October 9, 1976

Purity and Sublimity

Listening to Mrs. D.K. Pattammal at Ravindra Bharati on Saturday, we were for nearly three hours immersed in Carnatic classical music of rare purity and sublimity. It was not presented as an entertainment for the audience. It was offered as an oblation to the Lord, on Vijayadasami day. It reminded me of Tyagaraja’s ennobling song in Sri Ragam – “Namakusumamulache Boojimche Narajanmame janmamu manasa”.

It was the opening concert of the sixth festival of music and dance conducted by the Government music colleges in the twin cities, which is a much awaited annual event both for Carnatic and Hindustani music. The festival was inaugurated by Mr. P. Narasa Reddy, Revenue Minister, with Mr. C. Srinivasa Sastry, Education Secretary, in the chair. The programme began with “Maa Telugu Talliki Mallepu Danda” sung by the staff of the music colleges.

The songs rendered by Pattammal formed a garland of the most fragrant blossoms in Carnatic music – Tyagaraja’s Chanitoditeve in Harikhambhoji and Raksha bettare in Bhairavi: Dikshitar’s Soundarajan in for Goddess Brindavana Saranga, Dharma Samvardhini in Madhyamavati and Kamakshi Srivaralakshmi in Bilahari and Syama Sastri’s Mayamma in Ahiri. Specially for Goddess Saraswathi, she sang Veena Kuppier’s composition in Kalyani – “Saraswati Nannepudu Chaliaga Choodavamma”. She started with Annamacharya’s vandeham in Hamsadhwani and concluded with “Syamaladandakam”. The entire performance was infused and mellowed with bhakti.

Though the main tone of the performance was that of profound serenity, she gave fine flourishes in Mysore Vasudevachar’s “Bhajare Maansa” in Abheri. As I have said many times before, listening to a concert of Pattammal is like going round a gallery of musical status. Pattammal was in such a deeply devotional mood that D.K. Jayaraman would not let himself go, as usual. However, their duties in swaraprastharas were as delightful as ever. The young violinist, Ananta Krishnan who is actually a technologist in the making, proved himself a pleasant surprise. His violin has a fine tone and good volume and he played with restraint and dignity. Palghat Kunjumani is now a veteran mridangist and he played as usual well.


Of the great women musicians of our time, who adorn the platform, D.K. Pattammal (who presides over the Indian Fine Arts Society Music Festival, 1978) occupies a unique place as a “Sangita Margadarisi”, with her many accomplishments. With an enviable repertoire of the great classical masters, her steady professional career extends over four decades.

A specialist in many fields, Pattammal is a compound of several excellences and a staunch protagonist of the Dikshitar tradition. She is one of the outstanding exponents of Karnatic music, with a carefully cultivated style, which is at once attractive and highly dignified. With her ever-increasing repertoire, she has a thorough mastery of the technique of rendering intricate pallavis. Her lucid interpretations of classical and light music, owes its appeal as much to the clarity and elegance of her musical diction as to her regard for the aesthetic approach to the art.

Born in Damal, a village near Kanchipuram, on March 28, 1919, to Krishnaswami Dikshitar and Rajammal, Pattammal evinced a keen interest in music and learnt the preliminary lessons from her father. All the children of Krishnaswami Aiyar, Ranganathan, Nagarajan and Jayaraman, besides Pattammal, were music prodigies from childhood. Pattammal herself had been assisted from time to time in the concerts by her elder brother and younger brothers, the last of whom D.K. Jayaraman, has now been steadily marching forward among the rising younger musicians of today. The tradition has been continuing and Sivakumar, her son, is a performing mrudangist in his teens and had later accompanied her in several concerts.

In her early years Pattammal had the good fortune to come into contact with musicians and teachers who were noted for large store-houses of rare compositions and specialists in Pallavi and Javalis. She had sung before the great Nayana Pillai of Kanchipuram, a pallavi stalwart and had learnt some compositions from Nayana’s mother, Smt. Kamakshi Ammal. Besides, she had learnt some compositions from Rajalakshmi Ammal, daughter of Veena Dhanammal. When she was very young, it was Prof. P. Sambamoorthy who was responsible for bringing her more than once to the Summer School of Music, which he was then regularly conducting.

Later, Pattammal came over to Madras and studied under the disciple of Kanchipuram Nayana Pillai and Vaidyanathan (an early disciple of Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar). With her clear enunciation and grasp of musical forms, she appeared to be a proper medium for the presentation of the style and beauty of the majestic compositions of Dikshitar. When Ambi Dikshitar, a descendant of Muthuswami Dikshitar was staying in Madras, Mr. T.L. Venkaratarama Aiyar, a leading advocate and nephew of Gayakasikhamani Muthiah Bhagavathar, resolved to study the kritis of Dikshitar in the authentic tradition. Ambi Dikshitar told T.L.V. that he happened to listen to a little girl at the Government Technical Examination in Music and that he should listen to her sweet music. He added that he had been deeply impressed by her rendering of “Balagopala” and “Kanchadalaya Dakshi”.

When T.L.V. heard her music, he volunteered to teach her the compositions of Dikshitar, which ripened later into a Guru-Shishya tradition, to the benefit of the music-loving public. The last words of her father to T.L.V. was that he was “entrusting his daughter to the latter’s care”. Learning the great compositions of Dikshitar under T.L.V. was a rewarding musical experience for Pattammal. The Navagraha Navavarana and Panchalinga kritis, were added to her evergrowing stock of compositions. In the sphere of Pallavi, which is her forte, she was given intensive training by Vidyala Narasimhalu Naidu. He also taught her some kritis and javalis of Narayanaswami Naidu. Pattammal’s popularity began to grow and there was no medium through which she had not gained the hearts of music-lovers, the Gramaphone, film music and the Radio, in addition to the concerts.

Smt. Pattammal made her mark as a musician even at her first concert at the “Mahila Samajam”, Egmore in 1938, which earned the approval of critics and rasikas. Ever since, she has had a remarkable professional career of a top class singer of classical merit.

The Pallavi in Karnatic Music is the high water mark of Vidwat among musicians and Pattammal is a brilliant exponent of this difficult art. To quote one instance, she expounds a Pallavi in raga Jagan Mohini displaying a confidence and ease born of knowledge and training. Her enunciation of songs whether in Telugu or Sanskrit or Tamil, has clarity, diction and raga bhava; generally she sings along with her brother, D.K. Jayaraman (a great exponent of classical music), and a leading vocalist.

Nagpur, February 17

Rare treat of Karnatic Music

Smt. Pattammal, AIR Concert

For nearly two hours tonight Smt. D.K. Pattammal rendered exquisite Karnatic Music at a special concert of vocal music arranged by the Nagpur Station of the All India Radio at the Nagpur Mahavidyalaya Independence Hall.

She sang for the All India Radio programme for one and a half hours, but on popular demand, she continued to sing for another fifteen minutes. It was a feast of Karnatic music, the like of which Nagpurians may have heard only when Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi visited the city a few years ago.

Smt. Pattammal was accompanied by Palghat Kunjumani (Mridangam), Krishnapuram Vaidyanathan (Ghatam) and T. Subramaniam (Violin).

A large and a mixed gathering was present to hear her sing tonight. Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, the Governor, graced the occasion by his presence and sat right through the programme, which concluded midnight.

Staff Reporter

A mellifluous start to ITC music festival

As in every other preceding year, ITC’s 17th annual music festival opened at the massive Siri Fort Auditorium with a musician of an earlier generation being honoured with a purse. On the face of it, such a gesture might appear to be little more than largesse but it has also reminded the listeners every year, that ITC is not merely honouring skill and virtuosity, but a whole approach to life which is embodied by at least some of these traditional musicians. Their art is their life and not just a part of it. So D.K. Pattammal gave a lovely little speech, graciously couched, abhorring all clichés, as she would in her music, then sang standing up at the lectern, unaccompanied, a Sanskrit “Devi Sthothram” praising the daughter of the mountains, born out of the blue lotus.

Raghava R. Menon