Carnatic Music Composers – Muthuswami Dikshitar… Biography and Miraculous impact of his composition

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Muthuswami Dikshitar


The youngest of the Carnatic Musical Trinity was born in 1776, brought up with 2 brothers and a sister with great care and acquiring proficiency in both carnatic music and Sanskrit. His family moved to Manali, where he became a disciple of Cidambaranaata Yogi. He also went to Varanasi. For 5 years he stayed there and learned Hindustani music. After his guru died, he returned to the south and came to the holy shrine of Tiruttani.

The Legend:

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Episodes from Shri Dikshitar’s life-Shri S. Rajam

One day the Lord appeared to him and asked him to open his mouth. The Lord then placed a piece of sugar candy in his mouth and disappeared. After this, Dikshitar began composing beautiful Kritis. The first piece he sang was “Shreenatadi guruguho jayati jayati.” Then he went to Kaanceepuram and sang songs in praise of Ekaambaratanaata and Kaamaakshi.

He visited temples to compose songs. Then he returned to Tiruvaaroor, where he gathered disciples and taught them his compositions. His brothers learnt his compositions and went to Madurai to teach the songs.

Once, because of poverty, Dikshitar did not have the means to make his offerings to the deity. His disciple, the famous dancer Kamalam, offered to pledge her jewels and raise the money. He refused and composed “TyaagaraajambhajarE,” trusting in God. Soon 2 cartloads of food and articles reached his house as a gift from the manager of the choultry.

Popular anecdote about raga Amruthavarshini:

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Anandamruthavarshini by shri S Rajam


It is said that while visiting Ettayapuram, a small village in Tamil Nadu, the great composer Muthuswamy Dikshitar was anguished to see the drought-hit arid land and people facing severe water shortage. Moved by their plight, Dikshitar looked up to the sky and burst forth in praise of the goddess in this raga. He beseeched Devi to bring rain and alleviate the plight of the drought-hit people. He addressed the Devi as ‘Anandamritakarshini, Amritavarshini’. When he sang ‘Salilam Varshaya Varshaya’, meaning ‘let the rain pour’, it is said the sky opened up. There was such a torrential rain that the place got flooded. He had then to plead ‘Sthambhaya Sthambhaya’, meaning ‘stop, stop’. This incident has given rise to the practice of musicians gathering together to sing this composition when there rains fail.

Story related to Navagraha Kritis:

navagraham by S.Rajam

Navagrahas by S. Rajam

It is said that Tambiappan, a disciple of Muttuswāmi Dīkshitar was suffering from a stomach ailment and for long no medicines were able to cure him.Dīkshitar inspecting his horoscope inferred that the planet Jupiter was in an unfavorable position and his ailment could be cured only by propitiating the planet god Bṛhaspati. As laymen would find these rituals complex he created the composition Bṛhaspatē in the Rāga Aṭhānā propitiating the planet, and asked his disciple to sing it for a week. As ordained, his ailment was cured. This incident provided the impetus for Dīkshitar to compose kritis on all the Navagrahās.

 Prolific composer:

Muthuswami Dikshitar composed his first kriti after having a vision of Lord Subramanya. Drawing inspiration from Oothukadu VenkataKavi, he also composed the Navavarana  kritis in praise of Devi, one for each of the nine days of the Navaratri festival. He also composed small kritis with SamaashTicaraNams. 461 songs in 191 raagams are available today. He used characteristic phrases of raagam.

Dikshitar was fond of composing groups of songs on the same unifying theme. Some of his popular Dikshitar’s Group Kritis include

Kamalamba Navavarana Kritis

Nilotpalamba Kritis

Navagraha Kritis

Pancha Bhootha Kshetra Kritis

Tiruvarur Pancha Linga Kritis

Abhayamba Vibhakti Kritis

Nottuswaras – European Airs

The nottuswara sahityas are a body of compositions based on western original melodies and Sanskrit text. The melodies that feature in this genre, which are largely of Irish, Scottish origin, are entirely Western in terms of melodic content and approach. Some English songs are based on the nottuswara tunes.

Languages used

Mostly Sanskrit and a few in Telugu. He has also composed Manipravalakritis, which is a mixture of two or more languages.

Signature or Mudra:

His signature or mudra is Guruguha, which is another name for Lord Subramanya.

Being a widely travelled man, he composed several songs in many Hindustani ragas. His songs are normally slow in tempo and bring out the depth and beauty of the raga using ornamentation (gamakas). He also used what is known as Madhyamakala (medium tempo) Sahitya very effectively in his compositions.

He was a much-travelled man and this is reflected in his compositions. Most of them contain descriptions about famous temples and their chief deities. There are also several others based on Vedas, Upanishads, Tantra, etc.

The year was 1834. In the month of Aswija, on the Chaturdashi preceding Deepavali,, Dikshitar felt his end was nearing. After yogic practices, he performed Navavarna pooja to the Devi (Godess) and sang  Ehi Annapoorne. After the pooja Dikshithar moved on to the hall. He told his disciples to sing kritis on Devi. They began singing Meenakshi me mudam dehi in raga Gamakakriya. Even as they were singing the sahitya of the anupallavi Meena lochani Pasha mochani, he cast off his mortal coils.

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4 Responses to Carnatic Music Composers – Muthuswami Dikshitar… Biography and Miraculous impact of his composition

  1. anotherclosethippie says:

    What interesting stories! Thanks for sharing, Shruthi 🙂 I particularly enjoyed the story about “Anandamruthakarshini”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your welcome…Glad you liked it 😄


  3. Shalini says:

    Very good effort…..


  4. Pingback: Carnatic Music Composers – The Master of Rhythm | Learn Carnatic Music

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