Saturday, September 20, 2008

Carnatic Music, Kannada, and Kannadigas: Certain Moments from Princely Mysore

My effort here is to propose certain moments at which Carnatic (classical) music confronted the question of Kannada and Kannadigas, in the Princely state of Mysore. It looks briefly into the question of Carnatic music and the problematic moments it had with Kannada or Kannadigas in the early twentieth century. This question deals with the linguistic demands made of Carnatic music – either in terms of lyrics that this music used or in terms of linguistic affiliation of the very personages that were in this field. Broadly speaking, Kannada nationalism sometimes tried to use music as its handmaiden by pushing its agenda in that arena. The birth of ‘light’ music in Kannada should be seen along with the interventions of certain protagonists of Kannada nationalism in the field of music and the emergence of a Kannada ‘public’ in the second half of twentieth century in urban centres of Karnataka. But before Kannada nationalism was born – a late phenomenon in South Karnataka – there were certain moments when the question of Kannada was raised in the field of Carnatic music. It was potentially a moment when a distinct tradition of Carnatic music would have possibly ‘born’ in Mysore. But the tradition of Carnatic music that emerged in Tamil Nadu ‘overpowered’ these moments because of stronger politico-economic grounding of its ‘origins’. But looking from a longer historical view, these questions had other implications. The question of Kannada raised its head again, and in a stronger manner in the field of Carnatic music later in 1960s. Hence we cannot look at the earlier moment as an isolated moment or as a ‘passing fancy’,[1] but as the one, which provides an idiom, and also a precedence to the later nationalistic demands made of Carnatic music. One cannot also look at this moment in terms of ‘success’ or ‘failure’ for a Kannada tradition of music[2] with no other implications because that is to seal the fate of any phenomenon as ‘finished’ and over, and not to see it as part of a drama that is continuously unfolding. In this paper we shall not look into the nationalistic period, but basically focus on the times of the Mysore Princely state. But before we jump into that, we shall visit an incident in the second half of twentieth century as a reference point to go back.

In 1961, Aa Na Krishna Rao, a famous litterateur of Kannada, (popularly known as Aa Na Kru by Kannada readers), led a procession through the main streets of Bangalore against the organising of a Carnatic music concert during ‘Ramotsava’ (the festival of Ramanavami) by a musician from Tamil Nadu (Anantaswami 2000). Though the musician was as well renowned as M.S.Subbulakshmi, the fame of the musician did not make any difference in the anti-Tamil fervour of the protesters. Some of them in the march even tried putting fire to the pandal, where the program was being held. The police resorted to Lathi charge and arrested some demonstrators (Govindaraju 1999: 30). Aa Na Kru was then supposed to have told “Idu Ramotsava alla, Tamilotsava” (This is not Rama festival, but a Tamil[ian’s] festival, quoted in Nair 2000: 4142).[3] Some fifty Kannada Associations of Bangalore staged a demonstration against the Ramaseva Mandali, which organised the Ramotsava festival, on the ground that the Mandali did not engage sufficient number of Kannada musicians and that an adequate number of Kannada songs were not being sung (Hindu Speaks on Music: 479).

Kannada nationalism of 1960s, which basically centred on the city of Bangalore, Janaki Nair says, ‘had two principal aims: to build up cultural resources that drew on and strengthened the Kannada language, and to secure jobs for sons-of-the-soil’ (Nair 2005: 248). She further says that it was the anxiety of Old Mysore region to withdraw from its cultural dependence on Madras Presidency and forge the ‘indigenous (Karnataka) cultural productions’ (Ibid.). On the cultural front, (Carnatic) music and cinema became two areas where assertion against the Tamil took even violent turns. The Ramotsava incident was discussed, criticised and defended in both Kannada and Tamil newspapers.[4] On the one hand there was a group, which made persistent and paranoiac demands that Kannadigas should be given more opportunity in the Carnatic music concerts in Karnataka. That there should be sufficient amount of Kannada numbers in a concert was also part of their demand. On the other hand, we had a group of listeners, who emphasised the transcendental quality of music, and who deplored the way in which Carnatic music was being interpreted in a very partisan terms. Though these groupings assume more of a ‘public’ nature in Bangalore of the sixties, their earlier avatars in the early twentieth century was rather confined to much a smaller place and collectivity. Yet, it is important to re-visit those earlier times to note that even as the Old Mysore depended on Madras Presidency for cultural sustenance, there were moments of cultural assertion to foreground the cultural distinction of Mysore. These moments fed into the later developments in Kannada nationalism.

Music in Early Twentieth Century Mysore:

Ever since Mysore was restored to Wodeyar dynasty after the fall of Tipu in 1799, the palace in Mysore has been associated with music and fine arts.[5] The more serious matters of administration resting in the hands of the British, it was as though the King had all the time for leisurely activities. The palace music has greater implications on the present day music though there were other forms of music prevalent on lines of the ‘classical’, which was open to a larger audience.[6] The music teacher and a great confidant of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III (1799-1834), one Venkatasubbaiah was a good Vina player and a very influential person in Mysore of early nineteenth century. He was appointed by Dewan Purnaiah as the music teacher of the child King Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. He seems to have wielded a great amount of power as Wodeyar grew into maturity.[7] Other musicians included Mysore Sadashiva Rao, Shunti Venkataramanaiah, Chinnaiah, Veena Chikka Lakshminaranappa, and Pedda Lakshminaranappa apart from a host of visiting musicians from neighbouring places (Ramaratnam 2000: 33, Pranesh 2003: 52).

During the reign of the next King, Chamaraja Wodeyar (1881-1894), several musicians were appointed apart from the already existing one. Veene Shamanna, Veene Padmanabhiah, Veene Sheshanna, Mysore Karigiri Rao, Veene Subbanna, Mysore Vasudevachar, Bidaram Krishnappa, were some of the prominent ones who were appointed during this time. The short-lived rule of the King because of his untimely death in 1894 saw many of these musicians continuing as Asthana Vidwans, as they were called, also during the rule of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV (1901-1940). The latter, himself regarded as a scholarly musician, appointed newer faces such as Muttiah Bhagavatar, Veene Shivaramaiah, Veene Venkatagiriappa, Chikka Rama Rao, Chowdaiah, Devendrappa, among others as musicians of the court (Pranesh 2003:161).

Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, in the early years of his ascending the throne, expressed a wish to have musical compositions or Kriti-s[8] composed in Kannada. Later in his reign, in 1926, he converted his wish into a kingly order (Narayanamurthi 2001: 6).[9] This kind of an order was somewhat unprecedented. His grandfather, Krishnaraja Wodeyar III had himself composed some songs in Kannada on lines of the Padas and Javadis (short compositions either based on Sringara or Vairagya Bhava) of the Haridasas (Ramaratnam 2000: 36-39). But there was no linguistic value attached to it, except that it was one of the languages as Sanskrit, Marathi and Telugu, which the Maharaja knew. Chamaraja Wodeyar, a man of modern education as he was, having been inspired by a Parsi drama, commissioned certain plays of Kalidasa and Shakespeare to be translated to Kannada and performed. These plays did necessitate Kannada songs and lyrics, since songs were a substantial part of the drama in those days. But they were different in terms of performance[10] and not the ones that could be sung in an exclusive musical performance. The new demand was to compose some Kriti-s that could be used solely for the purpose of musical performance or concerts.

While it would be naïve to equate the above phenomenon with nationalistic tendency, certain nuances and specificities particular to ‘Mysore culture’ should not be missed here. Mysore state was one, which yearned to be called a ‘model’ state. It was the first princely state to formally institute a legislative assembly. Certain education reforms were also attempted at, trying to gather the attention of the British supremacy. Thus, it tried to distinguish itself in various spheres of activities and stand out. Though economy and industry was the prime focus of its activity, cultural field was not ignored, and it showcased its artists. It was as though the economy and industry of Mysore helped on the one hand, to legitimise its rule and bargain for more funds for more industrial activity from the colonial authorities; the field of culture, on the other hand, allowed it to seek legitimacy basically from among the native elites of India. Apart from other things, an institutional arrangement of touring artists, basically musicians, served this purpose. Mysore allowed its artists to take to tours every now and then and perform in different parts of the country.[11] A record of the palace specifically mentions how the musicians, though they are employees of the palace, should not be treated along the same lines as other employees. A Memo of the Avasarada Hobli Department[12], dated 17 July 1912 from the Mysore Palace Archives expresses Maharaja’s views about musicians. It summarises his ideas that the Sangita Vidwans or musicians would “not be governed by the ordinary rules of palace service in the matter of leave…Sangita Vidwans are a class by themselves and are certainly not to be classed as either ministerial officers or menials, for their status, much above these.” With this special privilege, the musicians could go to places for months together with a nominal permission of the palace authorities, which was just an application away.[13]

That the musicians worked as cultural ambassadors of the Mysore state is quite clear from an instance that the famous Kannada litterateur of the time, D.V.Gundappa (DVG) mentions in one of his memoirs. Once when he had been to Delhi, he met a rich industrialist called Harichandra Vishan Roy. He had heard the Veena performance of Sheshanna three times earlier. Now he had grown old and wanted to listen to him once again. No sooner did he hear DVG is from Mysore, than he asked if it was possible to arrange Sheshanna’s concert in Bombay since he could not come to Mysore owing to his old age and said that he would bear all expenses towards it. Continuing his narration, DVG says, as India was renowned as the ‘Land of Gandhi’ outside India, Mysore was known as the ‘Land of Sheshanna’, outside it (DVG 1990: 75-76). A musician could even take up a different assignment elsewhere even as he was a palace musician. In such situations the palace appointments were just reduced to tokenism. The palace or the king could technically ‘own’ all the labours of the musician though it did not directly benefit either of them. But the Maharaja used to be credited and acknowledged for parting with the musician, though the latter was a palace employee. This was the recognition that was expected by the princely authority too. Thus, when Muttiah Bhagavatar, a much influential musician of the Palace became the Principal of the Teachers’ College of Music in 1932, which was under Madras Music Academy, the Academy journal acknowledged: “…thanks of the Academy are, in a great measure, due to His Royal Highness, The Maharajah of Mysore, for having permitted his palace Vidwan without prejudice to his there [sic] on ceremonial occasions, to serve as our Principal”[14]. Being the Principal of this College, he could still apply to the palace authorities to help publish his compositions ‘in good Kannada language’ at the palace cost (AHD file no. 3/1933). In another context, Veena player Subbanna had this to say about Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV: ‘Our Maharaja has lightened up music and has brought musicians to the forefront. There is no other King as proficient in music as our Maharaja is. No other King would encourage [music] as our Maharaja would. Our Maharaja knows everything when it comes to music. Goddess Saraswati has showered all her grace on him’ (Ramaratnam 2000: 89). That music of Mysore had become a cultural facet to be prided on is also expressed from Maharaja’s own words addressed to Poona Gayana Samaj in a speech given on 2 December 1902: “As you have observed, the study of music has received special encouragement for years past in the State of Mysore, and the advancement of the art under the auspices of my revered father and mother is a matter on which we, Mysoreans, pride ourselves, I think with some justice” (Wadiyar 1921: 13). On another occasion in 1916, a Mysorean settled in Pudukotah, M.C. Nanjunda Rao wrote about Krishnappa and his tour of Tamil Nadu to the Secretary of the Mysore Maharaja thus:

You will be very pleased to hear that while he [Krishnappa] was here a few days ago, he electrified the Madras public by his sweet and soul elevating music and proved himself one of the best, if not the best vocal Karnatic musician of the day…You might have seen two letters that appeared about him in the 6th and12th December issues of the Hindu. All this shows that we Mysoreans ought to feel proud of him and his achievements and I have no doubt that if these facts are brought to the notice of His Highness, he will be very pleased (Gayathri 1993: 68).

To talk about music as a matter of pride for Mysore continued even decades later. After the death of Veene Sheshanna, the latter symbolised the music of Mysore as a metaphor. His name even figured in the slogan shouting by the young ‘Cubs’ of Mysore schools. In one of the slogans it was described “Mysore, this is the temple of music, where Shesha[nna] played, who did not know what defect was” (Kashyap 1936: 173, 202). To quote another incident, in 1940 Veene Shivaramayya gave a Veena recital on Madras Radio. He played a Raga created by himself, called Swayambhuswara Raga. Then, a Kannada daily called Thayi Nadu described the incident thus: “The performance of that day reminded one of the Veena recitals of the late Vainika Shikhamani Veene Sheshanna. The performer was his own beloved student. The latter has done an ever-remembered favour to the southern music by composing melodious Kriti-s with research. This is a matter of pride for all Mysoreans” (quoted in Narayanamurthi 2001 b: 51-52). Thus, even as Mysore was home for economic and industrial modernization, at another level, the level of a limited elite sphere of India, there was a collective strife both among the artists, and the patrons of Mysore (whether the Maharaja or the ‘audience’ formed of the elite sphere) to ‘produce’ a Mysore, distinct in musical flavour, which is better reputed than other princely states in the country, in the matters of cultural affairs too. Nevertheless, cultural activities in the Princely state were limited with the lack of a sizable number of cultural associations or organisations and the hold of the state sponsorship on culture was almost complete.[15] The Maharaja’s insistence that the musicians compose in Kannada, was symbolic of both the distinctness that he wanted to accord to the music of Mysore as well as of the hold of the state on cultural production.

The Patron/ ‘Public’ in Mysore

The nature of the audience for musicians of Mysore was both local as well as distant. If there were yearning audiences in places like Bombay and Madras, who could occasionally get to hear the concerts of the likes of Veene Sheshanna, there was an equally yearning audience composed of young college boys, acquaintances, friends and relatives of musicians, litterateurs, bureaucrats, and merchants at the local level. This is in contrast to the ‘public’ of painting artists like Venkatappa, who returned to Mysore from Calcutta in 1916, after his training in the nationalist school of painting that Abanindranath ran there (Nair 1998). As an artist, he would seek a patron or an audience from nationwide in the absence of a public in Mysore itself, which could purchase his paintings in large scale and sustain his artistic life. His patrons were rich individuals like S.V.Ramaswamy Mudaliyar, a businessman and a collector. His critics were much more cosmopolitan which might even include charlatans such as ‘drawing masters, photographers, poster designers, jute brokers, members of the ICS, and many England-returned gentlemen of erudition’ (Ibid: 191). Unlike for painting artists, the audience for musicians was composed at different levels. If they were palace employees, the Maharaja was a continuous patron and audience for these musicians. At local levels, there were performances of private or semi-private nature. This could be a gathering of some thirty to forty persons, comprising of acquaintances, friends and relatives.[16] It was semi-private because sometimes among the audience there were a few uninvited guests as well, who would be let in with some discretion. Moorthi Rao says he and his friends used to go to the house of Veene Sheshanna during Ramotsava on Ramanavami and Krishnotsava on Krishnashtami. Sheshanna had given a special concession to the college boys to come and hear. Because of the congestion, Rao says, he remembers the windowpane having broken once by one of those boys and Sheshanna not taking that to mind at all (1995: 60-61).[17] Then there were performances in temples too during Ramotsava or Krishnotsava or Ganeshotsava on Ganesha Chaturthi (Sitaramayya 2002: 129). There were instances when a music lover and patron would search for occasions when he could conduct music performances.[18] Further bigger audience used to gather for the concerts organised by Gayana Samaja of Mysore and Bangalore. This was perhaps the only public organisation for music existing from the beginning of the twentieth century. In Bangalore, it was established in 1905, by one K. Ramachandra Rao, the head master of the London Missionary High School. Gayana Samaja started with an initial membership of one hundred individuals. The monthly membership was four annas per member. As time passed, it brought about grades in its membership in 1940. Then, the first class membership cost one rupee and the second class, fifty paise per month. This phenomenon is quite important because it could be taken as a more tangible evidence of an emerging composite ‘public’ audience for Carnatic music. More interestingly, there was a translucent screen, which acted in a way as ‘purdah’ between the women and men sections of the audience.[19] This points towards the middleclass puritanical apprehensions about mixing and socialising in an emerging ‘public’.

Speaking of cultural organisations in Mysore region, one should acknowledge the interventions attempted by these, however ‘small’ or ‘insignificant’ they might apparently appear in number and nature. The ‘public’ was real to the extent that the issue and debate it raised was real. One such intervention was that of a ‘representative’ of Gayana Samaja. In 1915 there was a letter by a ‘representative’ of the ‘Gayana Samaja of Mysore and Bangalore’ to the Maharaja. Though the letter started with a note of pride over possessing very good musicians, it had some thing more to say. It wanted to represent a grievance that a ‘foreign’ musician called Anantarama Bhagavatru[20] was appointed ‘on Rs. 60/- as starting, besides extraordinary Kilats etc’. It perceived the latter act a threat because it could amount to be a partisan treatment of the ‘foreigner’, not on par with Mysore’s own musicians such as Veene Sheshanna and Bidaram Krishnappa.[21] The letter said:
As Your Highness knows that Sangita Vidwan B. Krishnappa and Vynika Shikamani Sheshanna of Mysore, are well known persons of the State. They have earned a good name in all parts of India, with extraordinary Killats, Medals, Money Prizes etc.
In such cases if a foreigner is appointed on Rs. 60/- as starting, where are these people’s grievances to go and who are to consider.
They are born in Mysore and are in Mysore for the last so many years and Your Highness though they were offered by other Maharajas [sic].
While a public play given by the Anantharama Bhagavatru in the Town Hall, Mysore, the collection was Rs. 90/- only [sic]. In case if Sangita Vidwan B. Krishnappa is willing to show his ability in the same Hall, I think there would be more collection than the Gentleman, the same amount can be utilised for the Imperial Service War Fund [sic]. If Your Highness is kind enough to order the Sangita Vidwan B. Krishnappa to do so, I think he is quite willing to do so, then Your Highness may know the amount of collection [sic].
I beg that Your Highness will kindly consider the matter of the Gentleman as well as the two Vidwans named above equally, in all respects (AHD file no. 5/1915, letter dated 30/11/1915).[22]

One might be tempted to term this incident as isolated since the follow-up letters or the letters of response, which can be seen in the case of other letters, are totally missing in this case. The very unorganised nature of the letter – the erroneous sentences, uneven spelling, words seeming to have been omitted, and unsophisticated style of the very proposition – rather seem to suggest the unorganised work of some stray individuals, when compared to the elite nature of Gayana Samaja itself, of which the ‘representative’ claimed to be representative of. V. Sitaramayya, a Kannada writer, and one, who spent his student days in Mysore and Bangalore frequently listening to Carnatic music, says that in Bangalore Gayana Samaja there were not many offers to the musicians of Mysore. Even if they did get offers, the remuneration was not on par with the musicians from ‘outside’ (2002: 139). With this view, such complaint as the above one was unlikely to come from the member of a Gayana Samaja. However, the same writer at another place says that when Chikka Rama Rao[23] used to perform in Gayana Samaja, people used to request him to sing ‘Kandas’, which were Kannada pieces (2002: 183). The latter pieces were mostly used in dramas. Since Chikka Rama Rao was a successful actor too in Mysore, the audience of Gayana Samaja in Mysore demanded that he sing ‘Kandas’. If we read between his statements it amounts to say that it was Bangalore Gayana Samaja, which must have had more of ‘outsiders’ as its members and audience and that Mysore Gayana Samaja must have been constituted more of the locals occasionally showing their preference for Kannada pieces and demanding for equal treatment of Mysore musicians.[24] Though the Maharaja was enthusiastic to ask the musicians to compose in Kannada, his humanism perhaps did not allow him to go to the extent of responding to such a letter as above one, which sought to mark those differences in the field of music too, which was already bothering the modern job market in Mysore state for nearly two decades then.

The heated debates with regard to the question of filling up of positions in Mysore Civil Services as to whether these positions should be reserved only for Mysoreans or if the ‘outsiders’ also could be allowed to write the exams or whether there should be exams at all to fill up these positions, went on from the end of nineteenth century till the emergence of non-Brahmin agitations at the end of the second decade.[25] Not just in Civil Services, but most of those occupying the coveted modern positions seem to have been polarised on this issue. Even after the emergence of non-Brahmin agitations, the after-effects of this tussle could be seen when it came to promotions, which involved the tricky issue of seniority (Moorthy Rao 1999: 227-230). Thus, the question of the ‘outsider’, which bothered the employees or job aspirants from Mysore, sometimes trickled down into and manifested in the latter’s capacities as audience of Carnatic music. On the other hand, the musicians of Mysore hardly recognised or abhorred the ‘foreign’ factor. It was quite a common practice for them to go to Tamil Nadu and perform and get honoured there as well as to receive musicians from there. But from time to time, there were some intrigues working against each other among the palace musicians. It is also possible that it was part of such scheming against each other among musicians.[26] Therefore, the above incident was rather a superimposition of the general anxieties of the Mysore audience about modern spaces and opportunities on the rather private anxieties of the musicians. And the state could afford to ignore the whole affair because on the one hand the ‘public’ was not strong enough to pursue the affair and on the other, the individual musicians’ grievances need not have been taken very seriously.

Though there was a sentiment working against the non-Kannadigas as exemplified by the above incident, the elite audience did not seem to be hostile to the language in music, which was mostly Telugu or Sanskrit. Whenever there was a ‘special’ request or need for concerts in Kannada,[27] it was granted by the musicians, especially by Bidaram Krishnappa and his students, who had developed a repertoire of Dasa Sahitya[28] and had put those lyrics in to concert format.[29] It is noticeable that Krishnappa’s efforts to make a concert format out of Dasa Sahitya and Maharaja’s demand for Kannada compositions co-incide, not very accidentally. Other musicians of the palace such as Chikka Rama Rao, Chintalapalli Venkata Rao, Subbaramaiah, Venkatesh Iyengar, also used to sing from the repertoire of Dasa Sahitya, when required (Ramaratnam: 2000). Another musician of the palace, Devendrappa (a student of Krishnappa), not only sang Dasa Sahitya, but also composed Vachanas of the Shivasharanas of Virashaivism. He and his student Chakrakodi Narayana Shastri sang these Vachanas in the concert along with other numbers.[30] Thus, the already existing literatures, which are now categorised as ‘Bhakti’, served the purpose of Kannada lyrics and compositions, whenever there was a demand for Kannada compositions from the audiences.

The spectacular decline of the Devadasis catering to the multiple aesthetics of sexuality, music and dance around the institution of temple, is another phenomenon that should be paid some attention to. Since Mysore was the first princely state that implemented the abolition of the Devadasi system, in the two decades from 1891 to 1911, there was a remarkable decrease in the number of people who claimed to be belonging to that community (Devadasis and their accompanists, Nattuvans, both belonging to that community). The number came down from 7,442 in 1891 to 1,745 in 1911 (Nair 1994: 3161). By this time the places in and around Mysore denied any patronage to these performers “forcing them to reclassify themselves or to seek employment elsewhere” and they were to be found in the districts of Bangalore and Kolar (Ibid).[31] Devadasis in this principality seem to have been efficient with the songs in three languages: Kannada, Telugu and Tamil, and could use them as the context demanded. They possessed a beautiful repertoire in Kannada called Javalis,[32] which they used for their performances. There was a vacuum created by the decline in this community and in turn, decline in the performance of Kannada songs. The emergence of many drama companies in the second decade of the twentieth century might explain this phenomenon only partially.[33] The Kannada dramas used Kannada songs extensively, which were very near to the classical genre of Carnatic music. There were many palace musicians such as Bidaram Krishnappa, Chikka Rama Rao and others taking roles in the Chamarajendra Nataka Sabha, patronised by the palace. Even other Drama companies of the early twentieth century such as Chamundeswari Nataka Sabha, Gubbi Theatre Company, Rathnavali Theatre Company of the famous actor-singer Varadachar, used Kannada songs in a very extensive manner.[34] The actors could burst into songs at any moment. Even a role, which died on stage, might regain life and repeat a song and die again in case of demands for repetition by the audience! As seen above in the case of Chikka Rama Rao, the audience used to urge the singers to present some songs (which were obviously in Kannada) taken out of their dramatic performance. This shows us there were crossovers and overlapping between drama and Carnatic music performances among the audience. Or it is even possible that in those early days when the tastes of modern aesthetics were not sharp, the audience for these two performances might have been the same, the size of the elite ‘public’ being small. Hence, the ‘public’ performances in Mysore of early twentieth century did cater to the needs of the audience of ‘Kannada music’.

Now, let us go back to the Maharaja’s order to compose in Kannada. This order had to be complied with. Most of the senior as well as junior musicians of the palace such as Bidaram Krishnappa, T. Chowdiah, Chikka Rama Rao, Sheshanna, Venkatagiriyappa and Shivaramayya composed Kannada lyrics. Most of the times these musicians found themselves incapable of producing lyrics in Kannada. Hence, the Maharaja made some arrangement where the lyrics were produced by Kannada literary persons and the musicians did only the composing. Thus, a team of Kannada poets was ready for this purpose, upon the wish of the Maharaja. Among these were Nanjanagudu Srikantha Shastri, Ayya Shastri, Anavatti Rama Rao, Venkataramanayya, Devottama Jois, Sitarama Shastri, and R. K. Krishna Shastri. Some of these were also the ones who prepared the script for dramas or translated plays from English and Sanskrit or wrote music compositions for dramas. There was even an effort to translate Tyagaraja’s Kritis into Kannada by Anavatti Rama Rao, which did not become popular. The Maharaja had also announced some special prizes for those who composed Kriti-s in Kannada (for this information, see Satyanarayana 2001b: 24-7).

The only exception in not willing to compose in Kannada seems to have been K. Vasudevacharya, better known later as Mysore Vasudevacharya. He was consciously unwilling to do it. However, he had composed in Telugu and Sanskrit. The palace authorities even printed the book of his compositions at the palace cost.[35] But there was some bitterness, which remained in the relationship between him and the Maharaja, since he did not compose in Kannada. A.N. Moorthy Rao, who had been a teacher in the Mysore state and later emerged as a litterateur in Kannada, remembers having heard people talk about Vasudevacharya with sympathy. The talk among the people who knew Vasudevacharya was that he was not treated fairly by the Maharaja because he did not comply with his wish (Moorthy Rao 1995: 69).[36] Vasudevacharya’s own reason for not composing in that language was that when he started composing in Kannada, ideas did not yield to him.[37] There was also a generally held opinion that among Dravidian languages, only Telugu was the appropriate language for music (Ibid).[38] A look at the pay scale of 1908, of the palace musicians also suggests the disparity of treatment. In that year Veena Sheshanna was the highest paid among the palace musicians. With twenty-five years of service, he was earning Rs. 50/- a month. Subbanna followed him with Rs. 45/- per month, and with nineteen years of service. One Abdulla Khan (a Hindustani musician) was earning Rs. 25/- per month with 11 years of service. B. Krishnappa was earning Rs. 20/- with 22 years of service. However, Vasudevacharya, with his long service of 36 years (longer than any other palace musician then) was earning only Rs. 10/- per month (Gayathri 1993: 46-47).[39] When it came to a loan of one thousand rupees, he had to apply several times in 1925 and 1926. It was sanctioned finally when he mentioned that the “creditors will come with warrants” and then his “honour will be at stake” (Gayathri 1993: 80). However, it was sanctioned in a different way. The sanction letter said: “His Highness desires the Durbar Bakshi to find out who the creditors are and pay the most pressing of them himself after trying to reduce them if possible up to a maximum of Rs. 1000/- which as special case will be treated as advance…”(Ibid: 81). This stands in stark contrast with the generous sanction of loan to Veene Sheshanna of Rs. 3000/- in 1906 (Ibid: 18-19); to Krishnappa of Rs. 1000/- in 1906 (Ibid: 62); and graceful ‘remission of all amount outstanding’ against Veene Subbanna (Ibid: 30).

What was due to Vasudevacharya, it was said, was accorded to Muttiah Bhagavathar. The latter was from Harikeshanallur in Tamil Nadu. He had learnt music staying in Tiruvayyar, from Sambasiva Iyer. He had also learnt Harikatha Kalakshepam. He had done some research in Tanjore Saraswati Mahal Library, staying with his uncle and a Sanskrit professor, Lakshmana Suri. During that time he was also able to find out some rare books about music. Thus, he was considered to be a scholarly musician. Till 1927, he gave vocal recitals and Harikatha performances and toured mostly in Tamil Nadu. But in 1927, he came to Mysore for the Dasara celebrations that year and in the same year, he was appointed as the palace musician with a salary of Rs. 100/- per month (Pranesh 2003: 168). In 1928, he was given the title of Gayaka Shikhamani. Around the same time, he prepared some compositions, which impressed the Maharaja. With the help of Devottama Jois, a lyricist, he composed 108 Kriti-s in Kannada on Chamundeswari, the family deity of the Wodeyar dynasty. Vasudevacharya himself says quite candidly “As he finished each piece, he sang it in front of Mahaprabhu [the king] and got his approval”. The Maharaja gave him “a gem studded medal of Chamundeswari”, pleased by the work of Muttiah Bhagavatar (Vasudevacharya 1994: 164). He was sent to Madras as the Principal of Teachers’ College of Music even as he was a palace employee. Later he was also sent as the Principal of the Music College in Trivendrum. Later in his life, Vasudevacharya got a better position and treatment after the ascending of Jayachamaraja Wodeyar to the throne.[40] And the reason was, it is said, that the former was the music teacher of the latter (Moorthi Rao 1995: 69). By the time the palace patronage ended (i.e. in 1950s), Vasudevacharya was the highest paid palace musician.[41]

Mysore’s foregrounding of music as a speciality of its own kind, it looks, was more in response to the musical culture in Tamil Nadu. The latter culture was looming large over Mysore. DVG, while talking about the fame of Mysore’s music, says that it was comparable to the music of Tanjore in Tamil Nadu (DVG 1990: 76). Tamil Nadu was something of an elder brother to Mysore when it came to music. In Mysore, even as there were borrowings from the musical legacy of Tamil Nadu, there was an assertive inclination and anxiety to forge what was distinct to it, not so much among musicians as among the Maharaja and the elite audience. The order of the Maharaja supposedly comes on the wake of an observation by a musician from Tamil Nadu that compositions in certain Raga-s cannot be prepared because those Raga-s are out of circulation. When the Maharaja sent the orders to individual musicians, there were two conditions. The first was that the compositions should be in specific Raga-s (which the musician from Tamil Nadu had called ‘out of circulation’) and secondly that they should be in Kannada (Narayanamurthi 2001b: 47). The yearning for recognition from the ‘Southern Country’ (as Madras and other places in Tamil Nadu were referred to by Mysore musicians) continued even in 1930s and 1940s. As Madras Academy of Music was established in Madras in 1927, there was a vigorous effort to institutionalise Carnatic music in Madras. The Music Conferences conducted every year set standards for Raga-s and Kriti-s.[42] Mysore Palace used to send its Music Vidvan Muttiah Bhagavatar, apart from others, for these deliberations, where he actively participated with great influence.[43] Whenever there was a new proposal in terms of research or discovery, Mysore sent the stakeholders to the Music Conference in Madras to present their findings there. Thus, for the Conference of 1934, Hulgur Krishnachar was sent to present and demonstrate his newly invented instrument, Kinnari (JMAM 1935: 153). Similarly in 1938, he represented Mysore to demonstrate another instrument invented by him, called Vishva Veena (JMAM 1939: 18-19). When Shivaramayya discovered a new Raga, Svayambhuswara, he sang that melody in this Conference (Narayanamurthi 2001b: 65). Thus, Tamil Nadu, especially Madras, acted as a certifying authority for the musical activities in Mysore. That was why a performing tour of Madras was considered to be of high acclaim, which used to be taken up by Sheshanna and Krishnappa frequently.

The Kannada Kriti-s composed upon the order of the Maharaja, did not gain popularity. Maharaja could only ask his musicians to compose in Kannada. He could not, however, compel them to sing those compositions in gatherings or concerts. And the musicians did not show particular interest to perform with their Kannada Kriti-s either. As pointed out above, none seemed to be up and against any Telugu or Sanskrit pieces in Carnatic music. Those who wanted music in Kriti form, could listen to it irrespective of the language in which it was composed, since the elucidation of Raga-s or melodies were primary in such performances and lyrics or the import of them were of secondary, if not of no importance. Those who wanted Kannada songs could get to listen to them with either a special request to the Mysore musicians (even in Kriti form) or in drama theatres. Hence, the newly composed Kannada Kriti-s remained redundant in such context. However, something more should be said about the very form, Kriti and the milieu in which it came to be popular and with which Kannada compositions could not compete. For this, a brief overview of Carnatic music in the period of its ‘glory’ is very necessary.

The Kriti form of music was perfected in Tamil Nadu by early Nineteenth century by musicians like Tyagaraja, Muttuswamy Dikshitar and Syamasastri – who later came to be known as the ‘Trinity’ of Carnatic music. The death of this Trinity, especially that of Tyagaraja (1847, others – 1827 and 1834 respectively) occurred almost simultaneously with the collapse of the Maratha kingdom. Tyagaraja had acquired high fame during his very lifetime, not just because of his musical genius with which he composed his Kriti-s, but also for his rejection of offers by a host of patrons. His Guru Sonti Venkataramanayya had publicly praised that Tyagaraja was a better singer than himself and had awarded him with a gold medal and chain, which he had received as an award from King Sharabhoji (Jackson 1993: 4).[44] Tyagaraja had innumerable disciples. With the death of Tyagaraja and with the weakening of the Marathas, disciples of Tyagaraja spread through out Tamil Nadu and he soon became a legend. This was accelerated by the Harikatha performers such as Tanjore Krishna Bhagavatar, by allusions to his supreme Bhakti. Tyagaraja came to symbolize worldly rejection, the supposed quality of a supreme Brahmin, by his denial of the offer not just from Sharabhoji but also from the court of Travancore and Mysore. He, in a way, elevated the position and profession of music by giving it a symbolic meaning of worldly rejection and associating it with high learning even as the practices and performances of music was caught in the drama unfolding simultaneously in a complex scenario of courtesan music, temple music and rather private Bhajana music. Symptomatically, we could see the musicians claiming and tracing their lineage and tradition to the music trinity, mainly to Tyagaraja and this attitude of musicians continues till date.

A conjecture at the spectacular emergence of the Trinity and along with that, of the Kriti form in Carnatic music may be due here in a brief way. Tyagaraja’s disciples were found to be ready recruits for the new patronage of rich individuals emerging in early nineteenth century in the region of the Carnatic.[45] With the advent of the British and their administration in certain pockets of south India, prominently around the city of Madras, there were indications of the emergence of a considerable number of individual magnates, who would also patronise music apart from the traditional principalities. These were the members of the newly forming aristocratic class constituted by men of upper and middle caste, such as rich merchant magnates, tycoons, dubashis and other locally powerful people. Many of them also acted as the ‘Dharmakarta-s’ (trustees) of temples and patronised musicians, scholars and courtesans.[46] It was the same body of people who received ‘inam-s’, from the British to muster up support to the latter’s authority at the local levels. Though mostly inam-s meant the donation of land and favours on that line, it was also ‘applicable to different objects’ (Frykenberg 1977: 151).[47] The nature of inam-s in the Carnatic was deliberately kept elusive as a part of the policy of a ‘non-policy’. Because of this nature, inam-s were also called ‘silent settlements’.[48] By early nineteenth century, Frykenberg says, one of the “newest and smallest inam might simply have been a life-time pension given by a Company servant (European or Native) to his favorite dancing girl” (Frykenberg 1977: 153).[49] And the dancing girl, very obviously, was accompanied by a retinue of musicians. Such novel forms of favours – however ‘small’ they might apparently be (while constructing a history of music in South India, this phenomenon does not look small) – by the British in early nineteenth century must have been a most important factor creating a boom in the patronisation of music and dance in its own strangely stealthy way.[50]

The Trinity of Carnatic music was the product of early nineteenth century; the product of a solidly strong patronising system – whether direct or indirect. Shyamashastri was employed by the Maratha court at Tanjore. Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s father Ramaswamy Dikshitar was patronised by one Venkatakrishna Mudaliyar, another dubashi for the English governor Pigot. The very same Mudaliyar introduced Dikshitar to Western music. Tyagaraja, though avert to patronisation by any court or mundane powers, had his disciples settle down in different courts of affluent princely states, Zamindars or other patronisers in Tamil Nadu.[51] Moreover, his own Guru, Sonti Venkataramanayya, his grand fathers Giriraja Kavi and Veena Kalahasti Iyer, enjoyed the patronage of Tulaja (1728-36). Kalahasti Iyer also got a grant of considerable amount of land (Seetha 2001: 101). Tyagaraja’s father, Ramabrahmam, gave discourses on Ramayana and was patronised by Tulajaji II (1763-87) for such skills (Jackson 1993: 3). And it was this time, which was followed by the period when the Trinity perfected the ‘Kriti’ form of composition – Tyagaraja, in Telugu, his mother tongue and the other two, mostly in Sanskrit.[52]

On the other hand, no extensive network of patronage was available in the region of Mysore, as it had serious limitations as a ‘hollow crown’. There were ceilings for the expenditure. Janaki Nair mentions at one place that from 1811 to 1831, “the Maharaja granted inams of various kinds amounting to Kantiroy Pagodas 1,68,400 (approximately Rs. 4,84,000), effectively doubling the size of inam grants.” These were mostly fertile wetlands and “the loss entailed by these generous grants was unacceptable to the colonial authorities” (Nair 1994: 3158). She also says that for the British, this prompted a move towards the resumption of pre-colonial legitimising mechanisms, which was one of the prime reasons for the assumption of direct rule in 1831 (Ibid.). Thus, there was no scope for vast system of grants, which could in turn spur patronising activity by subordinate or micro powers at local levels. The size of the land holdings in south Karnataka was either medium or small and hence there was no scope for the existence of a patronising zamindar either, unlike Ettayapuram or Ramnad in Tamil Nadu. Even within the limited powers given to the monarchy, the authority and riches accorded on Veene Venkatasubbaiah was considered to be ‘corruption’ by the legacy of British historiography.[53] On the whole, activities in music of Mysore were not as rapid in nineteenth century, as it was in Tamil Nadu with multiple opportunities for patronisation.

The movement of musicians across the linguistic borders of Kannada and Tamil seems to have taken place continuously for the purposes of study and patronage. As mentioned above, if on the one hand we have references to musicians having left Mysore during Tipu’s time (around the same time when there was the possibility of availing new patrons in the Carnatic region), on the other, there is an account of them coming to Mysore after the collapse of Tanjore as a principality (Seeta 2001). Musicians of Mysore saw themselves as part of a tradition that had its ‘origins’ in Tamil Nadu rather than in Mysore or at least the majority of them were not for giving a special recognition to the language factor in music.[54] Let us have a brief look at the lineages of a few musicians living in the early twentieth century Mysore. Sheshanna was foremost among musicians of Mysore. Sheshanna wielded a power to screen any musician before he performed in front of the Maharaja (Sitaramayya 2003: 130). Sheshanna’s father had come from Tanjore and had sought the help of Venkatasubbaiah to become a palace musician (Vasudevacharya 1994: 9). Sheshanna’s music teacher Mysore Sadashiva Rao was in the lineage of Tyagaraja. The latter had settled in Mysore as a palace musician from the time of Chamaraja Wodeyar. Later, many musicians of Mysore took instructions from Sheshanna and some of them were appointed as palace musicians. Mysore Vasudevacharya, who became famous only in his later life, went to Tiruvayyar as a student and learnt music from Patnam Subramaya Iyer (who was again in Tyagaraja’s lineage) with the help of the royal patronage, after which he was absorbed as a palace musician (Pranesh 2003: 137-8). Bidaram Krishnappa learnt music in Mysore itself from two or three gurus including Sheshanna. But he constantly got invitations from Madras and other places (Shastri 1994: 184) and his frequent sojourns in Tamil Nadu only furthered the friendship and exchanges between the musicians of the two places (Vasudevacharya 1994: 53). Muttiah Bhagavathar, who joined as palace musician in the late twenties, was from Harikeshanallur in Tamil Nadu and his teacher was Sambasiva Iyer, again in the lineage of Tyagaraja (Pranesh 2003: 167). Apart from these facts, Mahavaidyanatha Iyer, Patnam Subramania Iyer, and Ramanad Srinivasa Iyengar, the doyens of music from Tamilnadu had performed in Mysore palace and had won laurels. Among palace musicians, Sheshanna, Subbanna and Krishnappa used to go and perform in Tamilnadu frequently. However, if for the purposes of patronage the traffic was both ways, for the purpose of study, it was one way. We do not have examples of a music aspirant coming from Tamil Nadu and studying music in Mysore, unless as exceptions. This fact establishes that Tamil Nadu in general and Madras in particular, was more of a central place to musical culture than Mysore was. Moreover, after the establishment of Madras Academy of Music (established in 1927), the standardising activity of the Kriti-s of the Trinity and of the Raga-s through those Kiriti-s took place rapidly. And hence, those Kriti-s shot into prominence and fame. The notation system was carefully studied and it was adapted to Carnatic music. This enabled the ‘printing’ of music, which could then be circulated among the public in multiple copies. This further strengthened the tradition of the Trinity, by making the compositions ‘authentic’. The Kriti-s composed in Kannada in Mysore were of the same genre, which by now, was well in place in Telugu and Sanskrit languages. The musicians did not show enough enthusiasm to popularise their new Kannada Kriti-s because of their allegiance rather to the tradition. It is doubtful if they taught it to their own students.[55] Hence, though most palace musicians did not disobey the order of the Maharaja, at the end of the day, a repertoire of hundreds of Kannada Kriti-s was fading into the oblivion and it was as though the whole exercise of composing these many Kriti-s in Kannada was a wasteful one.[56]


To go back to where we started, the question of Kannada did not fade away in the realm of music, as did Kannada Kriti-s. Kannada nationalism of the 1960s with its protagonists such as Aa Na Kru and Ma. Ramamurthi again raised the question of Kannada and Kannadigas in Carnatic music as it raised this question in other cultural fields such as cinema. This time, large anti-Tamil sentiments were writ into these questions. It should be noted that it was the time when ‘light’ music was maturing as a genre with a history of, at the most, only a decade. Kalinga Rao, the first ‘light’ music singer in Kannada emerged in 1950s,[57] after experimenting with classical music for sometime. Though his ‘public’ programs became popular in 1950s (as is the case with ‘light’ music), he very much experienced the Bangalore of 1940s working in the world of drama and film music, which shaped his sensibilities.[58] The emergence of the ‘light’ music genre in Kannada should be seen along with the developments especially in Bangalore from 1940s, specifically, the emerging consciousness of a linguistic divide among the industrial labour with large numbers of people from Madras Presidency pouring into the city from 1942 to almost till 1955.[59] This influx threatened the culture and employment opportunities of the Kannadigas in Bangalore. The questions asked of Carnatic music this time were familiar – more opportunities for Kannada musicians and more Kannada songs and Kriti-s in the repertoire. However, the vehemence with which this issue was raised was unprecedented. The month long celebrations of the Kannada Rajyotsava festival zealously started in 1960s, and the recurrent broadcasting of Kannada songs on AIR from 1955 (Leelavathi 2005) institutionalised the genre of ‘light’ music in Karnataka even as Kannada movement was at its highest.

Thus, the early questions of Kannada and Kannadiga in Carnatic music cannot be brushed away as a ‘passing fancy’. Neither can it be brushed aside saying that it was a failure of a possible Kannada tradition vis-à-vis a stronger tradition from the Carnatic. This ‘failure’ should be explained with a temporal to and fro motion – what happened before, in nineteenth century and after, in late twentieth century. It was the expression of a nascent Kannada nationalism. It gave a strong axis on which the later Kannada movement could ask questions and demand concrete results in the field of music. These questions are important because in Kannada, the birth of ‘light’ music is closely interlinked with them. These questions are important also because they have been repeatedly asked in the field of Carnatic music in Karnataka.[60] Thus, the issue of Kannada and Kannadiga figures in music as a part of the ongoing question of nationalism and of negotiating identities, sometimes latent and some other times, erupting. It questions the notion of autonomy of the field of classical music and compels us to recognise the ‘inflections’ or ‘changes’ that are brought about by seemingly ‘external’ factors. We need to see this issue as a point of clash of ‘non-discursive’ nature of music with its own ‘discursive’ nature.


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[1] Ramachandra Rao (2004) called this moment in Carnatic music as such. For him, it was short lived and did not sustain itself and therefore, does not have implications in the field of music.
[2] Satyanarayana (2004) says that Kannada did not succeed in the field of Carnatic music because the Tamil musicians swarmed this field as ‘locusts’.
[3] Ironically enough Aa Na Kru’s own brother Aa Na Rama Rao was crucial in getting M.S.Subbulakshmi to perform during Ramotsava festival for Ramaseva Mandali. Hence some people even called it the fight between the brothers (see Govindaraju 1999: 29-30).
[4] Tamil newspapers such as Dinatanti and Dinasudar called Kannadigas as linguistic chauvinists (Govindaraju 1999: 39 e.n.).
[5] Not to say that Hyder and Tipu did not patronise music scholars. Historiography has been partial to the political and military life of these Sultans and the cultural life in and around their court during this time has not been much worked upon (This has lead to a general belief that Hyder and Tipu did not much patronise music and arts. For example, see Sundaram 1995: 77-78). However, there are scattered, but hopelessly brief mentions of one Adippayya having served as a musician in Hyder’s court (See Satyanarayana 2001a: 564, Pranesh 2003: 74) and his sons Kuppaiah and Appaiah having served as the music teachers in the zananas if Hyder and Tipu (Pranesh, Ibid.). After serving for sometime, Adippayya is supposed to have left for Tanjore seeking patronage there with the Maratha kings because of the unstable political condition in Mysore (Satyanarayana, Op. Cit).
[6] The music of Devadasis and Nattuvans in the temple was an important form on these lines. There were constant give and takes between the palace musicians and the temple ones. There were legal-administrative measures against the Devadasi system quite early in the Mysore state (1892-1909), earlier than other parts of South India (See Nair 1994). Hence in early 20th century, it is mostly the palace musicians, who set the Carnatic music tradition in Karnataka.
[7] No musician of the 19th and 20th century Mysore seems to have enjoyed as much power as Venkatasubbaiah. It is said that the residence of Venkatasubbaiah looked like a second palace in Mysore and that the king never said no to what he said or asked (Vasudevacharya 1994: 6; for archival evidences of the riches and honours he enjoyed, see Gayathri 1993: 28). This is significant because the royal house did not have enough freedom to appoint the Dewan as the British were dictating terms in this matter (for one such example, see Srinivasan 1991: 9). Hence, he seems to have become an alternate power centre, especially from 1819, when he became the prominent Moosahib (counsellor) of the King. One of the earliest historians of Mysore, M. Shama Rao briefly describes the evil counsels done, and nepotism shown by Venkatasubbaiah. With the help of one Choudaiah in the Resident’s office, he even used to fabricate communication between the Resident and the King to serve his own purpose (Shama Rao 1936: 402-405). It is also believed that it was the corrupt Venkatasubbaiah who was the prime reason for the revolt against the kingdom in Nagara in 1830s, which made the British take over the administration of Mysore (Historian Janaki Nair is of the opinion that the British were afraid of the resumption of the pre-colonial legitimising practices [which were then termed ‘corruption’] of the King, which actually made them take over administration. See, Nair 1994). However, in The Guide to the Records of the Tanjore District, 1749- 1835, Venkatasubbaiah is mentioned just as a musician and is noted to have visited Tanjore in 1824 en route to Rameswaram (Ayyar 1944: 36).
[8] A composition of three parts: Pallavi, Anupallavi and Charanam. If Pallavi, Anupallavi were of two lines, Charanam was of 4 lines, more often than not. These are the items of presentation in a Carnatic music concert, around which one’s improvisation and creativity is woven. Earlier to Kriti-s, the known forms in music were Gita, Prabandha, Thaya and Suladi.
[9] M.S.Narayanamurthi of Mysore showed me the letter sent by the Durbar Bukshi (the palace court manager) to his father Veena Shivaramaiah, conveying Maharaja’s order to compose Kriti-s in particular Ragas. It was sent in the 1920s. Reference to this wish as well as order of the King is also seen in Moorthi Rao 1995: 68, Ramaratnam 2000: 78, Satyanarayana 2001b: 24
[10] Sitaramayya (2002: 145-6) differentiates between the voice and style of B.Krishnappa, a Carnatic musician and Varadachar, the owner and prime actor of Rathnavali Theatrical Company, talking about the inflections the voice of the latter was capable of producing according to the mood of the scenes.
[11]This can be known by the leave applications of the musicians of the courts. For example, Veena Sheshanna refers to one of his tours to Bombay, and Baroda in one of his letters to the King dated 18th June 1908 (Gayathri 1993: 21). Veena Subbanna makes a request for eight months leave and a pay of one year in advance for his tour of Madras, Ramnad and Tinnevelly in his letter dated 2nd November 1904 (Ibid: 31). Bidaram Krishnappa proposes a long leave of one year to visit places like Sringeri, Baroda, Hydearabad, Trivandrum and Rameswaram etc and requests for an advance of one thousand rupees in his letter dated 30th July 1906 (Ibid: 60). Veena Shivaramayya used to go for South and North Indian tours constantly (Satyanarayana 2001: 21). These are only few examples. The memoirs of musicians, their relatives and litterateurs supply much more materials to complement.

[12] A department employing musicians, further referred as AHD. The above memo is in file no. 1/1883 of the AHD
[13] Satyanarayana (2004) says that the fame of the King depended on musicians and scholars. This indicates that there was a strong sense of fame among the late colonial period. This propelled the patronising activities, especially of musicians.
[14] This information is given among the miscellaneous notes in the Journal of the Madras Academy of Music (JMAM) Vol.3 (3&4): 185
[15] The mushrooming of the drama companies in the second and third decades of the century however, started acting as an alternate hope and space for aspiring musicians, though it had a significantly different future trajectory for them. Modern aesthetic categories were not very sharp in early twentieth century and one, who liked music, could prefer to go to a dramatic performance, which had a large chunk of music in it. B.V.Karanth, the popular theatre personality from Karnataka, says he had planned a dramatic prostration in front of the Maharaja, during his morning walk, and beg for some arrangement to be made for his learning music (this is of course later than the time that we are talking about here since Karanth was born in 1928). But, he says, this plan could not be executed at all. Yet, he managed to prostrate in front of the manager of the Gubbi theatre company, he says. He joined the company and began with music lessons. See Naganna 2003.
[16] At one place, DVG (1990: 103) says that Vasudevacharya’s voice could not reach an audience of more than 30 to 40 persons, from which we can infer that the audience would be usually of that size for his performance.
[17] More examples of such concerts are available in Sitaramayya (2002: 129-130) and DVG (1990: 97-98, 101-103).
[18] One Venkoba Rao in Bangalore was called Vamanajayanthi Venkoba Rao, because he started celebrating Vamana Jayanthi since he did not find any other occasion when he could arrange concerts or performances (see DVG 1990: 119-120).
[19] All the above information about Gayana Sama and its nature in early twentieth century is from the website dated 21 March 2005.
[20] Anantarama Bhagavatar was a popular Harikatha performer and vocalist from Tamil Nadu.
[21] Till 1908, the pay of Veene Sheshanna was Rs. 50/- per month and the last increment was in 1902, when it was Rs. 40/-. B. Krishnappa’s pay was much less in 1908, at Rs. 20/- per month. Gayathri (1993: 47) shows that in 1908, the salary of Sheshanna was increased to Rs. 60/- a month and that of B. Krishnappa to Rs. 25/- a month. With this calculation, in 1915, Sheshanna’s pay might not have been significantly higher than Rs. 60/- per month. The point to be noted however is that in 1915, he had already put in a service of a lengthy 32 years. And by 1915, he had put in not less than 29 years of service (AHD file no. 1/1879, memo dated 25th Feb. 1908).

[22] There is a mention of the organising of an orchestra of all the palace musicians for ‘War Fund’, in the very same Town Hall (Sitaramayya 2002: 130). But it is not sure if it was the World War I, in which time the above letter was written or World War II. However, this information coming from a Kannada litterateur, it does not either give any details about the payment or the gate collection.
[23] A Kannadiga musician in the palace service; grandfather of late Mysore Ananthaswamy, a famous singer of Kannada songs.
[24] It was difficult to obtain more information about the linguistic distribution of the members of this organisation, and the musicians more usually invited to perform in its aegis in the early twentieth century. Only one instance that could be seen is in Vasudevacharya (1994: 78), where he mentions that Srinivasa Iyengar of Ramnad was invited to Bangalore Gayana Samaja, where he sings with the most difficult Simhanandana Talam. This performance was accompanied by Chikkaranganna on Tabla. He says that the latter played the instrument so well as to boost the fame of Mysore. In the reminiscences of the early Kannada elites like DVG, Sitaramayya and Moorthy Rao, most descriptions of concert gatherings are about musicians from the Mysore region itself. There are scant descriptions of an ‘outsider’ musician performing or about Bangalore Gayana Samaja. If we are to go by Sitaramayya’s statement that Bangalore Gayana Samaja did not give enough opportunities to Mysore musicians, it is interesting to ponder why the above mentioned Kannada elites are silent about Bangalore Gayana Samaja or the performances there.

[25] Because the ‘Mysorean’ and the ‘outsider’ debate virtually meant the debate between Mysore Brahmin and the ‘Madrassee’ Brahmin. The latter ones, some of whom were already there in Mysore either as Dewan or in other higher positions, were seen to be bringing their kith and kin from Tamil Nadu as officers in Mysore. When non-Brahmin consolidation started taking place, the Mysore-Madras conflict among Brahmins started fading. For more information about ‘Mysorean’ and ‘Madrassee’ debates, see Chandrasekhara 1981. An analysis of the dynamics of this issue on lines of Brahmin identity can be seen in Bairy 2003: 176-180
[26] Such intrigues and lack of trust were a continuous phenomenon. When Krishnappa got a title ‘Gayaka Shikhamani’ from Tamil Nadu, a musician Tiruvayyar Subramanya Iyer, sent him a notice saying that unless he arranges a conference of musicians and proves his worth in front of that, his title would not be recognised. Interesting part of the story, B.V.K. Shastri tells us, was that the notice was in Kannada, the sign was in Tamil and some people suspected the hand of a Mysorean also in that (narrated in Shastri 1994: 183-4).
[27] For example, when Kannada Literary Conference was organised in Mysore by Kannada Sahitya Parishad, they requested Krishnappa to render a concert with only Kannada compositions. And he performed there with only Dasa Sahitya. See DVG 1990: 97.
[28] The lyrics of ‘Dasa-s’, such as Purandara Dasa and others of 16th century and later period. These are generally regarded as ‘Bhakti’ poets in Kannada. It is noticeable that Krishnappa’s efforts to make a concert format out of Dasa Sahitya and Maharaja’s demand for Kannada compositions co-incide, not very accidentally. We do not have any mention of singing these songs (or for that matter any song in Kannada) in the concert performances during the reign of Chamaraja Wodeyar.
[29] Some of Krishnappa’s recordings of Kannada Dasa Sahitya are still available with ‘Ananya’, a documenting centre for Carnatic music in Bangalore. I am thankful to my friend Maithreyi for letting me know the existence of this institute.
[30] This incident is quite interesting because Devendrappa says he was asked and inspired by the protagonist of the later Kannada nationalism Aa Na Kru, to compose and sing Vachanas in 1930s. Later, when Devendrappa performed in Dharwad, Mallikarjun Mansur was inspired by him and Mansur started singing Vachanas in Hindusthani style as well (Devendrappa 1969?: xiii-xv).
[31] Some of the Devadasis who were very good in their music performance found a market for their music beginning to take shape. Devadasis such as Bangalore Nagaratnamma, and Ammakannu were one of the first ones to record their music in Kannada. Both them recorded before 1912 and the records of both of them were released under HMV in January 1916. It is to be noted that they also recorded Tamil and Telugu songs along with Kannada ones (Kinnear 1994: 121, 164-165).
[32] Mostly these were the songs in terms of praises for Krishna or some other god. The subtle implications and suggestions in the performance worked towards indicating that the patron takes the place of god.
[33] How the vacuum created in catering to the sexuality of elite men of the principality is to some extent touched upon by Nair 1994. But more detailed study is necessary. Even the present study does not profess to give a full account of the implications of the stoppage of the institution of Devadasis on music in Mysore. It is a mere suggestion on those lines.
[34] H.R.Leelavathi, one of the first singers of Kannada ‘light’ music, says that Bellave Narahari Shastri’s dramas used to adopt the tunes of Tyagaraja’s Kriti-s for the songs in them. Beside the song, the name of the Kriti was written for the tune to be followed. On the other hand, some of the songs of drama were very near to Javali-s (Leelavathi 1997: 159-160).
[35] In 1925, just one year before the Maharaja’s order to compose in Kannada, it was approved by the palace authorities to get 500 copies of this book printed at the palace cost (see Gayathri 1993: 77-8). In another place we also come to know that Vasudevacharya had been given the title ‘Sangita Shastra Visharada’ by Krishnaraja Wodeyar (Ramaratnam 2000: 64).
[36] Vasudevacharya’s serious music lessons started with a challenge of Sheshanna’s statement. Vasudevacharya’s grandson S. Krishnamurthy mentions in one place that Acharya was insulted by Sheshanna in front of a gathering. The latter had also said that Acharya could not learn music. Acharya challenged it and became a musician (Krishnamurthy n.d.: 87-89). Though the later transactions between the two do not represent this enmity, there must have been a cold feeling between the two. Sheshanna being the near and dear one of the Maharaja, the latter was in a position to be more confidential with Sheshanna than with Acharya.
[37] Krishnamurthy also mentions this issue. According to him, there was already an established usage of language in music. In Kannada, it was not yet there and somebody had to do it. Acharya chose not to do it because he saw still scope for some more beautiful works in Telugu and Sanskrit languages (Krishnamurthy 2002: 41-43)
[38] This view is more pronounced in Rallapalli Anantha Krishna Sharma (Sharma 1952: 29-31), primarily a Sanskrit and Telugu scholar and secondarily, a music performer (student of Bidaram Krishnappa). According to him, the very life of Carnatic music is Telugu. He says Telugu has imbibed only soft consonants and it has borrowed less number of harsh sounds from the Dravidian family of languages and hence it is best suited for Carnatic music. Even when he says that he chides the Telugus for not taking active interest in music.
[39] In the same year, the pay of Sheshanna, Subbanna, Abdulla Khan and Krishnappa were increased to Rs. 60, 55, 28 and 25 respectively. These extra expenditures were met out of the salary expenditure of the deceased musician Veene Shamanna. But there was no increase in the pay of Vasudevacharya (See Gayathri 1993: 47). What is worse is that a musician of as short service as two years and nine months, one Mahalingaiah, was enjoying the same pay as Vasudevacharya (Ibid).
[40] Chamaraja Wodeyar, father of Krishnaraja Wodeyar and the one who appointed Vasudevacharya, was also said to be very fond of the latter. He used to take him as well as Subbanna to most of the tours (Ramaratnam 2000: 63).
[41] In 1951, he was getting a salary of Rs. 350/- per month, the highest among palace musicians followed by Veene Venkatagiriyappa (Rs. 250/- per month), A. Ramanuja Iyengar (Rs. 150/- per month), T. Chowdaiah (Rs. 100/- per month) and C. Venkata Rao (Rs. 100/- per month). However, due to ‘financial stringency and other obligations’, the salary of all the above mentioned musicians was reduced exactly by half in the same year as per the record dated 17 April, 1951 (Gayathri 1993: 152-3). Unlike artists such as Venkatappa, who were sent off from the palace service in 1940 itself (Nair 1998), the musicians were retained at Palace service even after 1950, perhaps because of the larger public that they catered to.

[42] See Subramanian 1999, for almost the singular role of the Academy in standardising Carnatic music in a nationalistic milieu.
[43] For example, look at any volume of the Journal of the Music Academy of Madras of the 1930s and the Official Reports of the Music Conferences therein. Very frequently he makes interventions and gives authoritative examples for what he says.
[44] However, in his usual attitude of denying wealth, he gave it back during the wedding of his Guru’s daughter (Ibid.)
[45] Here, I go with Frykenberg (1977: 117f.n.), for the definition of this word as ‘that power seated at Madras which grew to encompass South India’.
[46] For a brief, but a very interesting account of one such phenomenon, see Raghavan 1945. With some corroborative work, he is able to establish the names of Annasami Pillai (Dharmakarta or the trustee of Parthasarathy temple at Triplicane), S. Devanayaka (Dharmakarta of Agatiswara temple at Nungambakkam), Manali Muthukrishna Mudaliar I (Dubash of the Madras Governor Pigot), Chinniah Mudaliar (the latter’s son), Colla Ravanappa Chetti (the ‘chief of the Telugu merchants of the City and an expert in negotiating the English’), as some of the early individual patrons of Madras, patronising musicians and courtesans in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. The other actors in this account apart from these patrons are the Company and a few musicians.
[47] A list of the inam tenure dated 1869, Frykenberg says, ‘contained some 452 separate categories’ (1977: 153).
[48] Frykenberg says, “among various components of Company authority and administration in the Carnatic, none was more crucial nor served so effectively as a linchpin of Company power, as the “Inam” or “Silent Settlement” (Frykenberg 1977: 150).
[49] Further he says, “Inams were for persons holding status sufficient to rank among the “leisured” and the “privileged” of the country. Servants of any status, whether of villages or of rulers, of mercantile or of military institutions, could be appreciated and rewarded and thus, hold inams” (Ibid: 153)
[50] We should remind ourselves this particular area of the emergence of Carnatic music needs more study. The present effort is in no way a comprehensive one.
[51] Tyagaraja was himself used to be visited by rich individuals like Moti Rao, a relative of the Raja of Tanjore (Jackson 1993: 4-5). Tyagaraja was positioned in such an economy that he could obtain any worldly help anytime if and when he desired it.
[52] By then, Sanskrit and Telugu had similar status in Carnatic music. Even Tyagaraja had composed a few Kriti-s in Sanskrit.
[53] Veene Venkatasubbaiah enjoyed a salary of 120 pagodas or around Rs. 360/- per month in early nineteenth century in addition to some Jahgirs in his name (Gayathri 1993). As mentioned above, he enjoyed a lot of power. However, one of the early historians of Mysore, Shama Rao (1936) gives a description of the former, amounting to depict him as highly corrupt.
[54] This attitude continued even among the next generation musicians after Sheshanna and Krishnappa. For example musicians such as Rallapalli Ananthakrishna Sharma, who witnessed a hyped discourse of Mysore culture in second half of twentieth century, said (and even sang satirically, but only to his friends) – “Mysooru Maate, Mysooru Maate, nee bariya maate!” (He plays with pun on the word ‘maate’ in Kannada, which meant both ‘mother’ as well as ‘word’ or ‘talk’. The above sentence meant ‘Mysore Mother, O Mysore Mother…You are nothing but just a talk’ (See Moorthi Rao 1995: 86). Another famous musician T. Chowdiah, a disciple of Krishnappa, made a controversial statement in the 1960s saying music is beyond language. The one M.V. Subba Rao of Kannada Sahitya Kutira shot back saying ‘It is agreed that music has no language. But don’t you agree that Kannada musicians have bellies?’ he asked Chowdiah to beg pardon. And Chowdiah wrote a letter to Prajavani (a Kannada daily from Bangalore) of 12 April 1961, saying “If I am wrong, I apologise” (see Anantaswami 2000: 16-17)
[55] Though Bidaram Krishnappa is said to have composed Kannada Kriti-s, there is no trace of it among his third generation students as myself. I was not taught a single Kannada Kriti apart from Dasa Sahitya. The only Kannada Kriti-s I have heard as a student and performer of Carnatic music is that of Muttiah Bhagavatar, ‘Bhuvaneswariya’, in Raga Mohana Kalyani, set to Adi Talam and ‘Durgadevi’ set to Raga Navarasakannada in Adi Talam.
[56] The occasional efforts to publish these Kannada compositions have not done much change in popularising these Kriti-s. The latest efforts on these lines being that of M.S. Narayanamurthi.
[57] Kalinga Rao started performing Kannada songs on AIR, Mysore, in the year 1949-50 (Leelavathi 2005)
[58] For a life sketch of Kalinga Rao, see Keshava Rao 2003
[59] For a brief account of this divide among industrial labour (which later feeds into the Kannada nationalist movements especially in Bangalore), see Nair 1993.

[60] The linguistic question again came up on the eve of Gokak Movement in 1980, when there were allegations against the Siddhi Vinayaka Seva Mandali of Tumkur, for preferring ‘outside’ artists. There were demands by the local musicians to allot 75% of the opportunities for Karnataka/local performers and representations were given to the government bodies to this extent (Hindu Speaks on Music: 483-488).

*This article is published in Journal Karnataka Studies