Two Illustrious Contemporary Vaggeyakaras: Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar & Mysore Vasudevacharya

Ashok Madhav (

The 18th, 19th and 20th centuries was the golden era for Carnatic music. After the Music Trinity,many vaggeyakaras (composers) of prominence like Walajapet Krishnaswamy Bhagavatar, Mysore Sadashiva Rao, Patnam Subramanya Iyer, Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan, Pallavi Seshayyar and several others appeared.

Of these, two prominent vaggeyakaras are mentioned here. One is Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar (Poochi) and the other is Mysore Vasudevacharya (MV). Both of them were contemporaries and they were  disciples of Patnam Subramanya Iyer in Tiruvaiyaru and so they belong to the sishya parampara of Tyagaraja through Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbayya, who was the guru of Patnam Subramanya Iyer.

Poochi (1860-1919) was a senior disciple of Patnam and MV joined the group later on in 1900. Mys. V has documented his experiences while he was undergoing gurukulam with Patnam in his book, which is interesting to read. Both these musicians turned out to be good composers.

Poochi has composed most of his kritis in Telugu and only one or two in Sanskrit, whereas MV has composed both in Telugu and Sanskrit. They have both composed different forms like varnams, kritis, javalis, thillanas, ragamalikas etc. 

Poochi was born in Ramanathapuram in 1860 and he came under the tutelage of Patnam around 1895 or so.  He had a number of disciples (such as Kandanur Srinivasa Iyengar, Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Salem Doraiswamy Iyengar, Kariakuid Rajamani Iyengar, Kuttalam Srinivasa Iyer) and the prominent among them was Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar.  Poochi was an asthana vidwan of Ramanathapuram court.  Besides using the common ragas, he employed ragas like Megharanjani, Nathabhairavi, Paras and a newly created raga ‘Suraranjani’.  He handled common talas for his kritis.  However, he has composed tillanas in ‘Lakshmisha’ tala with 108 aksharams and another tillana with the 72 akshara tala called ‘Ragavardhini’.

Poochi made close to 100 compositions. Some of these have nice chittaswarams too. For example, both Saraguna palimpa (Kedaragoula) and Anudinamunu gavumaiyya (Begada) have been embellished with beautiful chittaswarams. Some of his popular kritis include:

Poochi composed a kriti - Sadguru Swamiki in rithigowla  in praise of Tyagaraja. He also published his kritis with the assistance from Salem Chellam Iyengar. People have always wondered how the prefix ’Poochi’ was attached to his name. Poochi was a short man and he used to walk fast and so he was nicknamed ‘Poochi’ , which means an insect in Tamil. (The little man moved around so fast like an insect). 

Mysore Vasudevachari was born in Mysore in 1865 and he did gurukulavasam with Patnam Subramanya Iyer from 1900-1906. Among MV’s compositions (which number about 200) the more popular ones are

For his compositions, MV has used many common ragas plus many uncommon ragas like Sunadavinodini (new raga), Megharanjani, Pushpalatika, Shudda salavi etc. He has also employed several types of talams such as chaturasra rupaka, tishra rupaka, adi, ata, tishra triputa, khanda triputa,mishra triputa, mishra jampa etc in his compositions. Mys. V has composed captivating chittaswarams for some of his kritis. Two examples will suffice here. “Rara-Rajeevalochana” in Mohanam and “Sri Chamundeshwari” in Bilahari. It is noteworthy that MV has elevated the stature of minor ragas like Abheri (Bhajare re manasa), Behag (Bhavayeham Raghuveeram) and Khamas (Brochevarevarura) by composing major kritis in them. Note that these kritis were composed at the turn of 20 th century even before these ragas were popularly rendered. (Poochi has used both Behag and Khamas for composing Javalis only). Another interesting aspect is that MV introduced Kakali nishadam for his Khamas instead of the conventional kaishiki nishadam as in Tyagaraja’s Khamas. MV’s Khamas is equally appealing raga also. Around 1930’s , Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer rendered MV’s kriti- ‘Brochevarevarura’ in Khamas with much polish in his concert. MV, who happened to be at the concert remarked to Vishwanatha Iyer “My composition like a simple girl was metamorphosed into a beautiful damsel. That is how well you beautified the kriti with your embellishments” . MV published 150 of his compositions himself. MV has also composed a kriti-“Srimadadi Tyagaraja guruvaram” in Kalyani in praise of Tyagaraja. 

He too trained a number of disciples (Yoga narasimham,V.Ramarathnam, N.Chennakeshavaiah, C.Rangaiah, BK.Padmanabha Rao, CR.Mani, D.Paushpathi and others ) both in Mysore and Kalakshetra, Madras. He was honored  by the Music Academy with a title of Sangeetha Kalanidhi. Earlier, he was a teacher of music to Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wodeyar in Mysore. He became an asthana vidwan of Mysore Court.  Almost when MV was in his 60’s, he was invited by Rukmini Devi Arundale to join the Kalakshetra faculty. He became in charge of the music department .While in Kalakshetra, he composed several javalis and thillanas for the benefit of dance students in the school.

Both these illustrious composers, Poochi and MV, have used their own names as mudras for their compositions.