“From Mridangam Maestros to Talented Novices”

Our culture embowers a glorious legacy of the percussion art. The percussive arts have seen a remarkable growth over the years and along with it the arrival of some great Mridangam players. It gave a totally new dimension to the way Mridangam is played and perceived.

Metamorphosis-of-Mridangam

Though there were many renowned Mridangists at that time, the main Artiste used to eclipse the accompanists, but it was P.D. Pillai, who with his captivating showmanship raised the status of percussionists to the new heights. Then dawned the golden era of Percussion Artists when the one and only Palghat Mani Iyer, appeared on the scene.

Palghat Mani Iyer: One of the oldest Mridangists was born in 1912 to Sri T. Sesha Bhagavatar, a well known musician. When he was barely nine years of age, Iyer took his first lessons in Mridangam. As a performer he made his debut in The Music Academy when he was only 14 years. He was an artiste of unmatched talent in the world of Carnatic Music; this can be observed through the scale of his instrumental excellence and his genius of playing with dexterity to the styles of the main performers, giving a totally new dimension to the concerts. He received Sangeetha Kalanidhi for Carnatic Percussion Instrumental in 1956 and was also invited to contribute to the Commonwealth Music Festival 1965 in London.

Ramanatha C.S. Murugabhoopathy: Another oldest and inheritor of the Pudukkotai tradition and a successful contemporary of Pazhani S. Pillai was R.C.S. Murugabhoopathy, popularly known as CSM. Born in 1914, C.S.M. started training at a very young age by his father Chitsabi Servai and brother C.S. Sankara Sivam. The renowned flute maestro T.R. Mahalingam admired him and confessed that C.S.M. was his ‘favorite Mridangist’. Murugabhoopathy was the visiting Principal for some Madurai Music School, and has been a member of the Advisory Committee of Govt. Music College, Madras. He holds several titles to his name including the Kalaimamani, Padmashri and Sangeet Natak Academy Award.

This Hall of Fame would be incomplete without some great ‘Mridangam Vidwans’ of that era to name a few, Tanjore R. Rao, Palghat R. Iyer, V. Naicker, N.M. Pillai, Uma K. Iyer, Saakkotai R. Iyengar, S. Subba Iyer, D.S. Iyengar, V. Gopalachari, A. Ramachandran, T.V. Iyer, T.S.V. Iyer, H.P. Ramaswamy, T. Ranganathan, M. Krishnan Nair, K.S. Manjunath, M.L. Veerabhadraiah, Tanjore Upendran, Palghat Sundaram and K.M. Vaidyanathan with several others.

The Mridangam tradition still carries on with today’s young Mridangam players. From the great masters come second generations maestros like K. Mani, K. Sivaraman, Guruvayur Dorai. Next come the third generation players like T. Bhaktavatsalam, Suresh Ramachandhran, and M. Easwaran, T. Vaidhyanathan, P. Ravindran, V. Govindarajan, N. Lakshmi Ganesh, son and disciple of the stalwart Late Sri Kumbakonam M.N. Iyer, just to name a few. Then comes the current learners, some of whom would be in their teens; Sanjay Vanen (Singapore), Rohan Krishnamurthy (USA), R. Swaminathan, the youngest and one of only a handful of female Mridangam artistes in the world (USA).

  • Sanchit Pahwa