Tribute to the pallavi genius Chingleput Ranganathan

Jaysri and Jeyaraaj Krishnan’s veena recital had all the hallmarks of their guru Chingleput Ranganathan’s Alathur school

It was a perfect tribute to the great master Chingleput Ranganathan by two disciples to mark his 10th memorial day.

Ranganathan rigorously trained under the Alathur brothers (Srinivasa Iyer and Sivasubramania Iyer) in the the gurukula system for ten years. And that made Ranganathan not only an accomplished vocalist, but an authority in all aspects of laya. His debut performance was held in 1955 at Nerur Sadasiva Brahmendral’s Adhishtanam.

Alathur Venkatesa Iyer, the Alathur brothers’ guru and the father of Sivasubramania Iyer, from whom Ranganathan learnt initially, accompanied him on the harmonium.

It was this strong foundation that put Ranganathan on the path of musical glory. More than being a performing artiste, he was one of the most revered gurus. He set to tune the Thiruppugazh verses in 72 Melakarta ragas.

Chingleput Ranganathan


The recent veena duet by his disciples Jaysri Jeyaraaj Krishnan and Jeyaraaj Krishnan for Madhuradhwani had all the hallmarks of the Alathur school, propelled as the concert was by intense emotion. The two trained under Ranganathan for about 17 years.

The audio recording of their guru’s rendition of ‘Ra ra mayinti’ (Tyagaraja) in Asaveri set the tone for the concert. As if extending the raga mood, the duo began their concert with Dikshitar’s Navagraha kriti ‘Chandram bhaja manasa’ (Chatusrajathi Matya talam) in the same raga. Their school of music — they had their initial training under Anantharama Iyer in Calcutta — has an additional line in the kriti, ‘Kamaniya vara kataka rasyadhipam’. They also played a rarely heard chittaswaram, which conveyed the nuances of Asaveri. The duo next rendered a Tamil piece in Hindolam, Arunachalakkavi’s ‘Ramanukku mannan mudi’, a favourite of Ranganathan. Swarams were at ‘Pattam Katta Etthavandi’

An intricate RTP

The piece de resistance was their master’s magnum opus, a Dasavataram Pallavi. The composer has aptly chosen to set it in Vachaspati raga, which is the 64th Melakartha — 6 and 4 adds up to ten, indicative of the ten avataras. A lovely alapana shared by the duo led to an engrossing Ragam Tanam Pallavi. The tanam when played on the veena sounds particularly charming and they played it in a special Ragamalika. It was special because, apart from raga Vachaspati, they included Natakapriya (the 10th Melakarta), Shyamalangi (the 55th Melakarta — five plus five is 10), Shadvithamargini (the 46th Melakarta — four and six make 10) and Harikamboji, the 28th (again, two and eight add up to ten) — all indicative of the theme Dasavataram. The intricate pallavi was set to khandajathi triputa tala in four kalais and started at the mukkaale araikkaal idam, or after the 7/8th place. The purvanga of the pallavi is ‘Matsya kurma varaha narasimha vamana mampahi’ and the utharanga, ‘Parasu ramachandra baladeva krishna kalki dasavatara’.

B. Ganapathyraman, on the mridangam, worthy son of Chethalapathy Balu, deserves special mention. In spite of the short notice, he could grasp the mathematical complexities of the pallavi and accompanied the artistes brilliantly. Chingleput Ranganathan’s pallavis are known for musical excellence and tala intricacies.

N. Rajaraman (ghatam) too rose to the occasion splendidly. Throughout the concert, their contributions to add richness was praiseworthy. Their thani in this intricate tala was crisp and perfectly executed.

Jaysri and Jeyaraaj Krishnan concluded the recital with a tillana by their guru in Bagesri. Ranganathan, who has composed 35 tillanas, was so inspired by the way N. Rajam played Bagesri on the violin that he incorporated several of the sangathis in his tillana. Kudos to Yessel Narasimhan and Arkay Convention Centre for arranging this concert in memory of a great artiste.

The Chennai-based author writes on Carnatic music.

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