KAVI KUNJARA BHARATI (1810–1896)

He was a Tamil poet and a composer of karnatik music. He was born in a family with long involvement in music and scholarship. His ancestors belonged to Tirunelvēli district. His parents lived in the village of Perungarai in Rāmanāthapuram district. It is said the whole village was a gift from Maharaja Ragunātha Sēthupati (1675-1670) to their family. His given name was Kōţīsvara Bhārati after his grand father with the same name. His father was Subramaņya Bhārati. His father and grandfather were also well known musicians as well as his maternal grand father, Nandanūr Nāgabhārati. 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 Kōţīsvara Bharthi, at the early age of 12 started composing Kīrtanams and prabandhams in the praise of his favourite gods Muruga, Mīnākshi Sundarēsvarar and Subrahmaņya.

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 prabandham 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 sung in a zamindar's palace in Sivagaňga and soon his fame spread all over the region. He was than invited by the king Gouri Vallabha of Sivagaňga 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 "Āsthāna Vidwān" in his court. He was thus respected by the royal court of Sivagaňga and he continued to be in the court of the later Sivaganga king "Chatrapathi Bodaguru". He is known to have composed "Vēňgai 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 Rāmnād to his court and was appointed as Āsthāna vidwan of Rāmnād too. To fulfill the royal desire he created a collection called "Skanda purāņa Kīrtanai" on the mystery of lord Subramaņya'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 "Veņpā" 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 includes Azhahar Kuravanji in praise of Maliruncholamali azhahar, "Aďaikkala mālai" and Kayarkani mālai" in praise of Mīnākshi Amman and Tiruvēňkāţa Mālai in praise of Lord Veňkatāchalapati. His other notable contribution is a collection called "Pērinba kīrtanaigaļ". 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 Kōţīsvara Ayyar in 1916 along with the Skanda purāņam and Pērinba kīrtanaigaļ in three volumes.

Kōţīsvara Ayyar is known for his compositions in the 72 Mēļakarta rāgas. The first volume of the 36 sudddha madhyama mēļakarthas by Kōţīsvara ayyar – called "Kanda gānāmudham" is dedicated to his maternal grandfather Kavi Kunjara bhārati. Some of his other famous compostions are Ellōraiyum Pōlavē – Suddhasāvēri, Ennaďi Peņņē Unakku – Bēgaďa, Pithānavan – Ānandabhairavi, Siňgāravēlanai – Danyāsi and Sannidhi Kaņďu – Mōhanam.