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Temple dedicated to Tyagaraja

STARTED WITH the humble objective of worshipping saint composer Tyagaraja, Sri Thiagaraja Sangeetha Vidwath Samajam is celebrating its platinum jubilee this year.

In 1929, the stalwarts of Carnatic music felt the need for a shrine for Sri Thyagaraja in Chennai.

This was partly due to the fact that many musicians could not afford to go to Tiruvaiyaru where a festival in homage is conducted every year.

With this noble idea, Tiger Varadachariar, Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar, T. L. Venkatarama Iyer, Parur Sundaram Iyer, S. Rajagopala Iyer, P. Ramachandra Iyer and S. Venkatarama Iyer formed into a group and founded the institution.

The Samajam thus had a modest beginning and its objectives — of worship of the Saint and propagation of his music through holding of concerts, harikathas, namasankeerthanams, lecture demonstrations apart from the annual aradhana and annadhanam on the bahula panchami day — were realised. Only the venues in and around Mylapore varied, based on the availability of space.

The efforts of the founders supported and assisted by the musicians and philanthropists resulted in Sri Thiagarajapuram, situated close to Sri Madhava Perumal Devastanam and Mundakakanni Amman temple. The musicians pooled in resources and bought a vast property for the Samajam.

Also they bought plots to build houses for themselves so that they could stay close to the Samajam and take care of its growth.

Thus was born Thiagarajapuram where Parur Sundaram Iyer, Mannargudi Sambasiva Bagavathar, Sethuramaiah, Parur Anantharaman and other musicians lived.

The idea got a fillip when the Kanchi Mahaswami Sri Chandrasekara Saraswathi, during one of his visits to Mylapore, suggested building a temple with a Panchaloka idol of the saint, within the precincts of the Samajam, which till then had only photographs of the saint.

Sri Mannargudi Sambasiva Bagavathar's efforts, with the support of all the vidwans especially his guru Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, brought into existence a temple with a panchaloha idol installed therein.

The premises only had a thatched roof hall for many years. M. S. Subbulakshmi, through a series of concerts, raised funds for building a permanent hall.

Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer were among the illustrious presidents.

Since 1987, M. Balamurali Krishna is the president. With the assistance of a Board of Trustees, which includes Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti, S. Murali of Krishna Sweets, R. Seshasayee, and M. S. Gopalakrishnan the Samajam has seen growth in leaps and bounds. Thiagaraja Jayanthi is conducted every year.

Mannargudi Sambasiva Bagavathar who has served the Samajam in various capacities, is today, at the age of 92, the chairman of the Trust Board. Eminent personalities including T. T. Vasu, P. Obul Reddy and S. Viswanathan of the Enfield group have been President Trustees of the Samajam and helped to improve the infrastructure and raise additional buildings.

A team of four vice-presidents, two dedicated secretaries — Sirkazhi R. Jayaraman and K. V. Ramanujam — a treasurer, 17 committee members, apart from the president, take care of the administration.

Platinum jubilee celebration on a grand scale is going on with 75 concerts spread over the year. The main celebrations will be held for five days beginning November 20.

The Samajam (2498 2270) will honour 75 senior musicians and each day will be marked with a concert.

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