Early Life of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar
Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar was born on 15th November in the year 1877 in Harikesanallur, a small village in the Tirunelveli district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. As his father was a patron of musicians, he, from a very young age, was exposed to music. He also lost his father when he was a young boy of six years. And he started to live with his maternal uncle M. Lakshmana Suri, who took over his responsibility. The utmost love for music, which was implanted in him, led Muthiah to leave his hometown of Harikesanallur, Tamil Nadu when he was only ten years in search of a teacher. He was lucky to find a gifted teacher Padinaindumandapa Sambasiva Iyer at Tiruvarur, who recognized Muthiah's talent for music.
Sambasiva Iyer was the father of T.S Sabesa Iyer, a contemporary who also went on to win the prestigious Sangeetha Kalanidhi award from the Madras Music Academy. During the nine years he spent with Sambasiva Iyer, Muthiah cultivated this talent and made his name as a Harikata Vidhwan. His rich voice and excellent tanam singing made him one of the era's most highly coveted concert artists.
Compositions by Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar
Muthiah Bhagavatar, had, to his credit, almost 400 musical compositions, the largest among the post-Trinity composers, that included many different types of Varnams as well as Kritis and Thillanas. The songs were on a number of the Hindu pantheon, his patrons. He composed them in four languages - Telugu language, Tamil language, Sanskrit language and Kannada language.
Some of the ragams that owe their existence today to this great composer include Vijaysaraswathi, Karnaranjani, Budhamanohari, Niroshta and Hamsanandhi. They are melodious ragas that make one wonder how it was not attempted prior to Muthiah Baghavatar's times. He also popularized Shanmukhapriya and Mohanakalyani. When someone asked if he could compose something that would appeal to Westerners, he composed the English notes (later popularised by Madurai Mani Iyer).
In 1934, Muthiah composed music for Tamil Nadu Talkies then owned by S. Soundararaja for their Lavakusa, a film based on the Uttara Ramayana. Bhagavathar initially was very reluctant but was later persuaded by Raval Krishna Iyer, a budding contractor of Madras. Muthiah travelled to Bombay where the film was being made at the Ranjit Studios. He composed 63 songs for the film resulting in the film being renamed as Sangeetha Lavakusa.
Having impressed the Maharaja of Mysore, he was appointed court musician at Mysore. At Mysore he composed 115 Kritis in Kannada in praise of Chamundi Devi, the matron goddess of the Mysore dynasty. Later he was invited to the court of Travancore by the Maharaja Mulam Tirunal where he studied Swatitirunal Kritis and wrote the book Sangeeta Kalpadruma, which won him an honorary doctorate. Muthiah Bhagavathar was the first President of the Annual Conference at the Madras Music Academy and was awarded the most prestigious award in Carnatic music, Sangeetha Kalanidhi title in 1930. He was conferred with an honorary doctorate by University of Kerala in 1942.
Legacy of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar
By the time Muthiah Bhagavatar died in the year 1945, he had written over 400 kritis and changed the entire landscape of Carnatic Music by introducing many Hindustani ragas (for example [Sohini] and Saarang Malhar) and creating approximately 20 new ragas of his own, such as the famous Mohana Kalyani. He ensured that his legacy would live on with such compositions as Bhuvanesvariya and also through his disciples, the most famous of which was Madurai Mani Iyer.
Muthiah Bhagavatar's legacy of music lives on in his granddaughter, Veena expert Smt. Rugmini Gopalakrishnan.