|About Smt. Padma Veeraraghavan|
Srimathy Padmasani (Padma) Veeraraghavan was born in the dhivya dEsam of Oppiliappan Koil on DheepAvaLi day few decades ago. Her parents were a pious couple, who were dedicated to performing Kaimkaryam to Sri BhUmi Devi SamEtha Sri Oppilia appan - the presiding diety, meaning “a god without equal”. Her father, VaikuntavAsi Poundarikapuram Bruhaspathi, Sri VaradAcchAr Swami, whose centenary of birth was celebrated in 2005, was the key organizer of the twelve day long annual ThirukalyANa Uthsavam Musical Festival for Lord Oppiliappan and BhUmi Devi. This festival takes place every year in the Month of October-November (Tamil Month of Iyppasi).
Many leading Carnatic Musicians from all corners of Tamil Naadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka come to Oppiliappan Koil to offer their musical kaimkaryam to the Divine Couple, the Dhivya Dampathis and receive Their anugraham for success in their chosen careers. It is very important for the musicians to sing, even if just for half an hour, before the Dhivya Dampathis during the annual KalyANa Uthsavam. For twelve days, this small village of Oppiliappan Koil is flooded with the blissful waves of divine music emanating from great artists.
During Sri VaradAcchAr Swami's four decades of service, leading vocal musicians of his time like Ariyakkudi RaamAnuja IyengAr, G.N.Balasubramanium, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Madhurai Mani Iyer, instrumental music ians like flutist T.R. Mahaalingam, violinist Lalgudi JayarAman, Naadhasvaram T.N.Raajarahtnam PiLLai, VeeNai artists, percussion masters like Palaghat Mani Iyer, Pazhani Subbudu, ghatam vidhvAns, konnakkOl Pakkiriya PiLlai offered their musical kaimkaryam to the Dhivya Dampathis of Oppiliappan Koil. Many of the visiting musicians became family friends and enjoyed our parents' hospitality and ate the delicacies, lovingly prepared by our mother, Srimathy Alamelu AmmaaL.
GROWTH OF MUSICAL TALENT
In this environment of divine music, the child Padma grew up and absorbed all aspects of music intensively. She learned music formally from a VidhwAn from Saint ThyagarAjA's paramparai, who came to our house to teach her. Kumari Padma had a beautiful voice and absorbed every thing that she learned from her teachers and excelled. Her marriage was arranged at age sixteen as was the custom in those days after which she moved to Madras, where her husband worked with The Hindu newspaper. Smt. Padma busied herself raising three children and running the household but she somehow managed to carve out time to keep up with the cultivation of Carnatic Music and her keen musical interest. As the wife in a strict Vaishnavite family, she did not have the luxury of leaving her home to devote extended periods of time to learn from well known musicians. But the genius in her could not be contained and her talents grew as she began to set various sthOthrams of AzhwArs and AchAryAs to beautiful music. She taught GodhA Sthuthi slOkams of Swamy Desikan, which she set in 30 beautiful raagams, to over 500 ladies, who came to her home to learn from her. Smt Padma used the samarpaNams offered by her disciples for different kaimkaryams at Nanganallur, Sri Villiputthur, Thiruvaheendhrapuram and Oppilappan Koil.
A few years passed by. Her children had grown up. Encouraged by her brother Sri. V SaThakOpan, Smt. Padma enrolled in the Music College, headed at that time, by Sangeetha Kalaanidhi Musiri Subramanya Iyer and Professor Sambhamurthy. She excelled in pedagogy and theory of carnatic music. She became equally gifted thus in sangeetham and saahithyam. Her sruthi suddham was one of her distinguishing features. Sangeetha Kalaanidhis Professors T.M.Thyagarajan and Sri K.V.Narayanaswamy taught her the finer points about the music of the divine krithis of Sangeetha Thrimurthys and Raagam-Taanam-Pallavi format. She taught music at Padma Seshadri school for several years and at the same time taught music at home to her Godha Goshti. She had a demanding schedule in her music life.
A DEDICATED TEACHER
In addition to her highly regarded vocal skills, she also mastered the playing of VeeNai and taught the art of playing that auspicious instrument to her students. Padma was research oriented and studied the construction of ancient stringed instruments and mastered the playing of several instruments.
Her shisya Gayatri Vemkataraghavan says “I was very fortunate to spend most of my post school hours almost every day with Padma Mami. You can say that I grew up in her house and was very lucky to see a lady of her caliber juggle school (She was a teacher in PSBB schools, Mrs. YGParthasarathy said that she needed 10 teachers to handle all the work that Padma mami did after she quit the job!) her home and her music. She was such a willing learner and one had to see how she submitted herself before her gurus to believe it. As a composer of music, she was unbelievable, we students would just rattle out ragas and she would set any set of slokam to music. She was a prolific composer. She was our teacher friend and mother alternating.”
A VERSATILE COMPOSER - COMPOSED IN ALL 72 MELA RAAGAS
She composed more than 200 exquisite krithis in popular and difficult to handle (apoorva) raagams. She composed Varnams and ThillaanAs for Bharatha Naatyam dancers. She was an all rounder in the Carnatic Music field.
One of her major musical accomplishments is the composition/creation of the 72 Krithis and that too on one diety - Lord Oppilappan in the 72 MeLakarthA Raagms. A meLakarthA raagam has the full set of seven swarams (Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa). These notes have to be in the same order both in the aarOhaNam and avarOhaNam. For more details of the complexity see the section on the 72 Mela Kartha Raga Kruthi.
To be able to comprehend these unique SwarasthAnams for the 72 MeLakathA Raagams and feel confident to compose Krithis in these 72 MeLa Raagams is an extraordinary display of control and command of the divine Saasthram of Music.Very few composers have distinguished themselves by composing krithis in the 72 Mela Raagams. Padma joined these rare and short list of composers, MahA VaidhyanAtha Iyer, Koteeswara Iyer and Sri Balamurali Krishna, who have composed in every one of the 72 Mela Raagams. Her compositions were even more unique because they were all composed in praise of one deity bhUmi Devi samEtha Oppila-appan This is no ordinary feat since one has to be an authority on the Raaga LakshaNams before daring to enter this rarified field. To blend the Bhaava Thrayams (Sangeetha, Saahithya and Bhakthi Bhaavams) into these rare 72 MeLa Raaga Krithis is a pinnacle of musical achievement. These extraordinarily gifted Musicians and composers with the rare skills are indeed blessed by the Dhivya Dampathis. Padma's krithis in the MelakarthA Raagams, Neethimathi and VaguLAbharaNam are gems that dazzle the listener. Truly, VidhvAmsini Padma Veeraraghavan is a human being, who has received in abundance, the paripoorNa anugraham of Sri BhUmi Devi SamEtha Sri Oppiliappan. The compositions were brought out in a publication called Oppiliappan Malargal released on November 30, 2009 at the Madras Music Academy Hall before a distinguished assembly of peers, sishyAs/sihyais and members of her dear family.
SMT PADMA'S OVERSEAS VISITS
Smt. Padma was invited to USA to demonstrate the playing of these rare stringed instruments before expert audiences in the East Coast of USA. Padma who has never traveled until then beyond 150 miles of her home arrived in USA and delighted musical audiences there. She had a triumphant visit to USA which was followed later with visits to Singapore, New Zealand and many parts of India, where she taught a lot of krithis that she has composed on Sri BhUmi Devi SamEtha Sri Oppiliappan.
During her New Zealand visit she choreographed and taught children and parents to perform Swami Thyagaraja's Nauka Charitram, singing all the songs for the program and raised funds for the Hindu temple in Wellington. "She kindled a passion for Carnatic music in the hearts of talented youngsters, some of whom travelled all the way to Chennai to learn from her, " says Shri Balajee Narasimhan.
In Singapore, the students called her a "walking University" She would ask them to chose a verse in the Prabhandham and chose a ragam in which they wanted to hear it and she would improvise on the spot much to their astonishment.
In addition to her musical initiatives, Padma has been twice to Badrikasramam in the North, Dhwarakaa in the West, MalayAla dhivya dEsams in the South and most of the Sri VaishNava temples in the south celebrated by AzhwArs and AchAryAs. She was always engaged in bhagavat - bhAgavata kainkaryams and was a great source of inspiration for all who worked with her. The most recent kaimkaryam was the one to create a RathnAngi for Sri HemAbhjavalli SamEtha Sri DevanAtha PerumAL of Thiruvaheendhrapuram. Vaikuntavaasi Sri Srinivasan ably assisted Smt. Padma with the logistics of dhivya desa kaimakaryams and is seen in the Kiamkaryam's page with the RaaNi sevai AbharaNam for Srivilliputthur ANDAL.
"We can appreciate the life time contributions of Padma Veeraraghavan against the fundamental frame of reference of AshtAksharam, the mantram dear to SrI VaishNavAs elaborated by the AzhwArs in their NaalAyira dhivya Prabhandham / the sacred collect of the Four Thousand.
The first thousand is about the celebration of the meaning of PraNavam. The second thousand is about the meaning of Nama: SaBdham. The third thousand is focused on the meanings of NaarAyaNa SaBdham. The fourth thousand recognized as IyaRppA is about the meanings of 'Aaya' saBdham, the dative case linked to NaarAyaNa naamam.
Padma followed the ancient path travelled by the AzhwArs, whose anuliccheyalkaLs have the four Vedams (Yezuthak-kiLavi) as their pramAnam. Hence, they are revered as “Tamizh MaRai “ and become PramANams in their own right. These ubhaya VedAnthams in Sanskrit and Tamil teach us about the three doctrines of Tattva-Hita-PurushArtham.
Padma had been blessed through the divine anugraham of ThiruviNNagar dhivya dampatis to incorporate the deep meanings of AshtAksharam and her Bhagavath anubhavam upadEsams in her moving kritis. She drew her inspiration from the AzhwAr AruLiccheyalkaLs, and in particular Andal's upadEsams from Her two sacred Prabhandhams of Thiruppavai and NaacchiyAr Thirumozhi. The saahitya Vaakyams are filled with the celebration of the ananta kalyANa guNams of Sriman NarayaNan and house many earnest prayers for MokshAnugraham.
Our Padma led a life filled with Kaimkarayams and shared her divine gifts with one and all and ascended to Srivaikuntham with the sound of SaraNaagati mantram of dhvayam ringing in her ears. She is no more with us as a pancha bhUta vastu but the memory of her kaimakryams and compositions on Sri BhUmi Devi samEta Sri Oppiliapaan will last a very long time and inspire us to travel on the beaten path of SaraNAgathy followed by the AzhwArs and PoorvAchAryAs."
Sri SravaNa VenkatESan ThiruvadigaLE SaraNam, PadmAnujan, SaThakOpa DhAsan