Walajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar

– T.R. Aravind

Ayyampettai, a small village on the banks of the river Kaveri becomes musically active in the month of Masi, to commemorate the birth of Walajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar, one of the primary disciples of Tyagaraja, known for his devotion to his guru. His jayanti is celebrated every year as a three-day celebration in Ayyampettai coinciding with Moola, his birth star. The jayanti celebrations of Venkataramana Bhagavatar were conducted in mid February in Ayyampettai this year.

Venkataramana Bhagavatar was an amanuensis (adept at taking notes and copying manuscripts) and he recorded the compositions learnt by him. This practice was later followed by his son Krishnaswamy Bhagavatar and this corpus, known as the Walajapet manuscripts are now stored in Sourashtra Sabha, Madurai. Though these original manuscripts are not easily accessible to all, the transcripts preserved in the Government Oriental Manuscript Library (GOML), Chennai, are more accessible.

Walajapet Notations

The repertoire is not limited only to the compositions of Tyagaraja; we find many unpublished geetas, varnas and keertanas of various other composers. Among these works are a few unpublished compositions of Venkataramana Bhagavatar. He was a composer par excellence and in his Anandabhairavi kriti Guruvara mahimala, he declares the divine vision of his guru in his dream; Tyagaraja instructed Bhagavatar to compose keertanas extolling Lord Vishnu (Ninnareyi naa svapnamu… . maadhavu paramugaa konni kritulu jatagurcchumanina). He has used his birthplace as a sthala mudra in his kritis as Ramachandrapura vara sree Venkataramana or ‘Ramachandrapura’ (Ayyampettai was previously known as Ramachandrapuram). Though the majority of his kritis are on Vishnu or his incarnations, there are rare instances where he has composed on Devi (Neeve nannu in Darbar). Venkataramana Bhagavatar spent the later part of his life in Walajapet, near Arcot… read more