Mistaken Identity of Carnatic Music Compositions

Ashok Madhav
madhav_pgh @ yahoo.com

Sometime back, I happened to notice on the inlay cover of a commercial  CD, the name of a composer of a well known composition or kriti,  Vinyaka ninnuvina in Hamsadhvani ragam as Veena Kuppaiyer. Actually, it is the composition of Sengottah E.V.Ramakrishna Bhagavatar, whose mudra is ‘gopala dasa’. Of course, Veena Kuppaiyer also uses ‘gopala dasa’ as his mudra. The same mudra is used by Tiruvottiyur Tyagayyar too. This has  created uncertainty among musicians, reviewers and radio and Doordarshan announcers. In Carnatic music, there have been several instances of mistaken  identity as to the real authors of the compositions.

Confusion can occur when the same mudra is used by different composers, but then the musicologists will have to figure out the identity of kritis based on the language, structure, style etc used by composers.

Sometimes, kritis of Patnam Subramanya Iyer and Manambuchavadi Venkata subbayya are not correctly identified. They both use the same mudras like ‘Venkatesha’ or ‘Venkateshwara’. Kothaval Venkatarama Iyer and Kuppusamayya have also used ‘Venkatesha’ mudra in their kritis. The mudra ‘Venkata’ has been used by Pallavi Gopala Iyer. Annamacharya ‘s compositions contain mudras like “Venkatesha’, ’Venkatadri, ’Venkatachala’, ‘Tiruvenkata’ etc.  Tirupathi Narayanaswami Naidu has used ‘Tirupatipura Venkatesha’ as his mudra in his kritis.

Veena Seshanna has used ‘sesha’ as his mudra and so has Pallavi Sesha Iyer. Sadashiva Brahmendra and Madhusudana Paramahamsa’s  compositions have the same mudra, ‘paramahamsa’. Compositions of Bhadrachala Ramadas contain bhadrachala’,  ‘bhadragiri’ and its synonyms. Ramachandra Yatindra’s compositions have similar mudras too. Gopalakrishna Bharathi’s compositions contain ‘gopalakrishna’  and ‘balakrishna’  as his mudra. Inupachanigalu Venkataramayya has also employed ‘gopalakrishna’ for his mudra.  “Garbhapuri” mudra has been use by Karur Dakshinamurthi Iyer and  Devudu Iyer.  

It is interesting to note the name of ‘Tyagaraja’ as mudra has appeared in a few kritis of other composers. K.V.Srinivasa Iyengar’s Needu charanamule and Natajana paripalaya both in Simhendramadhyamam and Vinata suta vahanudai in Harikamboji and in Tanjavur Krishna Bhagavatar’s Vedalenu Kodandapani in Todi. Mannargudi Rajagopala Iyer’s two kritis- Paramukha mela (Surati} and Abhimana mennadu (Vivardhani} and Visalur Girisha Iyer’s kriti-Diname sudhinamu {Latangi} also contain Tyagaraja mudra.

In his monumental publication of Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradashini, Subbarama Dikshitar , the grandson of Muthuswami Dikshitar has listed a few kritis of Muthuswami Dikshitar as suspect, although the kritis have ‘gurughua’ mudra in them.

Iriyamman Tampi, a contemporary of Swati Tirunal Maharajah uses ‘padmanabha’ as his mudra, whereas Swati Tirunal himself has used mudras like padmanabha, sarasijanabha, kamalanabha, jalajanabha etc. Veena Padmanabhayya has also used ‘padmanabha’ and other related synonyms.  Similarly, compositions of Mysore Karigiri Rao  and  H.Yoganarasimham contain ‘narasimha’ as their mudras.

‘Muthukumara’ is the mudra adopted by Vaideeshwaran Koil Subbaramayyar and also Ghanam Krishnayyar. Both are composers of Tamil padams.

Composers like G.N.Balasubramanian (GNB} and a few others have not used mudras in their compositions. It becomes hard to definitely pinpoint the composer in such cases. The kriti-Sudha madhurya bhashini in ragam, Vandara dharini is attributed to GNB. It has been disputed as the style of the kriti does not conform to that of GNB. Besides, GNB seldom sang his own kritis in his concerts as a matter of personal conviction. But he seems to have rendered this kriti a few times in his concerts. It is likely that the kriti may not have been composed  by GNB.  

The ‘English note’ set in Shankarabharanam with only swaras and  no words was actually composed by Harikeshanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar and not  by Tiruppazhanam Panchapakesa Sastri as seen on a commercial CD inlay cover. This ‘note’ was made famous by Madurai Mani Iyer, who was a disciple of Muthiah Bhagavatar.

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