-464-3333 Phone
    Santa Clara, California

  6. Hi Sriram, when I came across your blog just now, I thought – wow, Im glad he writes a blog! I enjoyed reading your book Carnatic Summers. I am one of those unfortunate souls that lived in Madras (I refuse to call it Chennai :)) through childhood and youth internalizing carnatic music, but not quite actively involved – and by the time I was ready to, found myself in another city. I live in Bombay (refuse to call it Mumbai!!) feeling terrible during The Season (as I like to call it). I write a blog, and would like to blogroll you…if you dont mind!

  7. Hello Sir,
    I am Nithil Dennis, I am working as a Programme producer in NDTV HINDU, a new infortainment and news channel exclusively for chennai which will be launched soon. i would like to speak to you with regards to your book on ‘The Historic Residences of Chennai’ for a programme. I would like to have your e mail id or you can get in touch with me at
    Thank You

  8. Dear Mr. Sriram,

    I read about your work in the Metroplus Weekend section from last Saturday. I am art conservator pursuing research related to heritage preservation in Chennai and I would very much like to meet with you at your convenience. I look forward to hearing from you and to meeting you soon.

    best wishes,

  9. Mr.Sriram,
    I really , absolutely enjoy reading your blog and wait for your updates.Thank you for opening this new avenue for us to lay hands on the unknows of heritage, history and culture…

  10. Dear Sri Ram sir,

    During Decemeber season couple of years back, Your Programme in Shruti, World Space on the evolution of Deacember season in Madras along with stalwarts interview was very great. It was 4 episode programme and I really enjoyed. Can I get text of that programme ? I enqurired Worldspace for its recording, But I could not get. If you have please arranage to me.


    Durga Prasad
    Music lover

  11. Hi Sriram,

    Are you planning to conduct heritage walks during the December 2010 music season ? If so, can you pls let me know the dates etc.


  12. I am a software professional with interest to know the lesser known facts of Madras and it cultural history. I am more than willing to be a part of the Madras centered historical researches that you are currently pursuing. Anticipating your reply and looking forward to an opportunity to work with you.

  13. I am a student of architectural conservation and am presently doing my masters thesis on the historical settlement of Chintadripettai.

    I am presently in the process of documenting the existing historic fabric, and came across your article during the course of my research.

    I am trying to understand the transformations of the settlement over time. Another thing that I was curios is… as a weavers settlement were there rites rituals and events specific to Chintadripet? The third was… it was no longer a weavers settlement after the early 19th century. So what happened to the community after that?
    If you could help me in an way it would be of immense help. Any archival information would also help me strengthen the case for conservation of the historic fabric which is gradually being eaten up be the urban fabric.

    Thank you.

  14. Hello,

    I’m a reporter for a newspaper in the States, and I’m writing an article about second-generation Indians learning Carnatic music. I was wondering if I could clarify some of my doubts about Carnatic music history with you. Please email me back if you’re interested and available in the next few days!

  15. Hello,

    I am Hari and found your blog while I was searching for a rare song. I was wondering if you had a copy of it. It is a song that goes like this “kalaivannaththirumohini Uruvana Mohana Kannanin Thangai Angayarkanni” sung by madurai Somasundaram. I saw an old copy of this on gramaphone record of my grandfather and was looking for a mp3 copy or so.

    If you have it could you please send me by email? or direct me to where I can find this song?

    Thanks and Best Regards,

  16. I recently picked up ur book “Carnatic Summer” and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. May we call u a Carnatic Historian on lines of Randor Guy being described as a Cinema Historian??!! I AM A Chartered Accountant in late sixties with a big appetite for music of all genres, including Carnatic. I have a closed FB Group, christened ” Songscan” with about a humble membership of some 95 people. I post songs from Tamil films & write narratives of tidbits concerning the song, singer, the film per se etc , inter spread with anecdotes. I am also a writer, if I may call myself so:)
    I feel very nice writing to you. Best Regards.

  17. Hello Mr.Sriram,
    I ‘m glad to have come across your blog and work researching the Music Season.
    We are creating a website called Margazhi to capture info, news, and create an interactive space for people who love the culture of the season – be it music, dance or seminars. I ‘d like to speak to you to interview you about the Season or invite you as a Guest Blogger on the site. We expect to have the site up over the next 10 days.

    I run a consulting firm and will be working as editor on this project.

  18. Pingback: Sruti | Bibliolore
  19. sir i want to procure a copy of ‘ the devdasi and the saint’ i am a writer in hindi and need this book in the relatoin of my ongoing writing.

  20. Namaskaram Dear Sriram , your writings and books on carnatic music is a Treasure, i wish you all the best always, and may you never stop writing such great works, you are an inspiration and you bring back such great memories.
    Aum Gurunathar Thunai
    Rajan Padiachi
    South Africa
    Disciple Of Guru M N Kandaswami and
    Guru Chengleput Ranganathan

  21. Happened on yr blog by chance while searching for stuff on mental hospitals in Madras. My granddad Dr. Dhairyam, and my father, Dr D. Dhairyam started one of the first private mental hospitals there. Will always have a soft corner for the city I grew up in though it’s so changed now. Do visit my blog, if it is to your taste

    1. Hi! Thanks. I remember that Dr Dhairyam’s hospital was one of the very few institutions on a lonely stretch of Mahabalipuram Road. The joke in the family was that he was quite Dhairyam to live there!

      1. Yes, those days Neelangarai was way out in the boondocks, but he showed prescience in getting land there! We lived on Sterling Rd, tho’. Are you originally a Madras native??

        I have a different take on Swami, (as did my dad!) hope my blog doesn’t alienate you! I still live here…

      2. Hi! Not at all. I quite enjoyed what you wrote. BTW, I dont know if I can qualify as a Madras native. But now that I have been here for 20 years, climbed up Society mama scale and being quoted on the city’s history, I guess I do qualify.

  22. Hey Sriram–sorry for last comment, I was spacing out, and confused you with the author of another blog! i do, finally, get the society mama and city history bit! really love picking up lil titbits about my Madras, tho’ I’m away from the city! 🙂

  23. Hi Sriram, I have been trying to purchase a copy of your book, Carnatic Summer but it does not seem to be available anywhere. Is there any way I can get a copy of this book?

  24. Hello Sriram, I have been trawling through the internet today just putting in various relatives to see what is said and I see that you have written a book – the Stanes Story and the company. My grandfather was Eric Stanes who I remember well. I visited Coimbatore way back in the very early sixties and stayed at Stanes house in Coimbatore. I also remember going out to the plantations where my grandfather was tasting row upon row of different coloured teas! How he told the difference I have no idea. Is it possible to get a copy of your writing? (in the UK) I have seen the articles in the Madras Musings but thought it would be nice to get a copy to keep with the family bits and pieces. Look forward to hearing from you, all the best, Victoria

  25. Hi Mr Sriram,
    I took part in the literary walk you had conducted during The Hindu’s Litfest. You has mentioned at the MLS that you regularly conduct historical walks in Chennai every month. Could you give me a link where one could register for such programs? Thanks

  26. Dear Mr.Sriram,

    I want to know the genuineness and truth behind the fact that Saint Thomas and his tomb in Santhome.
    Is there any blog or factual evidence for this event? If so help me out to clarify the mystery.

      1. Thank you.
        I am following your column in The Hindu. It feels good to know about our native. Keep posting more.

      2. Marco Polo mentioned Santhome visit in his notes, which dates back to 13th century, any further older description available for the church, other than that?

  27. Dear Mr.Sriram
    It is been mentioned in The Hindu article that Mr.MK Gandhi visited madras in 1896.
    Can you just brief for wat purpose he visited madras? Till now I learnt that Mr.Gandhi visited back to only in 1915.

  28. Dear Mr.Sriram
    It is been mentioned in The Hindu article that Mr.MK Gandhi visited madras in 1896.
    Can you just brief for wat purpose he visited madras? But Mr.Gandhi visited back to only in 1915 says some records!

  29. Dear Mr. Sriram
    Is your book “fifty historic residences of Chennai” dealing with Carnatic musician’s abodes or it is re: varied personalities?
    Vijay Krishamurthy

    PS where can we read your articles published in the Hindu on Carnatic music?

  30. Hi to All : Sriram Venkatakrishnan is not at all a historian of any class by his very own admission in “Madras Heritage and Carnatic Music” Articles on Chennai its heritage, history, culture but was an engineering student. He had claimed in Madras Local History Group in Face Book that has been researching the history Madras for the past 18 years. I find by his own admission that he is just a self proclaimed historian with no result of any nature so far that are acceptable to the esteemed Historians with investigation to establish truth of the unanswered and unsolved historical facts. In “Madras Musing We Care” Sriram Venkatakrishnan has projected to the group as if he was the authour of the subject of existence of the statue Lord Cornwallis in Madras by posting his name “V. Sriram” beneath it and posted and published that in “Madras Local History Group” in Face Book. The issue of dispute was about the existence or non-existence of the statue of Lord Cornwallis in Lord William Bentinck Buildings the present Collectorate of Chennai the Singagaravelar Buildings but not the cupola but kept on repeating the word “Cupola” “Cupola” instead of the Statue. A Canadian by name Mary Any Steggles had been to India on Indo-Canadian exchange programme on Lal Bhadur Sastri’s scholarship to study the statues that were sculptured in England and exported to India and south east-Asia and one among her study was about the statue of Lord Cornwalis existence in Madras and that was published in the year 2000 in her book titled Statues of Raj and one the book’s page that dealt with Lord Cornwallis statue Sriram Venkatakrishnan copied or cut that page and pasted and published as stated above in his name in Madras Musings with no reference in whatsoever or manner to put it on record Courtesy Mary Ann Steggles. When I pointed out that it is not his work but it is a mere cut and paste work of him and criticised he cannot take any credit and credibility to it. SRiram Venkatakrishnan could not even answer my questionnaires from his “article” and he could not bear or digest or accept and refused concede to the truth when I exposed him. Instead of that he made a hue and cry that I accused him as a plagiarist. I expressed to him repost that very article in the News Feed of Face Book and let the public decide and express whether it is plagiarism or its his own work but as on date he had not reposted it. Instead of it he deleted my post questioning his conduct and I am of the opinion that Sriram Venkatakrishnan may be one of the administrator of Madras Local History Group or would have influenced the administration not only to delete my posting but removed me from the group since I exposed him and I have no regrets for it at all. On 22nd day of Friday 2016 at page 6 in the Hindu “Where political history was forged” it is published therein that “Historian V. Sriram” says: “The meeting in Robinson Park in 1948 was a turning point in the history of Tamil Nadu. C.N. Annadurai spoke from here to launch the Dravida Mennetra Kazhagam after breaking away from the Dravida Kazhagam”. Sriram Venkatakrishnan you are absolutely again wrong to say that DMK was born in the year 1948 and the Hindu mistaking for itself that you are a “historian” and without cross checking the fact of it had published wrongly. Please kindly take note of the facts Sriram Venkatakrishnan the DMK was born on 17 February 1949.

  31. Hey Sriram,
    Heard you have a walk around Gemini Circle. I have a HPCL petrol pump opposite U S Consulate which was started in 1931 by N.Sundaram Iyer ( my grand father) who also owned City Motor Service during pre independence era. If you find it worthwhile include the petrol pump in your next walk.
    I will be there when you are giving your presentation for IIT Madras Alumni Association.

        We are students of Mohamed Sathak AJ Acamedy of architecture.
        This semester we are working on our Urban Design sir. Since we are in our analysis stage,
        we would like to have a discussion with you regarding our site history and morphology.
        (Egmore,nungambakkam areas,cooum river)
        Kindly let us know if we can have a meeting with you ASAP.
        Sir it will be great helpful if you give us an appointment as soon as possible!!!
        – M.Madhan Manoharan
        Final year architecture at
        Mohamed Sathak AJ

        Thankyou sir!

  32. Dear Sriram,
    In your recent article on the book lovers of Mylapore, you made a tantalising reference to writer Guhapriyai. Could you please provide me links to learn more about this writer? My cousin happens to be married to her grand daughter. Unfortunately they do not seem to remember much about her.

  33. In the BBC documentary Great Indian Railway Journeys, Michael Portillo asked you how the East India Co rose from such modest starts to a private organisation that virtually runs a country, deposes rulers and has an enormous army and navy. You replied that you have the French to thank – they taught the English that apart from trade, you could get into managing kingdoms on behalf of rulers.

    You also discussed why the British succeeded where the other European powers didn’t, in particular stressing the British understanding of the Indian psyche.

    Can you suggest where I can read about these themes in more detail, please?

  34. I am interested in your heritage tour to Tirunelvely area. I come from Kallidaikurichi.
    Please let me know your contact number in Chennai.
    At present I am in US!

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