[By Dewan Bahadur K. S. Ramaswami Sastri

In India there have been breaks with the past in many realms of life and sometimes in such breakaways we lost much that was valuable. But we never had such break or loss in the field of our music which we have kept astonishingly pure and undefiled. We have moved from beauty to fresh beauty all through the ages in the magic realm of music. We cannot express this truth better than in the words of the Bhagavata.


The age of Sri Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri-who are appropriately called the Trinity of Carnatic Music-was the golden age of Indian Music. There flourished in that glorious epoch one who was their peer albeit, he was a prince on the throne-His Highness Sri Swathi Tirunal of Travancore-who was a prince among musicians as well as a musician amongst princes.

Dr. Hawais said in a fine address delivered by him at the world famous Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893: "Music is the only living, growing art. All other arts have been discovered. An art is not a growing art when all its elements have been discovered. You paint now; and you combine the discoveries of the past; you discover nothing; you build now, and you combine the researches and the experiences of the past; but you cannot paint better than Raphael; you cannot build more beautiful cathedrals than the cathedrals of the middle ages; but music is still a growing art. Up to yesterday everything in music had not been explored. I say that we are in the golden age of music because we can almost with in the memory of a man reach hands with Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner." Even today Carnatic music is a growing art. We have great musicians and composers among us in our generation. We can almost within the memory of a man reach hands with Sri Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Syama Sastri and Swati Tirunal.

Music is not with us a mere pastime or a mere ornamental lace-border of the tattered garment of our daily life. It is vitally connected with ethics and metaphysics. It makes us good men and women and godlymen and women. Emotion, thought and action are vitally interlinked and interfused and we cannot influence emotion by music without influencing thought and conduct as well. Nor can we purify human emotion without causing the upward surge of the divine emotion as well. The good man is the gem among men; the godly man is the gem among good men. It is in music that we move about in divine worlds not yet fully realised. In it we realise intimations of immortality and feel the truth of Wordsworth's famous Ode on Intimations of Immortality.

"Hence in a season of calm weather

Though inland far we be,

Our souls have sight of that immortal sea

which brought us hither,

Can in a moment travel thither".

I feel that the greatest glory of Swati Tirunal's music is that it makes us good men and women and godly men and women. It is fashionable today to talk about the good life as being all-sufficient and to exclude or ignore the godly life. That is why this age is so barren of creative achievement. It is so concentrated on comforts and conveniences that it has no real culture and civilisation. The religious life alone has creative vitality and can dower us with the creative genius. It has been said well "In it there is the glory of the unseen. There is the push and awe of the omnipotent and eternal. There is the unseen holy, there is an extension of the being upward and forward immeasurable in the felling of it." We must do our duty to our fellow men, but we must do more and go Godward and take them also Godward. Guizot says
well that society is the means and man is the end. The new social and political doctrine today is that Humanity is the crown of being and that the state is an end and not a mere means. This is mere absurdity and topsyturveydom. How can the merely finite and evanescent ever satisfy the call of the Infinite and eternal within us? In Religion alone we feel an innate sense of the inherent infinite and eternal in us. That is why science can never negate or even throw religion.

"A warmth within the breast would melt

The freezing reason's colder part,

And like a man in wrath, the heart

Stood up and answered I have felt,"

(Tennyson's In Memoriam)

We have in modern times largely forgotten the inter-relations of music and religion and the inter-relations of religion and life and the inter-relations of music and life. India has always remembered these truths. Professor Pratt says well. "I do believe that in music both instrumental and vocal, there are hidden vast treasures of poetic truth and magazines of emotional power." Sri Swati Tirunal felt this truth of truths and showed it in his music and in his life and that is his greatest title to eternal fame and reverence.

Thus Sri Swati Tirunal's abiding and incandescent flame of devotion to God as Sri Padmanabha-which was like a lighted lamp in his heart (yatha deepo nivatas thah nengathe sopania mrita - Gita VI, 19) was the finest trait of his art. Another great trait is his thorough mastery of Carnatic Music. Carnatic Music is the real and pure descendant of the ancient Indian Music. Other forms of music in India have felt the pressure and influence of other systems and types of music, but Carnatic Music keeps in tact the classical and purely Indian type of melody. Purandara Das was the earliest of the monarchs of Carnatic Song in recent times. Most of his songs are in praise of God Vittala (Panduranga) of Pandarpur. Narayana Theertha's Krishna Leela Tarangini contains Sanskrit songs in praise of Sri Krishna and are among the masterpieces of Carnatic Music. His songs belonged to the Keerthana type of song. Kshetrajna's padas were songs dedicated to God Gopala. They are more flowing and mellifluous and less word-ridden than the keerthana type of songs and give ample room for elaborating the raga and expressing the very soul of
the ragabhava. But it is Tyagaraja and Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Syama Sastri that combined all that was best in the prior musical tradition and gave wings to Carnatic Music in a manner unknown before. They all belonged to the Tanjore District. Syama Sastri's songs were in praise of Goddess Kamakshi. His favourite tala was Misra Jati. Dikshitar's songs were mostly in Sanskrit and are in slow time (Vilamba Kala). They are full of sublimity of thought and deep devotion as well. But it is in Tyagaraja that we see sublimity of thought, tense religious emotion, quick and appropriate tempo (Madhyama kala), the expression of the full range of the sweetness of each raga by means of subtly modulated and graded Sangathis, the astonishing vitality and variety of musical creativeness, the richness and originality of musical imagination, the intensity and directness of emotional utterance, and other rare musical merits which were never found in such fusion and profusion before. His Krithis thus combined all the elements of sweetness which existed
in the songs of the previous masters of Carnatic Music and added new elements of magical charm as well. His devotion to Rama was expressed in a manner that combined Santi Rasa and Bhakti Rasa in all their aspects up to the highest Madhurya Bhava. Many were the new ragas which floated before his inner vision and found incarnation in his songs. His songs give great scope for the singer's manodharma (musical originality and improvisation.

The great King Sri Swati Tirunal was the contemporary of the above said musical trinity and though each of them had some excellences which surpassed similar traits in him, he combined their excellences and surpassed the same in a unique and original manner of his own. His "Pahi Parvatha" has an august stateliness and is in the Arabhi raga, whereas his "Vande sada Padmanabham" in Navarasa Kannada raga has a sweet and sinuous flow. His "Kalakanti" in Nilambari is in slow and self-controlled tempo (Vilamba kala). He was thus a master of many types of melody. Within a comparatively short span of life he achieved as much as the supreme masters in their long lives and even more though he never met them in person. He composed songs in six languages and in rare ragas. He filled art music with sacredness and sacred music with art. He was a versatile genius in the musical art.

He was at the same time a great king and a great man as well. He was, further, a great artist and a great patron of art. His Highness the reigning Maharaja of Travancore Sri Chitra Tirunal and his gracious Queen-mother, the Maharani of Travancore, continue the great traditions of Sri Swati Tirunal in purity of art and purity of life and purity of rule. They have founded the Sri Swati Tirunal Academy of Music and given a well-merited and supreme impulse and impetus to the popularisation, all over India, of the songs of one who was a supreme musician and a great king and a noble-minded and noble-hearted and pure and good and godly man-a prince among musicians and a musician among princes.

I cannot better conclude this brief exposition of Sri Swati Tirunal's genius than by quoting what Sachivottama Sir C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar, the noble and talented Dewan of Travancore, said in apt, well-worded and eloquent language on Ist January 1945 when he inaugurated the 98th Aradhana Celebrations in honour of Sri Tyagaraja at Tiruvadi.

"The Maharaja (Sri Swathi Tirunal) reigned from 1829 to 1847, and died before he was thirty-five but was able not only to fulfil the exacting duties of royalty during a troublous period but also to compose descriptive poems and dramatic poems of conspicuous merit in Sanskrit and other compositions in various languages. His musical proficiency is as amazing and comprehensive as his mastery of several languages and the characteristic insertion of swaraksharas bears testimony to both sides of his genius. Many of his compositions are sung all over South India and are regarded as masterpieces although the authorship is not even known in some localities. In his court flourished Vadivelu, the master of abhinaya, who was sent for from Tanjore, Sivananda, the Mridangam player, Chinnayya and Eravi Varman Tampi, the composer of Varnams. He as well as his successors, were ardent exponents and lovers of the Bharata Natya and the art of Kathakali, and Chinnayya was one of the foremost masters of the dance. Swati Tirunal had also a passion for style and verbal splendour which animated Syama Sastri and Muthuswami Dikshitar but he possessed in addition an absorbing devotion to Sri Padmanabha which was as inseparable from his work as the love of Sri Rama in Sri Tyagaraja. Whereas before the time of Tyagaraja the ragas used for songs were not very numerous - and it is computed that Jayadeva utilised less than twenty ragas for the whole of his Gita Govinda-both Swati Tirunal and Sri Tyagaraja brought into vogue many Apoorva Ragas. It was in the reign of Swati Tirunal that Carnatic Music became the dominant feature of musical life and the biggest contribution to that music was made by Swati Tirunal himself."


Copy Right 2003 , All Rights Reserved, Designed and Maintained by C-DIT ,