Monday, October 17, 2011


Dear Readers,

I am delighted to present the article Guru Samarpanam [Issue # 10].

The issue contains the excerpts from the biography, teachings and miracles of Pujyashri Sri Sri Chandrasekarendhra Sarasvati Swamigal fondly revered as “Nadamadum Theivam” [Walking God], Mahaperiyaval, Paramacharya etc.

In the Biography section we are going to see an incident at Mahendramangalam when Periyava was studying Vedas taught by Painganadu Sri Ganapathi Shastrigal. We can also read an interesting episode as told by Pujyasri Sri Sankara Vijayendra Sarasvati Swamigal (Bala Periyava) which reveal the greatness of Paramacharya in explaining intricate Vedantic philosophy in an easily understanding manner to everyone including the learned pundits.

In the section Teachings of Mahaperiyava talks upon “Man and Beast”. Here the Acharya talks about the significance of human birth and how one through knowledge should elevate oneself towards attaining the supreme knowledge which enables a person to attain liberation.

In the Miracles of Mahaperiyava we are going to read “Kaveri Snanam” which unravel the experience of devotee who hails from Maruthuvakudi.

I hope you will cherish reading this!

Please give your valuable feedback.

Happy reading! Warm Regards,

A.V. Devan
15.10.2011 /Chennai

GURU SAMARPANAM – [Issue # 10]

Excerpts from the Biography

Educational Techniques (Continuation..)

Swamigal stayed in Mahendramangalam from 1911 to 1914 and then returned to Kumbakonam. There is a Sankaralayam established in Mahendramangalam at the place where Swamigal had his Vidyabhyasam. Swamigal was twenty years old when he left Mahendramangalam after completing his studies. Within this short period, he turned out to be extraordinarily brilliant in all lines of studies, starting with puranas and the history of each sthalam. Once Swamigal grasped something, he never forgot it. He absorbed all knowledge from scholars and subject matter experts who visited him and also applied that knowledge to investigate and analyze the basis of such subject matter. There are very few who can be compared to our Swamigal in the way he interacted with people, analyzing the capabilities of the folks that he met.

When Swamigal was camped at Kumbakonam, he used to visit Gangai Konda Chozapuram, situated 30 miles away, atleast once every year. He visited the Shiva temple that was built in the same design as Tanjore Periya Temple and research the artifacts found there. P.V. Jagadeesa Iyer from the archeological department and Engineer Ananthazhvar helped Swamigal with this research. Finally, it can be said that our Swamigal after his education, by the young age of 20, obtained all the knowledge required for this position as Peetathipathi.

An episode during study (excerpt from “A succinct Biography” – by Sri A. Kuppuswamy)

One of those who taught the Acharya during this period was Sri Ganapathi Shastrigal of Painganadu near Mannargudi. He was a versatile scholar. Before he was forty years of age, he had written about a hundred works, in Sanskrit – short and long. He was awarded the title of ‘Mahamahopadhyaya’, by the Government of India posthumously just ten days after his demise. Ganapathi Shastrigal was residing in a house opposite to the Sankara Mutt, Kumbakonam. He would go to the Math early in the forenoon and teach the teen-aged Acharya for about an hour.

In the evenings, lessons in Sastras, Sanskrit, prosody etc. were imparted to the Acharya. In the spring season, the teacher and the student would sit for an hour or more on the sands of the dry bed of the Cauvery, near the mutt and there the lessons used to be carried out.

One evening the tutor was teaching. The Acharya was frequently thrusting the fingers of his left hand in the sand. Ganapathi Shastrigal observed this. The next morning he went to the mutt as usual. After prostrating to the Acharya, he said “Please permit me to leave Kumbakonam and go to my village”. The young Acharya was much surprised and he asked the teacher, “What is the reason for this sudden request of yours?” Shastrigal’s reply was a bit stern. He replied, “A student, desiring to acquire knowledge, should be quite attentive when lessons are going on. Concentration of the mind is essential. My guru used to tell his pupils that one sitting on sand but not touching it and one having a knife on his hand, but not doing anything with it and one having his mind fixed in something worthy, as examples for a “Sthita-Prajna” (one with a steadfast mind). Yesterday evening your Holiness was a bit inattentive to what was being taught yesterday evening.”

The Acharya quickly interposed and said, “I was attending although I was thrusting my hand into the sand off and on. I shall now repeat all of what was taught yesterday evening”. Ganapathi Shastrigal who was struck with wonder at the amazing memory and precociousness of the young Acharya, said, “I feel that I am not necessary hereafter. Your Holiness can learn everything without the aid of a tutor and I can go”. The Acharya was loath to part with such an erudite teacher and Ganapathi Shastrigal continued as teacher for about 10 more months.

Sri Sankara Vijayendra Saraswathi Swamigal – A Hundred Years of Light – III Volume

“During the few years when our Paramaguru imparted lessons to me in the Bhagavatpada’s Sutrabhashya, on my repeated request, the Mahaswami revealed a few interesting episodes pertaining to his youthful years. One of the episode is as follows” :

When the Acharya was in his late teens, during the Chaturmasys period, gathering of scholars were held in the Mutt off and on. Erudite scholars, well versed in two or three sastras participated in these gatherings. Devotees with a quantum of sastraic knowledge belonging to neighboring places would also attend the Vidvat Sadas to hear the Vakyartha-vichara (discussion cum short discourse) of the pundits. The great Acharya would grace the sadas with his presence and attend the discussion. On one such occasion, after the discussion had been over, some of the lay devotees placed a request before the scholars, praying for a clarification of a particular point touched upon by some of the scholars during the discussion.

Mahamahopadhyaya Harihara Shastrigal (who lived in the first half of the current century), who had been a teacher for many a pupil and who had been instrumental in printing and publishing many rare Sanskrit works which had until then remained as manuscripts, came forward to explain. The great Acharya, the assembled scholars and devotees listened with rapt attention to the hour-long elucidation of the famous pundit. But even after this, some of the devotees entreated for a more easily comprehensible explanation. None of the scholars dared to do so. Silence prevailed for some minutes. The Great Acharya, himself, told the assembly that he would clarify the issue. His Holiness spoke in simple Sanskrit and explained the touchy point in a lucid manner. All the scholars including Harihara Shastrigal were struck with wonder and they paid glowing tributes to the Mahaswamigal.

Deivathin Kural – Teachings of Mahaperiyava

Man and Beast

Animals grow transversely. That is why they are called "tiryak" in Sanskrit. Man who grows upright ought to have, unlike beasts, a high ideal before him. He will then obtain more happiness than all other creatures. But what do we see in reality? Man experiences greater sorrow than all other creatures. Animals do not know so much desire, so much sorrow and so much humiliation, as do humans. More important, they are innocent of sin. It is we humans who keep sinning and suffering as a consequence. In one sense it seems to me that Isvara has not endowed us with the same advantages that he has endowed animals with. We are not fitted with weapons of defense.

If a cow feels threatened it has horns to defend itself. The tiger has its claws. We have neither horns nor claws. Sheep have hair to protect them from the cold of winter, so too other animals. But man is not similarly equipped. So he cannot repulse an attack; nor can he run fast like the horse, which has no horns but is fleet-footed. Against all these handicaps, man has the advantage of being more intelligent than all other creatures. In order to protect himself from the cold of winter, man removes the hair (fur) of animals and weaves it into rugs. When he wants to travel fast he yokes a horse to his cart.

God has furnished man with this kind of skill; though he has neither claws nor horns to defend himself, a human being can forge weapons on his own. With the strength of his intelligence he remains the master of all other creatures and also rules over the entire world of inert matter.

All species of animals have their own habitats. Some types of bear that are native to the cold climes do not thrive in our country. The elephant is a denizen of the forests of India and some other countries of South-East Asia and Africa, but it does not flourish in a cold climate. But man inhabits the entire earth. He uses his brains to make any part of this planet fit for him to live. But, even with his superior intelligence, man suffers. All hardships stem from the fact of birth. How can one save oneself from being born again? But, then, what is the cause of our birth?

The wrongs committed by us are the cause of our birth and we have taken this body of flesh and blood to suffer punishment for the same. Suppose a certain number of whiplashes are to be administered according to the law. If the body perishes after ten lashes, we take another birth to suffer the remaining strokes. The sins we commit in satisfying our desires are the cause of our being born again and again. If there is no "doing", there will be no birth also. Anger is responsible for much of the evil we do and desire is at the root of it. It is of the utmost importance that we banish desire from our hearts. But it is not possible to remain without any action after having cultivated so many attachments. If the attachments were done away with we would cease to sin.

What is the cause of desire? Desire arises from the belief that there is something other than ourselves and our being attached to it. In truth it is the one Sivam that manifests itself as everything. The cow sees its reflection in the mirror and charges it imagining it to be another cow. If a man sees his own image thus, does he think that there is another person in the mirror? He is not perturbed by his image because he knows that it is himself. Similarly, all that we see is one and the same thing. Desire springs from our belief in the existence of a second entity, and it causes anger, which, in turn, plunges us in sin. A new birth becomes inevitable now. If we are enlightened enough to perceive that all objects are one, there will be no ground for desire. There must be an object other than ourselves, a second entity, to be desired. No desire means no anger and no sin. In this state there will be neither any "doing" nor any birth. And, finally, there will be no sorrow.

How do we obtain such enlightenment or jnana? Our body is sustained by our mother's milk. It is Ambal who nourishes us with the milk of jnana. She is indeed the personification of jnana. We will be rewarded with the light of wisdom if we firmly hold her lotus feet and dissolve ourselves in her. One who does so becomes God. The first step in this process of enlightenment is to make a man truly a man, by ensuring that he does not live on an animal level. The second step is to raise him to the heights of divinity. All religions have this goal. They may represent different systems of thought and philosophy. But their concern ought to be that man is not condemned as he is today to a life of desire and anger. All religions speak in one voice that man must be rendered good and that he must be invested with the qualities of love, humility, serenity and the spirit of sacrifice.

Mahaperiyava Miracles

Kaveri Snanam (As narrated by a devotee who hails from Maruthuvakudi)

Several years ago Sri Kanchi Maha Swamigal along with his parivaram (entourage) did vijayam (visit) of the Thanjai (Thanjavur) district areas. It was the month of Ani (jyaishtha). People from the villages of the surrounding taluks kept coming to have darshan of Maha Periyavaal who was camping in a large dharma chatram (free choultry) at Aduturai.

The pramukhas (notables) of the villages Natarajapuram, Govindapuram, Thyagarajapuram, Sattanur, and Tirumangalakkudi surrounding Aduturai, had arranged on behalf of their places, for a Samashti Bhiksha Vandanam (collective feeding of a sage and his retinue). At a distance of only one k.m. from Aduturai is my native place Marutthuvakkudi village located. My father BrahmaSri Santhana Vadhyar was then the Mudradhikari of Sri Kanchi Matham of that area. On behalf of our village too he wanted a Samashti Bhiksha Vandanam to be held. The local pramukhas had agreed for this. On the morning next day, my father started for the choultry where Swamigal was camping. He took me also with him.

On seeing him, the Matha Karyasta (secretary) said, "Shastrigal aren't you the Mudradhikari of Marutthuvakkudi? Shouldn't you have the Bhiksha in your place one day? You have it on the coming Sunday possibly?". My father said forthwith, "I too came over here to have it fixed. We shall have it on the Sunday." He asked the Karyasta, "Approximately what will it our expenses?"

The Karyasta said with a smile, "Shall tell you. Should remit two hundred and fifty rupees as the kanikkai (offering) to the Matham. Then your expenses of buying coconuts, fruits, vegetables and so on. After everything is over, when receiving prasadam from Acharyal, pada samarpanai (offering at feet) as convenient to your village. All told it might take rupees five or six hundred for your expenses." And he asked, "Won't there be enough collection at your place?"
With no hesitation my father said, "Besha Ayidum (will be accomplished well)". He continued with eagerness, "That's alright, but how much do the people of other places offer as Pada samarpanai?" "From five hundred to a thousand they do it", said the Karyasta. My father lapsed into deep consideration.

When we had darshan of Acharyal within a short while, we prostrated to him and got up. My father informed Swamigal about the Bhiksha Vandanam. "Besha Nadakkattume (may it take place well)", Swamigal gave anugraha. "Are there tanikal (rich men) in our place who can do it Ekadesham (alone)?" he asked.Lowering his tone, my father said, "Three or four persons are there. Among them two or three had now gone to Madras. The uddeshah (thinking) is that we all get together in the village and do Bhiksha Vandanam for Periyavaal." He prayed, "Acharyal should give anugraha." Smiling, Swamigal raised both his hands and blessed him.

There were only four days for the coming Sunday. My father started the collection. In the three Agraharams together, there will be about 30 houses. The collection was over by Thursday evening. 400 rupees had been collected. My father and the other Vaidikas in the village submitted another hundred rupees. Thus the total collection amounted to rupees 500! It was just enough for the Bhiksha Vandanam.

Only for Periyavaals pada samarpanai, money was required. It was my father's wish that at least five hundred rupees must be offered. He did not sleep well that night.Friday! We went to have darshan of Acharyal. Sitting in a thatched shed in the choultry, Swamigal was giving darshan. The crowd surged like a wave. At a distance, in a corner, joining our palms, we prostrated towards the direction Swamigal was seated. I looked at my father. His face was soaked in worry. His worry was whatever can be done for the pada samarpanai.

Suddenly a voice full of compassion: "Santhanam! Come near. Why are you standing there?" Laughing and gesturing, Acharyal beckoned him near. We both went near him, prostrated in shastaangam and got up. "What Santhanam, yesterday you were not seen here at all! any joli (work) in your place?" Swamigal inquired.

"Nothing of that sort Periyavaa. Aren't we doing Biksha Vandanam on behalf of our place this Sunday. On that account I was making some arrangements, that's all." Before my father could finish, Swamigal interrupted and asked, "That's alright Santhanam, the laukikams (collection) were completed as expected?" with a laugh. My father hesitated to reply to this.

Before he could open his mouth to say something, as if Swamigal had understood something, "Worry about nothing! By the krupa (compassion) of ChandraMauleesvara, things will happen as you have thought about them", Swamigal fondled him with words.

Suddenly, "Why Santhanam in the Kaveri river in this place, are there plenty of waters flowing

now, you know about it?" he asked. Everyone was confused as to why Periyavaa should inquire about the Kaveri waters.

"It is flowing in plenty Periyavaa", said my father. Periyavaa did not leave him at that. "Alright, when did you last go for your Kaveri snanam (bath)?"

"A week ago Periyavaa!", my father replied.

"Let it be. Is there much water flowing now, you know about it?" This is Periyavaa.

A local Anbar (devotee) present there said with humility, "I had gone for the Kaveri snanam this morning. A fair amount of water is flowing Periyavaa."

Swamigal was not at samadhana (reconciled) at that. "Flowing fairly means... not understandable! Does it flow so one can immerse and do snanam, I should know about it", he said.

Looking at my father, he continued, "Santhanam, you do one karyam. Go for Kaveri snanam at dawn tomorrow morning. Have a look and tell me if enough tirtham (water) flows for bathing with good immersion." Saying this, he suddenly got up and went inside!We returned to our place thinking that Periyavaal was asking all these details for his own immersed bath in Kaveri.

Saturday! It dawned. There was a slight drizzle. In accordance with Periyavaal's orders, we went for the Kaveri snanam. It was then seven o' clock in the morning. Apart from me and my father on the banks, there was nobody not a single fly or crow. Taking bath my father said, "Waters are flowing enough for taking a good, immersed bath! Should go and tell Periyavaa."

Then he started saying the Kaveri snana sankalpam in a loud tone. Suddenly, from the banks was heard a clear and loud voice: "Sastrigal! please stay awhile. I too shall join you. For me too kindly do the snana sankalpam. There will be punyam for you!" We both turned and looked. A man who could be estimated to be of 55 years of age was descending into the waters. A face that was not familiar at all! Finishing the sankalpa snanam we climbed up to the banks. Changing his clothes, that man gave my father five rupees towards snana sankalpa dakshina (ritual gift). My father inquired about him.

He started saying: "For me too our purvikam (ancestry) is only Marutthuvakkudi. My maternal grandfather too is from the same place. For my paternal grandfather Venkatachalam Aiyar, there was an own house in Marutthuvakkudi. After my grandfather, none of us remained here. We went to Bombay. Melur Chandramauleesvara Swami near Tiruneelakkudi is our kula deivam. 'Whenever you went by the side of our place, have a snanam in Aduturai Kaveri', my mother often used to say. I got that bhagyam only today. I am going to Thanjavur in connection with a family legal case. Now having got Kaveri snanam with sankalpam, much trupti (satisfaction)!"Then he asked, "Sastrigal I witnessed as I climbed down from the train. Many people in madisar and pancha kaccham are moving in throngs. What is the vishesham here?"My father elaborated to him about Acharyal's vijayam and the grama bhiksha vandanam. He was very happy to hear about it. "Even to listen to it is happiness. There is this nirbandham (constraint) for me not to participate in the Bhiksha Vandanam for the loka guru done on behalf of our place. Still, as an offer from our family, please include this amount too in the Bhiksha Vandanam." Saying this, he prostrated to my father, and handed over an envelope to him. My father could understand nothing. He opened the envelope and looked. 500 rupees inside it!"I shall take leave Sastrigal", my father stopped the man who was just leaving. "Your namadeyam (name)?", he asked the man. The answer he gave: "Chandramauli". We both stood amazed. Then we went straight to the choultry. Periyavaa was not there. They said he had gone to Govindapuram Sri Bodhendraal Matham. As my father went to the Matham Karyasta and said, "Periyavaa asked me to check if enough water is flowing in Kaveri for an immersed bath." Before he could finish, the secretary said, "Periyavaa returned at four dawn time this morning finishing his Kaveri snanam", giving it a grand finale. Our amazement grew!

Sunday. The Bhiksha Vandanam was over. All of us in the village prostrated to Periyavaal. My father submitted that 500 rupees as pada samarpanai in a plate full of fruits. Looking keenly at that fruit place for a while, Swamigal said laughing, "What Santhanam! Isn't your wish fulfilled by the krpa of Chandramauleeswara?"

All of us stood amazed and fell shastaangam before Periyavaal.


Pujyasri Mahaswamy Divya Charitram – Sri Sambamoorthi Sastrigal, Sri Kuppuswamy Iyer, Sollin Selvan “P.N. Parasuraman”
Kanchimahanin Karunai Nizhalil – Ananda Vikadan Publications
Voice of God – Volume – 1 – Kanchi Mahaswami Peetarohana Shatabdi Trust
Mahaperiyava Manimozhigal – By Sri Swami – Alliance Publications – Ellum Punnakkum – [Charukesi]
Anubhavam Ayiram – Ramani Anna – Sakthi Vikatan (Aug 30, 2008) []

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

“Musical Mantra” Of Muthuswami Dikshita

Dear Readers,

I am very glad to present the article “Musical Mantra of Muthuswami Dikshita”, which covers the biography of one of the Carnatic Music Trinity Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar.

I first heard the compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar through the music album titled “Guruguha Vani” sung by Smt. M. S. Subbulakshmi Ammal. Both the compositions and the voice are divine unparallel. Dikshitar’s songs bring in a mood of meditative devotion which transcends words and feelings. Dikshitar Kritis are fraught with details of mantras, tantras, chakras, description of the deities, details of the temple, specialties of the place and the list is huge. Dikshitar in his compositions have kept the Mudra “Guruguha” and also woven the name of the raga ingeniously in his compositions.

Dikshitar was a very learned and versatile. He had travelled wide to many temples and composed kritis on the deities. The devotion and bhakti is ever charged in his Kritis. The contribution of Dikshitar to the Carnatic music is immense.

The biography of Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar which is presented in this article helps us to know better about the period in which he lived.

Let us travel with Dikshitar to know his music!

Happy reading !

Warm Regards

AV Devan
4rd Oct 2011

MUSICAL MANTRA of Muthuswami Dikshita – Biography of Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar


The ancient Tiruvarur town which is located near Thanjavur in Tamilnadu is so sacred that there is a saying i.e. “Jananat Kamalalaye Mukti” meaning any one who takes birth in Tiruvarur will obtain salvation. Tiruvarur was a Chola heartland and was the cultural head quarters for many centuries. Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar was born on March 24, 1775 A.D. to Sri Ramaswami Dikshitar and Smt Subbammal as the eldest son in Tiruvarur. Tiruvarur attained a special place in the annals of Carnatic Music by being the birth place of the all the three music trinity, the other two being Sri Tyagaraja and Sri Syama Sastri. The town hosts one of ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva known as Tyagaraja and is famous for the temple car festival celebrated in the Tamil month of Chitirai. Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar’s ancestors hailed from Virinchipuram near Vellore in the North Arcot District. The ancestors of Dikshitar were engaged in performing yagna and were also worshippers and followers of Devi Upasana. Muthuswami Dikshitar’s father Sri Ramaswami Dikshitar was a Brahmin born in the year 1735 AD belonged to Kashyapa Gotra and Apastambha Sutra. His father was Venkateshwara Dikshitar and mother was Bhagirathi.

When Ramaswami Dikshitar was seven years old i.e. in the year 1742, there was a political upheaval in the region. This incident refers to the murder of the Nawab of the Subedar Ali at Vellore by Murtaza Ali which resulted in a rebellion and the entire area was thrown into turmoil. The Kaveri delta which was under the administration of the enlightened Maratha Kings of Tanjore was comparatively peaceful and prosperous. As per the divine will of Ambal, the family of Dikshitar moved to Govindapuram near Thiruvidaimarudur.

By about 1753, Ramaswami Dikshitar lost both his parents leaving him to carve out his own future. Ramaswami Dikshitar had by then received extensive training in the Vedas and could able to sing very melodiously. Once Ramaswami Dikshitar was giving a discourse about the greatness of Mahalingaswami at Tiruvidaimarudur Shetra which is capable of redeeming the “Brahmahathi Dosha”, also performed the raga alapana on few slokas. The uncle of Veerabadrayya happened to listen this and took him to Veerabadrayya who was an eminent musician and also belongs to the sishya parampara of Venkatamakhin. Ramaswami Dikshitar accordingly went to Tanjore and stayed with Virabahadrayya an eminent musician who enjoyed royal patronage for two years and learnt kritis composed by him in Rakti and Desiya ragas. He also learnt to sing with knowledge of svaras, alapana, pallavi and svarakalpana and went to Mayavaram. Later he met Sri Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshitar, who was the maternal grandson of the minister Venkatamakhin, at Thiruvidaimaruthur known as Madhyarjuna Shetra and learnt Veena and mastered Chaturdandi Prakasika, theory of music as Dikshitar believed that no music could be perfect unless it was based on a firm foundation of theory. Later he travelled to Tanjavur where he was respected and felicitated at the King’s court.

Ramaswami Dikshitar then went to Chidambaram and had darshan of Nataraja and played Veena in front of the Lord. At that time one Chidambaranatha Yati happened to listen to his music and took Ramaswami Dikshitar to his ashram and gave Srividya and Mahashodasakshari Mahamantra Deeksha and asked Dikshitr to go to Tiruvarur. Ramaswami Dikshitar then went to Tiruvarur when the celebration of Sri Tyagaraja’s festival was in progress and had the darshan of Lord Tyagaraja and his consort Kamalamba stayed there and worshipped them.

Once Lord Tyagaraja appeared in Ramaswami Dikshitar’s dream and instructed him regarding the sequence and order to be followed when the procession of the Lord is happening. The Lord instructed about when the deity is taken through the streets beginning with the dvaja mantapa and returned back there and details like on where, how and when Nagasvara vidvans should play. The same instructions are being followed even today, through the generations.

Ramaswami Dikshitar was childless till his 40th year. He and his wife Subbammal performed rigorous tapas known as ‘Bajanam’ at the Vaideswaran Kovil. They offerd ‘avarana’ poojas to ‘Sri Muthukumaraswami’ (Lord Skanda) for 45 days. Dikshitar’s wife had a dream wherein somebody tying coconut, banana and turmeric in her waist.

It is said that on the last day of the pooja the Devi appeared to Ramaswami Dikshitar in his dream and presented him with a Muktaharam (Pearl Necklace). He related the dream to the elders of the place who assured him that he will be blessed with children similar to Pearls. The year was ‘Manmatha’ and the star was ‘Krithika’ (Karthigai) and the month was Phalguna (Panguni). The annual Vasantotsava was being celebrated in the temple of Sri Tyagaraja Swami with great eclat. The entire town was resounding to the Vedic chanting and the music of the nagaswaram. It was in this divine atmosphere that Ramaswami Dikshitar was blessed with a baby boy whom he named as ‘Muthuswami’ named after the Lord Skanda of Vaitheeswaran Koil whose is known as “Muthukumaraswami”. The couple were later blessed with twins Chinnaswami and Balambal and finally Balaswami.


Muthuswami before he was sixteen years old , learnt the Vedas, intricacies of kavyas and natakas, alankara, vyakarna and mastered in playing Veena. He also obtained his preliminary musical education from his father Sri Ramaswami Dikshitar. Muthuswami also got married at a very early age. At that point in time one Sri Muthukrishna Mudaliar of Manali near Chennai visited Tiruvarur. Mudaliar was a Zamindar and a Dubash (Translator and Interpreter) to Governors Saunders and Pigot and was well connected with the East India Company. He was also a patron of art. He happened to listen to Sri Ramaswami Dikshitar singing at Tiruvarur and was so captivated that he invited him to Manali. Ramaswami Dikshitar accepted his invitation and went along with his family from Tiruvarur to Manali. Muthukrishna Mudliar died in 1792 and his son Venkatakrishna Mudaliar also known as Chinnayya Mudaliar, who succeeded his father was even more liberal in his patronage. He was also Dubash of the East India Company at Madras and in that capacity used to visit Fort Saint George quite often. He often took with him Muthuswami and his younger brothers to listen to the ‘Airs’ i.e. Western music played by Irish men in the British Band. The Bands played simple Celtic marching tunes, lilting melodies, easy on the violin, drums, bagpipes and flutes.

On the suggestion of Col Browne who was in the service of the East India Company, Dikshitar composed the text in Sanskrit for English tunes. Muthuswami and his younger brother Baluswami watched and listened and took it all in. They were not yet bound by the strictures of temple music and were for that period affected by melody, rhythm of these alien sounds. Since Muthuswami had already taken to the Veena, it was decided that Baluswami should learn playing on the Violin. By listening to Baluswami practice these basic tunes coupled with the band performances provided Muthuswami the base to set his earliest compositions. Baluswami’s experiments with the Violin on the other hand were even more pleasing and soon the Violin became a permanent feature of Carnatic music concerts. Thus the Celtic tunes were to affect Muthuswami prodding him to create a new genre called “Nottuswara” (Nottu being the tamil slang for notes) with Sanskrit Sahitya in the raga Sankarabharanam based on these British tunes. About 37 such compositions were considered to have been completed by Muthuswami Dikshitar. These were played by Baluswami Dikshitar on the Violin and was gradually introduced as an accompanying instrument in Kutcheris. Muthuswami’s parents after seeing somewhat Dikshitar detached attitude performed second marriage to him. Even after the second marriage also the attitude didn’t changed and his parents were very much worried at this juncture.


Chidambaranatha Yogi who had earlier initiated Ramaswami Dikshitar into the Sri Vidya Cult and taught him the tantric mode of worship was on a pilgrimage to Benares. On his way from the south he made a brief halt at Madras. Ramaswami Dikshitar invited the Guru for a biksha and Chidambaranatha yogi went to his house in Manali. Muthuswami and his brothers sang while the yogi performed the pooja. The yogi who visualised the eventful future ahead of Muthuswami asked Ramaswami Dikshitar to send Muthuswami along with him to Kasi. Ramaswami agreed though reluctantly to send Muthuswami with Chidambaranatha Yogi to Kasi. Muthuswami lived with the yogi for about six years in Kasi. This is the period that must be regarded as the most significant in moulding the personality of Muthuswami Dikshitar. The yogi gave him the upadesa of Shodashakshari Mantra and trained him further in the tantric form of worship. He taught him Yoga and Vedanta as propounded by Sri Adisankaracharya. This is the reason we find in Muthuswami Dikshitar a synthesis of Veda, Purana, Alankara, Jyotisha, Agama, Yoga, Mantra and Tantra which is abundantly reflected in his compositions. During his stay in Kasi Muthuswami had splendid opportunities of listening to Hindustani Music in all its purity. This had a profound influence on his creative genius which becomes apparent not only in his handling of Hindustani ragas but in the portrayal of ragas in general as well. Muthuswami was to leave for his home town and Chidambaranatha Yogi was offering worship to Goddess Annapoorneswari and Muthuswami was beside him.

The yogi told him that Annapoorneswari would not only grant his desires in this life but moksha thereafter and that he should worship her all his life he also instructed Muthuswami to visit Tiruttani one of the six abodes of Lord Skanda. The next day, while going to the Ganga for bathing, the Yogi said to Dikshitar “go down three steps in the Ganga and tell me what takes place”. Dikshitar stepped down the Ganga and to his great amazement a Veena with the sacred name of ‘Rama’ inscribed on it drifted into his arms. “This is the prasada of Ganga Devi. May you grow to become a great Vainika and celebrated Vaggeyakara” blessed the Guru. Later Chidambarana Yogi attained siddhi. Muthuswami then performed all the final rites for his Guru. The samadhi of Chidambaranatha Yogi is there at Hanumanghat at Kasi. Dikshitar then proceeded towards Manali.

While at Manali Muthuswami’s younger brother Chinnaswami lost his vision. Hence father Ramaswami Dikshitar took Chinnaswami to Tirupathi and observed vrata for one mandala. Ramaswami composed daily one song in one raga and composed about 48 songs in 48 ragas which start with “Manasa Vethi Tharulathalasaka”. Finally he sang a piece “Ingathaya Rakunnanu” in that he mentions that whether his son gets the vision or not I am moving to Kalahasthi and while he came out of the sannidhi and in the prakara two vaishnavas were conversing and in their conversation they said “everything will be visible”. While thinking about the same he reached his home and found Chinnaswami was restored vision by the divine grace of Lord Venktesa.


Muthuswami Dikshitar was born by the grace of Lord Muthukumaraswami of Vaitheeswaran Koil. Later when Muthuswami went to Tiruttani as per the advice of his Guru, the grace of the Lord continued. After having darshan at Muthuswami sat in the temple steps when suddenly appeared an old man from nowhere and asked him to open his mouth. Muthuswami felt that someone placing a sugar candy in his mouth. On opening his eyes, Dikshitar had a vision of Lord Subrahmanya, on his peacock, in the company of his two consorts. As the syrup trickled down his throat something stirred within him. The next moment Muthuswami Dishitar spontaneously and emotionally sang his maiden composition “Shri Naathaadi Guru Guho Jayati Jayati” in the raga Mayamalavagowla. Subsequently, he composed seven more Kritis. The eight kritis are in the eight vibhaktis or modes of address and are called the “Guruguha Vibhakti Kritis”. Each one of them is a gem in advaitic philosophy. While they are ostensibly in praise of Lord Subrahmanya, they in reality describe a great preceptor, who ever with his disciple’s well being at heart, goads them on the track of development, where Truth is the ultimate goal. As if acknowledging the grace of Lord Guha who had manifested as his Guru, Muthuswami Dikshitar wrote in all his compositions with the epithet “GURUGUHA”. This unique term, which was not ever used in any text or treatise previously, is of enormous significance. The word Guha means a cave and in philosophy connotes the mind, which is dark in ignorance, awaiting the realisation to illumine it. This realisation cannot come on its own except in the case of highly evolved souls. The process requires a Guru or preceptor, who shows the right path. The Guruguha’s grace is flowing even now to everyone who hears the compositions of Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar.

Muthuswami then went to Kanchipuram and stayed there with his brothers for four years. In the presence of Kamakshi, he practiced the Srividya Upasana and composed many kirtanas such as “Ekambranatham Bajeham”, “Neerajakshi Kamakshi”, “Kanjadalayatakshi”, “Kamakshi Varalakshmi” etc., adored with poetic words and popularized them through his younger brothers. He conducted philosophical dialogues with Upanishad Brahmam who lived there, and set ‘Rama Ashtapadis’ written by him to music including the Tala and Notation. He then went on a pilgrimage visiting and composing on temples at Arunachalam (Tiruvannamalai), Chidambaram, Tirupathi and Kalahasthi and then returned back to Tiruvarur. Muthuswami’s father Ramaswami Dikshitar used to observe Ekadasi by reciting the 12 cantos of Gitagovinda “Ashthapathi” with devotion and reverence. He also coined the raga “Hamsadhvani” and authored a prabandha in that raga. When Muthuswami Dikshitar was 42 he lost his mother and then after two months on a Maha Sivarathri day, lost his father Ramaswami Dikshitar who obtained the heavenly abode in the year 1817. When his younger brothers Chinnaswami and Balaswami who were learning Music from him, were invited by the patron kings, they went to Madurai and stayed there for some years.


Under the new Ryotwari System of the British those who have the lands must cultivate and pay the tax to them. Muthuswami and his brothers could not cultivate and hence could not able to pay tax decided to gift the lands. They lost their properties and poverty touch them. Once the situation went to such a stage wherein they could not afford to offer neivedya to the Goddess. At that point in time one Kamalam in the dasi community decided to offer all her Gold however Dikshitar did not accepted it by asking whether you have money to offer neivedhya for the entire life and started singing “Tyagarajam Bhajare Thapathryam Tyajare”. Within few minutes someone came and offered few cart loads of things which can be used for years.

Muthuswami Dikshitar composed on every deity in the Tiruvarur temple complex including Tyagaraja the presiding deity known as Tyagaraja Vibhakti Kritis and Tiruvarur Panchalinga Kritis. On Nilothpalambal his consort he composed Nilotpalambal Vibhakti Kritis. Goddess Kamalambal an independent deity of high tantric significance in the same temple complex and Dikshitar composed the famous “Kamalamba Nava Varnams” filled with exemplary sahityams which proved to be the showcase of his compositions. These Navavarnams were in all the eight Vibhaktis and are being sung as a highlight of the Guruguha Jayanthi which is celebrated every year. He then went to Mayavaram and composed “Abayamba Navavarnam”, and on the Goddess Balambal composed “Bajare Rechitha’.

When he came back to Tiruvarur he came to know that his younger brother Chinnaswami Dikshitar attained the heavenly abode. He then went to Nagapatinnam and there he composed “Amba Neelayadakshi” in the Raga Nilambari, “Soundara Rajam Ashraye” in Brindavana Saranga. He then reached Kuzhikarai and composed “Annapoorne Vishalakshi”. Subsequently he proceeded to Mannargudi and composed “Sri Rajagopala” in Saveri, “Bala Gopala” in Bairavi, “Chetha Sri” in Dwijavanti.


Muthuswami Dikshitar then reached Kevalur. He had a desire to compose and sing in front of “Akshaya Linga” and walked fast to reach the temple which was about to close. While he entered the temple the temple Gurukkal closed the door of the sanctum sanctorum. Dikshitar requested the Gurukkal whether he can delay going with the desire to see the Lord the Gurukkul replied sarcastically, “that the Lord will allow the delay till tomorrow and hence go and come tomorrow”. Dikshitar then composed “Akshaya Linga Vibo” in Sankarabaranam upon hearing the song the Lord by his divine will opened the door which was closed and gave the divine darshan to Dikshitar. The Gurukkal who returned with a suspicion saw the miracle and fell at the feet of the Dikshitar requesting for pardon. Dikshitar then reached Tiruvarur and composed kritis on “Shodasa Ganapathi”. Then upon request from his sishyas Ponnayya, Vadivelu, Sivanantham reached Tanjore and composed several kritis on Lord Brahadeeswara.

One of his disciple was Tambiappa Pillai who suffered from stomach ailment. The reason for the suffering were traced to the bad influence of the planet Jupiter in his horoscope. Dikshitar composed the song “Brhaspate” in praise of Jupiter and taught it to his disciple who sang it every day and was subsequently cured of his illness. Subsequent to this, Dikshitar embarked on creating songs on six other principal celestial beings. As each of the seven songs composed by Dikshitar was for the presiding deity of one day of the week they came to be called as the “Vara Kritis”. Two other Kritis i.e. “Smaramyaham” and “Mahasuram” were added to the Vara Kritis and is now called as “Navagraha Kritis”.

He also composed “Pancha Linga Kshetra Kritis”, “Rama Vibhakti Kritis”, “Tiruvarur Panchalinga Kritis”, “Abhayamba Vibhakti Kritis”, “Madhuramba Vibhakti Kritis” etc. Muthuswami Dikshitar had composed about close to 480 Kritis which are very widely sung by musicians today in Carnatic Music concerts. Most of his compositions are in Sanskrit and in the Krithi form i.e. poetry set to music. Muthuswami Dikshitar traveled to many holy shrines throughout his life and composed krithis on the deities and temples he visited. Dikshitar is considered to have composed on the widest range of deities for any composer. Each of his compositions is unique and brilliantly crafted. The compositions are known for the depth and soulfulness of the melody. His visions of some of the ragas are still the final word on their structure. His Sanskrit lyrics are in praise of the temple deity but Muthuswami introduces the Advaita thought seamlessly into his songs resolving the inherent relationship between Advaita philosophy and worship of Gods. His songs contains much information about the history of the temple and its background thus preserving many customs followed in these old shrines.

Muthuswami also undertook the project of composing in all the 72 Melakartha ragas thereby providing a musical example for many rare and lost ragas. He is also a master of Tala and is the only composer to have kritis in all the seven basic talas of the Carnatic scheme. Dikshitar shows his skill in Sanskrit by composing in all the eight declensions. For richness of ragha bhava, sublimity of their philosophic contents and for the grandeur of the sahitya, the songs of Dikshitar stand unsurpassed. He was a pioneer in introducing the concept of Samashti Charanams (fusion of Anupallavi and Charana) in his Kritis.


The adroitness with which he wove the Raga name into his compositions is astonishing. It is very difficult to use a Raga Mudra in a composition in such a way that it fits in properly in terms of the meaning, the flow of the song etc. Dikshitar has achieved a commendable feat by using Raga Mudras in almost all of his compositions. The way he has derived Raga Mudras out of multiple words is testimony to his vidwat. Please see below how he has woven the raga in his compositions :

“Samsara Bhityapahe” in the composition Shri Sarasvati Namostute (Raga - Arabhi)
“Pranamaya Koshanilakasha” in Shri Kalahastisha (Raga Huseni older name Oshani)
“Ati samipa Ruju marga darshitam” in Cintaye Mahalinga Murtim (Raga – paruju/paras)
“Mahakavya Natakadi priyam” in MahAgaNapatim (Raga - Nattai or Nata)
“Murddhanya shiva nigrahaya” in Mangaladevataya (Raga - dhanyashi)

His raga mudras had a meaning and were not just fit arbitrarily into the song. For example, in the case of “Kamakoti bilaharinuta kamale” in kamakshi varalakshmi (bilahari), bilam means a small pit which is there in all Kamakshi temples and Puja is done for the hari inside in the bilam.
Ironically for all the richness of his music he himself voluntarily lead a simple life. He was egalitarin in his outlook. This was reflected in the fat that he had disciples from all walks of life. Among them were the famous Tanjore Quartette whom he graciously referred to as Bharata Sreshtas in recognition of their ingenious musical skills. The disciples in turn venerated him and it is noteworthy that Ponniah (one among the Quartette) composed nine Kritis in praise of Dikshitar called the Navaratna Mala.

When his younger brothers Chinnaswami and Balaswami who were learning Music from him, were invited by the patron kings, they went to Madurai and stayed for some years. During that time Chinnaswami passed away.


Balaswami was dejected and was affected by the sudden death of his brother. So along with a disciple he went to Setu (Ramesvaram) and from there went to Ettayapuram, where he was taken care by the Maharaja there. Muthuswami Dikshitar thought of his brother’s demise to be natural occurrence but as he considered his younger brother Balasvami as his own child, he was worried about his whereabouts and his dejection. Hence he along with his two wives and a disciple went to Sattur via Madurai. Dikshitar while he was on his way in search of his brother saw the dry condition of the land and fervently sang “Anandamritakarshini” in the raga “Amritavarshini”. By the sheer devotion of Dikshitar there was heavy downpour and the area received good spell thereafter. There at a Mantapa while he was performing prayers he heard a few vaishnava brahmins talking about the marriage that was to be celebrated the next day by the Maharaja of Ettayapuram for a musician called Balasvami of Tiruvarur. As soon as he heard this Muthuswami was overwhelmed and in the presence of the Lord composed “Venkatesvara Ettappa Bhupatimashrayeham” in the raga “Megharanji”. Later he reached Ettayapuram and met his brother and he felt happy and stayed there.


One day, one of the Elephant belonging to the King’s cavalry got wild and went havoc. It entered the town and then reached the cremation ground and finally lied there. The King called Dikshitar and asked the implication of this behaviour for his State and Dikshitar assured, “Nothing will happen to you, the public and for the Kingdom and not to worry over the incident”. The next day was Naraka Chaturdasi day (i.e. Deepavali) and the day was October 21, 1835. Muthuswami Dikshitar woke up in the early hours as was his practice and after yogic practices went to take his bath. He had a vision of Kasi Annapoorneswari. Even as he was gazing on it the vision vanished. Dikshitar remembered what Chidambayara Yogi his Guru had told him at Kasi “She will give you not merely feed in this life but moksha thereafter”. Dikshitar felt his end was nearing. He performed Navavarna pooja to the Devi and sang the Kriti “Ehi Annapoorne”. After the pooja, Dikshitar moved on to the drawing room where his disciples had assembled. “Today is Chaturdasi day sacred to the Devi. May you all sing Kirtana in her praise” said Dikshitar to his disciples. They began singing “Meenakshi Me Mudam Dehi” in raga “Gamakakriya”. “It looks as though the Devi is liberating me from the bonds of this world. Sing the Kirtana again” said Dikshitar. They did so. Even as they were singing the Sahitya of the Anupallavi “Meena Lochani Pasa Mochani” he cast off his mortal coil. A memorial was erected over the spot where he was cremated at Ettayapuram. The annual jayanti and aradhana are being celebrated at Ettayapuram at his memorial.

All those who reads or hears the divine life history of Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar no doubt will certainly obtain bountiful blessings of Goddess Kamalaambal.

  • Bibliography/Reference

    Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar Keerthanigal – Kallidaikurichi Vinika Vidvan – Sri A. Sundaram Iyer & Sri S. Venkatesan – Music Book Publishers, Mylapore, Chennai.

  • Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini (Vaggeyakara Charitram) – Brahmashri Subbrama Dikshitar

  • Muthuswami Dikshitar – A creative genius – Chitravina N Ravikiran

  • Songs of Divine Splendor – Lakshmi Devanath – The Hindu 30th March 2001

  • Nottuswara – Muthuswami Dikshitar’s European Airs –

  • Biography of Muthuswami Dikshitar –

  • On what Distinguishes Dikshitar – T.K. Govinda Rao – The Hindu

  • Muttuswami Dikshitar and the British Raj – V. Sriram – The Hindu Oct 23, 2010