Culture, History, Religion


Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer the great Carnatic Composer of the 19th Century, from Thiruvaiyaru in Tamil Nadu came to be known as Maha Vaidyanatha Sivam or later just as “Sivam-Val”. This came about as a result of his exemplary devotion and shraddha to Shiva. Throughout his entire life, he did not miss a single day of Siva puja, not a single Sandhya Vandana went unobserved.

Not a morsel of food went into his mouth till the time he had finished his Siva puja. If he was traveling and the special box containing the murti/lingam of Siva and his puja articles did not reach him on time or reached late, he simply fasted.

To ensure that he did not miss a single Sandhyavandana he would often commence his Kacheri (concert) at 3 pm in the afternoon or earlier and finish it before 6 pm. If that were not possible he would start the concert after 6:30. If even that was not possible, he would simply stop the concert, perform his Sandhya and only then commence from where he left off – he could be in the middle of an alaap but when the time came he would stop – he never carried a watch or kept time but it was like Shiva himself whispered into his ears for when the time came Vaidyanatha Sivam would stop everything and do his anushtana.

The audience would wait patiently till he came back – how could they not wait, for wasn’t it Shiva himself who had taken a “break”?

To him everything including the Sandhya was an offering to Shiva. Later, he developed an incredible ability to compose a song and sing it extemporaneously – it was as if Shiva, pleased with his devotion took out his Trishula and wrote on his tongue, triggering this outpouring of divine music…

He was so lost in “Siva-Tattva” that it was his elder brother who took up the responsibility of arranging concerts and other administrative matters. Sivam-Val sang only for the sheer bliss he derived out of it.

He never established a Shishya Parmapara but such was the divine shakthi he exuded that 20-30 students stayed at his house. Not once, Yes, not once did Sivam-Val sit down to teach them, but they learnt just by listening to his divine singing… Each of these students lived, slept, and ate at his house but Sivam-Val was almost oblivious of their existence! They still learnt and became musicians in their own right…

Sivam-Val is more well known for his magical composition of the seventy-two melakarta ragamalika composition that is saturated, soaked, and dripping with religious fervour. 

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What many don’t know about Sivam-Val is that he was one of the great saints, no less than the great Muthuswami Dikshitar himself…If there is an exemplar, an example of what can be attained by simply following the Nitya Karma Anushtanas then it is Sivam-Val…

Note: The melakarta ragas contain all the seven notes in the Indian octave and these are distributed among the twenty two srutis or music intervals which are again reduced to twelve intervals giving rise to the sixteen swaras of the melakartha scheme.

Image from: Internet Sources

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