Maha Vaidyanatha SivanIt was the year 1844. In Vaiyacheri, a small hamlet in Tanjore district of Tamizh Nadu, a family was blessed with their third son. Was it his good Karma that he was born to an accomplished musician? Or was the good Karma of the father that he was given a son of extraordinary musical talent? Perhaps both. The father had the knowledge to recognize talent and foster it. And so two of the four boys of the family became accomplished musicians at a tender age. This boy was only 7 and his brother 11 when they gave their first concert.

His fame grew quickly. From time to time this earth is blessed with young musicians who seem to know much more than it is possible to know at their age. Mozart composed at 5. Beethoven was 7 at the time of his first public performance. Lalgudi Jayaraman started his musical career at 12. Do you not think that their skills must have been honed in previous lives to achieve what they did at such young ages?

The hero of my story was blessed not only with vidwat (knowledge) but also a pleasing voice which ranged over three and a half octaves. In the year 1856, when he was 12 years old, he and his brother were staying with the pontif at Kalladurichi when a musical festival was held. He performed with other illustrious musicians of his times. But it was his solo performance of the composition of Tyagaraja, Sugunamule, in raga Chakravaham, which won most appreciation. The pontif bestowed the title ‘Maha’ (Great) to this young lad. The lad was henceforth called Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan.

He lived a life for music. He was only 49 when he passed away in 1893. He left behind a small body of compositions of which his magnum-opus was the 72 Mela Ragamalika.

To honour him today, I present Tyagaraja’s composition Sugunamule which earned him his title of greatness at so young an age. ‘Not knowing any other method, in the vain hope that this would make you come, I just keep talking of your virtues’ sings Tyagaraja to his ishta daivam, Lord Rama. I like the simplicity of the lyrics, it touches my heart. Are we not all in the same boat, we believers in whichever Gods we believe in? Do we not blindly pray, hoping, believing that He or She would be listening?

To know more about the raga Chakravaham, click here.

I have chosen a rendition by the inimitable Dr.Balamuralikrishna whose Chakravaham I like better than any other vocalist.

For an instrumental version, listen below to a lovely performance by Ganesh and Kumaresh on the violin.

Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Telugu

Transliteration in Devanagari

सुगुणमुले चॆप्पुकॊण्टि
सुन्दर रघुराम

वगलॆरुंग लेकयिटु
वत्तुवनुचु दुरासचे (सु)

स्नानादि सुकर्मम्बुलु
श्री नायक क्षमियिञ्चुमु
श्री त्यागराज नुत (सु)


suguNamulE cheppukoNTi
sundara raghu rAma

vagaleruNga lEkayitu
vattuvanuchu durAsachE (suguNa)

snAnAdi sukarmambulu
srI nAyaka kshmayinchumu
srI tyAgarAja nuta (suguNa)

O handsome Rama of the Raghu clan, I just keep talking of your virtues

Not knowing any other method, with the vain hope that at least by this way you would come (I just keep chanting your virtues)

I do not know to perform meritorious acts such as dips in holy rivers, recitation of the Vedas etc. Kindly forgive me, O consort of Lakshmi, O Lord praised by this Tyagaraja.



Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Telugu, Ganesh-Kumaresh, M.Balamuralikrishna, Tyagaraja

6 responses to “Sugunamule

  1. Ramesh

    Want to compliment you on an amazing blog. Not only does it feature great music, but it also explains, in a non technical way, the raaga, the notes, and the meaning of the song.

    Bravo Suja.

    • Thank you for such a nice compliment Ramesh 🙂 I am glad you are enjoying my blog. I write to appeal to two audiences – for those who are unfamiliar with the form of music I write about, I want to say ‘listen to this, this is a good example for this form of music, perhaps you will like it too’. For those who are familiar and are fans, I want to say ‘is this not more enjoyable when we think a bit about the meaning and the background of the music?’. For technically knowledgeable people, this would all be too boring of course 🙂

      • saraswati

        Hi of the beautiful ragams again..chakravakam.. It has a beautiful melody and the bhavam. I love ur posts and I completely agree that knowing the background of a song , along with the meaning and some sort of contemporary interpretation, makes it even more beautiful and enjoable experience while listening and singing. Currently learning another beautiful song, Purandaradasa s composition, Yeke kadegannida noduve, in chakravakam.

      • Hi Saraswati, Sorry for the delayed response! Yes abosolutely, Chakravaham is really beautiful, isn’t it. I’m actually very fond of the Hindustani equivalent Ahir Bhairav as well as Chakravaham. As you say, the ragas are so full of emotion. Thank you for visiting my blog, for what use is a writer’s words if they are never read? Actually I don’t know the meaning of the song you are learning now, I have to look it up!
        Cheers. Suja

  2. Suja, thanks for writing about Ckkravagam. When i searched for film songs i stumbled upon that cakkravagam beauty Angagale fro Satyam sivam sundram. Your write up on Maha Vaidyanatha sivan is great research. Keep us informed thus.

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