Muthuswami Dikshitar

In addition to Patnam Subramanya Iyer, Ragapriya presented compositions by Muthuswamy Dikshitar on All Composers Day, September 6th, at the Sri Venkateswara Temple. (Pictures coming soon!!)  We presented the following background information about this very important composer.

Muthuswami Dikshitar

Muthuswami Dikshitar, born in 1775, was the youngest of the Carnatic music composer trinity. He was born in Tiruvarur, in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. He learned Sanskrit, the Vedas and other important religious texts, and music from his father. His subsequent guru was Chidambaranaatha Yogi, who presented him with a Veena.

Dikshitar attained mastery over the Veena, and the influence of Veena playing is evident in his compositions. He authored 450 to 500 compositions in total, most of which are very widely sung by musicians today in Carnatic music concerts. Most of his compositions are in Sanskrit and in the Krithi form: in other words, poetry set to music. Dikshitar traveled to many holy shrines throughout his life, and composed krithis on the deities and temples he visited. His mudra is guru guha, which appears in nearly all his compositions.

Dikshitar also undertook the project of composing in all 72 melakartha ragas, thereby providing a musical example for many rare and lost ragas. Dikshitar was a master of talas and is the first composer to have krithis in all the seven basic talas of the Carnatic scheme. His songs are especially notable for their Raga Bhava and grand poetic lyrics.

Dikshitar was influenced by all kinds of different music including North Indian Classical music. Living during the British occupation, he was fascinated by Western classical music and composed what is known as the Nottuswarams. These 39 compositions are notable as an integration between the East and the West. They are simple melodies inspired by Scottish and Irish tunes. They are in the Western style – straight notes without gamakams – but the lyrics of these compositions are entirely Indian and consistent with other songs.

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