Here are several articles about Muthuswamy Dikshitar.


S. Krishnamurthy

Muthuswamy Dikshitar contributed immensely to the repertoire of Karnatik music. The credit of introducing the violin to south Indian music also goes to his family.

ABOUT the middle of the 18th century, south India witnessed a cultural efflorescence when art and literature struck new forms and rose to high peaks of glory. This is rightly regarded as the golden age of Karnatik classical music. Many eminent musicians and composers flourished during this period. Of them, Shyama Sastri, Tyagaraja and Muthuswamy Dikshitar stand out prominently.


Muthuswamy Dikshitar was the youngest of the celebrated trio of composers, revered as the Trinity of Karnatik music. Their compositions form a class by themselves: those of Shyama Sastry excel is intricate rhythmic patterns; those of Tyagaraja in the happy blend of emotion and melody; and those of Muthuswamy Dikshitar in their richness in the portraiture of melodic beauty and variety.

There lived in the beginning of the 18th century a Brahmin couple Venkateswara Dikshitar and Bhagirathi - in a place called Virinchipuram. They had a son called Ramaswamy. In 1742, there was a political upheaval in the region, following which there was a huge exodus. The Cauvery delta, which was under the administration of the enlightened Maratha kings of Tanjore, was comparatively peaceful and prosperous. Venkateswara Dikshitar and his family migrated to the State of Tanjore and settled down in a village called Govindapuram. By about 1751, Venkateswara Dikshitar and his wife passed away, leaving the young Ramaswamy to carve out his own future.

Ramaswamy Dikshitar had by then received extensive training in the Vedas. As he was gifted with a rich and sonorous voice, he was advised by his wellwishers to take to the study of music. Ramaswamy Dikshitar accordingly went to Tanjore and learnt music from Veerabhadrayya, an eminent musician who enjoyed royal patronage. Ramaswamy Dikshitar believed that no music could be perfect unless it was based on a firm foundation of theory. Accordingly he studied the theory of mu sic under the guidance of Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshitar, a well known vainika of the times whc belonged to the family of Govinda Dikshitar and Venkatamukhi, the Panini of Karnatik music.


Ramaswamy's reputation as a concert artist spread far and wide. He enjoyed the liberal patronage of the king of Tanjore and the landed aristocracy. Ramaswamy Dikshitar earned fame as a versatile composer as well.

He has to his credit a large number of tana varnas, pada varnas, darus, ragamalikas and kirtanas. The ragamalika in 108 ragas and talas (Ashtottara Satha Raga Tala Malika) is the magnum opus not only of his creative genius but of the whole world of Karnatik music as well. This is an outstanding composition not merely for its sheer magnitude but also for its technical grandeur and for its melodic and rhythmic charm, enshrined in some uncommon ragas and talas.

Raga Hamsadhwani is the creation of Ramaswamy Dikshitar. In fact, his compositions would have received far greater recognition and wider popularity had his son Muthuswamy Dikshitar not overshadowed him.

Ramaswamy Dikshitar was childless till his 40th year. He and his wife Subbammal performed rigorous tapas at the Vaideswaram shrine. They offered 'avarana' poojas to Kartikeya for 40 days. It is said that on the last day of the pooja, the Devi appeared to Ramaswamy Dikshitar in his dream and presented him with a muktaharam (pearl necklace). He related the dream to the elders of the place who assured him that a gem (mukta) of a son would soon be born to him.

It was the month of Phalguna. The annual Vasantotsava was being celebrated in the temple of Sri Tyagaraja Swamy with great eclat. The entire town was resounding to the Vedic chanting and the music of the nagaswaram.

It was in this divine atmosphere that Ramaswamy Dikshitar was blessed with a boy baby. He named the child Muthuswamy, after god Kartikeya. After Muthuswamy, two sons - Chinnaswamy and Baluswamy - and a daughter - Balambika - were born to Ramaswamy Dikshitar.

The boyhood of Muthuswamy was one of total dedication to studies. He acquired profound scholarship in the ancient sastras. Ramaswamy Dikshitar gave him intense training in the 'lakshya' and 'lakshana' aspects of Karnatik music. The lakshana geethas and prabandhas of Venkatamukhi formed an important part of the training.

Manali near Madras was a prominent principality in those days. Its proprietor Muthukrishna Mudaliar was a person with a religious bent of mind. He was a munificent patron of art and letters. He once happened to visit the fa- mous shrine of Tyagarajaswamy at Tiruvarur. He heard Ramaswamy Dikshitar singing bhajans and was so captivated that he invited Ramaswamy to go over with him to Manali. Ramaswamy Dikshitar agreed and shifted to Manali with his family. Muthukrishna Mudaliar looked after him with utmost respect and honoured him profusely.


Venkatakrishna Mudaliar, who succeeded his father, was even more liberal in his patronage. Venkatakrishna Mudaliar was also an agent (Dubash) of the East India Company at Madras and in that capacity used to visit Fort St George quite often. He had several opportunities to listen to Western music played by the band. He often took with him Muthuswamy and his younger brothers to listen to the band.

On the suggestion of Col Browne who was in the service of the East India Company, Dikshitar composed the text in Sanskrit for English tunes. A far more important benefit that accrued from the association of the Dikshitar family with Western music was the adoption of the violin as a regular concert instrument. Ramaswamy Dikshitar and his sons who listened to the orchestral music played by the band, were deeply impressed by the important role assigned to the violin in the concert. They wondered why the violin could not replace the veena as an accompanying instrument.


Since Muthuswamy had already taken to the veena, it was decided that Baluswamy should learn playing on the violin. Venkatakrishna Mudaliar engaged a Europee tutor for this purpose. Before long Baluswamy acquired such mastery over the instrument that he accompanied Muthuswamy ina veena concert. What began as an experiment soon became a permanent feature of Karnatik music concerts.

Chidambaranatha Yogi, who had earlier initiated Ramaswamy Dikshitar into the Sri Vidya Cult and taught him the tantric mode of worship, was on a pilgrimage to Benaras. On his way from the south, he made a brief halt at Madras. Ramaswamy Dikshitar invited the guru for a bhiksha The yogi accepted the invitati and went to his house at Manani. Muthuswamy and his brothers sang while the yogi performed the pooja.

The yogi, who visualised the eventful future ahead of Muthuswamy, asked Ramaswamy Dikshitar: "I have a request to make, will you care to comply?"

"You are my revered guru. Command me, Sir," said Ramaswamy Dikshitar.

"So then, send your son Muthuswamy with me to Kasi."

Ramaswamy Dikshitar was stunned and sat speechless. At this very juncture, Venkatakrishna Mudaliar appeared on the scene. He told Ramaswamy Dikshitar: "King Dasaratha was nervous when Viswamitra desired to take young Rama with him to the forest. Didn't Rama derive immense good by accompanying the sage?" Ramaswamy Dikshitar agreed, though reluctantly, to send Muthuswamy with Chidambaranatha Yogi.

Muthuswamy lived with the yogi for about six years in Kasi. This is the period that must be reganded as the most signfficant in moulding the personality of Muthuswamy Dikshitar. The yogi gave him the 'upadesa' of Shodashakshari Mantra and trained him further in the tantric form of worship. He taught him yoga and Vedanta as propounded by Shankaracharya. This is why we find in Muthuswamy Dikshitar a synthesis of Veda, Purana, Alankara, Jyotisha, Agama, Yoga, Mantra, and Tantra which is abundantly reflected in his compositions.

During his stay at Kasi, Muthuswamy Dikshitar had splendid opportunities of listening to Hindustani music in all its purity. This had a profound influence on his creative genius, which becomes apparent not only in his handling of the Hindustani ragas but in the portrayal of ragas in general as well.

Muthuswamy Dikshitar has composed a number of kirtanas in Yamuna Kalyani (Yaman of Hindustani music) and among them special mention is to be made or the kirtana Jambupathe mam pahi, which stands unrivalled its regard to the richness of ragabhava and grandeur of style. Parmala Ranganatham in Hamir Kalyani is again a brilliant composition that brings out the salient features of the raga as delineated in Hindustani music. Chetha Sri Balakrishnam in Dwijavanthi is a magnificent edifice portraying the charming raga in all its varied hues.


Mithuswamy Dikshitar was to leave for his home town Chidambaranatha Yogi was offering worship to Devi Annapoorneswari, and Muthuswamy Dikshitar was beside him. The yogi told Dikshitar that the Devi would not only grant his desires in this life but moksha thereafter and that he should worship her all his life.

The next day, while going to the Ganga for bathing, the Yogi said to Dikshitar: "Go down three steps in the Ganga and tell me what takes place". Dikshitar stepped down the Ganga and to his greal amazement. a veena with the sacred name of Rama inscribed on it drifted into his arms. "This is the prasada of Ganga Devi. May you grow to become a great vainika and celebrated vaggeyakara," blessed the guru.

Muthuswamy Dikshitar is a prolific composer. His compositions run into hundreds and consist of kirtanas mainly. Besides, there are five ragamalikas, a pada varna and a daru. Dikshitar's compositions are mostly in Sanskrit. A few of them are what are known as Manipravala compositions, the Sahitya being in multiple languages. The most outstanding feature of his compositions is their rich ragabhava. If, for instance, a composition is hummed, leaving out the sahitya, it can easily be mistaken for a ragalapana. His kirtanas can be described as ragalapana dressed in sahitya and artistically accommodated in the framework of tala.


There are many old ragas such as Mangala Kaisiki, Narayana Gaula and Gopika

Vasantha for which we have to fall back on Dikshitar's compositions to understand the lakshana aspects. There are again ragas like Saranga Nata, Chhaya Gaula, Mahuri and Kumudakriya which have been handled only by Dikshitar. Muthuswamy Dikshitar was a vainika-gayaka. He sang to the accompaniment of the veena. It is this combination that distinguishes Dikshitar's compositions from those of others. His kirtanas are in slow tempo, ideally suited for the portrayal of ragas in all their beauty. The veena is the best suited to bring out the gamakas. Accordingly, rich gamaka prayogas are another outstanding feature of Dikshitar's compositions.

Dikshitar is also reputed for his composition in groups based on particular themes. One set among these group compositions is the Navagraha Kirtanas devoted to the nine planets.

According to legend, one of his disciples, Tambiyappan, is said to have developed a serious ailment. His astrologer assured him of a cure if he worshipped the Navagrahas. But Tambiyappan could not worship as ordained in the Vedic tradition because he did not belong to the class of the twice-born. Touched by the plight of his disciple, Dikshitar found a way out.

All the essentials and attributes of the grahas were moulded into musical compositions. This enabled Tambtyappan to propitiate the Navagraha with music. Thus Dikshitar has shown the way to earn the divine grace of the Navagrahas through music as an alternative to the age-old mode of tantric worship.

Another set of group compositions of Dikshitar is the most famous Navavarna kirtanas based on the adoration of Sakthis through the worship of Sri Chakra. These compositions are called Kamalamba Navavarna Kirtanas, even though they are devoted to the worship of Sri Chakra. This is because Dikshitar identified the Supreme Mother with Kamalamba, the consort of the presiding diety of Tiruvarur.

The year was 1834. In the month of Aswija, on the Chaturdashi preceding Deepavali, Muthuswamy Dikshitar woke up in the early hours, as was his practice, and after yogic practices went to take his bath.

He had a vision of Kasi Annapoorneswari. Even as he was gazing on it, the vision vanished. Dikshitar remembered what Chidambara yogi had told him at Kasi: "She will give you not merely feed in this life but 'moksha' thereafter".

Dikshitar felt his end was nearing. He performed Navavarna pooja to the Devi and sang the kriti Ehi Annapoorne. After the pooja, Dikshitar moved on to the drawing room where his disciples had assembled. "Today is Chaturdashi, a day sacred to the Devi. May you all sing kirtanas in her praise," said Dikshitar to disciples. They began singing Meenakshi me mudam dehi in raga Gamakakriya.

"It looks as though the Devi is liberating me from the bonds of this world. Sing the kirtana again," said Dikshitar. They did so. Even as they were singing the sahitya of the anupallavi Meena lochani Pasha mochani, he cast off his mortal coils.

The music is over; but the song is on.

Scanned from an article in "Articulations", Sunday Herald, Bangalore,

November 4, 1994

These articles on Muthuswamy Dikshitar were posted by on rmic by Rajan Parrikar.

Namaskhkaar. I present below excerpts from the essay "Impersonal Art-form of Dikshitar's Music" by Ramanuja Srinivasan (1887-1975). The essay is part of the collection that appears in the form of a book, "Facets of Indian Culture" (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan) of the same author.

Comments/criticism to:

Impersonal Art-form of Dikshitar's Music by R. Srinivasan

pp 101-108 (excerpts)

....Thyagaraja-swami's compositions reveal, as in a mirror, his entire personality; his varying moods, his intimate mystic experiences are revealed in his work; it seems possible to construct his entire personality by means of his compositions. The same is true, in varying degrees, of many other musicians, Shyama Sastri, Jayadeva, Purandaradas and others. But in the case of Dikshitar's compositons there is a remarkable absense of this personal element. We may notice his scholarship, his mastery, his dexterity, his greatness in general. But all this is only in the surface; they do not reveal the soul, they do not tell us about his personal reactions, the inner working of his mind and feeling...



...One might ask, "How is it that the personality is so suppressed,

had Dikshitar no human feelings, had he no psychic experiences, no emotional ecstasies and depressions?" Dikshitar was certainly human, intensely human. Did he not make effort to bring joy to his wife who was crazy about ornaments? Did he not feel grief when he heard of his brother's death? He was human; but he sublimated his human personality, raised it to the level of the Impersonal and normally lived on this level. It was not that he ceased to be human, ceased to be personal, but he lived on a higher level of consciousness - which included and sublimated the personal and the limitations and deficiencies of the human personality were transmuted into something all inclusive, into a great synthesis. This is the psychological explanation for the magnificent richness, all-embracing completeness and vibrant perfection of his musical compositions.

We often hear people speak of the slow tempo, slow (almost languid) movement of his kritis and refer to this as a defect. In the first place, I should like to mention that there is no absolute standard for tempo or movement; it is obviously relative. We hear the same piece sung in different tempos by different people; on the veena the tempo is and ought to be relatively low, on the flute the tempo is higher, consciously or unconsciously. All this apart what about the kritis like Chintayamakanandamoola or Brudanayaki or Ramachandram bhavayami and above all Vatapi Ganapatim whose tempo can be as high as one might wish? Even in these pieces with comparatively quicker movement, we notice the characteristic completeness and perfection. This sublimation of the personal to the level of the impersonal in the realm of creative music is a rare achievement and perhaps Dikhsitar is the one artist who did it so successfully. The true mark of this sublimation is the universality and synthesis so characteristic of Dikshitar's work. As Dr. R. Vaidyanatha Swami once remarked, "Dikhshitar's music furnishes the fullest and most integral manifestation of the values specific to Carnatic music.... Dikshitar's kritis are a condensed epitome of the spiritual record of India".

Another aspect of this impersonality may also be referred to here. The conception of Dikshitar's compositions are not the result of ordinary

mental processes, of thinking and building part by part in succession and then assembling the parts together to build the whole. He conceives the whole as one indivisible unit and gives entire form to it in one stroke as it were. It is this supramental faculty of intuition that is the dominant factor in his art creation. How tragic it is to see the depth to which some have now fallen from this height! We find now some one person writing the sahityam, another person setting it to some

raga and perhaps another fixing the tala for it. Such stuff is spurious and a person with any degree of musical sensibility can easily recognise the spuriousness by the jar it produces on his aesthetic nature.



I shall now close with a reference to another phase of this, what I may call super-personal attitude. Individual prejudices and predilictions have no place there. Whatever is good is absorbed and assimilated and built into the synthesis. In the wide impersonal world of Dikshitar's musical ideas there was room enough for English tunes and Hindustani rendering too. We often hear people disparage some artists by saying that they use too many Hindustani touches. I am one who is anxious that the purity of our Carnatic music should be preserved at all costs. I am anxious to guard it against the inroads that are insidiously being made into it by spurious art savants. I want the essential and the unique features of our musical system to be kept intact. But our minds and hearts should always be open to new ideas and modes which can be fitted into our music structure without sacrificing any of the essentials. It may be that some of these new ideas go a long way to enrich and enliven the system and put in also additional vitality. One should not shut out such naturally assimilable features. Such absorptions have been made provisionally in the past as the immortal history of India will tell. Dikshitar went to Benares with Chidambaranatha yogi and heard the North India style of singing also. I am inclined to believe that before Dikshitar went north Hindolam was generally sung with chatusruti dhaivatam as in the kriti Manasuloni. Dikshitar heard it sung with shuddha dhaivatam and felt it should be advantageously absorbed into our system on account of its charm and appeal. And he gave us the masterpiece Nirajakshi Kamakshi in Hindolam with dha flat. This must have caught the ears of ordinary listeners and savants as well. My own belief is that Thyagaraja himself, after hearing this, made his kriti "Samajavara" in this new form of Hindolam. It is quite possible that the Hindolam of "Manasuloni" is pre-"Neerajakshi", while that of the kriti "Samajavaragamana" is post-"Neerajakshi". (This fact may incidentally help us in fixing the date of Sangrahachudamani of Govindacharya who gives dha flat for Hindolam in his work.)

Such is the greatness of Dikshitar; he lived and moved and had his being in a world far beyond this mundane world; though living down here as an individual his soul was really in communion with the Universal Soul. His musical compositions reveal this phase in abundance. They are perfect models, faultless jewels, cosmic chords revealing for ever the Eternal Harmony. They transcend our petty ideas, our limited faculties, and roam as free larks in the realm of Pure Nada. Once can also sense something of that Freedom, that Peace and Calm and that Impersonal Joy with the help of his unique compositions. May we be worthy of that privilege!

Rajan Parrikar

email: ****

This is a sort of follow-up to what Srini Pichumani posted a few days back. I did not have my reference at hand and so couldn't post this earlier.

In what follows, I will be quoting from an article Dr. V. Raghavan on the subject. The whole article is too long to type. It is published in the book entitled Muttuswami Dikshitar (National Centre for the Performing Arts, 1975).

"The main line of Dikshitar's pupils is represented by his own family. After Baluswami Dikshitar, there was the great Subbarama Dikshitar.... His son was Ambi Dikshitar (full name : Muttuswami Dikshitar) who succeeded him as court musician at Ettayapuram and stayed there for a long time. Late in life he migrated to Madras where he lived for the rest of his life. While in Madras he built up a school around himself; it was the starting point of a strong and fruitful movement. The well-known Vedanta Bhagavatar of Kallidaikurichi, who also happened to live in Madras at that time, threw himself enthusiastically into this active propagation of Dikshitar Kritis. There were two young vina brothers of Tirunelveli, Anatakrishrna Iyer and Sundaram Iyer, who made copies of Dikshitar kritis from the manuscripts of Sri Ambi Dikshitar. These formed the basis on which they propagated Dikshitar kritis......

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While in Madras, Ambi Dikshitar discovered the talents of D.K.Pattammal at a Goevrnment Technical Examination. Later T.L.Venkatrama Iyer also came into the picture, but D.K.Pattammal's primary initiation into Dikshitar kritis may be said to be directly due to Ambi Dikshitar. As an influential office bearer of the Music Academy, Madras, the late T.L.Venkatrama Iyer became an active force in the rising tide of Dikshitar enthusiasm........

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While Dikshitar and his brother and descendants were in Ettayapuram in Tirunelveli district, Dikshitar kritis spread in that southernmost district of Tamilnadu. The names of some of the musicians who learnt Dikshitar kritis and whose names are still remembered are : Kalakkadu Subbiah Bhagavatar, Kodakanallur Subbiah Bhagavatar, Srivilliputtur Muthiah Bhagavatar of the Settur Samasthanam, Pallakurichi Subbiah Bhagavatar and Vasudevanallur Subbiah Bhagavatar (a pupil of Maha Vaidhyanatha Iyer and a Sri Vidya devotee). Among the noteworthy musians of modern times became deeply interested in Dikshitar music were the Kallidaikurichi brothers, Vedanta Bhagavatar and Ramalinga Bhagavatar.......two younger pupils of the Kallidaikurichi brothers are the late Pattamadi Sundaram and Sri Mahadeva Iyer.....

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Of Dikshitar's own direct line, Ambi Dikshitar's son Tiruvarur Baluswami Dikshitar is the present living representative. (Note : this was in 1975. Anyone knows if he is still alive? Did he have any descendants? Is this person musically active? - Ramana)

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During Dikshitar's sojourn in Tanjavur, the four dance masters Ponnayya, Chinnayya, Vadivelu and Sivanandam, attached to the Big Temple in Tanjavur, became disciples of Dikshitar.

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Besides this it is well known that Dikshitar had a pupil in Sattanur Panchanada Iyer who was reputed for his madhyamakala and tana singing. He was the teacher of nagaswaram vidwans and several musicians and dancers.

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Among the vidwans, who had been life-long devotees of Thyagaraja, who awoke to a new awareness of the beauty of Dikshitar, must be mentioned Alathur venkatesa Iyer ( father of Alathur Subbu Iyer of the Alathur brothers). It was he, who... went to Tiruvarur, and out of his meagre personal resources, purchased the site at Tiruvarur where Dikshitar's house stood, and where we now have, thanks to Sadasivam and M.S.Subbulakshmi, a Dikshitar mandapam and shrine.

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A living tradition of Dikshitar kritis directly from Dikshitar himself is to be had at the Thyagaraja temple at Tiruvarur, with the nagaswaram vidwans.......................

(note : some of their lifestyle and how they jealously guarded Dikshitar's compositions is described in Kottamangalam Subbu's novel "Tillana Mohanambal" - the movie made from this book does not go into these details. For those who can read Tamil, this is worth reading all the 1300 odd pages of the novel! - Ramana)