Sikkil Bhaskaran — torchbearer of the Rajamanickam Pillai style

Violinist Sikkil Bhaskaran, who passed away recently, was known as a nuanced accompanist

“To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts – such is the duty of the artist,” said renowned German composer Robert Schumann. Sikkil R. Bhaskaran was such an artiste .


Born on May 4, 1936 into a family traditionally involved in music, he passed away on July 20. It was his maternal grandfather Sikkil Ramaswami Pillai who initiated him into the world of music. Bhaskaran’s first guru was Tiruvarur Subbaiyer. He then trained under Mayavaram Govindaraja Pillai and had his advanced training under the doyen Kumbakonam Rajamanickam Pillai, living in his gurukul.

Accompanying stalwarts

Bhaskaran’s first public performance was at the age of 15 and then there was no looking back. He accompanied stalwarts from three generations, beginning with Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagvathar, and flute Mali. He played on All India Radio, Chennai, for 18 years. He was an executive committee member of the Tiruvaiyaru Tyaga Brahma festival for two decades.

Two concerts among the many that Bhaskaran has performed are worth mentioning. One was in 2004, when he was accompanying the then young vocalist T.V. Ramprasad. “Veteran Sikkil Bhaskaran excelled in subtle phrasings in the alapanas and gave solid support to the rising vidwan,” wrote K. Sundararajan in The Hindu. In another review of a 2001 concert by Sanjay Subrahmanyan, the same critic wrote: “Whether in alapana or swaras, he hit the target perfectly. Sankarabharanam, Kedaragowla, Bilahari and Anandabhairavi sparkled.”

T. V. Gopalakrishnan (right) presenting the Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer Memorial Award and gold medal to Sikkil R. Bhaskaran (centre) at a function in Chennai. Trustee Maharajapuram S. Srinivasan is in the picture.

Sikkil Bhaskaran was the recipient of several awards including the Pappa Venkataramayya award from the Madras Music Academy and Violin Isai Chelvam award from Chennai Mutthamizh Peravai. He was the asthana vidwan of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.

Apart from his musical skills, his pleasing manners made him a popular accompanist. He enjoyed encouraging young artistes. Bhaskaran and Thanjavur Upendran accompanied young Mandolin Shrinivas for many years. In fact, Bhaskaran is said to have guided him on the nuances of niraval and swaraprasthara.

A traditionalist, he was a torchbearer of the Kumbakonam Rajamanickam Pillai style, whose music had the grace and refinement of his guru. Commanding a huge repertoire, his raga essays were brilliantly structured. His demise is a loss to the world of Carnatic music.

The Chennai-based writer

specialises in Carnatic music.

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