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Everything the master ever composed  

A subtle Meenakshi memudam or a chirpy Shaktisahita ganapathim? Where would you find notations and meanings for both kinds of Muthuswamy Dikshitar compositions? In Anandarama Udupa's just-released, exhaustive compilation Guruguha Gana Vaibhava


Guruguha Gana Vaibhava
Compiled by Anandarama Udupa
Sruti Ranjani
Rs 675 (2 vols.)

Anandarama Udupa: putting all of Dikshitar together

'Guruguha' was Muthuswamy Dikshithar's signature. Since music has traditionally meant a guru passing on his knowledge through the oral tradition, a signature meant a name woven into the composition. Purandaradasa subtly brought in 'Purandara Vittala' into all his compositions. Thyagaraja used his own name to sign off his compositions. This practice helps music lovers, centuries later, to identify who composed what.

'Guruguha' is the signature found in almost 500 compositions. Anandarama Udupa, a musician from Bangalore, has finally put all these together in one book.

Dikshitar (1776-1835) is the most recent of the Trinity. He studied the dhrupad when he was in Varanasi, and became well-versed in that northern form. He then came back to the south and composed music of subtle beauty in the southern style. Scholars discern the influence of the dhrupad style in his slow kritis. He also played the veena, and is represented playing the instrument by artists who draw his portrait. Dikshitar wrote in Sanskrit and Telugu.


A comprehensive compilation of Dikshitar's compositions, with exhaustive notations, is something that will excite students of Karnatak music.

Udupa is a hobbyist musician who took up the project out of love of Dikshitar's work. His two-volume Guruguha Gana Vaibhava, he says, is "the only comprehensive collection of Dikshitar's compositions". A retired postal employee, he learnt music from his father, elder brother and also N Gopalakrishna, a flute player in Mangalore.

Udupa, a Kannadiga, learnt Tamil so that he could read all the notation books in that language.

The book is published by an institute called Sruti Ranjani, founded by Prof Raju, IISc (Bangalore), in 1975. The institute promotes classical and devotional music. 

Indian music has always regarded notations with suspicion. If Western classical music's polyphonic structure demanded accurate notations,  Karnatak and Hindustani musicians have always felt that their graces and nuances cannot be truly captured in notation.

The ri in raga Saveri is almost sa, and the ri in raga Todi is a little more stressed than the one in Saveri, but notation would interpret both just as ri. Only a guru can show the difference. But with the dying out of the gurukula system, and modern media like tapes, CDs and printed books coming into the realm of music teaching, Karnatak and Hindustani compositions are being committed to notation which is used routinely by a large number of teachers and students.

Dikshitar is interpreted variously. Udupa feels he has remained faithful to the Dikshitar family's version, as found in the books of Subbarama Dikshitar, the adopted son of Balaswamy Dikshitar. (Subbarama was the composer's daughter son, and Balaswamy was Muthuswamy's younger brother; in other words, Muthuswamy's grandson was adopted by his brother). The other famous compilation students swear by is Rangaramanuja Ayyangar's. This compiler, says Udupa, used the Veena Dhanammal version. Dhanammal was a school by herself and her veena playing brought other artistes to her house for special weekly sessions.

Udupa has painstakingly calligraphed the Kannada notations of the 1,280-page book. The work took him almost a year since he began in 1998. He has included songs like Shakti sahita ganapathim that Dikshitar based on the English 'note'. These are described as 'notuswara' compositions, and were inspired by the English bands Dikshitar heard in Madras.

Children love such uncomplicated tunes, and perhaps Dikshitar meant them as an attractive introduction to Karnatak music. You could call these Karnatak's playful inspiration from the West. Udupa's book features 39 of these, not included in either Subbarama Dikshitar's Telugu compilation Dikshitar Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini dating back to 1904 or in Rangaramanuja Ayyangar's Tamil compilation which has 300 songs.

Udupa's book features a foreword by Prof S K Ramachandra Rao, the well-known musicologist and Indologist, who delves into the meaning of Dikshitar's sahitya.

Copies of the book are available in Bangalore at Ananya (phone 344 0409), Sruti Ranjani (phone 334 1807) and with the author at

76 5th Main 1st Stage Postal Colony
Sanjayanagar Bangalore 560 094

You can e-mail Anandarama Udupa for more details, or call him on (080) 341 2110.

S Suchitra Lata


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