Sivasankari was in top form and gave a wonderful talk on her childhood days in the city. Sridhar Joshi has reviewed it http://sridharjoshi.blogspot.com/
Archive for August, 2010
Ramanathapuram “Poochi” Srinivasa Iyengar
Srinivasa Iyengar or Poochi Iyengar as he was better known was one of the great performers and composers of the era immediately after the Trinity. Born on 16th August 1860 to Ananthanarayana Iyengar and Lakshmi in the estate of Ramnad (Ramanathapuram), he was sent to study at the local school where he formed a close friendship with a fellow classmate and future Zamindar of Palavanatham, Pandithurai Thevar. Thevar, was a kinsman of the ruling Sethupati of Ramnad and through him the latter got to know of the singing talents of Poochi Iyengar.
The ruler immediately made arrangements for the young boy to be sent to Tiruvayyaru to learn music under Patnam Subramania Iyer (1845-1902), the eminent composer and musician who through his own guru Manambucchavadi Venkatasubbayyar, traced his lineage to Tyagaraja (1767-1847). After many years of training, the first performance took place at the Darbar Hall, Ramnad, in the presence of the ruler and several notable musicians including Patnam Subramania Iyer. It was a successful debut and the pleased ruler gave Patnam Subramania Iyer a reward of Rs 10,000 which enabled him to buy a residence in Tiruvayyaru. Poochi Iyengar was showered with gold and made a court artiste.
Poochi Iyengar became a busy concert artiste thereafter travelling all over South India. According to Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar (1866-1943), Poochi Iyengar sang effortlessly and emphasised on melody rather than rhythm. He made his concerts attractive and enjoyable but was not very forthcoming in giving accompanists solo opportunities! As per Mysore Vasudevachar (1865-1961), he followed the style of Patnam Subramania Iyer faithfully and though his voice was pliant and rich in the middle and lower octaves, it sounded slightly harsh in the higher octave.
Poochi Iyengar became a versatile composer in the true Patnam tradition for he created tana varnams, a pada varnam, kritis, javalis, tillanas, kavadi chindus and at least one ragamalika. His tillanas are historically interesting for some of them are dedicated to the rulers of Mysore, Ramnad and Sivaganga. Besides these, for the Coronation Darbar of King George V in Delhi in 1911, he composed a song Satatamu Brovumayya in raga Todi as a prayer to Lord Rama to protect the new king and this was awarded a gold medal at the Muthialpet Sabha of Madras. While many of his songs are dedicated to Rama, there are some in praise of Lord Venkateswara of Tirumala of which one, Anudinamu (Begada) is presented here. His mudra being Srinivasa, it was perhaps very appropriate that several of his varnams were dedicated to Lord Vishnu as in the Ananda Bhairavi piece in this album. His Parthasarathy (raga Madhyamavati) is dedicated to the deity in Triplicane. Perhaps the most famous song of Poochi Iyengar is Saraguna Palimpa in raga Kedara Gaula. It is said he composed it as a prayer when he was afflicted by an injury in his leg.
Among his compositions there is a rare song in praise of Sita, the consort of Rama (Paripalayamam Padmasane in raga Harikamboji). He also composed a song, Sadguru Swamiki in raga Ritigaula in praise of Tyagaraja and his disciple Bangalore Nagarathnamma (1878-1952) would begin her Aradhana to Tyagaraja in Tiruvayyaru with this song.
Poochi Iyengar taught many disciples at home for he ran a proper gurukula in Ramnad. Mysore Vasudevachar (1865-1961) who was a later disciple of Patnam Subramania Iyer noted that apart from being a patient and dedicated teacher, he was a very affectionate guardian to all of them. One night he detected that the bed of his senior disciple Salem Doraiswami Iyengar was empty. After a frantic search he found the student on the banks of a nearby lake, eyes closed and singing the guru’s composition Paramapavana Rama in Poorvikalyani. He found the rendition to be perfect and having waited for the singing to be over, embraced his disciple and brought him home. The apple of Poochi Iyengar’s eye was undoubtedly Ariakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar (1890-1967), who blazed a trail of over fifty years in Carnatic music. Ramanuja Iyengar who came rather late to train under Poochi Iyengar, was devoted to his guru and invariably began his performances with one of the latter’s varnams. This became a bone of contention during the Tamil Isai movement of the 1940s when Ramanuja Iyengar preferred foregoing concert opportunities at the Tamil Isai Sangam to giving up singing the Telugu varnams of his guru. He stuck to his guns and the Tamil Isai Sangam finally relented in 1956. Ramanuja Iyengar also married Ponnammal, one of Poochi Iyengar’s nieces. This naturally brought about a closer bond between guru and sishya.
While he may have been a disciple of Patnam’s, the music of the latter’s bitter rival, Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan (1844-1893) clearly influenced Poochi Iyengar. His tribute to Sivan is in the form of two tillanas in extremely complicated talas, an aspect of music in which Vaidyanatha Sivan excelled. Poochi Iyengar’s two tillanas, one in Kapi and the other in Kamavardhini (Pantuvarali) are respectively set in Lakshmisa (a tala of 108 beats to a cycle) and Ragavardhini (a tala of 72 beats). Vasudevachar also notes that Poochi Iyengar’s style of singing Kalpana Swarams was more akin to that of Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan’s.
Poochi Iyengar was actively involved in the Tyagaraja Aradhana and was Vice President of the Tyagaraja Parabrahma Vaibhava Prakasa Sabha, also known as the Chinna Katchi which was one of the two factions that observed the Tyagaraja Aradhana till his disciple Bangalore Nagarathnamma arrived on the scene and finally succeeded, with the help of Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar and others in unifying the Aradhana in 1940.
Poochi Iyengar passed away in 1919. A compilation of his songs was published in 1982 by Salem Chellam Iyengar, the son of his disciple Salem Doraiswami Iyengar. Today, Poochi Iyengar’s songs live on and perpetuate his memory. And so does the mystery of the appellation Poochi. Over the years, many theories have sprung up. One says that as a child he was as mischievous as an insect and so his parents nicknamed him Poochi. Yet another claims that his fidelity to pitch was akin to the buzz of the bumblebee. A third states that he was given to applying (poochu in Tamil) sandal paste in copious quantities on himself after meals which according to Vasudevachar were also gargantuan. Whatever the reason, Poochi Iyengar he became and remains, yet another fascinating personality in Carnatic music.
This write-up was written for a CD comprising Poochi Iyengar’s songs, by Charsur and sung by Sumitra Vasudev
1. Marina Beach – Tilakar Thidal
2. Vishwakamal building, RK Mutt Road -originally Krishna Vilas, the place where the Congress party was first mooted
3. Fort St George – the flag post on which Arya Bhashyam evaded security and hosted the Congress flag on 26th January 1930
4. Tiruvottiyur Tyagier’s house (Ramaswami Street) – where SPY Surendranath Arya was given shelter
5. Satyamurty’s house, Sundara (Thanikachalam Chetty street)
6. Rajaji’s House – Bazullah Road
7. Sladens Gardens/Kalki Gardens (Kilpauk)- where Gandhi stayed when Badruddin Tyabji lived there. Later it was MS Subbulakshmi’s house
8. YMIA Gokhale Hall
9. Broadway – for the famous Simon Commission protest by T Prakasam
10. Theosophical Society – Annie Besant connection
11. New India Building – Second Line Beach
12. The Grove, Yeldham’s Road where under the Divi Divi tree, New India was edited when the Government banned the publishing of the paper from any premises
13. Sasi Vilas (alas demolished)- where Subramania Bharati was given shelter
14. Bharati Illam
15. Vai Mu Kothainayaki Ammal’s house on Car Street, Triplicane
16. Ambujammal’s House, Alwarpet
17. Gandhi Irwin Bridge
18. Memorial Hall (commemorates the Sepoy Mutiny)
19. Gandhi Peak on Pycrofts Road
20. YMCA Building on NSC Bose Road (Gandhi first spoke here in 1914)
21. My Ladye’s Garden – where a civic reception was held for Gandhi in 1914
22. The Spurtank (venue of the 1927 Congress Session), there were at least six other sessions in the city
23. Evening Bazar road where the famous Bhagat Singh song books would be sold
24. Memorial to Gandhi’s concept of Satyagraha outside Chola Sheraton (It was while staying at the bungalow that stood here that Gandhi first thought of it)
25. The Hindu’s office on 100 Mount Road (later the ACJ building)
Please add more if you can think of them
Given below are further details of the events that Madras Musings is organising by itself to celebrate Madras Week:
Chennai Heritage/Madras Musings Lecture Series
All talks will begin at 7.00 pm and will be preceded by tea/coffee and refreshments from 6.30 pm. The programmes will end by 8.15 pm.
15th August: Taj Connemara: My Madras, a talk by Sivasankari, the well-known author. An awareness on social issues; a special sensitivity to social problems; a commitment to set people thinking – these are the unique characteristics of the writer Sivasankari. Hers has been a career devoted to touching the hearts of people through in-depth research.
16th August: The Park: J Chandrababu and Madras Bhashai in films, a talk-cum-audio visual presentation by Mohan V Raman, well-known film and television actor who has carved a niche for himself in his use of films as a media for conducting management training sessions. Mohan Raman has been a fixture at the Madras Musing lecture series for over three years.
17th August: The Park: Tanglish in Tamil Cinema, a talk-cum-audio visual presentation by Bharadwaj Rangan, the well-known and National Award winning film critic of the Indian Express. It is said that several film-goers base their decisions
18th August: GRT, T Nagar: The Writing on the Wall, Life in Ancient Madras as gleaned from inscriptions, a presentation and talk by Pradeep Chakravarthy. Pradeep is a young heritage enthusiast who combines his professional commitments as a member of the Leadership Coaching team at an IT major with his passions for several aspects of heritage.
19th August: The Madras Gymkhana Club: The Old Guard, Architectural Firms of early 20th Century Madras, a presentation and talk by Sujatha Shankar. Sujatha is a well-known architect of the city with several prestigious projects to her credit. Her abiding passion for heritage led to her making a film on the city’s architectural heritage. She is also on the Heritage Conservation Committee of the CMDA.
20th August: Freemasons Hall, Commander-in-Chief Road, Egmore: Sex and The City, a talk by Dr Vijay Nagaswami. The city’s leading psychiatrist who specializes in relationship issues. He is also a well-known author with three books. He writes for The Hindu besides conducting workshops and seminars for several business houses of the city.
21st August: Taj Mount Road: Policing the City, a talk by T Rajendran, the Police Commissioner of Chennai. It is Mr Rajendran’s responsibility to ensure law-and-order in this vast and teeming metropolis and he has a string of facts, figures and anecdotes on what goes into ensuring Chennai remains law-abiding.
22nd August: Ceebros Raintree Hotel, St Mary’s Road: The T Nagar I knew, a talk by Dr Nalli Kuppuswami Chetty. No resident of this city can be unfamiliar with Dr Nalli who apart from being a textile baron is also a prolific writer, a patron of the arts and champion of social causes. He has written a book on T Nagar and this was reviewed in Madras Musings some time ago.
Madras Musings Heritage Tours
August 14th: 6.30 am – Popham’s Broadway – travel down one of Chennai’s historic thoroughfares and relive the times when it was the place to be in. The first private hospital, the first home of Ananda Vikatan, a historic foundry, old theatres, some old churches, the home of Harrisons, one of the premier catering houses of the city, opticians, cycle shops, a 110-year old club and much more. Tour by van and walk. Programme ends with breakfast. Prior reservation necessary through email to email@example.com . Walk fee: Rs 400 per head.
August 15th: 6.30 am – Wandering through Vepery – This historic area was once a village with a lake in the middle. Now it is home to several old churches, the first printing press, plenty of historic educational institutions and the veterinary hospital. Did you know Muthulakshmi Reddy first lived in Vepery and her house is on its last legs? And what about the intersection of Maddox Street and Gen. Collins Road where a grisly murder once took place? All this and more. Programme ends with breakfast. Prior reservation necessary through email to firstname.lastname@example.org . Walk fee: Rs 400 per head.
August 21st: 9.30 pm – George Town by night- once the centre of the city, this was home to a bustling night life. Devadasis and common prostitutes apart, George Town was famous for its cinema theatres some of which still survive. Experience a night show in one of these. And GT was known for its sensational murders of which at least three, all committed at night, went down in history. And what about bombings from warships at the dead of night? Relive all this and end it with a glass of flavoured milk. Prior reservation necessary through email to email@example.com . Walk fee: Rs 400 per head.
August 22nd: 6.30 am – NSC Bose Road (the old Esplanade) and Rajaji Salai (First Line Beach) were where business laid down roots in olde Madras. Here was where the first commercial houses, Arbuthnots, Parrys, Best & Co, Gordon Woodruffe and several others began life. Interspersed with some architectural masterpieces, this is where the business history of Madras was written. On the opposite side is the Port Trust which played an important role in transforming this city from Kipling’s tired withered beldame to a thriving centre of prosperity. Programme ends with breakfast. Prior reservation necessary through email to firstname.lastname@example.org . Walk fee: Rs 400 per head.
Madras Week, which started off as Madras Day seven years ago to celebrate the founding of the city on 22nd August 1639, may well become Madras Fortnight this year, if not Madras Month. This year though Madras Week will be celebrated between the 15th and the 22nd of August it looks like the celebrations will begin by the second week of August itself and carry on till the 31st. For the small band of volunteers who began this concept, the response from corporate and public citizens of the city has given enormous satisfaction.
This year, the hotels of the city will, as usual be enthusiastic participants. To begin with the Taj Group of Hotels, The Park, Green Park, The Raintree and others will be hosting various programmes. More hotels are expected to join. We are hoping that they will also host exhibitions and organise food festivals. Schools with heritage clubs are already talking about hosting events and competitions centring on the city as their theme.
As has been the practice in past years, Madras Musings will be hosting eight talks at various locations, on subjects related to the city. Some of our speakers are high-profile individuals of the city who will share their experiences of living in this metropolis. We are also hoping that like last year, we will be able organise talks in North Chennai as well.
Plenty of heritage walks are being organised this year. Some of the walks will be down Mount Road, Broadway, Vepery, First Line Beach (Rajaji Salai), the Chenna Kesava and Chenna Malleeswara Swami temples. We are also planning a unique tour of George Town at night.
Mylapore Times, led by Vincent D’Souza will be organising a wide range of events for Madras Week. These will include walks, quiz contests and talks. Sashi Nair has been our man for West Chennai. He has been organising events in that part of the city at the Green Park Hotel and other venues such as the Jaigopal Garodia School. We are sure that he has very many interesting events planned this year too.
INTACH will be focusing on events for schools in connection with Madras Week This year, the Max Mueller Bhava- Goethe Institut and the Alliance Francaise are planning a series of events to commemorate Madras Week. In addition a whole host of other organisations such as Rotary Clubs and bodies such as the Indo American Association are planning out their own events. A series of music and dance programmes will be planned at the Freemasons Hall in Egmore and will be hosted by Madras Musings. The Roja Muthiah Research Library will be organising talks during Madras during the week. As these lines are being written, more events are being discussed and finalised.
A few people interested in the history of Madras that is Chennai have been responsible for encouraging the celebration of the founding of the city by schools, colleges, various organisations and groups of like-minded individuals. Participation is purely a voluntary effort by those wanting to organise programmes during the Week. The role of the informal group of co-coordinators is only to encourage such participation, try to organise publicity for the events and, where possible, arrange venues. Growing from about 15 events in the first year, last year’s celebrations included about 100 programmes, including talks, quizzes, exhibitions and performances, all centred on
the theme ‘Madras’.
We are putting out this information well ahead so that organisations/individuals/ volunteer groups who wish to celebrate the founding of this city can have ample time to plan their events. Madras Musings can provide advisory help where needed. Further details will be regularly updated on the site http://www.themadrasday.in For any queries please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org