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Kavikunjara Bharati

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Kavi Kunjara Bharati (1810–1896) was a Tamil poet and a composer of Carnatic music. He was born in a family with long involvement in music and scholarship.

His ancestors belonged to Tirunelveli district. His parents lived in the village of Perungarai in Ramanathapuram district. It is said the whole village was a gift from Maharaja Ragunatha Sethupathi (1675-1670) to their family. His given name was Koteeswara Bharathi after his grand father with the same name. His father was Subramanya Bharathi. His father and grandfather were also well known musicians as well as his maternal grand father, Nandanur Nagabharathi. Father Subramanya Bharathi and grandfather Kotiswara Bharathi were also scholars in Tamil & Sanskrit His parents, who were longing to have a child, prayed weekly at the Murugan temple in Kodumalur (near Perungarai) and the child was considered to be blessed by lord Muruga. In his early boyhood he was taught Sanskrit and Tamil and thanks to his brilliance in poetry, language skills and music, he developed an intellectual relationship with the then famous poet Madurakavi Bharathiar. One could imagine fruitful discussions among the two in the presence of their families and Koteeswara Bharthi, at the early age of 12 started composing Kirtanams and prabandhams in the praise of his favourite gods Muruga, Meenalkshi Sundareswarar and Subrahmanya. When he was 18, he became critically ill and at this stage the legend says that the local deity appeared in his dreams and told him to compose songs in her praise in order to get well. The next day he found that he was feeling much stronger and full of verve. He then fulfilled the deity’s wish and composed a prabhandham in the name of the deity and sang it in the temple. His most famous work, the Opera “Azhahar Kuravanji”, was composed in 1840. It was first sang in a zamindar’s palace in Sivaganga and soon his fame spread all over the region . He was than invited by the king Gouri Vallabha of Sivaganga to present his works in the presence of the intellectual community in his palace which he did with brilliance. He was than given the title “ Kavi Kunjaram” and was appointed as the “Asthana Vidwan” in his court. He was thus respected by the royal court of Sivaganga and he continued to be in the court of the later Sivaganga king “Chatrapathi Bodaguru”. He is known to have composed “ Vengai kummi” to commemorate the hunting prowess of the king after he killed a 16 foot tiger. The king was so pleased that he presented him with a village called “Kottangachi yendal” and was accompanied by royal presents and travelled in a royal palanquin to his village He was later invited by the king of Ramnad to his court and was appointed as Asthana vidwan of Ramnad too. To fulfil the royal desire he created a collection called “ Skaanda purana Kirtanai” on the mystery of lord Subramanya’s avatar. He was about 55 by the time the book was released. He then lived a pious and respected life in his village. There are tales of him creating a “Venba” to provoke rainfall in his village and a prayer he composed to cure his buffalo. At the age of 86 he passed way surrounded by his loved ones and full of prayers and divine thoughts.

The collection of his compositions include, Azhahar Kuravanji in praise of Maliruncholamali azhahar, “Adaikkala malai” and Kayarkani malai” in praise of Meenakshi Amman and Tiruvangaada Malai “ in praise of Lord Venkatachalapahi. His other notable contributions is a collection called “Perinbha kirthanaigal”. A few works are available giving a glimpse of his beautiful compositions. Azhahar Kuravanji, itself was first released with full notations by his illustrious grandson Koteeswara Ayyar in 1916 along with the Skaanda puranam and Perinba kirtahanigal in three volumes. Koteeswara Ayyar is known for his compositions in the 72 Melakarta ragas. There is a small confusion between the two composers as they have almost the same “mudrai”. To avoid this confusion, Kavi kunjara Bharathi used “kavikunjaram” as his mudrai and Koteeswara ayyar’s mudrai was “ kavikunjara dasan”. In fact the first volume of the 36 sudddha madyama melakarthas by Shri Koteeswara ayyar – called “ Kanda ganamudham” is dedicated to his maternal grandfather Kavi Kunjara bharathi. A more recent version of Azahar Kuravanji was released by K. Nagamani, the son of Koteeswara ayyar Here are some of his other famous compostions4 Elloraiyum Polave – Suddhasaveri Ennadi Penne Unakku – Begada Pithanavan – Anandbairavi Singaravelanai – Danyasi Sannidhi Kandu – Mohanam The first song was the favourite of S.G.Kittappa and T.R.Mahalingam who have given disc recordings of it.

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