Ariyakkudi first to define a concert
ARIYAKKUDI IS a small village on the outskirts of Karaikudi and is known for a beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Srinivasa. The village itself is a well-planned one, with Chettinad houses neatly built on the sides and in front of the temple.
The story goes that one of the inhabitants, Sevugan Chettiar, was so fond of Lord Venkatachalapathi of Tirupati that he kept a huge hundi in his house, which he carried every year to Tirupati on foot and emptied its contents before the Lord. When he became old, it is said that the Lord appeared in his dreams and ordained him not to trouble himself by carrying the hundi all the way to Tirupati but that He would come to his place and settle there. The Lord kept his word and Sevugan Chettiar built a beautiful temple for his favourite deity.
But in the past 60 years or so, Ariyakkudi has come to be associated with the great Ramanuja Iyengar who strode the world of Carnatic music like a colossus for over 50 years and is best remembered for establishing a "Kutcheri Pundah." Ariyakkudi had few equals in his time. The rasika could certainly look forward to hearing a varnam, three or four short pieces, two or three gana ragas like Todi, Kamboji, etc., and at least a dozen tukkada. He was an expert at feeling the pulse of the rasika who always left the kutcheri fully satisfied!
Ariyakkudi had special affinity for me because I happened to be the son of his first disciple, Devakottai Narayanaswamy Iyer. In fact, after this writer shifted to Madras from Kumbakonam for higher education in 1954, Ariyakkudi instructed that he should be present in all his performances in and around Madras. It was a pleasure to obey the command.
Ariyakkudi's love and affection for Narayanaswamy Iyer was something to be seen to be believed. Once he instructed Iyer to accompany him in a kutcheri in Tiruchi. Three days before the kutcheri, he casually asked Iyer whether he had taught him "Jesinadallo" in Todi. When my father replied in the negative, sitting on a swing (jhoola) he started teaching him that composition and by the time the kutcheri started the disciple had so perfected the rendition that he almost stole the show.
There was never a dull moment in an Ariyakkudi concert. With Palghat Mani Ayyar on the mridangam, the tani was a treat to hear.
Ariyakkudi always wanted others to enjoy what he considered best. Once, he asked my father to accompany him when he went to see Veena Dhanammal. Dhanammal was very old and her vision was affected. Ariyakkudi introduced my father to Dhanammal as his first disciple and requested her to play a piece. Dhanammal played Todi on the veena and the experience left an indelible impression in my father's mind till his death in 1989. He was speechless when she turned around and asked him whether it matched Ariyakkudi's standard! Ariyakkudi's father, who was an astrologer of repute, always told my grandfather that Ariyakkudi would live beyond his 75th year, his greatness undiminished a prophecy that came true!
Send this article to Friends by