Mahakavi Oothukadu Venkatasubbiar

Oottukadu Venkata Subbaiah Iyer  (c. 1700-1765) was a great poet/composer who was born near Mannargudi and lived in a place called Oothukadu near Thanjavur/ Kumbakonam. He composed hundreds of compositions in Sanskrit, Tamil and Marathi of which over 500 are available. His compositions are a blend of a high degree of scholarship on a variety of subjects and inspired expression.

  1. Oothukadu External Site with songs
  2. Aadaathu asangaathu vaa
  3. Alaipayuthey Kannaa
  4. Asaindhaadum mayilonru
  5. Enna Punniyam Seitheno
  6. Gambheera Nadaiyoda
  7. Kalinga Narthana Thillana
  8. kuzhalUdhi manam
  9. Madanaanga MOhana Sukumarane
  10. Maninoopura Dhaari
  11. Nada Murali Gaana Vilola – Hameer Kalyani
  12. Nandraga Iru Thaaye
  13. pAl vaDiyum mukham
  14. Pranavakaram Siddhivinayakam – Arabhi
  15. senDRu vA nI rAdE – Ragamalika
  16. Sree Vignarajam Bhaje
  17. Swagatham Krishna – MOhanam
  18. vAnchasi yadi kushalam – Kalyani

Most of the details about Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi have been derived from his compositions and from the information handed down by the descendants of his brother’s family. In the history of Indian culture and specifically that of South Indian
Classical Music, where most information and its source have been scantily docu­mented, the primary evidence is a composer’s body of works. Any external corrobo­rations are only a bonus.

 As per available information Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi was born to Subbu Kutti Iyer and Venkamma in Mannargudi, a temple town near Tanjavur in South India, sometime in early 1700s. Later on, the family is said to have migrated to Oottuk­kadu, which was a small neighbouring village. Venkata Kavi lived in a very pious and culturally alive atmosphere. He is considered to have remained a bachelor and to have lived a very introspective life meditating upon God and music. The fact that he also traveled a lot can be deduced from a variety of his compositions that he has composed in many temple-towns in South India and neighbouring northern states.

 In his young days, Venkata Kavi expressed an interest to learn music from Shri Krish­na Yogi. However, upon Krishna Yogi’s refusal to teach him, his mother advised him to surrender himself to Lord Krishna in the Kalinga Nartana temple at Oottukkadu. Lord Krishna is said to have appeared before him and blessed him with knowledge without any formal tutelage. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that Venkata Kavi refers to Lord Krishna as his ‘divine preceptor’ in many compositions. But some compositions also suggest that he may have had a Guru in the human form too. Currently, around 500 compositions of this great composer have been discovered through various sources. Over 300 of these have been published by noted Harikatha exponent, Needamangalam Krishnamurthy Bhagavatar (who was a descendant of the poet’s brother’s family), who was instrumental in popularizing Venkata Kavi’s works.

 One of the most obvious factors that have made Venkata Kavi’s compositions among the greatest in Indian culture are the imprint of great personalities right from Valmi­ki, Vyasa, Jayadeva and many others on him. His compositions are a testimony to the fact that he has been deeply impacted by the lives, knowledge and exemplary attitude of numerous great devotees including the 12 Azhwars, 63 Nayanmars and composers such as Purandara Dasa and Tulasi Dasa.

 Another powerful influence was the Bhagavata mela tradition that flourished in South India. Oottukkadu, along with Melattur, Soolamangalam and Shalyaman­galam was a major centre for Bhagavata mela. This probably would have motivated him to compose so many operas on various great personalities, as well as the Ra­mayana,
Mahabharata and Bhagavatam. It also explains his mastery over diverse musical
forms suited for music, dance, theatre as well as discourses and the emotive
appeal and devotional fervor in his pieces. Venkata Kavi had deep scholarship
in Sanskrit and Tamil. His fluency in Sanskrit rivalled that of his command in
Tamil, a commentary not only on his erudition but also a pointer to a period
when Sanskrit was used more conversationally than merely as an academic
language.

 As Maratha kings ruled in the Tanjore region around 16th – 17th centuries and were known to be patrons of art and culture, Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi might have had the inspirations for his handful of pieces in Marathi and to have employed frequent­ly
north Indian ragas such as Dvijavanti, Hameerkalyani and Sindhubhairavi. He
died in 1765 but left an indelible impression in the field of Carnatic music,
classical dance drama and expression of Krishna Bhakti as a composite exquisite
art form. 

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