Lec dem on the Carnatic Music Trinity by Smt Vidya Shankar – Part 1

Veteran vainika Vid Vidya Shankar gave a very informative lec dem on the Carnatic Music Trinity under the auspices of Naada Inbam at Raga Sudha Hall, Mylapore, Chennai on 14th Jan 2008. She was ably assisted by her disciples who played the veena and sang the songs and by Vid B. Sivaraman who played the mrudangam.

The following songs were played/sung fully:

1. shrInAthAdi guruguhO jayati jayati – mAyAmALavagauLa – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkSitar

2. namO namO rAghavAya anisham – dEsya tODi – rUpakam – tyAgarAja

3. jananI natajanaparipAlini – sAvEri – Adi – shyAma sAstri

4. ennEramum un nAmam – pUrvikalyANi – misra cApu – shyAma sAstri

5. pAhimAm shrI rAjarAjEshwarI – nATTAi – rUpakam – shyAma sAstri

6. dasharatha nandana – asAvEri – Adi – tyAgarAja

7. dharma samvardhanI – madhyamAvati – rUpakam – muthuswAmi dIkshitar

Select verses from many other songs were played while illustrating the different points made.

Here are some excerpts from the lec dem based on the notes I took.


  • The creations of the trinity are one of the main factors behind the popularity of Carnatic music among the masses
  • The first compositions of all the three composers – Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Shyama Sastri, were in Sanskrit: namO namO rAghavAya anisham (dEsya tODi) by Thyagaraja, shrInAthAdi guruguhO jayati jayati (mAyAmALavagauLa) by Dikshitar and jananI natajanaparipAlini (sAvEri) by Shyama Sastri
  • Carnatic music can be said to be comprised of three fundamental elements: bhAvam, rAgam and layam. Each one among the trinity has chosen one of these three as the central force to evolve a distinct style while composing. For Sri Thyagaraja, it was bhAvam that was central. For Sri Dikshitar, it was rAgam, while for Sri Shyama Sastri, it was layam
  • Instrumentalists must learn the sAhityam of the compositions they play so as to internalize the spirit of the compositions

Sri Shyama Sastri:

  • Sri Shyama Sastri belonged to the vamsha paramparai of Sri Adi Sankara. Sri Adi Sankara has said that there is no sorrow, sin or fear for those who chant the word “Bhavani” thrice. I am not sure whether it was a coincidence or whether Shyama Sastri knew about this, for he included the words “bhavAni bhavAni bhavAni” in his very first composition
  • His first composition doesn’t have his mudrA “shyAma kriSNa”, which can be seen in his later compositions
  • The usual angams of a kriti are pallavi, anupallavi and caraNam. Sri Shyama Sastri is celebrated for his use of the swara-sAhitya upAngam where a swara passage comes in the anupallavi and its corresponding sAhitya passage comes in the caraNam. The tODi kriti nine namminAnu has beautiful swara-sAhitya prayogas. These however are not usually sung by artists. (It seems Vid K.V. Narayanaswamy learnt the swara-sAhitya passages for this song from Vid Vidya Shankar and used to sing them when he sang this kriti) Sri Shyama Sastri’s son Sri Subbaraya Sastri gave more form to the swara-sAhitya passages. A great example of this is his kriti nannu brOcutaku
  • Swarajati compositions were brought to a high pedestal by Sri Shyama Sastri. The bhairavi swarajati, for example, is an immortal one
  • Weaving magic through layam was his forte. He used syllables linked to rhythmic patterns of 3, 5, 7 and 9 with great ease. Examples: 5 – anudinamu, padayugamu in kAmAkSi (bhairavi); 9 – hrudayamupaTTukoni in mAyammA (nATTakurinji)

Part 2 of this post can be found here

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