Saturday, May 2, 2020

Sarswati Veena in the true sense - COLOSSUS OF VEENA PART- 1

The Veena Yogi, Smt. Kalpagam Swaminathan is 'Akka' to my mother ,Smt.Kamala Aswathama(who was from Hubli and did her gurukulavasam for 2 years in Smt.Kalpagam Swaminathan's house in the years 1956 to 1958). My mother had the honour of accompanying the stalwart in many kutcheris, and got to meet many legends like Sri. Boodalur Krishnamurthy, Sri Tiger Varadachary,Sri. Musiri Subramani Iyer, Sri. T.L.Venkatarama Iyer and others. Earlier as a student of Kalakshetra, she had the great fortune of coming under the direct tutelage of greats like Sri Mysore Vasudevachar, Sri M.D.Ramanathan and Sri.Karikkudi Sambasiva Iyer.
(Incidentally,during Sri.Mysore Vasudevachar's tenure in Kalakshetra, my mother, as a student and hostelite of Kalakshetra had the greatest fortune of washing his "panchapathram" (pooja utensils), sweeping his pooja room and decorating the pooja altar with "kolam" everyday throughout her student career. Since she was the only student who had sound knowledge of Kannada, Sri.Vasudevachar was able to communicate with/through her.
My mother met him for the last time when I was little baby. Carrying me to his house, she sought his blessings while he was in bed. He had blessed me by placing his hand on my head! The very next day the newspapers announced his sad demise!)
My parents' alliance materialised during my mother's gurukulavasam days in Smt. Kalpagam Swaminathan's house. I literally owe my life to Smt.Kalpagam Swaminathan, who is more like a grandmother to me, but I call her "Teacher" like all her other students.
I remember the days when I was a mere child of 6. I would walk from 2nd main road to 7th main road, R.A.Puram to learn from Teacher. I used to love the sight of the "parijatham" flowers lying scattered in her garden, I used to rush to pick them up to tie them carefully in my handkerchief. All the while Teacher used to call out from the house, "Gayathri, SeekkiramVaamma!" Till today I associate the smell of Parijatham with Teacher.( Listening to her veena today, I am not surprised that she reminds me of a divine flower like "parijatham"!)
I had the honour of accompanying Teacher in Stella Maris College as a tiny tot of 7 ( in 1968 or 69). On stage she encouraged me like a loving grandmother and let me play the veena in my own childish way.
After so many years, in the recent Veenotsav09, when Teacher opted to play on my veena after my performance. I was thrilled! I felt that her touch on my veena had sanctified the vedic instrument even further.
As I watched the amazing display of her true nature, which is veena, she seemed like the colossus straddling the Veena arena, formidable and imposing in her knowledge of every aspect of veena playing and musicanship. Years of veena-sadhana without aiming for anything other than the divine pleasure of veena-playing have elevated her to the status of a nada yogi. Veena is an extension of herself and vice versa. Any distinction between herself and the veena has been dissolved through her soulful penance on veena, today the veena and Teacher have become one and the same!
Yesterday's "Samvada" held by Sampradaya had Teacher sharing her experiences and ancedotes with Smt.Suguna Varadacari. Her spontaneous expressions, disarming in their innocence were as forthright and assertive as her veena-playing. With Teacher seated in front of the banner that read "Sampradaya", she figuratively seemed to convey that she was many steps ahead of "sampradayam", reaching out to the Absolute through her veena. This veenayogi lives and breathes veena most naturally, and veena is simply her way of life. Natural dedication and devotion towards veena and traditional veena technique have laid the pathway towards contacting the divinity within herself. Divine radiance gushes forth in the form of heavenly resonance through every note that she produces on the veena. The heaviness (azhuththam) of every note produced by her fingers is laden with heavenly nectar! She is a yogi living in our midst today!
What are the striking aspects of her yogic abilities?

(Photograph-Veenotsav09, organised by Brahma Gana Sabha and Mudhra on 10/10/2009.Teacher playing on my veena, I am sitting behind her.)


Jayashree said...

Hello Gayathriji,

I have been reading your blog for quite some time. It gives me so much pleasure to learn about everything that you share through the blog.

I am a student of your mother, Smt. Kamala Aswathama. I admire her and respect her for everything she has done to me. After reading about "nada yogi", it brings back my memories of my association with my teacher, Kamala. I have heard her talking about her gurus and her gurukulam with Smt. Kalpagam Swaminathan. I even had an opportunity to learm from Smt. Kalpagam Swaminathan for a brief while. I feel proud to be part of that lineage. You are all my inspiration and role model in the art of veena playing.

I feel very happy for being able to communicate with you after a long time. I am not sure if you remember me, I am Jayashree and my namaskarams to you and amma. I am in Northern California teaching vocal and veena.

Best regards,

Jayashree Dasarathy

alchemister said...

Dear gayathri madam,

I was about to request to write about ur gurus: Smt kamala ashwathama, TM thyagarajan and others. I knew that your mother learnt from Smt. kalpakkam swaminathan. Its indeed a bliss to listen to her play and above all, its ones purva janma punya to learn directly from her. Keep it going.

vnprv said...

Thanks madam for sharing your experiences with a living Yogi.

malathi said...

dear mam,
that was a fine article mam... really your mother is such a kind and astonishing personallity, when I incidently happened to talk with her over yr phone when you were out of India, childishly I asked her to sing and teach me a song, she immediatly sang Alaipayuthe for me... without even a small hesitation..such a humble and pleasing mom and guru you had...still her voice echo in my ears when i think of her
with love

Veenaagayathri said...

Dear Mrs. Jayashree, Very nice to hear from you and that you are teaching veena/vocal. I shall tell my mother too, she will be very happy.Yes I remember you very well.
Thank you for your kind appreciation of my articles. Wishing you all the best,

Veenaagayathri said...

Dear Sri.Kannan, I will be posting on my gurus Sri T.M.T and my parents shortly.It is indeed a great fortune to learn from them! Thank you for your kind appreciation,

Veenaagayathri said...

Dear Sri.vnprv, Thank you very much! Regards,Gayathri

Veenaagayathri said...

Dear Mrs. Mala, Thank you for your kind compliments about my article. I will convey to my mother what you have said.Love,Gayathri

aarvalan said...


For some strange reason, I am not a blog-reader.You have changed that.

You may have read, and I am grateful to you for that, many of reviews. May your tribe increase!

That apart, I have written an interesting piece here. Please read through and your valued comments will be welcome.

musically yours,
(98410 46674)


Gandhi’s Experiments with the Auto @ Chennai

Mahathma Gandhi had made up his mind. He wanted an authentic auto ride in Chennai to gain first person experience and then suggest some dharmic solutions. Remember, he went round India before drawing the destiny of this nation. He had to “travel in the sly”, lest he should be identified - or much worse - dubbed a madcap, that is in case he revisited his Bharath like a “half-naked fakir”. A simple make-up transformed him and he decided to sport cotton pants (found the cost appalling, nevertheless). A khadi shirt in immaculate white completed his attire. (even white, is adulterated with blue is it?) With all this he stopped an empty auto. Courtesy was at its worst as this busybody of a driver chose to respond from the centre of the road and the words were “Enge?” (Where to?) and to this, our revisitor said “Mylapore”, “Mylaporela Enge” (Where in Mylapore?) he questioned further and Gandhi uttered “Kulam”. The automan quoted an arbitrary hundred and Gandhi adjusted his spectacles - really a shock-absorbing act. What about the meter? he quipped which fetched the retort “Ishtam irunda eru, sir ?” (Get in only if you wish to?) And Gandhi let him go. Sarve Janao Sukhino Bhavanthu! What next?

There must have been another guy watching all this. He came alarmingly close to Gandhi and smiled. “Utkarungo Polam” (Let us go!). But what portion of my purse will I have to empty? “Neengale kudungo” (you decide what to give). Oh! I need not go back to heaven. Then the driving. What on earth is this? Free-wheeling? No norms. Signals bypassed when still some 20 seconds remain. Well! I had conceived of non-violence but here after so many years it is only the violent mind that is preponderent. And quickly “Kulam” was cited and reached. Now the fare. This auto fellow says “Ishtappattadhu kudungo?” (Anything) and Gandhi stretched out a hundred rupee note and got back thirty. Let us talk, he thought. Why the meters do not run? Why auto drivers are unruly? Why is there a wilful overloading bordering on the precarious? Why police look but do not see? And for all this this autodriver laughed heartily. First you visit other states. How are the bus services there? (i.e. counter-question number one). How dependent are they on autos for commuting? (counter-question number two and more of such….) How effective are the police over there? How morally satisfying is the licensing procedure? Are there pitfalls in the FC (renewal) harangue? Now Now….

For Gandhi this was more than a handful and his inner voice took over. Now the neighbouring states have to be visted. And the leave he had taken from the other world could not be extended. If he violated the leave rules it would become a case of “My Experiments with Untruth”. So I’ll go back, visit the other states and then formulate something. Any interim report, sir? Oh! Yes! What on earth would he have written - The matter, dear blokes, is now pending in the court of truth and hence - subjudice.

Veenaagayathri said...

Dear Sri.Sivakumar,
I am very happy to see your comment and thank you for your kind compliments! Coming from a writer/critic, it is indeed a true compliment!I have really enjoyed the Gandhi-auto driver interactions. I liked the satire and facts conveyed therein.
I would love to try my hand at satire (I am a huge fan of J.D.Salinger , esp. his "Catcher In The Rye"), but am wary of ruffling a few feathers.
Maybe in the near future I would be posting something satirical.

Shabari said...

Hi Dear VG,
It's been more than a week since you have posted something new:)
Hope to hear from you soon...

ShyamalaSajnani said...

I really loved the article on Kalpagam Swaminathan. Specially the equation with parijatam. I could not agree more. The article touched me very deeply, the thoughts shared and the memories therein

Unknown said...

Namaste Gayathriji,

Today after the class I shared about this post with Kalpagam Swaminathan Teacher(Especially the parijatham flower and teacher) ...She said, "Ohh Oh Apadiya Seri Seri!" with a smile of a child...

Few weeks ago, When I requested her to teach me, after many attempts this time she was kind enough to accept me, as she was hesitant previously due to her age and doctors advice. she would say, "I have no problem to teach you, infact I like to teach you, But If I start for you who will finish?, Already Im 89." I requested her, "Im very much blessed if I get the intiation from you!..Let the start be from you and the End would be where ever it has to be!!!"

Before that she asked me to play what ever i know(I had some intial trainigs from many teachers and learned till varnam) I played a Swarajathi and a Varnam(Sri RagaVarnam)

she was in the deep thinking for couple of minutes(I was really tensed while she was quietly thinking, what she is gonna say(?))...

After the deep thinking she looked at me(I thought she wud say, she wud let me know over phone) and surprised and shocked me asking,

Mani enna aatchu?...I said "around 4.30PM",she said "seri raagu kalam poyatchu illaiya? seri appa aarabitchudalam".... She was about to take the mat, I got the mat from her and spreaded on the floor....and kept the two veenas,

She Said, "Some basic fingerings need to be changed, parava illaya?...I told her "I dropped my past learnings at this moment teacher, now Im empty now you may fill up with your techniques"...She explained how her style of teaching, prayogas and Need of Spurithams etc....

She asked me to keep my veena, started Sa Pa Sa....Now the class is going on gracefully.... she has been teaching the splitting finger techniques through jandai varisai...

Im astonished about her microscopic attention on the perfection of my learning!

Im Blessed!

I found my Guru!!!

Kirti Nandan

Veenaagayathri said...

Dear Ms.Kirthi Anand,
I am very happy to know about your experiences with the legendary veena vidushi. You are certainly blessed for having a Guru who is an epitome of veena,I wish you all the very best!

Kirti Nandan said...

Thanks a lot Gayathri ji...
Your reply with wishes posted on 6th Sep 2010. Which falls on my Birth Day :)

Thanks much
Kirti Nandan

Swahilya Shambhavi said...

Gayathriji, this is a beautiful post on my Veena teacher! I am Swahilya Shambhavi who met you for quite some time at your house for about an hour and a half when I was working in a leading newspaper. Now I am columnist writing exclusively on yoga and meditation. I have a web magazine too called You are welcome to take a look and there is ample space to write on Music and Spirituality. Especially, the column Nada Brahman features a musical instrument a month. Hope to meet you again sometime! Namaste.

Veenaagayathri said...

Dear Ms.Swahilya Shambhavi,
I am happy to know that you liked the article on your Guru. Ofcourse I remember you fondly!
I shall certainly visit the link you have given me. Nice to know of your activities and looking forward to meeting you in future.

Sriram V said...

While searching for "Gandhiji" I somehow landed here on the comments of this blogpost. A strange intrusion of Gandhiji's experiments into a musical discourse.. But you write that you enjoyed the intrusion, so then you may perhaps like this recent book of mine:
Mahatma Yoga
Understanding the Spirituality behind Gandhiji's Politics

Veenaagayathri said...

Dear Sri.V.Sriram, Thank you for the link, As an avid reader of your works I would love to read your latest book!


RADHASHTAMI - 23rd September, 2023