Sunday, February 6, 2011

Guruguhanjali - A celebration of Muthuswami Dikshitar's compositions

Uma Nagaswamy

Under the auspices of Composers day, a celebration was held in Meenakshi Temple at Pearland,Texas, USA on Dec 5, 2010. A fascinating lecture demonstration of Muthuswami Dikshitar's compositions was delivered by Kanniks Kannikeswaran, a veteran Musicologist from Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

Vivek Shankar Natarajan introducing Kanniks Kannikeswaran

Opening his tribute to Muthuswami Dikshitar, Kanniks sang the sloka 'sada siva samarambham' saluting the lineage of prominent music gurus. Dikshitar was an ardent follower of Adi Shankaracharya's Advaita philosophy and this influence is seen extensively in his compositions. Kanniks chose to present the side of Dikshitar's compositions that exhibit similarity with the dhrupad compositional form. While Thyagaraja conveyed sublime expression of Bhakthi in his Rama Bhakthi Krithis, Muthuswami Dikshithar followed the stotra paradigm. Following the traditions of Alwars and Nayanmars, Dikshitar traveled throughout South India composing songs on the presiding deities of the temples he visited.

Kanniks Kannikeswaran rendering Dikshitar Kritis

Giving a background on Muthuswami Dikshitar's birth and early years in Thiruvarur, Kanniks pointed out the compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar on Tyagaraja of Thiruvarur in all eight Vibhakthis (declinations). The presiding deity of Thiravuru's Thyagaraja temple is Somaskanda - An icon of Shiva, Parvathi and Skanda symbolizing procreation which is beautifully described by Muthuswami Dikshitar in his composition.

Taking the audience through a delightful journey to Banaras, Kanniks recalled his pleasant memories during a recent visit to this Holy city. Kanniks pointed out the numerous centers of worship in the Ghats of Kasi and great poets such as Tulsidas who lived there composing eternal poems on the banks of the river Ganges. The influence of these great composers was so great that religious texts were transported to the country of Trinidad in the form of Ram Charit Manas by indentured laborers. In these Ghats is where Muthuswami Dikshitar is said to have spent 5 years in the company of his guru Chidambaranatha Yogi.

Speaking of the undercurrent of the Advaita Philosophy on Muthuswami Dikshitar's compositions, Kanniks beautifully rendered Adi Shankara's Nirvanasuktham. He then went on to briefly touch upon the similarity between dhrupad and the compositions of Dikshtiar. Muthuswami Dikshitar's structural construction of Krithis vastly differed from that of Saint Thyagaraja's. Kanniks explained Muthuswami Dikshitar's style of incorporating raga mudra in many of his krithis. He then demonstarted Viswanatham Bhajeham in ragam Nataabharanam emphasizing the raga mudra in this song.

Describing Muthuswami Dikshitar's school of music, Kanniks mentioned how Dikshitars compositions were popularized by his brother Balaswami Dikshitar and his descendants. Muthuswami Dikshitar's samaadhi is in Ettaiyapuram, the birth place of MahaKavi Subramanya Bharathi, another great poet of South India. Muthuswami Dikshitar's compositions were compiled by his nephew into a book Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradharshini following Venkatamakhi's Charthur Dandi Prakasika's and other Pan Indian traditions that existed then. This book contains some 220 compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar. Kanniks demonstrated the rarely heard composition 'Sri visvanatham' in the raga Bhavani. He mentioned that this composition which is not enumerated in the Sangita Sampradaya pradarsini refers to Sankaracharya explicitly. Kanniks elaborately described the symbolism of Annapurani a deity in both Kasi in North India and Kuzhikarai in South India and sang annapurne visalakshi in the raga sama and contrasted it with ehi annapurne notated in the SSP.

Speaking about Muthuswami Dikshitar's rare compositions, Kanniks mentioned Muthuswami Dikshitar's compositions on Kala Bharivar -Kala Bhairavam Bhajeham in bhairavam. Kanniks concluded his memorable lecture demonstration by rendering visvanathena Rakshithoham in a rare raga Samantha and gange mam pahi in janjuti (both these compositions are not in the sangita sampradaya pradarsini). In this segment he was accompanied by Priya Balakrishnan and Vyjayanthi Vivek. Kanniks lecture demonstration was received with great enthusiasm by the many avid music lovers of Houston, Texas.

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