PARASSALA B. PONNAMMAL – A gem of purest ray serene

Padma Shri awardee Parassala B. Ponnammal, the nonagenarian vidushi, has been leading a simple life in her modest house in Valisasala Street in Trivandrum after retirement, teaching music to senior aspirants of music and spending time with her family. Till her satabhishekam, she never dreamt of attaining international recognition and honours nor did she ever clamour for fame or wealth. Having acquired the great treasure of unadulterated music from great gurus like Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar, her only way of life had been to present chaste Carnatic music in her concerts and to pass it on to the next generation of musicians. She had been faithfully following the words of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita and doing her duty without expectation of reward. Ponnammal’s life took a different turn after her 82nd birthday and had accolades and awards showering on her. (See Sruti 282, March 2008 for Interview).

B. Ponnammal was born to Bhagavati Ammal and Mahadeva Iyer on 29 November 1924 in Parassala – a municipal town, 34 kilometres from Trivandrum. She studied music and Sanskrit from a very young age from Paramu Pillai Bhagavatar and Ramaswamy Bhagavatar. It was a turning point of sorts, when the young Ponnammal participated in a music competition held to mark the birthday celebration of Sri Chithira Tirunal, the Maharaja of Travancore. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and a few other senior musicians were the judges and the young girl fearlessly sang Kamalambam bhajare in Kalyani with alapana, niraval and swarams… read more