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Muthuswamy DikshitharIndia Post on Muthuswamy Dikshithar - Click for another picture of Dikshithar


From                    : 25th March, 1776  To 18th October, 1835

Father                  : Ramaswamy Dikshithar

Mother                 : Subbammal

Place of birth         : Govindhapuram, a village near Thiruvidaimarudhur

His Compositions and My Rendition


The Cavery delta, peaceful and prosperous one under the administration of the enlightened Maratha kings of Tanjore, saw a huge influx consequent to  political upheaval in the surrounding areas during the year 1742.  Dikshithar ancestors too migrated at that time to the State of Tanjore and settled down in a village called Govindapuram. Ramaswamy Dikshithar, father of Muthuswami Dikshithar was 7 years old at that time. Ramaswamy Dikshithar grew up to become a great musician, believed that no music could be perfect unless it was based on a firm foundation of theory.

Muthuswami acquired profound scholarship in the ancient sastras. His father gave him intense training in the 'lakshya' and 'lakshana' aspects of Carnatic music. The lakshana geethas and prabandhas of Venkatamukhi formed an important part of the training. Raga Hamsadhwani is the creation of Ramaswamy Dikshithar. In fact, his compositions would have received far greater recognition and wider popularity had his son Muthuswami Dikshithar not overshadowed him.

Ramaswamy Dikshithar, father of Muthuswami,  was childless till his 40th year. In the month of Phalguna, the  annual Vasantotsava time  in the Thyagarajaswami temple, a baby boy was born to him, and he was named Muthuswami, after God Kartikeya. Later on, two more sons - Chinnaswamy and Baluswamy and a daughter Balambika - were also born to Ramaswamy Dikshithar. 

Muthuswamy's exposure to the East India Company at Madras and  visits to Fort St George gave him  several opportunities to listen to Western music. On the suggestion of Col Browne of the East India Company, Dikshitar composed the text in Sanskrit for English tunes. A far more important benefit that accrued from the association of the Dikshithar family with Western music was the adoption of the violin as a regular concert instrument. Muthuswami, his father and brothers, often listened to the orchestral music played by the band and were deeply impressed by the important role assigned to the violin in the concert. They wondered why the violin could not replace the veena as an accompanying instrument.

Since Muthuswami had already taken to the veena, his brother Baluswamy started  learning  violin under  an European tutor. Before long Baluswamy acquired such mastery over the instrument that he accompanied Muthuswami in a veena concert. What began as an experiment soon became a permanent feature of Carnatic music concerts.

Muthuswami, along with his two wives, went to Kasi with Chidambaranatha Yogi. He was about 24 years age at that time. Muthuswami lived  for about six years in Kasi. This was the most significant period in molding  the personality of Muthuswami Dikshitar, in whom we find. a synthesis of Veda, Purana, Alankara, Jyotisha, Agama, Yoga, Mantra, and Tantra, which are abundantly reflected in his compositions.

His exposure to Hindustani music during this period, had a profound influence on his creative genius which becomes apparent not only in his handling of the Hindustani ragas, but also in the portrayal of ragas in general. He composed a number of kirtanas in Yamuna Kalyani (Yaman of Hindustani music) and among them special mention is to be made of the kirtana Jambupathe mam pahi, for its  richness of ragabhava and grandeur. Parmala Ranganatham in Hamir Kalyani brings out the salient features of the raga as delineated in Hindustani music. Chetha Sri Balakrishnam in Dwijavanthi portrays the raga in all its varied hues.

While bathing in Ganga, before returning from Kasi, Chidambaranatha Yogi told Dikshithar to go  three steps down in the Ganga and tell him what takes place. Dikshithar did as was told and to his great surprise, a Veena with the word Rama inscribed on it drifted into his hands,  a gift from Ganga Devi.

Muthuswami Dikshithar is a prolific composer. His compositions consist mainly of kirtanas . Besides, there are five ragamalikas, a pada varna and a daru. Dikshitar's compositions are mostly in Sanskrit. A few of them are what are known as Manipravala compositions. The most outstanding feature of his compositions is their rich ragabhava. If a composition is hummed, leaving out the sahitya, it can easily be mistaken for a ragalapana. His kirtanas can be described as ragalapana dressed in sahitya and artistically accommodated in the framework of tala. 

For  many old ragas such as Mangala Kaisiki, Narayana Gaula and Gopika Vasantha, we have to fall back on Dikshitar's compositions to understand the lakshana aspects. There are again ragas like Saranga Nata, Chhaya Gaula, Mahuri and Kumudakriya which have been handled only by Dikshithar.

His kirtanas are  slow in tempo, ideally suited for the portrayal of ragas. The veena, his favorite instrument, is the best suited to bring out the gamakas. Accordingly, rich usage of gamaka is another outstanding feature of Dikshitar's compositions.

Through Navagraha Kirtanas, devoted to the nine planets to propitiate the Navagraha through music, Dikshithar has shown the way to earn the divine grace of the Navagrahas through music as an alternative to the age-old mode of tantric worship.

The most famous Navavarna kirtanas based on the adoration of Sakthi  through the worship of Sri Chakra. These compositions are called Kamalamba Navavarna Kirtanas, even though they are devoted to the worship of Sri Chakra. This is because Dikshitar identified the Supreme Mother with Kamalamba, the consort of the presiding deity of Tiruvarur. The Navagraha Kirtanas and the Navavarna kirtanas are his famous group compositions.

In the month of Aswija, on the Chaturdashi preceding Deepavali, Muthuswami Dikshithar  after yogic practices  performed Navavarna pooja to the Devi (Godess) and sang  Ehi Annapoorne. After the pooja Dikshithar moved on to the hall  where, while his disciples at his request were singing Meena lochani Pasha mochani, he passed off peacefully to eternity.