It was in the year 1975 when Sri V.Ramaswamy was working with The Indian Steel Rolling Mills, Nagapattinam that he enjoyed the full beauty and grace of Ambal Neelayadakshi. When the deity was taken through the four streets around the temple in a well decorated beautiful car accompanied by music and Veda mantras that he got the inspiration to compose lyrics in praise of the Ambal.
Goddess Neelayadakshi graced and blessed me to write at least one song every year. I got them printed and arranged for distribution to devotees during Adi Puram function in the temple through friends.
-Sri V Ramaswamy
While he was in Mumbai, he was suggested by an elderly woman, to worship Goddess Neelayadakshi during Navratri festival keeping the Deity’s picture on a swing (joola or Oonjal in Tamil). Since that year 1981, Mother Neelayadakshi’s picture is kept on a home-made decorated Joola inviting devotees on Vijayadasami Day to worship and seek Her blessings
It is nothing but Her Grace that I get the lyrics in praise of the Deity a few months before the Adipuram festival.
- Sri V Ramaswamy
V Ramaswamy’s compositions were tuned to carnatic ragas by Chennai Violinist Mullaivasal Chandramouliji and sung by his troupe. His son Sri Padmanab Sridhar funded the project to bring out the CD.
Sunaada Radio thanks Sri V Ramaswamy and Sri Padmanab Sridhar for sharing the wonderful compositions on Ambal Neelayadakshi with all our listeners.
My father, Veena L Raja Rao was a man of multi-dimensional achievements. The more I study my Father’s life and works, the more I am in awe of the range and depth of his creativity. From a very early age, he had begun to evole not just as a visionary but a pioneer as well. As a visionary, he had promoted Kannada Sangeeta and in this effort, he set to tune and published notations for the rich lyrics of Haridasas and Shivasharanas. As a pioneer, he saw a need for Sangeeta Shastra texts in Kannada language, and took the initiative to write and publish text books.
I have attempted here to briefly highlight the multiple areas in which Raja Rao’s creativity had flourished.
- Sreenivasa Rajarao
Mysore L. Raja Rao belonged to a lineage of vainika-s patronised by the Odeyar dynasty. Raja Rao’s Father Veene Lakshminaranappa (1878 – 1934), also recognized as Bhairavi Lakshminaranappa, was a Fourth generation vainika, gayaka and a vaggeyakara.
In his earlier years, Raja Rao was a consummate vainika and a gayaka. As a vocalist, he was highly influenced by Tiger Varadachar. However, Mysore Vasudevacharya was his idol, and young Raja Rao had accompanied the master in many performances.
Beginning in the 1930s, Raja Rao and younger brother Gopala Rao, performing together had achieved fame as Mysore Brothers. They had performed frequently in Madras, Trichy, Poona, Bombay and other places and were featured in over a hundred radio broadcasts. It was during this time (approx. 1937) that Columbia Records brought out a Gramophone Record - the brothers have rendered Mysore Vasudevacharya’s pranatarthi haramahm in Junjhoti raga.
In the year 1934, highly impressed by Raja Rao’s renditions of Mysore Vasudevachaya’s compositions, Mr. M. V. Raghavan, Accountant General of Madras, sponsored Raja Rao on a concert tour lasting Three months, mainly with the objective of popularising Vasudevachaya’s compositions in Tamil Nadu. The highlights of this tour were the concert in Vellore (December 9, 1934) and the concert at Madras Music Academy in December 1934. Also, there were private recitals for Dr. C. V. Raman.
Raja Rao had begun his phase as a vaggeyakara as early as 1935 when he was about 26 years of age. Most of his compositions are time stamped between 1935 and 1942. His earlier compositions are all in Telugu. However, it appears his Kannada pride and a vision of Kannada Sangeeta seem to have emerged during this phase, and many kritis have been composed in Kannada. His ankita was Purushottama.
Raja Rao has composed 4 swarajatis, 5 varnas, 43 kritis and 3 tillanas.
Raja Rao’s compositions in the following ragas appear to be unique.
kApAdave in raga Chamundi sung by Smt.Nagamani Srinath
He had also composed in uncommon ragas like Nada Brahma, Bhuvana
Gandhari, Hemavati, Shankara Priya and Pashupati Priya.
In documenting the history of Carnatic music in Karnataka, Raja Rao’s contributions stand out in two main areas – First, his sincere attempts in promoting Kannada Sangeeta, in the form of his pioneering work of setting musical notations to hundreds of compositions of Haridasas and Shivasharanas, and secondly, during a time when Sangeeta Shastra text books in Kannada language were unavailable, Raja Rao took it upon himself to write, and to publish text books in Kannada.
Raja Rao conducted classes at Kannada Sahitya Parishat to teach Kannada compositions and he also gave full-length performances featuring exclusively Kannada compositions.
Kannada Sahitya Parishat published the following books of Raja Rao
Haridasara Kritigalu was published as early as 1942.
Shiva Sharanara Kritigalu was published in 1952
Haridasa Kriti Manjari was published in 1955
Basaveshwara Vachana Gana Manjari was published in 1970.
Celebrated Kannada poet D. V. Gundappa sought Raja Rao’s help to set musical notations to his classic work “Antahpura Geetegalu” published in 1950.
It was interesting for me to discover that Raja Rao had also set Jaina Bhaktigeete into Karnatic tunes.
Recognising the lack of texts pertaining to Sangeeta Shastra in Kannada language,
Raja Rao had taken the initiative to correct this situation. He authored and published
Sangeeta Shastra Saara in 1962
Sangeeta Shastra Chandrike in 1965.
These two pioneering books are, to this day, much sought after, and are seeing reprints on a regular basis.
Bangalore University published another pioneer work Bharatiya Sangeeta Vaadyagalu, a treatise on musical instruments of India (1969). This book has been reprinted in 2009.
Guru – a model teacher
Multifaceted talent as he was, Raja Rao had evolved into a performing artiste who was a musicologist as well. His mastery over the lakshya and lakshana aspects of music was put into good use with the authoring of text books and teaching.
Over the years, Raja Rao had groomed numerous dedicated disciples. First generation of disciples were Ratnagiri Subbashastri, T N Ramachandra Rao, B R Anantha Ramaiah (all violinists); Krishnamurthy and younger Brother L Seshagiri Rao (Veena), C V NagaRaj (vocal and violin), Kolattur RamaKrishna Shastry, C K ShankaraNarayana Rao and Gopinatha Dasaru and Jayasimha Dasaru, founders of Prabhat Kalavidaru.
Second generation of disciples included Malathi, Shyamala Rathnam, Jaya Doreswamy, Vasantha Venugopal and Rajamani NagarajaRao.
From among the next generation, daughter Veena Kinhal (now settled in California), Vijaya Prabhakar (Arizona) and Suma Sudhindra are notable Veena Vidushis.
Raja Rao was invited to set up the music department at A P S College in Bangalore (1957) where he trained hundreds of students. T S Vasantha Madhavi, T S Vasundhara, T S Satyavati and Tara Krishnamurthy, to name a few, belong to this group.
An actor, an author and a speaker
Any biography of Raja Rao would be incomplete without mentioning Raja Rao, the actor in the role of Bheema in the famed play GadaYuddha (United artists, 1952). Writer C K Nagaraja Rao had played the role of Duryodhana. Raja Rao acted in several other plays and also composed background music for these plays.
Raja Rao was a highly respected speaker and was featured regularly in musical discussions, lecture demonstrations and music conferences across the state.
Gamaka kale was another area where Raja Rao had made significant contribution.
India Book House had published two biographies authored by Raja Rao:
Bhairavi Lakshminaranappa Published in 1975
Mysore Sadashivarayaru Published in 1977
The above books have been reprinted in 2009.
Awards and Recognitions
In the year 1974, Raja Rao was chosen President for the Fourth Music Conference of Karnataka GanaKala Parishat.
In the year 1979, Raja Rao was chosen President for the state level music conference organized by Karnataka Sangeeta Nritya Academy.
Raja Rao was entrusted a special project to teach Carnatic music to a batch of American university students who came to Bangalore in the early 1970s.
Raja Rao passed away on November 28th, 1979 in Bangalore, concluding a life that was rich in creative explorations of music and fine arts.
Listen to Sri Veene L Raja Rao’s compositions in nAdalahari, vAdya vAividhya,,nAdasudha on Sunaada Radio.
Sunaada Radio is grateful to Sri Sreenivas RajaRao and RajaRao foundation for generously sharing albums of his compositions for the benefit of all rasikas. Please contact rajaraofoundation AT gmail DOT com for audio albums.
His Holiness Paramahamsa Sri Sri Satchidaanandendra Saraswathi Swamiji, the founder of Adhyaatma Prakaasha Kaaryaalaya at Holenarasipur (Hassan Dist., Karnataka State ) and its branches in Bangalore the author of over 250 reputed works on advaita philosophy in English, Sanskrit & Kannada , blessed the earth with his presence for ninety six useful years ( 1880 – 1975 ).
In the year 1915 when he was only thirty five years of age he noticed the accretions that had crept into Shankara Siddhantha, by the commentators and he felt the need to rediscover the real Shankara free from these accretions.
He strove single handedly to propagate and popularize parishuddha shankara vEdanta siddhAnta. Age and ailments did not deter him. His works born out of intuitive experience are characterized by vast and deep scholarship, clear and precise perception. His authentic interpretation of Shankara has been greatly recognized in the East and the West. He was not just a rare and accomplished individual but a mighty and magnificent institution.
His sayings based on real Shankara are universal in appeal. For example -
1. Vedanta is a Science of Reality.
2. Anyone who is eager to know the true nature of the self can understand the teachings of Vedaanta.
3. Vedaanta is a positive science founded on reason, intuition and universal experience, etc..
He was initiated in to Vedaata by the then pontiff of ShringEri Sri Shivaabhinava Nrisimha Bharathi Swamiji, at Kaaladi and he had come under the influence of saintly scholars such as Brahma Chaitanya Maharaj of Gondavali and Kurthukoti Mahabhagavatar.
The Karyaalaya founded by revered Swamiji in his former Ashrama is registered public charitable institution. His Highness Sri Jayachamarajendra Odeyar Bahaddur of Mysore was the Paripalaka of the Karyalaya. Their Holinesses The Shankaracharyas of ShringEri, Dwaraka and Kanchi encouraged the institution by graciously granting some monetary help as a token of their recognition of the activities of the Karyalaya.
Vedantic classes and lectures of prasthAnatrAyee are regular daily routine. Swamiji has constructed a Digvijaya Rama Temple at Holenarasipur to which daily services are rendered even today. Thus the institution is spreading the essence of Vedanta to all human beings which is irrespective of caste, creed, sex, nationality, age, etc.. which is every ones birthright to know the real self or mOksha as stated by the great Shankara-
The sole purpose of his life was to spread the real tradition - Shaankara Sampradaaya – of Vedanta i.e. AdhyArOpa apavAda prakriya as pointed / recognized by Shankara in Bhagavadgeeta Bhaasya. Swamiji is the first person to notice & discover this in Bhagavadgeeta Shaankara Bhaashya. He explained its significance and importance in understanding the messages of prasthAnatrAyee. His approach to the subject is analytical. He made a comprehensive and comparitative study of all the Vedantic thinkers who lived prior to Shankara as also those who lived after Shankara. Even to-day his sayings are vibrant and living which are being spread through his lectures in English, Sanskrit and Kannada by his direct and intimate disciple Bramharshi Adhyaatma Vidyaa Praveena Mahamahopadhyaya .Sri K.G. Subbaraya Sharmaji, an equally energetic vibrant pundit who travelled in U.S. also in 1995 to spread unique teachings of Vedaanta & Shankara.
His sole aim is to spread the messages in Shaankara Bhaashya and keep alive the sacred memory of the revered Swamiji through lectures, books etc. He was also the editor of the popular Kannada trimonthly magazine – Shankara Bhaskara. He has also written ShAnkara saMvatsara, vEdanta saMvatsara , Bhagavatgeetha saMvatsara prabOdha chintAmaNi which has been published in Kannada, Samskrutam, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Oriya, Urdu, Marathi, Malayalam, English and also several books in Kannada .
Swamiji lived a full life engrossed in vedantic thoughts , always right from morning till he slept and till he shuffled off his mortal coil, in accordance with the saying AsupterAmruteh kAlamnayed vEdanta chintaya quoted by H.H. Paramaachaarya of Kaanchi mutt in 1945.
Sunaada feels blessed to share some of his compositions . Sunaada conveys its sincere thanks to Sri. Sanjeeva Murthy for sharing it with us. By the blessings of Shankara and Swamiji let us also live our life fully in the same way, so that we can enjoy the everlasting bliss of Aatman.
You can listen to Swamiji’s compositions on themes including upanishads, ShankarAcharya, bhagavadgeetha in nAdOpAsanaa on Sunaada Radio.