Muthuswami Dikshitar The Eternal Pilgrim By Ravi & Sridhar

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Muthuswami Dikshitar - The Eternal Pilgrim


By Ravi & Sridhar

13th Nov. 2001



In order to enable easier accesss to the earlier parts of our "Eternal pilgrim" series on Muttuswami Dikshitar, given below is a contentwise listing of the different parts covering the different milestones in his life starting from his birth.

Part 1

Birth

Part 2

Early days at Tiruvarur and marriage

Part 3

Manali to Kashi (with Chidambaranath Yogi)

Part 4

The vINa and back to Manali

Part 5

Tiruttani and the guruguha vibhakti kritis

Part 6

Chennai and Kanchipuram

Part 7

Virinchipuram and Tiruvannamalai

Part 8

Chidambaram

Part 9

Vaideeswaram, Mayavaram and the Abhayamba vibhakti kritis


Part 10

Return to Tiruvarur

Part 11

Tiruvarur, Lord Thyagaraja and Thyagaraja Vibhakti kritis

Part 12

Tiruvarur, composition of Kamalamba navavaranam, Neelotpalambika kritis and shodasha ganapati kritis

Part 13

Tiruvarur, the master of astrology composes the navagraha kritis

Part 14

Places around Tiruvarur, Kuzhikkarai and composition of shri viswanatham ragamalika, Mannargudi

Part 15

Needamangalam, Kumbhakonam, Swamimalai, Tiruvidaimarudur, Mayavaram and important shrines around Kumbhakonam and Mayavaram

Part 16

Around Tiruvarur, Pulivalam, Kivalur, Nagapattinam, Vedaranyam, demise of his parents

Part 17

Tiruvarur, Trichy, Tiruvanaikkaval

Part 18

Srirangam, kshetras around the cauvery( Ratnagiriswara, Kadambeswara, Maragateswara), Tiruchengode and arrival at the Chola capital Tanjavur.


Part 19

Tanjavur, association with Syama Sastry and composition in all the 72 melakarta ragas

Part 20

Tiruvaiyyaru and meeting with saint Tyagaraja, return to Tanjavur and to Tiruvarur

Part 21

Passing away of Chinnaswami, Madurai and holy shrines around it

Part 22

Rameswaram, Tiruppullani and journey to Ettayapuram

Part 23

Ettayapuram, Baluswami's wedding, Madurai, Palani en route to Tiruvarur

Part 24

Back to Ettayapuram, shrines at Kazhugamalai, Sankarankovil,Tiruchendur, Tirunelveli. Deepavali of 1835 when he merged in the Eternal Soul.

 

It is rarely that a phenomenon takes place in the world. An epoch-making event of far-reaching consequence that would change the course of history. The advent of sages, saints, great men of science, sacred men of art, have all heralded new beginnings in their respective realms. In the world of Indian art music, the advent of Shyama Sastri, Thyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar changed the course and perception of music. The harbingers of a new age in classical music, the threesome are reverentially referred to as the Trinity of Carnatic music. Not without reason, the foremost of which was their being born in the same town and being contemporaries. But this was not the only reason. Their pioneering work was such that after their times, Carnatic music was never the same again.

Looking at their works, one finds a unity of purpose behind them. This unity of purpose is reflected in the fact that the Trinity refined the medium of the kriti and made it into a wholesome entity. They also brought into vogue several ragas that had fallen into oblivion. That they adopted almost the same methods and utilised the same tools speaks volumes about this unity of purpose. All the more reason why, they are hailed as incarnations whose specific task was to elevate the art form into a true rasAnubhavA. The art form as an experience that would ennoble the heart and lift the soul of man to greater heights. The purpose of an incarnation is to transcend and transform. Shyama Sastri, Thyagaraja, and Muthuswami Dikshitar transcended the mundane and transformed the way music was handled. The Trinity proved to the world through their music and through their exemplary lives, that the sole purpose of music was to make man perfect and help him realise his unity with God.

Muthuswami Dikshitar was one of those rare beings who graced this earth with his noble presence and who left behind an eternal fragrance that shall never wither, eternal footprints on the sands of time that shall never be effaced. His works of grandeur and depth, both in melody and poesy, afford us a glimpse into the Eternal Soul, the Muse he worshipped, a glimpse of the summit of perfection he attained. With devotion we shall try to retell the monumental saga of one of the greatest men that God gave to humanity.



The Milieu of Those Times

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were remarkable periods in the history of culture and spirituality in India, especially in the South, where the bhakti movement flourished. The kings who ruled in many parts of South India were themselves religious minded and cultured. They encouraged artistes and gave due respect to saints and spiritual savants.

The Cauvery delta region, in what is now the Tanjavur district in Tamilnadu was ruled by the Cholas and later the Nayaks. Both the Cholas and the Nayak rulers patronised several art forms. Later in the seventeenth century came the Mahratta rulers, descendants of the great Emperor Shivaji. The Cauvery river and its numerous tributaries that criss-cross the region made the lands fertile and generally it was an area of plenty and prosperity. Under the benevolent reign of the Mahratta kings, arts like music, dance, painting and sculpture and crafts flourished. The kings were generous in their patronage to the artists, relieving them from the necessity of having to worry about their livelihood. The artist, whatever was his calling, could therefore, give undivided attention to perfecting his art and bringing excellence to it.

In this milieu lived a scholar and musician, Ramaswami Dikshitar. He was born in 1735. He originally hailed from Virinchipuram in the South Arcot district. But due to disturbed political conditions in the mid-eighteenth century, his father Venkateswara Dikshitar migrated to the Cauvery delta with his family and settled at Govindapuram near Kumbhakonam. Here, Ramaswami Dikshitar grew up. When he was about sixteen years old, Ramaswami Dikshitar lost both his parents. He was supported by generous relatives and friends. Ramaswami Dikshitar who had a predilection for music, approached a musician called Virabhadriah who was attached to the Tanjavur palace, and learnt music from him. In course of time, Ramaswami Dikshitar attained sufficient proficiency in the art to be able to give concerts. He also learnt musicology from Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshitar who was an acknowledged expert in the science of music and who belonged to the paramparA of Venkatamakhi, the author of chaturdaNDi prakAshikA and the architect of the 72 mELakartA scheme. Ramaswami Dikshitar's knowledge and proficiency in music, gained for him the respect and admiration of the cognoscenti of those times. He eventually settled down at Tiruvarur and married a pious girl Subbamma.

Tiruvarur is one of the mukti kshetras known for its magnificent temple for Lord Thyagaraja and Goddess Kamalambika and its huge tank, Kamalalaya. It is also famous for its magnificent chariots.

jananAt kamalAlayE, darshanAt aprasadasi,
smaraNAd aruNAchalam, kAshi tu maraNAn muktih

The puranas have declared that birth at Tiruvarur, darshan of Chidambaram, thinking of Arunachala and death at Kashi result in liberation. Great many were the saints born at Tiruvarur. Among these were the Carnatic music Trinity of Shyama Sastri, Thyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar.

His Birth

Till his fortieth year Ramaswami Dikshitar did not have children. On the advice of family elders, he and his wife went to Vaideeswaran Koil near Sirkali and worshipped Lord Vaidyanatha and Goddess Balambika. They observed austerities and performed navAvaraNa pUjA for forty-eight days. On the last day, it is said that the Goddess appeared in Ramaswami Dikshitar's dream and presented him with a muktAhAram, a pearl necklace. The wise and the elderly of Vaideeswaran Koil interpreted the dream to mean that his prayer was granted by the Goddess, and that a gem (Muktha) of a child would be born to him. In 1775, in the month of Panguni (March-April), when the star of Krittika was ascending, a male child was born to the couple. He was named Muthuswami after Lord Subramanya whose name is Muthukumaraswami at Vaideeswaran Koil.

Early days at Tiruvarur and marriage

His intense wish of begetting a son having been fulfilled, Ramaswami Dikshitar settled down to perfecting his music with greater enthusiasm. The newborn brought him luck too. Ramaswami Dikshitar was invited to give concerts at prestigious gatherings. The Tanjore king bestowed honours on him as befitting his status and dignity. The honour of organising and streamlining the playing of Nagaswaram and other musical instruments at the Tiruvarur temple for the daily services, festivals and processions, was given to Ramaswami Dikshitar and he admirably carried out the task. These procedures are being followed even now at the Tiruvarur temple. It may be pertinent to point out here that the Tiruvarur temple services boast of three instruments that are unique to that temple; the pancamukha vAdyam, the shuddha maddhaLam and the long bAri nAgaswaram.

Ramaswami Dikshitar is credited with inventing the rAgA hamsadhvani. (This is open to debate. As the rAga also existed in the sangraha cUDAmaNi. He certainly appears to be the first to compose in it.)He also blossomed into a good composer of varNAs, darUs and kritIs. In one of the padavarNAs in Telugu which starts as sarigAni dAni, he has used only the seven swarAs throughout as its sAhitya. Ramaswami Dikshitar revelled in composing long rAgamAlikAs. He composed in 44 rAgAs a kriti in praise of Goddess Minakshi of Madurai. All in all, he led a satisfactory life. In course of time, Ramaswami Dikshitar had three more children; a son, Chinnaswami(b1778), a daughter who was named Balambal after the Goddess of Vaideeswaran Koil and again a son, Baluswami(b1786). Now his ambition was to groom his children to follow his footsteps. He had high hopes on Muttuswami who, early in life itself, exhibited superior intelligence and wisdom.

Ramaswami Dikshitar arranged to have the young Muttuswami study the Vedas and Sanskrit. Sincerely dedicated to study, Muttuswami quickly acquired mastery over the kAvyAs, alankArAs and vyAkaraNA. Ramaswami Dikshitar himself gave intensive training in music, both in theory and practice, to his son. Muttuswami was also taught to play the vINA and in course of time, blossomed not only as a vocalist but also as a competent player on that instrument. The thorough scientific knowledge the lad acquired in music helped him to properly handle the rAgAs and discover their intrinsic, hidden beauty. In this he was aided by his deep knowledge and mastery of the vINA.

The performance of nitya karmAs, the diligent study of the Vedas and shAstrAs, his deep devotion to God, the continuous study and practice of sangItA and above all his respect and reverence for his parents, teachers and elders were the strong foundational aspects which were to stand Muttuswami in good stead in his monumental work, still in the future.

Marriage at a young age was very common in those days. Muttuswami too was married young. Nevertheless, even while a youngster, he was sufficiently mature to be able to understand the transitory nature of worldly pleasures. Seeing Mutthswami ever engaged in religious austerities, practice of music and mostly observing silence, his parents were worried. They surmised, but wrongly, that the boy was unhappy with his dark complexioned wife. Ramaswami Dikshitar and his wife Subbamma discussed the matter between themselves and concluded that Muttuswami would lead a normal family life if a fair-complexioned girl were to become his wife. They accordingly found a suitable girl and persuaded Muttuswami to marry her. We do not know whether Muttuswami consented willingly or under pressure from his parents. But one thing is certain. He remained the same. His having two wives or their complexions hardly mattered to him. He had set his goals high above the mundane. The world and its attractions had to be transcended, not only to facilitate the epochal work he was destined for, but also to achieve the highest spiritual goal.

Thus went by the initial years of our future composer. Once, Muthukrishna Mudaliar, a dubash (a translator) of the East India Co., visited Tiruvarur with his family. He also held the post of Chief Merchant of the Company, the last Indian to hold the position. He belonged to a prominent family of Manali near Madras. He was a patron of the arts and he and his family considered it a great privilege to patronise, encourage and support music and musicians. Muthukrishna Mudaliar was responsible for the reconstruction of the Twin Temples, Chenna Kesava and Chenna Malleeswara at the corner of Flower Bazaar, Madras, after they had been demolished at their earlier site to make way for the High Court. Muthukrishna Mudaliar's town house at No 63, Govindappa Naicken Street, George Town, still exists. Adjoining it is the Manali Hostel, a building set up by the same philanthropist for the benefit of indigent students who wished to migrate to Madras for higher studies. Boarding and Lodging was free and sometimes the Manali Charities even paid the education fees!

Muthukrishna Mudaliar visited the Tiruvarur temple and had darshan of the deities. There was a bhajanA being conducted by Ramaswami Dikshitar at the temple at that time. The Mudaliar and his family had the opportunity of listening to the music of the Dikshitars. Greatly moved by the music and impressed by the piety of the Dikshitar family the Mudaliar invited them to visit Manali and stay with him for sometime. This was in the 1790s. Ramaswami Dikshitar, after consultation with his family and relatives agreed to this proposal. The family shifted to Manali and settled down there

Manali to Kashi (with Chidambaranath Yogi)
After Muthukrishna Mudaliar's death, his son Venkatakrishna (Chinnayya) Mudaliar continued to play host to the Dikshitars. The Dikshitar family lived in Tiruvottriyur and later at Manali, close to the "Meddai Veedu", the palatial country home of the Mudaliars. (Till the 1980s, this house existed as a ruin). Venkatakrishna Mudaliar was also a dubash, attached to the East India Company and quite influential with his English masters. He introduced Muttuswami and his younger brothers to the bands playing Western music at Fort St. George. Muthuswami listened keenly and assimilated the essentials of that alien music. Later in his life he composed Sanskrit sAhityas in praise of Hindu deities for about thirty-five of those Western tunes including the British national anthem. These are called nOTTu svara sAhityas. Ramaswami Dikshitar who observed the various western instruments being played, was particularly fascinated by the violin. He spoke to the Mudaliar who engaged an Englishman, Col. Brown to teach the violin to Baluswami, Ramaswami Dikshitar's youngest son. Baluswami attained proficiency on the instrument and with the help of his father and eldest brother Muttuswami, adapted the violin to Carnatic music. The Carnatic music world owes it to Baluswami Dikshitar and later Vadivelu, the youngest of the Tanjore Quartette and a disciple of Muttuswami Dikshitar, for introducing and adapting the violin to South Indian music.

Life went on smoothly and in a satisfactory manner for the Dikshitar family. A visitor was to change all that. Chidambaranatha Yogi, a Vedantin, tantric, and a spiritually evolved sannyasi, came to the Mudaliar household on his way to Kashi. It was Chidambaranatha Yogi who had given shri vidya dIkshA to Ramaswami Dikshitar, early in the latter's life at Tiruvarur. The Yogi was also a guru to the Mudaliar family. He was therefore welcomed with deep veneration by the Mudaliars as well as the Dikshitar family. Chidambaranatha Yogi stayed for a few days with the Dikshitars. Muttuswami it was who was called upon to serve the Yogi. The lad, with reverence and humility, catered to all his needs. During the Yogi's pUjA, Muthuswami would play on the vINA and sing. The Yogi was quite impressed by the modesty, piety and the musical prowess of Muttuswami and was very affectionate towards the lad. The time came for the Yogi to resume his tour.

The Dikshitars prostrated before him and asked for his blessings. Ramaswami
Dikshitar requested Chidambaranatha Yogi to ask for whatever he wanted and promised that he would fulfill it. Whereupon, Chidambaranatha Yogi asked Ramaswami Dikshitar to send his son Muttuswami to accompany him to Kashi. The father was benumbed with shock and pleaded with the Yogi to spare Muttuswami, saying that the lad was born after a long time in their lives, that he was very young and that they could not bear to be separated from him. Chidambaranatha Yogi was annoyed and told Ramaswami Dikshitar that he wanted nothing else and that if the former did not want to send his son along, so be it.

Sensing the delicacy of the situation, Venkatakrishna Mudaliar intervened in the matter and bid Ramaswami Dikshitar part with his son, saying that Muttuswami would be safe with the Yogi, that such an opportunity of serving a great yati was rare to get in life, and that the lad would benefit immensely from association with the great man. The father finally agreed to part with the son. It was a tearful farewell that the family gave its first born. Chidambaranatha Yogi accompanied by Muttuswami left Manali on their pilgrimage to the holy city of Kashi.

The journey to Kashi in those days involved travelling on foot for months together, sometimes close to a year depending on the vagaries of the weather. Pilgrims also sometimes made detours from the straight route in order to bathe in the sacred rivers and have darshan of important shrines. The usual route taken by pilgrims from the south to Kashi was Tiruttani, Mangalagiri, the Krishna and Godavari regions of what is now Andhra Pradesh, Puri Jagannath and Allahabad. Chidambaranatha Yogi and Muthuswami visited the important shrines and tIrthAs on the way. The Yogi explained to the young lad the significance and importance of each kshetrA that they visited. After a few months of travel the party reached Kashi.

Under the benign grace of Chidambaranatha Yogi, Muttuswami lived a deeply religious and spiritual life at Kashi. The Yogi initiated him in the Sri Vidya cult, gave him upadEsa of the ShODashAkshari mantra and trained him in the tantric mode of worship. He also taught the young lad yOga and vEdAnta. Muttuswami spent his time in Kashi serving his guru, reciting the vEdAs, practising Shri Vidya, meditating, and singing and playing on the vIna. This kind of disciplined life resulted in Muttuswami's acquiring a keen and perceptive intellect and a mind that was capable of probing deep into spiritual matters. Doubtless, it also sowed the seeds of vairAgya (detachment) and instilled in the young lad a sense of equanimity. Though very young, and though he sometimes felt the separation from his parents, Muttuswami came to look upon the Yogi not only as his guru but as the embodiment of his father and mother too. The Yogi in turn, loved his disciple and took care of him as a mother would. The relationship between guru and sishyA was unique. Being an advanced tantric and a spiritually evolved Yogi, Chidambaranatha was intuitively aware of the tremendous potential of his disciple, the epoch-making task that Muttuswami would be charged with in future and the eternal fame that would be his lot.

Muttuswami also had the opportunity of listening to Hindustani music at Kashi and imbibe its essential features. It is handed down through tradition that Muttuswami was away from his family for five years. It can therefore be safely assumed that Muthuswami spent between 3 ½ to 4 years at Kashi. It is quite possible that Chidambaranatha Yogi must have taken Muthuswami to many holy shrines in the North including Badrinath, but it is doubtful whether the future composer would have visited Nepal as that country was under the Gurkhas then and there were several fratricidal wars of succession raging regularly.

The vINa and back to Manali

One day, Chidambaranatha Yogi and Muttuswami went for a bath in the Ganga. The Yogi asked Muthuswami to descend a few steps and put his hands into the water. When Muttuswami did so, his hands closed upon a vINa. Surprised, the lad turned towards his guru who beckoned him up the steps. Chidambaranatha Yogi informed Muttuswami that this was Ganga Mata's prasad to the lad and that She had blessed him. The unusual feature of this vINa is that its yali faces upwards and has the word 'Rama' inscribed on it in Devanagari script. Providence had directly presented Muttuswami this unique instrument which was to partner him in his renaissance work.


Chidambaranatha Yogi further informed the lad that he had attained mantra siddhi, was progressing well spiritually and that he had also attained further maturity in music. The Yogi instructed Muttuswami to return to his parents. The wide world now awaited his services and it was time the disciple took leave of the guru. Muttuswami was reluctant to leave the presence of the Yogi as he had become very much attached to him. He said that he had a lot more to learn from his guru and that the Yogi should guide him until he, Muttuswami, reached the fruition of his tapas. The Yogi softly and affectionately told Muthuswami that he had taught him whatever he knew and hereafter his grace and that of Ganga Devi would guide him in life. The Yogi further said that Lord Subramanya was Muttuswami's natural guru and that the lad should seek His grace. The Yogi also blessed Muttuswami and told him that the time was not faraway when destiny would seek out Muttuswami in order to further the cause for which he was born.

The Yogi then revealed to his shocked disciple that his own earthly sojourn was over. Leaving Muttuswami on the banks, the Yogi plunged into the Ganga and left this world.

The body was recovered from the river and was buried in the Hanuman Ghat where his Samadhi stands (the National Book Trust Biography by TL Venkatarama Iyer testifies to this. But "Marina" in his Tamizh version written in the 1980s laments at his lack of success in identifying the memorial). Muttuswami was sorrow stricken at the loss of his revered guru.

After completing the final obsequies, Muttuswami left Kashi and started his journey back home. The future bard was now about twenty years old. The stay at Kashi was the seed that resulted in the sprouting and subsequent flowering of a genius, a master who was instrumental, along with his illustrious contemporaries in developing the art of Carnatic music along new lines, solidifying it with fresh perspectives, thus assuring for it a status and glory that neither age can wither, nor custom stale.

Meanwhile things were happening at Manali. Muthu Venkata Vaidyanatha, grandson of the uncle of Venkatamakhin, visited Manali and was entertained by Venkatakrishna Mudaliar. He was pleased to find that Ramaswami Dikshitar and his sons were following the raga scheme as set forth by Venkatamakhi. Ramaswami Dikshitar took the opportunity to request Muthu Venkata for the caturdaNDi prakAshika and for the Raga Lakshanas manuscript which was in the latter's possession. Muthu Venkata, who was reluctant to part with what he considered as the intellectual property of his family, decided to test Ramaswami Dikshitar. He sang a rare raga and asked Ramaswami Dikshitar to identify it. Highly displeased at this unwarranted test, Ramaswami Dikshitar, nevertheless, asked his two sons Chinnaswami and Baluswami to identify the raga, which they easily did. A stunned but satisfied Muthu Venkata parted with the caturdanDi prakAshika and the manuscript of Raga Lakshanas. Ramaswami Dikshitar then composed a kriti, nannu parikShincu ela, referring to the uncalled for test. But for this visit of Muthu Venkata and Ramaswami Dikshitar's request, the caturdanDi prakAshika might have been permanently lost to the world.

It was also during this period that Ramaswami Dikshitar's second son Chinnaswami suddenly lost his vision as has been told in an earlier part. The family went on a pilgrimage to Tirupati and there, Ramaswami Dikshitar composed the kriti inkA daya in vEgavAhini and a rAgamAlika in 48 rAgAs in praise of Lord Venkateswara. These two songs were prayers to Lord Venkateswara to restore Chinnaswami's eyesight. It is said that Chinnaswami regained his eyesight after this. Ramaswami Dikshitar and his family further visited Kalahasti, where he composed the Sahana kriti vAshi vAshi. After returning to Manali, Ramaswami Dikshitar, in recognition of the patronage afforded to him and his family by Venkatakrishna Mudaliar, composed the 108 rAga tALa mAlikA in the latter's honour. A grateful Venkatakrishna Mudaliar performed a kanakAbhiShEkam (showering with gold coins) for Ramaswami Dikshitar. Thus, the family's stay at Manali was full of events and musically fruitful. It was to a fulfilled home that Muttuswami returned with his two wives.

Muthuswami's parents and brothers were overjoyed. Five years had elapsed and it was celebration time. They were delighted to hear about Muttuswami's experiences at Kashi. His knowledge of Vedanta and complete mastery of music earned their respect. Venkatakrishna Mudaliar was extremely distressed that his guru, the Yogi was no more, but was consoled by the fact that Muttuswami had inherited his mantle and had returned, musically and spiritually mature. Muttuswami spent sometime with his parents sharing his experiences. He also spent time at Manali studying the caturdanDi prakAshika and the manuscript on Raga Lakshanam. He however, was not content with remaining at Manali. His guru, Chidambaranatha Yogi had told him about the glory and grace of Lord Subramanya. Propelled by an inner urge Muttuswami decided to visit Tiruttani, one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya. It might have been during this period that Muttuswami visited Tirupati and Kalahasti. This possibility notwithstanding, his compositions on these temples would have been later creations, for, the beginning of his life's work had to await the grace of Lords Subramanya at Tiruttani.

Tiruttani and the guruguha vibhakti kritis

Sharing the secret of his inner voice with his parents, Muttuswami expressed his desire to them to visit Tiruttani. Ramaswami Dikshitar and Subbalakshmi blessed their first-born. Before long, Muttuswami was on his way to the hallowed hill shrine of Tiruttani in the company of his brothers. After having darshan of Lord Subrahmanya at the sanctum-sanctorum, Muttuswami took a vow to perform spiritual austerities for a manDala or forty days. Every morning he took his bath at the temple tank downhill and climbed the steps to begin his tapas. His time was thus spent in worship of the Lord and practicing deep meditation.


It was the fortieth day of his stay at Tiruttani. While Muttuswami was repeating the Shadakshari mantra, he heard a voice near him say, "Muttuswami, open your mouth". Muttuswami opened his eyes and saw before him an elderly person whose whole being was suffused with spiritual splendour. The old man asked Muttuswami to close his eyes and then he put sugar candy in his mouth. When Muttuswami opened his eyes, to his amazement, the old man had disappeared from sight. Muttuswami was stunned at first but subsequently understood that it was Lord Subrahmanya Himself who had come to bless him. His joy knew no bounds and overwhelmed, he immediately burst into song.


The first song that he composed on the occasion was shri nAthAdi guruguhO in mAyAmaLavagauLa rAga. This composition is in praise of the concept of the Guru. Here Muttuswami Dikshitar mainly pays tribute to his Shri Vidya Guru Chidambaranatha Yogi. The Yogi�s Sri Vidya dIkSha name was shrinAtha and that of Dikshitar was cidAnandanAtha. Dikshitar refers to both in the pallavi of this composition. Then followed seven more songs, the underlying theme of these too being the concept of Guru. The Guru is sung of as being Brahman Itself, as the Universal Consciousness. Incidentally, Dikshitar chose to compose his first song in mAyAmaLavagauLa, the rAga in which musical lessons are traditionally begun. Another unique feature of this first composition is that it starts off with the ArOhaNa and avarOhaNa of the rAga. Dikshitar�s first creation is technically flawless and artistically mature and aesthetic, apart from being poetically refined, grammatically perfect and philosophically profound.

The second composition he wrote was mAnasa guruguha in Ananda Bhairavi. Here, Muttuswami Dikshitar advises the spiritual aspirant that human birth is for the purpose of contemplating on the Supreme Truth and for this purpose, the aspirant needs to always cling to the Holy Feet of the Guru, chant his name and surrender to the Guru taking him to be the sole refuge, thereby destroying the tendencies that obstruct the Truth. Each and everyone of this group of eight songs composed in the eight Sanskrit declensions speak of the Supreme Truth, of the attributes of a Guru and is a musical gem. Rare ragas like pADi, bhAnumati, udayaravicandrika and balahamsa have been handled by Dikshitar with the depth and aplomb that were to become characteristic of him.

Muttuswami Dikshitar chose the medium of Sanskrit for his compositions. The following are the eight songs composed at Tiruttani. These are known as the Guru Guha vibhakti kritis:

Composition - Raga

1. shri nAthAdi guruguhO jayati jayati - mAyAmALavagauLa

2. mAnasa guruguha - Ananda bhairavi

3. shri guruNA - pADi

4. guruguhAya bhaktAnugrahAya - sAmA

5. guruguhAdanyam najAnEham - balahamsa

6. guruguhasya dAsOham - pUrvi

7. guruguha swAmini bhaktim karOmi - bhAnumati

8. shri guruguha mUrtE - udayaravicandrika

These eight songs prove that Dikshitar had attained high maturity in his knowledge of Vedanta and had mastered the art of music even at that young age. They also show, that right from the beginning, his compositions were the outcome of his own deep spiritual experiences. They also afford ample evidence of the flowering of a rare human being whose multifaceted genius would transform the world of art in the years to come. It must be remembered that Dikshitar was only about 25 years old at this time.




The vision of Lord Subrahmanya had once and for all made Muthuswami Dikshitar resolve to take the Lord as his Guru. Guha is another name for Lord Subrahmanya. Guha also means cave. The Lord resides in the heart-cave of the devotee. This is the esoteric significance of the name Guha. The Sadguru is to be contemplated of as Brahman, as one�s own Self. It is therefore appropriate that Muttuswami Dikshitar took Subrahmanya, the embodiment of Brahman itself, as his Sadguru and took on the mudra Guru Guha, thereby signifying that the Lord, his Guru, who was his own Self, was enshrined in the inmost recess of his heart. Another special aspect of his compositions is the raga mudra. Beginning with his first composition (mAyAmALavagauLAdidEsha), Dikshitar introduced the raga mudra wherever possible and in an appropriate manner.

His heart filled with bliss, Dikshitar left Tiruttani. One account of his life says that he went to Tirupati and Kalahasti from Tiruttani. At Kalahasti, which is one of the panchabhUta sthalas, representing the element vAyu (wind), he composed Sri kALahastIsha in the raga husEni and jnAnaprasUnAmbikE on the Goddess in kalyANi. After this pilgrimage, Dikshitar returned to Manali. Ramaswami Dikshitar and Subbalakshmi were overwhelmed on listening to Dikshitar�s experiences. Ramaswami Dikshitar felt after hearing about Lord Subramanya�s grace at Tiruttani that his eldest born was not an ordinary human being. Being an accomplished musician and composer himself, the father could comprehend the uniqueness of his son�s works. No less happy and proud was Venkatakrishna Mudaliar, the family�s patron. The brothers Chinnaswami and Baluswami learnt the compositions thus far created by their eldest brother.

The family spent a few fulfilled weeks. But Muttuswami Dikshitar�s passion for Realisation of the Truth grew deeper, resulting in his yearning to perform rigorous spiritual sAdhana. He therefore increasingly felt the need for a more spiritually conducive atmosphere. Although married, that too to two wives, Dikshitar was least interested in the mundane affairs of life as has been seen before. Dikshitar also intuitively felt and resolved that his life�s work was to sing of the Lord and His myriad forms and attributes. Towards this end, he felt that it was time to leave Manali. The memories of Tiruvarur, his birthplace constantly visited him. But it was not possible to return to Tiruvarur immediately as he wished to visit the several shrines in the Tondaimandalam region and anyway, he had to travel through several great kShEtras on the way before reaching Tiruvarur. Further, Upanishad Brahmendra, a great yOgi of Kanchipuram had invited the Dikshitar family to visit him. The days of their life at Manali were coming to an end. The family began making plans for leaving Manali.

Chennai and Kanchipuram

Before leaving Manali, Muttuswami Dikshitar worshipped at the shrines in and around Madras. Tiruvotriyur, which is near Manali is famous for its temple dedicated to Lord Tyagaraja and Goddess Tripurasundari. In this temple, Adi Sankara had consecrated an arddha mEru underneath the pITham of the vaTTapArai amman, at whose shrine human sacrifices were stopped by him. In addition, a shrI cakra was consecrated by him under the feet of the Goddess Tripurasundari and he arranged for regular worship by Nambudiri brahmins. This tradition continues to this day. Here Dikshitar composed




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