T. Lakshmana Pillai (1864-1950)

Lakshmaņa Piļļai was the son of Tiraviyam Piļļai, a state official. He was a saiva vēļāļa. He was in Government service in Travancore and retired as a treasury officer. His songs are in chaste Tamil and they abound in poetic thoughts and ideas. His songs are on ethical, devotional and philosophical themes. They have been published with notation. Lakshmaņa Piļļai was an erudite scholar in both Tamil and English, had a mastery of Malayāļam and an acquaintance with Sanskrit. He has published a number of poems and essays.

In music, he had the good fortune of learning vīņa under eminent masters including Kalyānakrishna Bhāgavatar of the Travancore court. Even when he was but 14 years of age, he composed a song Tiruchendil āņďavan in Pantuvarāļi rāga in praise of Lord Subrahmaņya of Tiruchendūr. The dual gifts of poetry and music in him, coupled with his devotion to his mother tongue, found expression in his sprightly songs, sparkling with lyrical charm and profound in melodic richness. The songs of Lakshmaņa Piļļai can be classified into devotional, ethical philosophical and panegyrical. Except for a few compositions, all the devotional songs are addressed to god in his supreme and general aspects and not to his form as any particular deity. Among panegyrical varieties, we get pieces on Annie Besant, Mahātma Gāndhi, Chittarañjan Dās, Chittirai Tirunāļ Mahārāja and a few others. The nature and potentialities of music form the theme in some songs.

Lakshmaņa piļļai has composed a number of songs handling over 80 rāga-s. In every song we find the language simple, poetic, with a pattern for rhyme and the idea profound. Besides being a composer, Lakshmaņa piļļai was a fine poet too. Ninaivāţchi, Iyarkkaikuřippu are some of his works.

There are two works in chindu form – ālayatirappu and Buddhar perumān. He has written three dramas all in Shakespearean form, mixing a kind of blank verse and prose. Satyavathi, Veelanatakaam and Ravivarman are his dramas.

Not a poet and composer alone was he, but a musicologist and writer too. Three of his papers are particularly noteworthy namely Travancore music and musicians, Tyāgarāja and Music and the Royal House of Travancore.

A collection of 200 songs of his with notation was published in the year 1949. To everyone these songs, the author has supplied an English couplet giving in nutshell the central idea of the song given in its pallavi.

Lakshmaņa piļļai's songs are the expression of the thoughts and feelings of a pious and noble soul which set great store by the virtues and morals of disciplined life. They convey profound ideas through the sweet medium of inspired music.