Saturday, December 27, 2008

A picture of the trinity

Everybody knows of the Trinity. No, not the ones of religion, but those of Carnatic music. And if you know of them, I'll bet that even as you read this, you will be seeing them sitting together, Dikshitar with his veena, Thyagarajar and Syama Sastri with their tamburus, the former facing us and the latter showing us his left profile. I'm sure I've won the bet, for that's how most of us, especially those who haven't read up on Carnatic music to any great extent, have known of this trinity. Even on the (separate) postage stamps released to honour these individuals, the images of Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri are exactly the same as you'd see on the pictures of the Trinity.

So why is Thyagaraja different? Part of the reason could be due to the growing influence of a versatile gentleman named Rajam. In 1961, when Thyagaraja's stamp was released, he was around 42 years old; while he was well-respected for his music and his art, the latter hadn't reached that stage of universal recognition where everyone knows the painting but has no clue as to the artist! By 1976, when Dikshitar was accorded the honour of a postage stamp, the image was the one that Rajam was also basing his work upon, for that meant quick recognition. In 1985, when the stamp on Syama Sastri was being prepared, Rajam's painting was used as the basis for the stamp (but credit was apparently not given). The story goes that an unknown artist had begun work on a portrait of Sastri, but could only complete it till the neck before composer's death. It was Rajam who gave it a body and, in the 1940s, brought together the three greats when the Music Academy commissioned him to paint the Trinity.

Since then, Rajam has made literally hundreds of the Trinity paintings; last week, when some of us had a chance to visit him at home, he showed us a pile of the same paintings that he was working on, among others. As he sketched an outline for us, it was indeed an honour to see the image of the Trinity coming into shape before our eyes!

4 comments:

moochhi said...

this is a good photo....though it would have got better with rajam in it - would have given some recognition....

Shantaram said...

>> Moochhi>> Yes, that was a grand debate; thought I'd save that picture for a post on Rajam himself - watch out for it!

Tessa said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Ruth

http://besttoddler.com

Shantaram said...

@ Tessa / Ruth: Thank you for coming by and look forward to seeing you more often!