Paper presentation on The Contribution of Mysore Rulers to the promotion of Veena

Excerpts from the Speaker of the paper – Shruthi S

When one hears Mysore – the Dusshera procession, the Mysore palace, the Wodeyars who ruled the Mysore kingdom and the Mysore bani style of playing the Veena rings a bell in all of us. The State of Mysore was first founded by Yaduraya in the year 1399 and from then all the rules of Mysore came to be known as the Wodeyars. The Wodeyars were lovers of music, musicians and composers who patronized other musicians as well. Often heard names are Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, ChammaRaja Wodeyar and Nalawadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. A person not spoken about so often is Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar on whom a few manuscripts have been found which throw some light on him being a vainika known for his distinct playing of soft, firm and majestic tana playing. The poet Tirumala Raya writes about Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar with a lot of similies. His plucking of the instrument was compared to a beak of a parrot. He also exaggerates his praise by saying that Kinnaras and the Gandharvas are nothing in front of Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar’s veena playing. In Chikkadevaraja Vijayam there is a mention of a specific time in his schedule meant only for Veena practice each day implying his priorities through his day. With this he could easily inspire the present generation who always seem pressed for time. He was one of the trend setters for the current Mysore style of playing the Veena. A commentery by Vidwan Prashanth Iyengar was made at the end of the presentation about a reference in a well known book of music written in Telugu about how listener’s of those days would relate to the versatile playing of Chikkadevaraya Wodeyar’s Veena being equivalent to the jingling of the bangles of Goddess Saraswati and how this would make them lose the world around them. 

Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar who was a prolific composer and musicologist who was tutored by Veena Venkatasubaiyah and was appointed by the Diwan Purnaiyah. The rise of the Mysore kingdom saw the decline of the Vijayanagara kingdom. Diwan Purnaiyah wanted to make Mysore as the cultural capital of the South for which he made sure he brought together a lot of musicians to tutor the Wodeyars. Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar’s work was the first person to name the javathis which are light classical compositions that bring about Nayaka and Nayaki bawa and he used certain uplifting ragas like Kapi, Junjooti, Behag and Vasanta for this purpose. He has brought about the Karuna rasa through his Vairagya prathibaditha Javathis in the ragas such as Pantuvarali and Bhairavi. The treatise Shree TattvaNidhi were written by him that speak about the music, literature and paintings in which he speaks about the seven swaras and their 32 characteristics. He treated each swara as Devathas and the treatise starts with Dhyana Shloka. His 3rd treatise is SaraSangraha Bharata has a section that mentions about Nada, Swara and the Swara Prastharas. The famous complex composition Sapthataleshwari Geetha composed by the dua Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar and Venkatasubaiyah is in Saptha suladi talas played by seven different players and the composition starts, ends at the same time and the akshara kala of the compositions are the same. One can wonder how such efficiency was achieved through this complex presentation when each musician is playing to a different tala and yet achieving the perfection in their rendition. We do get a glimpse of their creative drive. The speaker hints that the current day two tala pallavi renditions are probably inspired from the above complex presentation.

King Chamaraja Wodeyar was trained by the court musicians Veena Sheshanna who was called as Tala Brahma and Veena Subanna. Veena Subramanya Iyer composed the Sangeetha Samaya Sara in 1915. He was succeeded by the King Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV commonly known as the Nalavadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. This was an important era for Mysore when a lot of Kannada compositions came into the picture during his reign. The king was well versed in many languages like Engligh, Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil and Urdu along with his proficiency in playing many instruments like Veena, Violin, Mridangam, Nadaswara, Sitar and Harmonium. He had a lot of knowledge of the Western instruments and would encourage his musicians to compose in Carnatic, Hindustani and Western style of music.

Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar studied in London and familiarized himself with Western Classical Music and on his return trained under Mysore Vasudevacharya for 12 years. He became very interested in South Indian Classical music and has composed around 94 kritis in just under 2 years span of time. He was a follower of Muthuswamy Dikshitar and is a Srividya Upasaka and this influence are seen most of his compositions showing Srividya and Srichakra complex language inclusions. He has also composed in rare ragas like Neelaveni and SivaKambodi. Veena Seshanna and Veena Subanna are the trend setters for the Mysore Bani style playing. Veena Seshanna was proficient in playing many instruments like Violin, Swarbath, Rudraveena and Jalatarang and has composed in both Telugu and Kannada. He was appointed by the king Chamarajendra Wodeyar as the court musician and also given the title Vainika Shikamani and Vainika Chakravarthy.

Veena Subanna was trained by Mysore Sadashiv Rao and had many accolades to his name. He was a pallavi expert being able to sing 16 Kalai pallavi with ease. He has many varnams, kritis, jatiswaramas, ragamalikas to his name.

Veena Sivaramaiyah learnt from his father Veena Padmanabaiyah and later from Veena Karigiri Rao and Veena Vasudevacharya. He has composed in the languages of Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit and his western musical compositions are in English. He is the first person to be credited with compositions of Kritis in all the 72 melakartha ragas which was ordered by the then king Krishnaraja Wodeyar. The kings of Mysore have been an encouraging force behind their court musicians who have come up with such creatively complex and rewarding musical pieces which we can enjoy to this day. The Wodeyars played a very important role in patronizing the artist resulting in such large compositions repertoire that we have in our classical music today.

Veena Venkatagiriappa was a student of Veena Seshanna and the court musician of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. He was entitled Vainika Praveena. He has played the Veena in a documentary called The Musical Instruments of India for 15 minutes. He is credited with composing Nagma which is similar to Hindustani thaat.

In conclusion it can be said that since Wodeyars were themselves great scholars and musicians that saw to it that the Veena and the classical music reached great heights and have created legends through their act of involvement and interest in music. The musical treatises written during those days upholds the culture and tradition of playing the Veena, the compositions adding immense value to our treasury like the famous Mysore Bani style of playing the Veena which we all enjoy. The Dusshera celebrations are a huge cultural contributions of the Wodeyar to this day in every nook and corner of India with music happening to be a major part of these celebrations. In their footsteps we could take the heritage and culture ahead along with us taking Veena to great heights.

Commentaries on the presentation by the Conference President Shri Vijayraghavan Sir:

After the serene and soft Veena rendering we have heard the lecture of evolution of the Veena on the contribution of the princes and the rulers of Mysore kingdom. The encouragement by the rulers are felt even today and artists called Asthana Vidwans who performed and perform in Darbar halls. The contribution by Veena Seshanna and Subhanna are virtually unforgettable. The paper presentation by Shruti S has shown the nurturing of the art of Veena playing by the dynasties of Mysore with the good light thrown on the chronology split as year and decade wise showing the magnanimity of the kings over a long periods of time. The Veena is a celestial instrument and Goddess Saraswati plays on it and we who play and hear the music of Veena are blessed by Goddess Saraswati. The lecture was an an earnest attempt to bring forth the developmental stages in the encouragement of artists by the various rulers which we can cherish for a long time and the trend must be continued where the Veena will continue to reign as divine and supreme instrument in our lives. Also this conference is a nice occasion that sees Veena artists assembled together.

Thank you!