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The amazing violinist Thirukkodikaval Krishnayyar ( 1857 - 1913 )


The great violinist Thirukkodikaval Krishnayyar lived during the time of Mahavaidyanatha Iyer. He achieved great fame as a violinist. His amazing musical knowledge was on par with the singing of Mahavaidyanatha Iyer. The great violinist used to practice for hours together everyday. He had trained under his father Kuppuswamy Iyer and subsequently under Kootavasal Venkatarama Iyer. His father had been endowed with fantabulous musical talent and the gene had descended upon him.

Krishnayyar's voice made him take up playing the violin. Nagaswaram Vidwan Tirupamburam Natarajasundaram Pillai, Veena Dhanammal and Krishnayyar had learnt under Sathanoor Panju Iyer. The Guru belonged to the lineage of Muthuswamy Dikshitar. Krishnayyar was a real master. He had been a prodigy and was responsible for bringing in many new ways of playing the violin. His playing could produce ascending and descending glides with aplomb. His compatriots included Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer, Patnam Subramania Iyer and Sarabha Sastri. Krishnayyar could dominate the concert in spite of being an accompanist. His performance could intimidate the musicians of the day.

Several musicians could only exhibit half their skills due to the presence of Krishnayyar. He was simply held in awe. His bowing style and fingering technique was developed in order to suit Carnatic Music. The routine would begin with the sarali varisai and his bowing would be fast at the start and slow towards the end of the saadhakam. Four famous varnams, Kalyani and Bhairavi Ata Thaala varnams along with Saveri & Begada Adhi Thaala varnams were part of his regular practice.

Krishnayyar was a practicing Government official. He was the Pattamaniar ( Administrative Officer ) of Thirukkodikaval. The authorities removed him because of his musical interest. He appealed by stating that his musical inclination was already known but the authorities did not agree to that. In fact he told them he had performed in the presence of the Governor of Madras at one time. They did not agree and one of his sons T.K.Srinivasa Iyer was given his position.

Thiruvalangadu Sundaresa Iyer was among his disciples. Semmangudi Narayanaswamy Iyer and Thirukkodikaval Ramaswamy had also learnt under him. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer is his nephew. Even Valadi Krishnayyar had been tutored by him. People used to talk about a famous concert those days. It was a wedding concert and Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer was accompanied by Krishnayyar. While Kumbakonam Azhaganambi played the Mridangam, Pudukottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai accompanied with the Ganjira. The Ghatam was with Umayalpuram Sundaram. Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar had attended the concert as a young boy. His father had been along with him. He was too shy to perform after the concert and it was Krishnayyar who asked the young Ariyakudi to come forward. This became a grace and Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar became a fabulous musician later.

It was at Tiruppapuliyur that Krishnayyar and Ettayapuram Ramachandra Iyer had performed along with one more luminary and the singing of Ramachandra Iyer was wonderful. However, the accompanying Krishnayyar's performance made it difficult for Ramachandra Iyer to bring out his beat. The skill of Krishnayyar intimidated the other musicians and they never wanted him to accompany them. Only Sarabha Sastrigal and Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer could claim to perform normally in his company. It was only with a few like them did he play on par without taking the center stage.

Lovers of music had recorded their appreciation with regard to Krishnayyar and Sarabha Sastrigal. On another occasion, Sarabha Sastrigal gave a breathtaking performance with Krishnayyar accompanying him. Krishnayyar was not the one to be left behind. He matched the great master and received a huge applause. The absence of a Mridangam would never deter Krishnayyar. It was at Pudukottai when he sang and played the violin. The Mridangam player Dakshinamurthy Pillai was yet to come but Krishnayyar won the day. The Maharaja of Pudukkottai was present that day. It had been his birthday.

Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar had once performed a Harikatha for a festival at Thirukodikaval. Krishnayyar had attended the event and watched it fully. He had requested Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar to come home after the performance. It was 12 o ' clock by then. Bhagavathar had his food and went to the residence of Krishnayyar. The time was closer to 2 AM. Krishnayyar began to play the violin at that odd hour and he played until dawn without taking a break ! Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar was taken aback. Krishnayyar had all along been immersed in Naadhabrahmam and had been oblivious to the passage of time. Comforts did not bother him.

Krishnayyar was an expert in Tyagabrahmam's compositions. He simply loved them. He would include specific phrases found in Tyagabrahmam's krithis in the Raga Alapanas delivered by him. This would embellish the performance and would bring forth the best. The great scholar led a simple life in his village. His contribution to the world of Carnatic Music continues to be etched in gold.

Mr. Rajesh Govindarajulu is one of the founding members of The Verandah Club Pvt. Ltd. He is a leading columnist, historian, jeweler, entrepreneur, and a heritage enthusiast who is earnestly working to revive the past in the light of the present. Experiential learning about the history of Coimbatore is his main course of interest and he is also a panel member of many colleges in the city.

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