Prof. Mysore V. Ramarathnam (1917 – ), is a well know carnatic musician, author, teacher and composer. He has occupied center stage in carnatic music for over 50 years and has composed over 25 compositions in Sanskrit, telugu and kannada under the mudra “RAMA” and has published them with chittaswaram along with rare krithis dear to him. He has published over 15 books dealing with theory and practical aspects of carnatic music. The world of carnatic music has been Prof. Ramarathnam’s 90th birthday and nearly 70 years of contribution to music, in December of 2006-07.
To commemorate the festivities his holiness Sri Mukthidananda Swamji of Rama Krishna Ashram, Mysore, released the book “Reminiscence of a Musician” by Prof. Ramarathnam, in Kannada and English Languages, that contains the unique journey the Professor traveled over seven decades, in the challenging landscape of carnatic music and rare glimpses in to legendary vidwans who nurtured Prof. Ramarathnam along the way as a disciple, vidwan, teacher, author and composer. The book has received rave reviews by vidwans such as Sri Nedhanuri Krishnamurthy. The Kannada book was released in Mysore in December 2006, and the English version was released in Chennai and Cleveland, OH USA in December 2006 and April 2007. Speaking at the book release festival in Cleveland, OH, noted patron and festival organizer Cleveland/Chennai V.V.Sundaram said …
” Prof. Ramarathnam is a contemporary of musical giants like Mysore Vasudevachar, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, so on.. He is also one of the last links to the music of yesteryears. I was very delighted that Prof. Ramarathnam decided to write his reminiscence’s as a musician, as a performer, as well as a friend of the great stalwarts, and the time he spent with them, and what he imbibed from them. I am also glad to release a CD that contains concerts (in mp3) of the professor, which dates back to 1973 and as recently as 1984. The greatness of these concerts is that, as much as the kirthana’s rendered are fairly well known, if you listen to them, you will get a different perspective on how these kirthana’s should be rendered….”
To mark the celebrations, and recognize the contributions of the nonagenarian vidwan, the State of Karnataka conferred the prestigious “Kanaka Purandara Award” for 2007, on Prof. Ramarathnam. The award carries a citation and Rs 100,000.00 cash. Continuing the tradition followed by his guru Sangeetha Rathna Mysore T. Chowdiah, Prof. Ramarathnam has decided to donate the cash award towards the renovation of “Bidaram Krishnappa’s Prasanna Seetha Rama Mandira, in Mysore” built by Ramarathnam’s guru’s guru Shri Bidaram Krishnappa.
The Prasanna Seetha Rama Mandiram is more than a 100 year old building that can seat about 500 people. More than 100 years ago, Legendary Vocalist and vidwan Shri Bidaram Krishnappa built the “Prasanna Seetha Rama Mandiram” with his own funds. The main concert hall which had its inauguration in 1929, has a very intimate atmosphere. The sanctum at the west end of the hall features a large beautiful painting of Sri Rama Pattabhishekham. The dais faces the sanctum at the other end of the hall. The east wall is decorated with the portraits of the great Acharyas, Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya and Madhwacharya. Bidaram Krishnappa’s portrait is in the august presence of these philosophers. Portraits of musicians and vaggeyakaras from the late 19th and 20th century adore the walls facing north and south on either side of the dais.
After Sri Bidaram Krishnappa’s passage in time, the Rama Manidaram came to be known as “Sree Bidraram Krisnnappa Prasanna Seetha Rama Mandiram”. It was nurtured under the leadership of Bidaram Krishnappa’s desciple Sri T. Chowdiah. It was once “THE CITADEL” of carnatic music. Every know legend & senior vidwans & vidhushi’s in carnatic music that you have heard, have given some of the best concerts of their career at “Sree Bidraram Krisnnappa Prasanna Seetha Rama Mandiram” .
Prof. Ramarathnam, the only vocalist disciple of Sangeetha Rathna Mysore T. Chowdiah. He gained significant popularity among the doyens of carnatic music such as Mysore Vasudevachar, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Chembai, Alathoor Srinivasa Iyer & Musuri Subramanya Iyer and the educated audience, occupying the centre stage for more than six decades, accompanied by legends such as his own guru Sri T. Chowdiah, Palghat Mani Iyer, etc.
Prof. Ramarathnam in Concert Sri Palghat Mani Iyer, Violin accompaniment by Sri Mahadevappa, Vocal support by Sri Vageesh (director AIR Trichy), (disciple of Palghat Mani Iyer Sri M.L. Veerabhadriah in background), Karnataka Gana Kala Parishat, 1970’s
As an artist Prof. Ramarathnam achieved the remarkable fete of bringing classical music close to lay listener, at the same time leaving the connoisseurs wanting for more. He was well known for his mastery and repertoire of compositions from pre-trinity to post trinity composers. He also took keen interest in popularizing the compositions of Mysore Sadasiva Rao. Known for building quick rapport with his audience, Ramarathnam’s style of rendering and utterance are stately, slow, reposeful, abounding in languorous tonal elongations and immersed in concentrated expressions. Gifted with superb imagination, Prof. Ramarathnam was known for his ability to perceive the infinite freedom inherent to carnatic music and explore it courageously one phrase at a time, within the confines of the tradition deeply rooted in the carnatic system. In Prof. Ramarathnam’s music one finds a harmonious blending of raga, bhava, tala and charm of a very rich tradition. His style deceptively simple but almost impossible to imitate. The hard work and dedication that is required to achieve the state of “Nadabramhan” of such an artist is best exemplified by the following verse:
“Music that is full of devotion (Bhakthi) and feeling (Bhava ) is the ultimate cherished goal or yoga. With this one can achieve the ultimate goal of being in unison with god (yoga).”
Prof. Ramarathnam’s academic career started in 1945, when Guru T.Chowdiah started the Ayyanar College of Music in Sri Bidaram Krishnappa Prasanna Seetha Rama Mandira, Mysore and appointed Ramarathnam as vice-principal. Ramarathnam served this institution for 20 years. He was the first Principal of the University College of Music and Dance, University of Mysore since its inception in 1965, a position which he held till his retirement in 1977. During this tenure, he nurtured the growth of the college from its cradle into a premier institution of advanced learrning. There he helped establish bachelors, masters and doctoral degree programs in music, dance and drama and many students have and continue to benefit from these programs. He spared no efforts to foster the creation of a dynamic environment for the study of theory and practice of vocal and instrumental music, Bharatha Natyam and drama by enabling interactions with leading personalities in the respective fields. The College of Fine Arts was the venue for many concerts, lecture demonstrations and discussions and performances with famous artists like T. Chowdiah, Dr. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Smt. D.K. Pattamal, GNB, Legendary T.R. Mahalingam, Sangeetha Kalanidhi Alathoor Srinivasa Iyer, Dr. V. Raghavan, Prof. P. Sambamurthy, Dr. Narayana Mennon, Yamini Krishnamoorthy and her father Prof. Krishnamoorthy an expert in Natya Shastra, etc. Prof. Ramarathnam also served the Venkateshwara University, Benares Hindu University and Kerala University as chairman and member, board of studies and board of examiners. After retirement in 1977, he served as an emeritus UGC professor for three years from 1977-80 at the University College of Fine Arts, University of Mysore. During this period he researched and wrote an authoritative treatise on the Patronage and Contribution of the Mysore Wodeyars to Carnatic Music. The Karnataka Govt. Book Authority later published this research work in the form of a book.
In recognition of his service to the field of music, and education in music, Prof. Ramarathnam has been honored by many personalities and institutions. Noted among them are honors from His Holiness Sri Sringeri Chandrashekara Bharathi, and Pejavara Mutt Seer. Prof. Ramarathnam has received deep appreciation and recognition from the legends of his time for his scholarship in all aspects of music. He also received a number of titles. He was conferred the title of :
Prof. Ramarathnam with T.T. Vasu (President of Chennai Music Academy), and Veena Doraiswamy Iyengar during Sangeetha Kala Rathna Award (1983) felicitation, Gayana Samaja , Bangalore