Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan (1844-1893)

Among the musicians who occupied an honoured placed in the latter part of the 19th century, Mahā Vaidyanātha Sivan is noteworthy. He was one of the stalwarts who popularized the compositions of the trinity by his polished and classical rendering of the same.

He was born at Vaiyachēri village lying in the east of Tanjore town. His father was Pañchanada Iyer , who was also a composer of songs in Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit and was famous for his bhajana during the sapthasthāna festival at Tiruvaiyāru. Of his four sons, Rāmaswāmi Sivan and Mahāvaidyanātha Sivan becam famous as musicians and scholars of repute.

Mahā Vaidyanātha Iyer learnt music form Mānambuchāvaďi Veňkaţasubbayyar and Ānaiayya. He studied Saňgraha chūďāmaņi and Saňgīta ratnākara and attained high proficiency in both lakshaņa and lakshya. He mastered the languages Tamil and Sanskrit. He was a versatile genius, a composer and harikatha performer and more than all, an inspiring singer with an impressive śārīra.

At the age of ten, he participated in a musical contest conducted in the Pudukōţţai samasthānam and sang Durbāŗ so remarkably that Raghunātha toņďaimān, Vīņa Subbayyar, Vīņa Subbukuţţi Iyer and other expert musicians appreciated his talents. He received from Muthurāmaliňga Sēthupathi, the Kandapurāņam as a gift during his stay at Rāmnāď samasthānam. He went to Eţţayapuram, met Subbarāma Dīkshitar and composed a rāgamālika in Tamil.

Subrahmaņya Dēsikar of the Paņďārasannidhi muţţ at Kalliďaikurichi in Tirunelvēli conferred the title 'Mahā' on Vaidyanātha Sivan in the year 1856, when he sang the rāga Chakravāha in a contest held in the muţţ. It is said that he could produce nine rasa-s by his music.

Mahāvaidyanātha Iyer started his professional career early in his life. The major portion of his concert time would be taken for rendering the manōdharma saňgīta viz., ālāpana, tāna, pallavi, niraval and kalpana svara-s. On one occasion, he expounded a pallavi in Simhanandana tāļa, which is the longest of the 108 tāļa-s. He was specially proficient in singing rare rāga-s like Kanakāňgi and Nārāyaņagauļa in extense.

As a composer of the tillāna Gaurī nāyaka in Kānaďa rāga and Simhanandana tāļa, he is unique. He is also the author of the varņa Paňkajākshi pai in Kāmbhōji rāga, ādi tāļa, which is a fine piece full of svarākshara beauty. In addition to Tamil kīrtana-s, he has to his credit 72 mēļa rāgamālika, a lakshaņa prabandha useful for purpose of lakshya. The Periyapurāņa kīrtanai-s represent his joint work with his brother Rāmaswāmi Sivan. The brothers adopted the mudra Guhadāsa and were honoured by several samasthāna-s.

Sivan was a highly devout person and had performed Sivakatha-s also and used to participate in the bhajana-s, singing Tēvāram. The music of trinity was handed down through sishya parampara of the composers. To those great musicians goes the credit of having popularized and preserved the music of the great composers. The services of Mahā Vaidyanātha Iyer in this direction are invaluable.