Indian Poets and Composers
Biography of Muthuswami Dikshitar
Muthuswami Dikshitar (1775 – October 21, 1835), is the youngest of the Carnatic music composer trinity. He was born in 1775 to Ramaswami Dikshitar and Subbamma, as the eldest son, in Tiruvarur(of Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu). Muttuswami is said to have born to the couple after they prayed for a child in the temple of Vaitheeswaran Koil. According to the account of Subbarama Dikshitar, Muttuswami Dikshitar was born in the manmatha year, in the month of Panguni under the asterism Krittikaa. He was named after the temple deity, Muttukumaraswamy. He also had two younger brothers Baluswami, Chinnaswami and a sister Balambal.
Consistent with the education of Brahmin boys of that time, Muttuswami learnt the Vedas, Sanskrit and other important religious texts. He also obtained his preliminary musical education from his father. While he was still in his teens, his father sent him on a pilgrimage with a wandering monk named Chidambaranatha Yogi, to gain musical and philosophical knowledge. Over the course of this pilgrimage, he visited many places in North India, and acquired a broad outlook that is reflected in many of his compositions. During their stay in Kashi (Varanasi), his guru Chidambarantha Yogi, presented him with a unique Veena, and died shortly thereafter. The Samadhi of Chidambaranatha Yogi can still be seen in the Hanuman Ghat area in Varanasi.
Muttuswami Dikshitar attained mastery over the Veena, and the influence of Veena playing is evident in his compositions. As per his guru's orders, he went to tiruttani(a temple town near chennai).There while he was immersed deep in meditation, an old man appeared and asked him to open his mouth. He dropped sugar candy into his mouth and disappeared. As he opened his mouth, he had the darshana of the God Muruga and the composer burst forth into his first composition "Shri naathaadi guruguho" in the raga Maayaamaalavagaula. This song addressed the Lord ( and /or the Guru) in the first declension in sanskrit. He composed kritis in all the 8 declensions on the Lord. These kritis are mostly with epithets glorifying the guru and have very few references to Lord Muruga or specifically to the God in the saguna form or to the form at Tiruttani. He then went on a pilgrimage visiting and composing on temples at Kanchi, Arunachalam , Chidambaram,Tirupathi and Kalahasthi. He then returned back to Tiruvarur.
On his return to tiruvarur, he composed on every deity in the Tiruvarur temple complex including Tyagaraja, the presiding deity at Tiruvarur, Nilothpalambal, his consort and the Goddess Kamalambal an independent deity of high tantric significance in the same temple complex. This is when he composed the famous "kamalamba navavarnams" filled with exemplary sahityams which proved to be the showcase of his compositions. These navavarnams were in all the eight vibhakthis and are sung as a highlight of guruguha jayanthi celebrated every year. He continued to display his prowess by composing the "Navagraha krithis" in praise of the nine planets. The sahitya of the songs reflect a profound knowledge of the mantra and jyotisha shaastras. The Nilotpalamba krithis is another classic set of compositions which revived dying ragas like Narayanagowla.
His total compositions are about 450 to 500, most of which are very widely sung by musicians today in Carnatic music concerts. Most of his compositions are in Sanskrit and in the Krithi form i.e. poetry set to music. Muttuswami Dikshitar traveled to many holy shrines throughout his life, and composed krithis on the deities and temples he visited.
Each of his compositions is unique and brilliantly crafted. The compositions are known for the depth and soulfulness of the melody - his visions of some of the ragas are still the final word on their structure. His Sanskrit lyrics are in praise of the temple deity, but Muttuswami introduces the advaitin thought seamlessly into his songs, resolving the inherent relationship between Advaita philosophy and polytheistic worship. His songs also contain much information about the history of the temple, and its background, thus preserving many customs followed in these old shrines.
Muttuswami also undertook the project of composing in all the 72 melakartha ragas, (in his asampurna mela scheme) thereby providing a musical example for many rare and lost ragas. Dikshitar was a master of talas and is the only composer to have krithis in all the seven basic talas of the carnatic scheme. Dikshitar shows his prowess in sanskrit by composing in all the eight vibhakthis(cases).
For richness of Raga Bhava,sublimity of their philosophic contents and for the grandeur of the Sahithya, the songs of Dikshitar stand unsurpassed.
Muttuswami Dikshitar was approached by four dance masters, Sivanandam, Ponnayya ,Chinnayya and Vadivelu. They expressed their desire to learn music from him and entreated him to accompany them to Tanjavur. There, Dikshitar imparted to them the the 72 mela tradition handed down by Venkata Vaidyanatha Dikshita.The students showed their gratitude by composing a set of nine songs called navaratna maala glorifying their guru. These four disciples became what is known as the "Tanjore quartet" and are revered as the prime composers of music for bharatanatyam
On Deepavali, the day of narakachaturdashi, Dikshithar performed puja as usual and asked his students to sing the song "meenaakshi me mudam" in the raga gamakakriya.
As his students sang the lines "Meena lochani paasa mochani" he raised his hands and saying "sive paahi" left his mortal coil.
Baluswami Dikshitar, brother of Muthuswamy Dikshitar is believed to be the pioneer who introduced violin to Carnatic Music, an instrument now an integral part of almost any carnatic ensemble. Muthuswamy Dikshitar also shows influence of the Baroque style of western classical music in some of his compositions ( Varashiva Balam ) - which is pretty incredible as there were no record players in his age and it is hard to imagine how he managed that!!!
Muthuswami Dikshitar died on the 21st of October, 1835. Although Muthuswami Dikshitar did not have any children of his own, his Brother Baluswami's descendants have preserved his musical legacy, and his compositions have been popularised due to the efforts of people like Subbarama Dikshitar and Ambi Dikshitar. Shri. Baluswamy Dikshithar, the sixth descendent in the line, a well known Vainika by his own rights, was residing in Trichy and then moved to Chennai in 1957. He died in November 1985. He has two sons and two daughters. The eldest son Shri.Muthuswamy the seventh descendent in the line, retired as a top executive in the State Bank of India Group of Banks and then was the Mg.Director and CEO of a private sector Bank. He now resides in Coimbatore. The younger son runs his own small scale industry near Madurai. Both the daughters are married and well settled in Chennai. The Raja Rajeswari,Vallabha Ganapathi, Sree Chakra,BanaLingam, Saligramam and other idols, given to Shri Muthuswamy Dikshithar by his Guru Chidambaranatha Yatheendra is in the family with the eldest son Shri Muthuswamy as also the Divine Veena(with the upturned Yaali Mukha)with the sanskri inscription "Sree Ram" given to Shri Dikshithar by Goddess Saraswathi,when he bathed in the river Ganges, as indication of his having attained Manthra Siddhi.
Important Krithi Groups
- Guruguha Vibhakti krithis - Songs in praise of the guru;
- Kamalamba Nava Varnams - Songs in praise of Kamalamba;
- Navagraha Krithis - In praise of the Sun, Moon and other planets;
- Nilotpalamba vibhakti Krithis;
- PanchalingaKshetra kritis;
- Rama vibhakti Krithis;
- Tiruvarur Pancalinga kritis;
- Thyagaraja vibhakti Krithis;
- Abhayamba vibhakti Krithis
- Madhuramba vibhakti Krithis