TIGER VARADĀCHĀR

In the musical history of recent times, Varadāchār is known to have the unique title 'Tiger'. He was no doubt a tiger in music but as gentle as a cow otherwise. Great men are usually not recognized in their own times. Tiger was no exception. His inborn genius, unbounded creative faculty and his tenacious adherence to sampradāya all these serve more as impediments to an otherwise smooth career of this master musician.

Tiger Varadāchār was born at Colletpet near Tiruvoṛṛiyūr on August 1, 1876, as the third son of Rāmānujāchar, a Kālakshēpam artist. Tiger had his formative influences in rare musical circle from those times. Photographer Māsilāmaṇi Mudaliār took great interest in young Varadāchār. tiruvoṛṛiyūr Tyāgayyar and his musica also influenced him very much. He also had contact with the famous Taccūr Siṅgarāchārlu brothers. But Paṭṇam Subramaṇya Iyer and his music had a special attraction for young Varadāchār and he later became his sishya.

Tiger entered service as a clerk in the survey department at Calicut in August 1899 on a salary of Rs. 12. His genius however came to express itself slowly in many informal occasions and gained local patronage. In due course he came to be recognized as one of the worthy custodians of the best traditions. He stayed in Malabar for a number of years and also in Mysore state. It was during his early stay in Mysore that his highness Krishnarāja Wodeyar honored him with 'Thodas' and also conferred on him the title 'Tiger'. His unsettled career however came to an end when the Madras Music Academy appointed him first principal of the Teacher's college of music. Subsequently in the year 1932 the title of 'Saṅgīta Kalānidhi' was conferred on him.

The Madras University followed suit and appointed him Head of the Music Department for the Diploma course. After thus serving in Madras for five to six years, he was transferred to the Annāmalai University where he enjoyed the esteemed acquaintance of Honorable Srinivāsa Sāstri, the then Vice-chancellor of the University.

His domestic life was however not so happy. It is known that a child was born to him in his middle age, died prematurely. His wife passed away in 1944 and one of her brother's children were adopted later. It is also known that he had a sister who was also a musician and her singing of Durbār rāga seems to have inspired him very much.

Tiger's demonstrations and interpretations in the Music Academy conferences regarding rāga lakshaṇa were of a unique type, rich with his abiding sense of humour and deep consciousness about the right values of things. He approached things with a practical vision. If creative faculty and composing talent go together, then Tiger was a composer of merit. His composing talents in the accepted sense, however were more or less fully evident in his later fifties whereafter he began to divert his energies in this channel also. His active part in Tamil Isai conferences conducted in the Annāmalai University by contributing different types of technical papers bear ample testimony to this point. Later when he joined Kalākshētra, he got into a congenial atmosphere to compose advanced types of tāna varṇas and pada varṇas. He also composed a kṛti in Durbār, 'Nīdē sudinamu' on the occasion of Rājāji's visit to Kalākshētra in 1948 as Governor-General.

Tiger however has to his credit nearly 70 to 80 compositions including the varṇameṭṭus of Kumāra Sambhavam. In the Annāmalai University publications, there are about half a dozen varṇas, all of them in Adi tāḷa and cover rakti rāgas such as Arabhi, Kalyāṇi and Bēgaḍa. a conservative by nature, Tiger followed in the footsteps of the great composers in the matter of saṅgīta sāhitya kavitva. Yet he never failed to choose a fresh path of his own if necessary to enrich the existing traditions by giving them a novel turn in their progressive course. As a teacher he was very affectionate towards his students. He was so liberal that he used to give letters of introduction and certificates without hesitation. He freely sang and interpreted things in a masterly way to his students and his classes were lively. A true nādōpāsaka, a worthy upholder of traditions, a great teacher and an excellent composer, Tiger had undoubtedly left a permanent stamp in the musical history of South India. He had a magnetic personality and was ever devoted to the art.