Muthuswamy Dikshitar – find it hard to pronounce? Okay, we shall refer to him as MD from now on.

MD (1775 – 1835) is one of the 3 composers widely known as the Trinity of Classical Music, the other two being Thyagaraja and Syama Sastri. MD’s compositions as such will have such identification patterns, viz..

– The composer’s mudhra (signature) will be Guruguha

– Songs will be strictly in sanskrit (very few in Manipravalam – other language words allowed)

– The raga name will feature in the song (called Raga Mudhra)

– most of the songs will have a madhyama kalam (fast-paced lyrics) in the charanam / anupallavi and charanam (the 2nd or the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs)

MD was born in Thiruvarur, the same place that bore Thyagaraja and Syama Sashtri. I guess some magic about the place gave us such masters of classical music! And his first song was Sri Nathadhi Guruguho on Lord Muruga of Tiruthani in the raga mayamalava gowla. The song had the entire 8 lines of charanam starting with the same syllable sounding very rhyming. From then on there seemed to be no stopping him. He has some 500 plus songs to his credit.

One specialty of MD is he has taken up a particular God / Goddess in a particular temple and written songs on them, the temple, its history, geography, mythology, culture… Most of the details you need to know about the God can be known from the corresponding MD krithi (composition).

If that was not enough, he has written series of songs on Navagraha (heavenly bodies), Kamalamba Nava Varnams (9 +2 songs on the same Goddess, apt to sing on Navarathri days), Vibhakthi kritis on various deities. From the looks of it, I think almost all his compositions can be categorized and bunched up into a series. Vibhakthi can be roughly equated to prepositions in english (vetrumai in tamizh) – viz., of the God, for the God, by the God, and so on.

Ahiri Nava Varnam
Ahiri Nava Varnam – on the praharam at Thiruvarur

Some amazing MD compositions I love:

Sree Vishwanatham Bhajeham – 14 ragas in one song aka Chaturdasa Ragamalika

Sree Subrammanyaya Namasthe – The charanam (para 3) in double speed and madhyama kalam four times faster (the song that starts as though endless will suddenly end in a jiffy!)

Sree Gananatham Bhajare – cute little prayer song

Sree Kamalamba Param Nahire – typical complex 10 beat Nava Varnam that holds all that the ragam Bhairavi has to offer

Meenakshi Memudham Dehi – his last composition in Gamakakriya, and the song holds Gamakas (phrases) suiting the name of the raga

He had a sudra disciple called Thambiyappan – should have been a rebel even in those days. He had been so devout to meditation, but his kin thought the reason to be his first wife being dark-skinned, and made him marry a second time :/ And even after that, he was meditation-bound! It is said that he has cured diseases by his compositions – music therapist of old days.

His last composition was Meenakshi Memudham Dehi. He sang it in Madurai, came back to Ettayapuram and taught it to his disciples. The next day, there was a rougish elephant that went beresek and created havoc in the city. As MD predicted, later it silently went to the mortuary and lay in a spot. The next day (on Diwali), as MD’s disciples were singing the same song, he passed away. It is said that he was buried in the spot that was reserved by the elephant.

Also, there seems to be this list of 72 melakartha ragas that are not the sampoorna (SRGMPDNS-SNDPMGRS), but categorized based on no specific set of rules. Some ragas had skipped, repeated, discordant notes. This methodology is supposed to have been used by the MD school of music.

His family is extinct in the male-line now. And though I might have a family name ending in Dikshitar, and sometimes I wish I was one of his descendants! 😛 😉

I love the complexity he gives to a song; the detailing; the patterns; the fact that the song is so structured that it will take you through the right beats even if you miss the thalam 😛 love ya MD ❤ 🙂

Reference: Wiki and Muthuswamy Dikshitar Keerthanaigal by Sundaram Iyer.

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

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