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Mysore Sadaashiva Rao

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In the musical lineage of Tyagaraja, this vocalist was born at Girampet near Chittoor in North Arcot District of Madras State to Ganesha Rao who belonged to the community of the Smartha Deshasthas of Maharashtra, and was a descendant of Jamadagni gotra and a follower of the Ashvalayana Sura preserving the Rigveda branch of Vedic lore. His wife was Krishna Bai (Krishta Bai). They had 2 sons, the eldest Sadashiva Rao, his brother Malhari Rao, and a daughter. As a youth Sadashiva Rao worked as a clerk in the office of the Collector of Chittoor. He was married at an unknown age to Shrimathi Sundara Bai, Aunt of Tirumala Rao Saheb, Jahagirdar of Arani. When Sri Thyagaraja travelled via Kanchi and arrived at Walajapet to stay there as the guest of his pupil Venkataramana Bhagavatar, Sadashiva Rao was also there. In the “Thyagabrahmopanishat”, a work of Ramaswami Bhagavathar, son of Krishnaswami Bhagavathar (eldest son of Venkataramana Bhagavathar,) it is recorded as follows: “On the occasion of the ceremonial entry of Sri Thyagaraja into the town of Walajapet, Sadashiva Rao the great musician of the Mysore Palace composed the song ‘Tyagaraja Swami Vedalina’ in Todi specially for the occasion, sang it in the immediate presence of the great saint and earned his benediction”. Sadashiva Rao was one of the pupils of Venkataramana Bhagavathar. It is possible to surmise that Sadashiva Rao, by the time he met the Saint Sri Thyagaraja, was a musician in the Mysore Palace. It is said that he was about thirty when he came to settle in Mysore. Some say he was brought to Mysore by the two Sowcar brothers Kopparam Chinna Munisami Chetti and Pedda Munisami Chetti, when Sri Krishnaraja Wadayar III ruled Mysore and was far famed for his liberality. The Kopparam brothers who enjoyed high favours at the hands of the rulers were greatly charmed with the music of Sadashiva Rao. They gave the musician rent-free quarters and what is more, they introduced him to the illustrious ruler. Partial to merit, the ruler admired the musician’s abilities and appointed him as court musician. Sadashiva Rao settled in Mysore and came to be known as Mysore Sadashiva Rao.

Once Sadashiva Rao started teaching his composition in Kamboji Raga “Samrajya Dayakesha” to his pupils Veena Sheshanna and Veena Subbanna. When he came to the words “Sri Kanchipuradhisha Jagadisha” he began to extemporise and was fully absorbed in his theme. Just at that time a serpent came to him, curled itself round his arm, got up on his shoulder and opened its hood. The two pupils ran for life and stood watching at a safe distance. After a time the serpent crawled away and disappeared. The two pupils returned to their master and narrated this extraordinary occurrence to him who congratulated them on the darshan they had of Lord Ekamaresha Himself. Veena Subbanna often narrated this exciting story.

Ganavisharada Bidaram Krishnappa related that he once asked an old lady who had heard Sadashiva Rao’s music how he used to sing. The old lady replied “Lord! how could I describe the grandeur of it? When Rao started singing his song in Mohana raga ‘Pedda devundani ninu nammitira’ all the lights somehow quivered. Listeners would no more be conscious of their physical existence.”

Sadashiva Rao is credited with beginning Ramotsava celebrations in Mysore. The portrait of Seeta and Rama which he worshipped was drawn on glass and it is said to have been broken. The wooden manDapam in which it was is still in the temple of Sri Kanyaka Parameswari in Doddapet (Asoka Road), Mysore. The storeyed house situated in the north-east corner at the crossing of Asoka Road and the Rave street belonged at that time to Munisamy Setty brothers. On the top floor of this building, Sadashiva Rao carried on his bhajana. When a musician from the south came and sang here, Rao asked him to sing Todi Raga. The haughty musician pleaded that he was not a master over that raga for he had pledged it with a certain jamindar. Rao did not reply, but another day he invited the musician and sang toDi. It is said that Sree Krishnaraja Wadayar III, the king and lover of art, hid himself in the crowd and enjoyed the music. Somehow his identity was revealed, but drawn by the music he returned, without his disguise. The Munisamy Setty brothers received the king kindly, spreading rupee coins on the carpet and putting down a big lace cushion for the king to sit while Rao sang, from 10 at night to dawn. The musician from the South surrendered to Rao’s mastery of the raga and became his pupil.

Sadashiva Rao went on pilgrimages to many places around South India and composed songs for the deities he visited. Circa1865 he attended a procession taking Lord Kodanda Ramaswamy to the building in Walajapet in which Venkataramana Bhagavathar held his bhajan, because it had been renovated. Rao sang in kaambhOji “seetaa lakshmaNa samEta shri kOdanDa raama swaami nannu rakshimpavEmi” to describe the grand procession. He also invoked Lord Parthasarathi of Triplicane (Madras) in “shri pArthasArathi” in Bhairavi, Lord Ekamranatha of Kanchi in “sAmrAjya dAyakEsha”, and Kamakshi Devi in the songs “O! RAjarAjEshwari,” “kanugOni dhanyuDanaithini” and “kAmakOTi PIThasthithE.” In Srirangam the procession of Lord Sri Paravasudeva inspired him to sing the Krithi “paramadbhutamainina nIsEva”. He also composed “shri subrahmanya” in honour of Sri Velayudhaswami of Palani and “shri lakshmiramaNa” in honour of the deity at Bhavani.

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