/* START Google Analytics Code*/ /* END of Google Analytics Code */ A home called "Parvathi": August 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In Memoriam 2011: Sri Kunigal Puttu Rao - II

Sri K. Puttu Rao lived a mere 65 years.

‘Mere’ did we say?

(Even, the great GNB himself passed away into immortality at a young 55, when the world wanted him to rule undisputed for another half a century? So, how do you reconcile ‘mere’ with sixty five years? )

Precisely. This is why we have this helpless notion that life sometimes looks like a travesty (maybe even as a ‘Maya’, if you like). Even though sixty five is not a small age (this writer has experienced that roll-over within his own lifetime), we are forced into using the word ‘mere’ in a relative setting; as applied to a man having exhibited a powerful vitality and passion while living, only to be found plucked into sudden nothingness where you would think the health and passion he displayed would propel him towards twice the longevity!


It used to be whispered, once upon a time, in the inner circles (that exists no more), that Kunigal Puttu Rao, in his day, was a ‘very shrewd’ lawyer who earned even the respect of ‘their Lordships’. He was the consummate and committed defense lawyer whose ‘client’ could do no wrong! He was known to have taken on cases of even supposed 'undesirables' ( a subjective view held by some members of a society on anyone outside their norms ), affording them the necessary protection under the law as owed to one’s citizenry. "You are not guilty until proven!" was an ideal he bought unto his heart and profession. He would be prone to bringing friends and clients home for a celebration after winning their cases, and it would be especially hard on the part of the matriarch of the family who had her own daily 'Niyama' to attend to, but whose services would be requested at all odd hours for food and other things on the arrival of an ‘a-thithi’ ( ah, you got it right! – that welcoming, feeding and honoring of a guest, who arrives with no prior appointment! – what an added refinement to an already great civilization! ).

Did Puttu Rao not ever smile?
Perhaps not, unless you found him in the distinguished company of a
Sir C.P. Ramaswami Iyer or an Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar!
Could it be music? Could it be law?


What was a very deep mystery about “Parvathi”, the house that he built, was about how it ever ran! It was such a large and burgeoning household, which depended solely on just one income. Granted, K. Puttu Rao sometimes expressed the grit of a lion and his spouse, the erstwhile Parvathi (amma) no less in resilience than that of a tigress, the combined effect would yield, dominantly in no time, a large household of seven "ligers" with never ending demands associated with one's growing up; the phenomenal expenses of long term educational fees, the economics of food and clothing and transport, costs of private tutoring towards traditional language and arts, the impact of costly ceremonies to be performed as befitting each member of a traditional household, and the huge expenses that came to be associated with religious ceremonies. These would be held every other day, as determined by a crazy almanac, and culminating in invitations to a prolific number of guests, priests and entertainers.

Added to all of this was a certain ‘strange’ notion cultivated by distant family members, that the house was the equivalent of a free ‘board and lodge’ house (a veritable 'chatram'). Members would show up from distant villages, first with a customary ‘note’ from some well known family head, claiming some filial connection with an accompanying request for some ‘temporary’ shelter, till a certain justified event could be completed. These initial short stays however always happened to get recycled, to the point where after a while, the person would be found to have happily ensconced themselves 'as a member' with now a stronger case than ever. There were also other 'member(s)' established under a natural duress, such as a widowed lady unable to support herself or a lady having been abandoned by a husband, or an orphan girl, whom the family came by in compassion, who had to be included as family till such time as she could be given away in marriage, or into another pasture of safe custody.


Earlier, on many an occasion, we spoke of Sri. K. Puttu Rao's abiding passion for music and in his being at home to several stalwarts of Carnatic Music ( click ). We now add to that ever growing list, memories of some other stars in the CM firmament who graced "Parvathi" during his lifetime:

Immortal G.N.Balasubramaniam (GNB) in the house !
(click on photo to magnify)

Immortal Duo!
Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar and Palghat Mani Iyer
in the House !
(click on photo to magnify)

Immortals Manakkal Rangarajan and T. Chowdiah in the House !
(click on photo to magnify)


Puttu Rao was known to be a strict disciplinarian, especially with his sons and his staff. Somewhere, however, over the years, people realized that while there might be that quick temper and a bark to the man, there was also the outer shell with a whole lot given to a softer side. This would be noticed, particularly during certain events and in its calculated moments. While pictures in the house, sometimes revealed an Oldsmobile, a Dodge Kingfisher or a Chevy Impala over the years, it would not be uncommon to find Mr. K. Puttu Rao trudging many a time on foot to and fro from Court.

At times, one would find him in a ‘tonga’, too, doing a back and forth from Mysore's great Devaraja market, with its myriad stalls of fruits or its beautiful stalls of sweet smelling Jasmine flowers. From here, he would invariably pick up beautiful hair adorning for his large retinue of daughters-in-law with whom he was ever conscious of doing the right thing in making them integrate seamlessly into his own family. He would even be seen, as the 'tonga' waited, at the cloth emporiums of Mysore’s main thoroughfare on Sayaji Rao Road, where he would indulge in some of his fancies; where he would pick up select pieces of cloth hoping for the benefit of a customized tailoring of immaculate shirts and coats that he wore with aplomb on himself. He would also be seen ordering rich blouse material (the 'Khanas') for all the Gods and the women folk of his own family. The whole thing would prove to be nothing more than a fanciful charade into an evening's outing; he would concoct an elaborate 'scheme' of seeming to tuck away all his treasures into some hidden compartments from preening eyes, only to realize, once again, the inevitable! It would all vanish, in no time, without nary a sign of the actual culprit (or culprits) ever being found from within that large contingent of humans that dwelt in that house.

M.L.Vasanthakumari was always regarded as 'family' !
Seen with Puttu Rao's pride - the daughters-in-law !
(Is there a young Sudha Raghunathan, too,somewhere there?)

Puttu Rao's zest for life, as we have indicated before, was not confined to just music and musicians alone, or on being God fearing to one's daily propitiation's. He was fiercely loyal and prone to take on various challenges of a social order, in order to do good. He worked with Mysore's several institutions and committees; with Mysore's City Cooperative Bank, Mysore Cooperative Society and many of its charitable Housing projects. He loved to battle in order to save institutions. Notable amongst these was the institution (pictures below) of which he was once both its Secretary and its President. He saved it from many a lender's hand, providing some deft legal maneuvering, but ironically died the very next day, after the courts had moved in his favor!

Bidarama Krishnappa Rama Mandiram in it's 'heydey' !

Its once pristine interiors - Courtesy: The Hindu

As we leave you with the memory of a man in whose lifetime, there was a great 'cause celebre' for the heritage of Carnatic Music, we remind you of the concerts in his honor that commence on Aug 31, 2011 in Mysore.

As with the tradition of our blog, we would also like to leave you with some music. What better than a video presentation of Padma Bhushan and Sangeeta Kalanidhi T.V.Sankaranarayanan (who will be casting his magic on the last day of the memorial concert), performing as he did twenty five years before! in "Parvathi", the house that K. Puttu Rao built and where he bequeathed his last!

Vidwan T.V. Shankaranarayanan is shown accompanied by Vidwans G.J.R. Krishnan (violin), M.A.K Murthy (Ghatam) and incidentally Vellore Ramabhadran who accompanied him first in his (TVS's) memorable debut on February 2, 1968!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In Memoriam 2011: Kunigal Puttu Rao - 1

The son, Mr. K. Srikantiah, is the direct and last surviving relative of Sri K. Puttu Rao and is, by himself, well into the Octogenarian years.

You would think, at his age, that Mr. Srikantiah would choose the comfort of a quiet life nestling mostly with one's own grandchildren. But, no, that’s not for him. He has soaked up Carnatic Music (CM) all his life, with its world of great composers and artists like no other. He is what you call a living encyclopedia to all of CM’s hallowed memories. So, what does such a person do? He dives in again, into that same world where he once lived supreme; he wants to work in that same universe of music’s joys and share the rewards of that joy freely with everyone. This time he wants to do it with a difference. He feels, he owes everything in life to the memory of a father. It is his ‘tarpanam’ to a hallowed name. He now wants to invite the world to a musical sequence of five days in the company of some great maestros, to the redoubtable sanctuary of the famous Jagan Mohan Palace of Mysore.

The venue is a 150 year old Palace!
The coronation of H.H. Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV
was held here in 1902.
The Viceroy and Governor-General of India,
Lord Curzon, too, attended that ceremony.

So, here is Mr. Srikantiah's invitation. Please find it issued to all of our gentle readers who may find themselves in Mysore, from August 31 to September 4, 2011, and lucky enough to find a seat in the auditorium.

( click on photo to magnify )

Mr. Srikantiah has chosen some eminent and elderly names, to preside over this occasion. They are India's, Karnataka's and Mysore's very distinguished sons such as Dr. SL Bhyrappa who is regarded as one of India's most powerful and award winning novelists in the last twenty five years. Joining him are Mr. Krishna Vattam, another powerful journalistic voice for over six decades whom we have mentioned before in our blog. The third distinguished member to grace the opening is none other than revered Mr. M.A. Sampath Iyengar Esq. President Emeritus of Mysore's famous National Institute of Engineering (NIE) Rounding up the group, will be another distinguished personality, Mr. K.B. Ganapathy, Law Graduate and Founder of Mysore's famous newspapers, Star of Mysore and the Mysore Mithra.

Our salutations to all four of them and to the very distinguished artists !

( click on photo to magnify )

Mr. Srikantiah, wants to open with none other than the Indian Mandolin Prodigy U. Srinivas. In a lot of ways, Sri. Srikantiah admires Srinivas, not only for the artiste’s genius but for his rare humility (“God has given him everything! Yet, look at that grace and respect towards others, particularly towards elders! ”). We have remarked elsewhere in our blog, that Srinivas first came to the attention of Mr. Srikantiah at a tender, shy age of nine. He came many a time afterwards to perform in “Parvathi”.

This is U. Shrinivas (video below) performing an enthralling piece in “Parvathi”, in 1985, at a youthful age of 16!

Before that, we bring you the viewpoint of our own brilliant 'Rasika' R.Sachi on this segment of the music.

"August brings the start of famous Indian festivals. The incomparable story of Krishna's birth, in a prison at midnight amidst a monsoon deluge, is the basis of a big celebration. Soon comes the month of Bhaadrapada, with the sun starting to peep out of dark monsoon clouds. And on Chaturthi, the fourth day, the ever-delightful god of auspicious starts, Lord Ganesha, is installed and worshipped by the devout. This is tellingly pictured by Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar in the hugely popular song, Siddhi Vinayakam in Shanmukhapriya. The raga, the lyric, and the tempo always kindle a concert and take it to great heights. Dikshitar's songs like Siddhi Vinayakam and Vatapi Ganapathim are very popular, but musicians know how difficult it is to do justice to them, replete as they are with lyrical grandeur, musical richness and a taut tempo. Especially for instruments, they are always a challenge.

So consider this on the mandolin. A bubbling teenager cast a spell with this opening piece 25 years ago in Parvathi. We are happy to share this video with you, of the grand opening by Mandolin Shrinivas. The accompanists look absolutely delighted, especially Sri Vellore Ramabhadran.

The song itself is noteworthy in describing how sattvic are the worshipers of Lord Ganesha. After all, he is totally bereft of violent temper and desire ( raudrabhAva rahitam dAsa janahRdaya virAjitam rauhiNEyAnujArccitam IhanA varjitam )".

Friday, August 12, 2011

God as the ultimate Rasika - Vidwan M.D. Ramanathan

“Oh Lord, without You, how can Thyagaraja sing the song of your gunas?”.. this is the burden of the wonderful Athana song Narada Gana Lola. All aesthetic endeavour is an expression of our response to the beauty of creation. Amongst all arts, music is called the highest human expression. William Shakespeare said, “To know the cause why music was ordain'd! Was it not to refresh the mind of a man after his studies or his usual pain?” In other words, music is the ultimate antidote to human difficulties or intellectual fatigue. Here, on the other hand, Thyagaraja says that all the miseries of our existence can be sublimated into worship by singing of the Lord’s glories. And by calling Him “Narada Gana Lola”, Thyagaraja has indicated God’s musical preferences. Narada was the Lord’s most ardent and musically gifted devotee. In many ways the Parvathi festival typified the attitude of the devotee. No commercialism. Pure music, devoutly offered by the best musicians of the era, to an eager set of rasikas in a setting created with much ardour by the family of Parvathi.

This time we are happy to offer excerpts (1 hr: 20 mins) from MDR’s 1974 concert: Concert Details Vocal M.D.Ramanathan Violin M. Chandrasekharan Mridangam Vellore Ramabhadran Khanjira H.P Ramachar on April 7, 1974 at Parvathi (excerpts only) Song List 01. Rama Nipai – Kedaram – Thyagaraja *** 02. Narada Gana Lola – Athana – Thyagaraja *** 03. Janani Ninnuvina – Reeti Gowla – Subbaraya Shastri ***