At Chinmaya Mission Auditorium, New Delip

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


The last two weeks of December 2013 should count as one of the high points of our lives.  We made a trip to Varanasi (Kashi), combining a personal family yatra, a Dikshitar pilgrimage with some of our students, and a few concerts which sprung up out of nowhere, just as though they were destined to happen.

Bump into anyone in Varanasi and get talking, they will tell you “Ved and Sangeeth are the two eyes of Bhagwan Shiv, and since Kashi Vishwanathji resides here, there is music and veda chanting everywhere.” Seriously, any lane you walk through around the ghats, you can hear some mantra ghosham. The fact that there is music in the air everywhere is exemplified by this one incident which blew us off.  We were just walking up the stairs on the banks of the Shivala Ghat after a holy dip in the Ganges. We were shivering due to the cold weather, and were in a rush to head back to the mutt to finish our puja. We heard in the background some superlative vocal music, the raag shankara being sung to perfection.  We couldn’t move an inch, mesmerized as we were with the notes floating in the air, the sight of the river on a chill winter morning with the sun trying to peep out, all adding to the divinity of the atmosphere.  We thought it must be one of those lucky classical musicians getting to do his riyaz on the banks of the Ganges early in the morning, but no! The local accompanying us told us that he was a boatman and would randomly compose on Lord Shiva and sing everyday in this manner. Our jaws dropped!  

Sarnath, Burmese Buddha Temple

Rabdi, doodh, kachori, jalebi, masala chai, litti chokha, chaats, yum! Kshirsagar mithai shop was our daily destination.  Not to forget the Banarasi paan.  There are as many cows and buffaloes in the streets as there are people. Rickshaws, fresh vegetables and fruits heaped on thela gadis, cars – you name the brand and the model – it is there, rows and rows of shops displaying Banarasi sarees, and temples in each and every micro and mini lane are some of the unforgettable sights of Kashi.
Roadside chat shop!

The first couple of days were spent focusing on our personal task at hand in Kashi.  We then caught up on our agenda and first visited the Triveni Sangam. The boat ride was great. You can actually make out the difference in colours of the Ganges and Yamuna when you reach the Sangam spot, as also the difference in their turbulence. There is a very nice sahasralinga temple established by the Kanchi Mutt at the entrance to the Sangam. There is also the temple of Hanumanji in a sleeping position in the Sangam, probably the only one in this pose. We also visited Sarnath and some of the Buddhist temples therein
Benaras Hindu University, Dept of Performing Arts

The subsequent day was spent in singing of the Kritis Dikshitar has composed in the sanctum sanctorum of the deities in Kashi, i.e., Kalabhairav, Visalakshi and Annapoorni.  Sri Dikshitar’s song Gange Mam Pahi was sung by us when we were on the boat on the way to the Dasashwamedha Ghat to witness the magnificent Ganga Arti. While on the Ghat, we sang our Paramaguru Ananthakrishna Iyer’s composition Sheethalambam Sada Bhajeham in praise of the deity Sheethala situated on the banks of the Dashashwamedha Ghat.
There was more to come….
Dashashwamedha Ghat, Sheetala Temple is the Red Building

We had carried our portable veenas from Chennai just to practice during our free time in the hotel room. The panditji who was in charge of doing all the pujas for us came to know that we had brought our veenas and asked us if we could perform at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple if he did manage to arrange a concert. Our joy knew no bounds. To play seated in front of Lord Vishweshwar, what more could one ask for? The security arrangements in the Vishwanathji mandir are very, very strict. They do not even allow a pen inside. But as a special case by the grace of God we were allowed in, and played a concert for an hour and a half. It appears there has never been a music concert inside the Vishwanathji temple! It has not yet sunk in that we are the first to have had the privilege. We silently bowed down our heads and thanked our Gurus and parents who have made us what we are, and all our wellwishers for keeping us in their thoughts. We had a Darshan of the Lord from up close and did abhishekam of rose water and honey especially carried from Chennai for this purpose, and also gave vastram to the Lord. We sang the kriti “Shri Vishwanatham” of Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar in the raga Bhavani, as we performed the abhishekam. We were also honoured to perform a concert at the Chakralingeshwar Temple in Hanuman Ghat, where the Samadhi of Chidambaranatha Yogi, the guru of Muthuswamy Dikshitar himself, is located. The other concert we played was at the Sri Dattatreya Prasad Ashram, that of a Mauni Baba who we believe had not uttered a word for 40 years, for the welfare of this earth.  

Performing at Chakralingeshwar Temple
Chakraligeshwar, Samadhi of Chidanandanath Yogi
Varanasi to the onlooker would not be visually a very clean place, far from it in fact! It would really help for the administration to work on this aspect. But, talk about it being spiritually uplifting, it is like no other place in the world. The sight of the expansive Ganges and the strains of Indian Classical Music and the Vedas are enough to take you to a different plane altogether.

It is said –
“ Darsanaat Abhrasadasi , Jananaat Kamalalaye, Kasyantu Maraananu Muktih, Smaranaat Arunachale.”
'To see Chidamabaram, to be born in Tiruvarur, to die in Kasi, or merely to think of Arunachala is to be assured of liberation.  
One must go to Kashi to realize what it has to offer to one’s inner peace…It is better experienced than articulated.

Friday, August 24, 2012


We had been wanting to visit the grand Mani Mandapam of MahaPeriyava for quite sometime.  And it finally happened on July 28, 2012 when we were asked to play a concert there as Anusha Nakshatram fell on that Day (Anusham is Mahaperiyava’s Birth Star). Orikkai is a very beautiful serene place and the mandapam stood as an architectural marvel. It has been constructed out of just one kind of stone (granite) like other ancient temples of the chola period, without admixture of other materials. The temple has a 100 feet vimana, the mandapam has 100 pillars and each of these pillars has been carved out of one single stone.  There are elephants (again carved out of a single stone) in the front, and wheels on the side giving the impression as though the temple is a chariot being drawn by the elephants. A lifelike majestic vigraham of Mahaperiyava is housed inside a rudhraksha mandapam, and padukas of Mahaperiyava are also present.  One can feel His presence perpetually in the sanctum sanctorum.

The carvings in the temple are brilliant. There are relief works depicting the Acharya Parampara, , the Pradosha Thandavam, the Navagraha on the roof with stone chains hanging; all sculpted out of a single stone.

Legend has it that Thirumazisai Alwar and the gurubhakthi of his shishya made the Lord leave Thiruvika and spend a night at this place thus giving the name oru iravu irukkai!

Here is the full story from the Manimandapam website:

The legend is a moving one. Thirumazhisai Alwar who worshipped the Lord of Thiruvekka majestically reclining on his serpentine bed, was cared for by a couple. When the son Kanikannan was born to them, he became the Alwar's steadfast devotee. One day when Kanikannan saw a woman frail and bent with age, sweeping the temple premises offering worship to the Lord, he was moved. He stroked her hunched back in appreciation. The power of his guru surged into him and the woman regained her youth and was able to continue offering worship to the Lord with fresh vigour. The king of the period who greedily desired his youth restored to him requested Kanikannan to do so. But the youngman refused outright which enraged the king and he banished Kanikannan from his kingdom. The Alwar prepared to go with him and asked Lord Thiruvekka also to come too, as he could not live without Him. The Lord rolled up his serpentine bed and obediently followed the Alwar and Kanikannan. The three travelled some distance way from Kancheepuram on the northern bank of the Paalaar river and stayed the night there. But,with the Lord's departure, the town was plunged in darkness and disorder. The ruler realized his mistake and rushed to the trio, seeking their forgiveness. The Lord returned to Kanchi with his devotees. The place where he stayed overnight came to be known as Oriravu irukkai, which later got shortened to Orirukkai.

Now about our experience there….it was the calmest place you could ever get to play the veena, with Umayalpuram Mali expertly accompanying. The main piece we played that day was Sri Subramayaya Namaste, the majestic Dikshitar composition in Khamboji about which Paramacharya has given a vast commentary. We chose not to prefix or suffix this magnum opus kriti with manodharma aspects. Just the song, as a respectful tribute to the Nadamadum Deivam and the Great Saint Muthuswamy Dikshitar.  We finished our concert and were given prasadam of thayir sadam. The humble curd rice has never tasted as good as this for as long as one could remember.  With our souls and stomachs satiated, we were just preparing to leave, when we heard someone singing inside the sanctum sanctorum.  Jeyaraaj came up with a brilliant idea.  He requested the priest permission to allow me to sing a kriti that yours truly had recently composed on Muthuswamy Dikshitar but was still thinking about how when and where to present it the first time! It was a huge blessing to present the composition sitting before the idol of the Paramacharya. 

Given below is the sahityam of this humble creation (lyrics ratified for grammatical correctness by our own Asthana Sanskrit Scholar Rajani Arjun!!):

Kriti:  Mudduswaaminam guruvaram
Ragam: Hamsanandi
Thalam: Misra Jati Triputa

P: mudduswaaminam guruvaram namaamyaham
    uttara dakshina sangeetha samanvaya swarupam

A: itihaasa puraanaadi upanishad saaram
    raagalakshana saram paramadvaita saaram
madhyama kala:
vainika gayaka shreshtha naadaanubhava saccidaananda cidaananda aanandanubhava

C: samskrita bhasha priyam digvijaya priyam
nutana paashchaatya swarasaahitya pradam guruguhapriyam
madhyama kala:
sri ganesha narayana panchabhoota kamalambika abhayambika neelotpalambika sharanam
hariharaputra ramanjaneya ramaa vaani navagraha dwisaptadi raga devata sharanam

All in all, July 28, 2012 was a memorable day as it was spiritually very satisfying to play a veena concert in the Mahaperiyava Shatabdi Manimandapam, and also the opportunity to do an "arangetram" of one's own composition in front of the Paramacharya’s idol. Felt truly blessed……

(Pic sourced from http://indiatempletour.blogspot.in)

Sunday, November 06, 2011


Do excuse our temerity to put this picture up here….but we could not help share this rare privilege that the author of this book has given us. “Let’s Know Music and Musical Instruments of India” is a book authored by Madhumita Dutta. It is a nice book giving an account of musical instruments used in India. This page is featured in the chapter “String Instruments”.

Just to tell you a small story, on a visit to London, we went to watch a play. An Englishman sitting beside Jeyaraaj noticed the deep cuts on his index and middle fingers and asked if he played the sitar. He told him we both played an instrument similar to the sitar called the Veena. He said he enjoyed Indian Classical Music and enquired if we had heard Pandit Ravi Shankar live. When we answered in the affirmative, he replied “What a privilege!” We would now like to tell him that the most humbling privilege in our life is THIS…. “To be on the same page” with one of the greatest ambassadors of Indian Classical Music that our country has ever produced and ever will!!

Friday, August 12, 2011


Carnatic Music became a hugely poorer and sadder world with the utimely demise of Chingleput Ranganathan Sir on July 12, 2011. Our association with him began in 1994 when at the suggestion of our Guru Anantharama Iyer, we met him and started learning pallavis from him. A very conscientious teacher and a perfectionist to the core, Ranganathan Sir's classes would go on for nearly two hours, especially when 8-kalai and 4-kalai pallavis would be taught. He was one of those who believed that neraval was a very important constituent of carnatic music concert presentation, particularly in pallavis, and his methodical approach towards the art of singing neraval in three speeds in all its expansivity was mindboggling. He was a complete musician and a musician's musician. The richness of pathantara can be experienced from the sangati oriented kritis like Nee daya kalgute (Reetigoula), Nee daya ravale (thodi), Kalinerula (Kuntalavarali), Mari mari ninne (Kambhoji), Ye papamu (Atana) and many more, which he taught us with utmost passion. He composed tillanas in all the 35 talas. It goes without saying that we were very fortunate to have learnt from him, and blessed and privileged to have been associated with him and the family for almost two decades. A mahavidwan, a legendary teacher and a great person.

Gurus are equal to, or even greater than, God himself; and this fact is best described in this Doha of Sant Kabir:

Guru gobind dou khade, kaake laagoon paaye
Balihaari guru aapne jin Gobind diyo bataaye

Pranams to his lotus feet. May his soul rest in peace.

Thursday, April 07, 2011


It is a sad day for carnatic music today, as Kalpakam Swaminathan, a true veena tapasvini, has left this world. Eight decades of veena playing and teaching has now become a memory. She was the first student of our guru's father Brahmasri Ananthakrishna Iyer, and the last link between him and our generation, after the passing of our Gurus A Anantharama Iyer and A Champakavalli. Not only did she have a vast repertoire of Dikshitar Kritis, she had also mastered the compositions of many other composers.

Humble, endearing, and always smiling. We shall forever hold very close to our heart the fond memories of our interactions with her (she would always introduce us to her students saying, "iva ellam ennoda school"). She would talk nothing else but music. We have had the proud privilege of hosting her concerts. Her gracious presence for some of our veena concerts and those of our disciples will always remain our most cherised blessing.

Monday, April 04, 2011


India has won the World Cup in Cricket. There is euphoria all around. The entire nation is unable to think of any other matter of interest.

People have been talking about Dhoni's leadership qualities. I think there is something there for all of us to be inspired about in our profession. His graciousness, his ability to move away fom limelight, his ability to bring the best in people, his mental strength in doing what he believes in despite public pressure (the whole world wanted Ashwin - he brings in Nehra and Sreeesanth. Dhoni went public saying he misread the pitch - I dont believe it one bit! He was just fooling us! He wanted the discussion to die down! That is clever!) In the corporate world where leadership is a big factor - we can surely use Dhoni-like qualities.

Now for the obnoxious part! I understand winning the World Cup is something special. But why is so much of National Wealth going to only a handful of people? This is national property - our wealth damn it! This is not correct!

Why not give something to Leander Paes and Bhupathy - they are the World No.1 doubles tennis pair you know! Why not our sportspeople who got us Olympic medals? They need it and need it badly!

Lifelong AC 1st class pass for the cricketers from Indian Railways! Why not for our musicians?Do we know how difficult it is to be a full time musician? When it comes to giving a petrol pump to late Ustad Bismillah Khan (Bharat Ratna - a real jewel in India's crown) it is turned down! Now cores of rupees are given as bonus to cricketers! This is just politics! Are all professions encouraged by the Indian Government? Do our poliicians know what it is to be a good musician or a good architect or a good painter or a good writer who can fashion a million minds? Is there a place under the sun for achievers in other spheres? I seriously doubt it! Ah! this attitude! This hurts! Is this a governmernt that wants to take the nation forward.... We have no means to look at the problem in the eye and resolve them -we want cricket diplomacy to solve indo-pak issue! Juvinile! Pathetic!

Why do we go to such ludicrous extent of going to living rooms of circketers and talking to mothers, sisters and relatives? See how the Sri Lankan crowd has handled its disappointment! See how Japanese people have handled tragedy! That is called maturity! When will get there? Will we ever have a sense of equanimity in handling good and not-so-good situations?

Can we do something about this? Can we contribute in a small way to see how We as Indians move to a more matured world?

Friday, March 25, 2011


The family of HR Padmanabha Sastry confers the Padmanabha Sastry Award for Arts every year on musicians. This year we were chosen for the award.
HR Padmanabha Sastry was a renowned music director of Telugu and Kannada movies. He was the first Telugu films music director and composed the music for the first ever Telugu talkie film "Bhakta Prahlada" released in 1931. Our thanks to Smt and Sri HP Ramamurthy (eminent tabla player and son of Late HR Padmanabha Sastry) and their family for this gesture. The function was held on February 27,2011 at Dakshinamurthy Auditorium, Mylapore and the chief guest was senior flute Vidwan Prapancham Sitaraman (disciple of the great Flute Mali).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Back from a refreshing concert-cum-sightseeing 5-day trip to Dubai.

First things first. We played a concert for Indian Fine Arts, Dubai on February 18th. The organizers took great care of us, and the event itself was very well put together. Full house crowd. The concert went for three hours. We were accompanied by senior local mridanga vidwan Sri Govindarajan and Sriraam Subbaraman, seasoned Kanjira player also residing in Dubai. As such wherever we do play, we like to present music that is completely classical, and it must be said that in Dubai the crowd was quite knowledgeable, and we did not need to dilute the contents of our presentation. Thank you Indian Fine Arts, Dubai for having us, and of course for the lovely flowers which stayed fresh for the rest of our trip in our room.

About the sightseeing, it was the usual stuff...Dubai Mall, Gold Souk, Museum, Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest building), Burj Al Arab (where Federer and Agassi played a game on the helipad), the desert safari etc. The tremendously impressive landscaping throughout the city....green grass everywhere, flowers.....how do they do it in a desert? Mind boggling. And such clean roads. Also learned that the Dubai branch of a South Indian hotel had to shut down for sometime after the Dubai Municipality guys found a cockroach somewhere in the premises, and this was grossly below their hygiene standards.

What made the trip truly special was the fact that we were able to connect with old friends from music class and school, people we had not met for the last 15-20 years. Most of us reconnected over Facebook. And it was amazing, reliving old memories, chatting about the good old days. It was fantastic!

Posting some concert pictures here. Courtesy, again, a wonderful friend!

Friday, July 09, 2010

About "ANANDAM ANANTAM" - A Journey Into Tanam

JOY ALL THE WAY, says THE HINDU. Click Here for the entire review.

Manodharma Sangeetham or improvised Music is the touchstone of Carnatic Classical Music. Tanam is one of the most important, lively and bewitching aspects of Manodharma Sangeetham. In the genre of Ragam Tanam Pallavi, Tanam is sung after the Raga Alapana and before entering into the Pallavi. It is also called Madhyamakalam or Ghanam. Though there is no specific time measure (Tala), a perceptible rhythm prevails. Traditionally while singing Tanam, the words ANANDAM and ANANTAM are skillfully interwoven into rhythmic patterns. Tanam is a specialized field in the Veena tradition. It has an extraordinary charm and appeal when played on the Veena.

This product features Tanam played by us in 18 exquisite Ragas, some common, some uncommon and some very uncommon. Not only is this product a ready reference for Tanam singing or playing, its appeal is intended to be universal and could be a wonderful gift to a loved one for any special day.

We would be failing in our duty if we did not thank Sri Pradeep Chakravarty, whose idea it was that we record tanams in various ragas. In fact most of the ragams have been chosen by him. Thanks also to Vedanth Bharadwaj for being the perfect sound engineer. And last but not the least Smt Mala Mohan and others at Swati Soft Solutions for putting this together.

"ANANDAM ANANTAM" was released by Smt Veena Kichlu, Managing Trustee of Pandit Ravi Kichlu Foundation on 27th June at Birla Academy of Art and Culture, Kolkata. The event was organized by Guruguha Sangeeth Sammelan of Kolkata. Vidushi Veena Kichlu's presence as Chief Guest for the CD release was memorable for a very significant reason. Her husband, a highly respected and noted Hindustani Classical Singer, Late Pandit Ravi Kichlu was instrumental in bringing out our very first audio release with HMV, titled VEENA DUET, in the year 1992. It was wonderful that she could come and stay back to listen to our concert that day.

Anandam Anantam is a 2ACD pack, available now in leading music stores and also can be bought online through Swati's website - Click Here. We sincerely hope you will add it to your collection. Please do write to us and let us know your thoughts. The list of ragas on each CD is given below.

Disc - 1
1. Hindolam
2. Keeravani
3. Mandari
4. Kedaram
5. Huseni
6. Atana
7. Bahudari
8. Chitrambari
9. Navroj

Disc - 2
1. Bhairavi
2. Yagapriya
3. Balahamsa
4. Dhanyasi
5. Arabhi
6. Vegavahini
7. Mohanam
8. Nadanamakriya
9. Bageshri

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Was rummaging through some old papers and found this! An invite for our CD release function in the year 2000, as well as copy of Mudhra Newsletter featuring us. This CD called "Subramanya" comprises of some select compositions of Muthuswamy Dikshitar on Lord Muruga. This CD probably is not available in the stores any more. We have put up some of the tracks on our website www.veenajj.com. The music from the entire CD is available for download through the link given below.

PS: Of course, we have subsequently changed the way we spell our names!! Everything else remains the same!

Click here to download "Subramanya"