Carnatic music continued its glorious past even after the days of the Trinity. During the last century and even today, several great composers have continued to dominate the Carnatic scene. The current period is distinguished also by the variety of languages and emotions that are expressed in the songs. While continuing the earlier tradition of bhakthi and deovition as the primary goal, later day composers have also used their creativity to produce compositions that excelled in technical and emotional attributes. For example, the thillanas, padams, and kritis created by modern day composers such as G. N. Balasubramaniam, M. Balamurali Krishna, Lalgudi Jeyaraman, and T. N. Seshgopalan are notable for their musicology and lyrical content. Thus, we can be proud that over 1,000 years, Carnatic music composers have continued to maintain the rich tradition of our music and culture and today's composers continue to preserve this greatness. In the following table, I have provided a brief biography only for some of the post-trinity composers who have since left this world. Although at the end of this writeup, I have listed some of the great composers who are still amongst us, I have not provided a biography of their lives. I will add to this site in the future.
Wallajapet Venkatramana Bhagavatar
Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer
Patnam Subramania Iyer
Ramnad Srinivasa Iyengar
Swati Thirunal Maharaja
Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar
Mysore Maharaja - Jayacharmrajendra Wodeyar
Subbarama Dikshitar (1839-1906): He was the nephew of the illustrious Muthusawamy Dikshitar and grandson of Baluswamy Dikshitar, brother of Muthuswamy Dikshitar. Subbrama Dikshitar was a learned Sanskrit scholar and he was also very proficient in playing the Veena and the theory of Carnatic music.
Subbarama Dikshitar had composed many varnams and other compositions. He is most well known for writing the theory of music and the book, Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini. In this book, he has included his compositions and has also elaborated on Venkatamukhi's melakarta scheme. The book is widely used by musicologists and other scholars as a reference manual. Most of his compositions were in the Telugu language.
Wallajapet Venkatramana Bhagavathar (18/19th Centuries): Like many of his great predecessors, Venkatramana Bhagavathar was also born in Thanjavur district. Like the mythical Ekalavya, Venkatramana Bhagavathar, for a long time, could learn music from Sri Thyagaraja Swami only from a distance; by observing him teach his disciples. He used to take Thulasi for Sri Thyagaraja Swami's pooja routine and admiring his sense of devotion and bhakthi, Sri Thyagaraja Swami began to teach music to Venkatramana Bhagavathar. Venkatramana Bhagavathar later settled down in Wallajapet, nearer to Madras and thus established the Wallajapet school traiditon of Sri Thyagaraja Swami's disciples.
Several of his compositions were dedicated to the memory of his guru. Some of his compositions include: Gurucharanam Bhajare in Sankarabharanam; Kanulara Kantini (Dhanyasi), Sri Rama Brahma (Begadai) and Sri Narasimha in Kanada.
Pallavi Seshayyar (1842-1905): Pallvai Seshayyar is the son of Neyakkarpatti Subbayar, a disciple of Saint Thyagaraja. Pallavi Seshayyar loearnt music from his father. He had composed several kritis, Pada-Varnams and Thillanas and has used rare ragas such as Mallikavasanta and Suddha. He was also a gifted singer and his ability to render complicated Pallavais earned him the title Pallavi Seshayyar. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Rama and all his compositions were in praise of Sri rama.
Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer: He was also born Thanjavur Distirct. He had his initial training under Anai - Ayya brothers and then from the great musician, Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbayyar, himself a disciple of Saint Thyagaraja.
Region: He was born in Vaiyacheri, near Tanjavur, Tamilnadu. Importance of Vaidyanatha Iyer is evidenced by none other than the fact that, at the age of twelve, he was awarded the title of Maha or Great. He was an accomplished musician as well as a composer. Vaidyanatha Iyer was well known for his manodharma or creativity and for his ability to perform complicated Ragam, Thanam, and Pallavi. The legend goes that he sang in the Gandhara sruthi and used to move with ease between various temps with absolutel control.
He was most known for composing varnams and thillanas. One of his thillana is in Simhanandana tala (the most complicated among the thalas). Simlarly, he has composed a ragamalika that included all of the 72-melakarta ragas. A noteworthy feature of this ragamalika is that it also describes the raga characteristics of each of the raga used in them. Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan (1844-1893): In his book 'Isaiyulagil Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan', Vidwan Veena Subbaiah Bhagavatar says Maha really did not undergo Gurukula Vasam under Venkatasubbayyar. His father Duraiswamy Iyer was a friend of Venkatasubbayyar and whenever the former visited Tanjore, he would stay with Venkatasubbayyar. He would also take his young son with him and while there, Venkatasubbayyar would teach the bright child. You can identify his compositions from the mudra or signature when it says Guhadasa. Many of us are also familiar with his kriti, Pahimam Srirajarajeswari (Janaranjani), Neekela dayaradu (Sarasangi), and Sri Sankara (Nagaswaravali)..
Patnam Subramania Iyer (1845-1902): He was known as the Chinna or the mini-version of Saint Thyagaraja Swami. Like his contemporary, Sri Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer, he also learns music from the famous Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbayyar, a disciple of Thyagaraja.
Patnam Subramania Iyer has composed over one hundred songs that include varnams, padams, javalis, thillanas and the traditional kritis. Many of these songs are used in concerts even today. For example, the Varnam Evaribodhana in Abhogi is a very well-known Varnam and so is the Kriti, Raghuvamsa Sudha in Kadanakutoohalam. Though he mostly composed in the Telugu language, he also used Tamil and Sanskrit languages occasionally to compose.
Thiruvottiyur Thyaggaya (1845 - 1917): He was born in Thiruvottiyur, near Madras city. Thyaggaya hailed from a family of musicians and was the son of another famour composer, Veena Kuppayyar. He composed many Varnams and Kritis and most of them were in his native Telugu language. Some of the popular kritis of Thiruvottiyur Thyaggaya include: Chalamela (Darbar), Ela na pai inta in Simharava, Inta parakelara in Nattakurinji, and Samidayajuda in Kedaragaulam.
Ramnad "Poochi" Srinivasa Iyengar (1860 - 1919) was born in Ramanathapuram in Ramnad District of Tamilnadu. He learnt music from another illustrious composer, Sri Patnam Subramanya Iyer. Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar has composed many kritis, javalais, thillanas and varnams. He has mostly used Telugu as the language medium to compose his songs. One of his illustrious disciples is Koteeswara Iyer.
Koteeswara Iyer ( 1870 - 1940): is the grandson of the illustrious Kavikunjara Bharati, a contemporary of the Trinity and a composer of many great compositions. Koteeswara Iyer learnt music from Ramanad "Poochi" Srinivasa Iyengar and also, from Patnam Subramanya Iyer. Koteeswara Iyer had composed songs in each one of the seventy two Melakarta ragams and many of his compositions have been in praise of Lord Muruga. Two kritis are popular and well-known are: Varanamukha (Hamsadhwani) and Arulseyyavendum (Rasikapriya). He ends his compositions with his signature, Kavikunjaradasa.
Swathi Thirunal Maharaja hails from the Kerala Royal family. He was born in 1813 and was named Bala Rama Varma. However, because his birth star was Swathi, he was popularly known as Swathi Thirunal. From his very young age, Swathi Thirunal showed interests in the fine arts and in learning. As a King, Swathi Thirunal invited great artists to his court (e.g. Harikesanallur Muthia Bhagavathar) and encouraged the propagation of Indian fine arts including Hindustani music, Bharathanatyam and Mohin Aattam.
Swathi Thirunal composed several songs including pada varnams, swarajathis, and thillanas. Like many of his contemporaries and successors, Swathi Thirunal Maharaja emphasized bhathi or devotion over romance or similar emotions in his compositions. He used the signature Padmanabha, the presiding deity of the Trivandrum temple in his compositions. Some of his well known compositions include: Bhavayami Raghuramam (Ragamalika), Bhajabhajamaanasa (Sindhu Bhairavi), Chalamela (Sankarabharanam). Devadeva Kalayami (Mayamalava Gaula), and Gopalakapahimam (Bhoopalam).
Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar (1877 - 1945): He hailed from Harikesanallur in Thirunelveli District of Tamilnadu. Although a vedic scholar, he was more attracted by Carnatic music. His compositions include varnams, ktitis, and thillanas. Apart from using rare ragas to express the emotions in his song, Sri Muthiah Bhagavathar composed songs that were full of artistic intricacies and thala complexity that was unparalleled. He wrote a dissertation called Sangeetha Kalpadruma and was accordingly awarded a Ph.D. Sri T. N. Seshagopalan, the famour musician popularizes Sri Muthia Bhagavathar music very well and even conducts a Aradhana type day to celebrate his memory.
Maharaja Jayachamrajendra Wodeyar(1919 - 1974) was the Maharaja of the Mysore Province or State. Like Royalty, He was trained not only in languages but also in other fine arts. He underwent music training with many stalwarts of the music field such as, Tiger Varadachariar, Mysore Vasudevachar, Muthaiah Bhagavatar, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, and Gotuvadyam Narayana Iyengar. He had composed many of songs and has used several rare ragas such as Duvangi. Two of his well known compositions include: Srijalandhara (Gambheeranata) and Mahaganapatim (Amritavahini).
Mysore Vasdevachar (1885): Although a native of Karnataka, he learns music from the illustrious composer Patnam Subramania Iyer, who was then living in Thiruvayyar in Tanjore Distirct. Vasudevachar had composed over two hundred songs and since he was very proficient in Hindustani music as well, he used both Carnatic and Hindustani ragas to compose his songs. He is also very proficient in the thala aspects and has used each of the thalas from the Sulapdi Sapta tala scheme in his various compositions. Some of his popular compositions include: Brochevarevarura (Khamas) and Bhajare re Manasa (Bhimplas).
Papanasam Sivan (1890-1973) lived amongt us until recently and some of us are blessed in having seen him in person during Music Academy functions. He is called the modern day Thyagaraja and could be aptly described as the greatest composer of the Post-Trinity period.
He lived in Chennai and composed mainly in the Tamil language. His songs contained beautiful lyrics and for people proficient in the Tamil language, it was a great and fulfilling experience to listen to his lyrics. To those of us who had lived in Madras and have visited the Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore many times, Sri Papanasam Sivan’s kritis bring vivid images of the Lord of the temple and its surrounding deities. Some of his most popular compositions include Kapali (Mohanam), Nanoru Vilayattu Bommaiya (Navarasa Kannada) Idathu Padham Thooki (Kamas). Kaana Kann Kodi (Kamboji), and Thaye Ezhaipal Dhayavu (Bharivai).
Papanasam Sivan has also written many songs for Tamil movies. In the early days of Tamil cinema, the compositions were almost always set to Carnatic music ragas and Papanasam Sivan elevated the music to further heights by his lyrics. Today, his grandson and a musican by profession, Sri Ashok Ramani has taken it upon himself to preserve Papanasam Sivan’s compositions and his legacy.