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Subbaraya Sastri – Short Biography – Composer – Singer Of Carnatic Music

Subbaraya Sastri (1803–1862) was a composer and singer of Carnatic music. He was born at Thanjavur, grew up to be as talented a singer as his father, Syama Sastri. He had his early training in music under his father and later under the great composers Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar. He had contacts with eminent Maratha musicians of his time.

Subbaraya Sastri was a gifted singer and a fine violinist. From Tyagaraja, he learnt the art of composing music brimming with raga bhava. Introducing graded sangatis in kritis, he is the only composer to have composed kritis in the style of the Musical Trinity. As examples of such kritis may be mentioned – ‘Emani ne nimahima’ (Mukhari raga), ‘‘Vanajasana Vinuta’ (Sri raga) and ‘Sankarinivani’ (Begada raga).

In Sri raga he avoided the use of dhaivata. His kritis ‘Janani ninuvina’ (Ritigaula) and ‘Ninu Servincina’ (Yadukula Kambhoji) are couched in the style of his father. In the former piece, the five syllable words, patterned after the rhythmic phrase ta thin gina tem are seen. Some examples may be mentioned – Niravadhika, Niratamuga, Meraluvini, Tarunamidi, Kripasalupu. His kriti ‘Venkatesailavihara’ in Hamir Kalyani reveals the elephantine, leisurely movement associated with Muthuswami Dikshitar’s songs.

In the art of introducing decorative elements in kritis, he was an ace. Svara sahityas adorning his kritis are brilliant. He derived inspiration from Tyagaraja’s ghanaraga pancaratnas for his svara sahityas.

When Subbaraya Sastri completed his ‘Ninuvina Gatigana Jagana’ in Kalyani raga, in the shrine of Dharmasamvardhani in Tiruvaiyaru, in the presence of Tyagaraja, the latter feel into raptures over the musical construction of the piece and complimented him. Subbaraya Sastri, on his visit to Kanchipuram, sang in praise of Devi Kamakshi in Mukhari and Begada. During his stay Chennai, he composed ‘Ninusevinchina’ in Yadukula Kambhoji in praise of Shri Parthasarathi Swami. His musical craftsmanship is revealed in svara sahitya of his piece. At Tirupati he sang ‘Venkatasailavihara’ in Hamir Kalyani. This kriti contains as many as five charanas. He adopted the signature ‘Kumara’, since he was born in the Krittika nakshatra (asterism).

Sebhanadri and Chandragiri Rangacharlu were his disciples.